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Nokia Lumia 520 review

 Review: May 2013  

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The Nokia Lumia 520 is an entry-level Windows Phone 8 smartphone that truly deserves to become a classic! From the class-leading IPS display to the dual-core processor and generous memory, we cannot fault this product.

Today's best buy: Nokia Lumia 520 UK Sim Free ... from Amazon (£66.7)


An entry-level Windows phone

Windows Phone 8 may not grab the attention of Android and the iPhone, but here at S21 we're big fans. It's just so easy to use. Yes, we know that the iPhone is supposed to be super easy to use - and it is - but Windows Phone 8 is even easier. We love the simple home screen with its interactive Live Tiles and we love the way that everything just works and is so easy to find. It's perfect for an entry-level smartphone.

Everything you need is here and already installed. And everything you don't need isn't here. Plus, for more demanding users there's the Windows Phone Store where you can download stuff like Angry Birds, WhatsApp, Netflix and other popular apps. Although, to be clear, there's much less choice of third-party apps.

If you want a smartphone that just works, with stuff like email, facebook, twitter, a web browser, maps, music, etc, all just ready to go, then Windows Phone 8 does that.

Design & Looks

The Lumia 520 is the baby in the Windows 8 family. Aw, it's so cute! Well, actually, no. It's not a dinky phone at all. It's slightly larger than the more expensive Lumia 620, but is slimmer and lighter. It's less curvy than the 620 too, making it more grown-up looking altogether.

That's all good, but even better is the enlarged 4 inch screen. Yes, 4 inches is the same size as the iPhone 5, and it's the biggest screen in the under-£100 price bracket. It uses IPS LCD technology too, giving it good contrast and viewing angles and making it easy to read even in sunlight. With a very sharp resolution of 480 x 800 pixels, we'd rate this as one of the top screens in the budget smartphone sector. It wouldn't look out of place on a phone costing twice as much.

The display also uses Nokia's super-sensitive touch technology, which means that you can use it when wearing gloves. That makes it suitable for Ladies. Or anyone with cold fingers really. Whatever, it's definitely a nice feature to have and even if you don't wear gloves to text, you'll appreciate the sensitivity of the screen - no more stabbing at the screen and swearing (although a Lady never would do that.)


The camera is the same as on the Lumia 620, but without an LED flash. With a 5 megapixel sensor and autofocus, it's capable of capturing good quality snaps in decent lighting conditions. It also has the convenience of a dedicated camera button on the side.

There's plenty of useful functionality built into the camera, including touch focus. A photo editor lets you enhance your pictures before saving them in an album, uploading to Skydrive or sharing them on facebook.

The camera can also record video at 720p HD resolution and 30 frames/second.

Unlike the 620 however, there's no front-facing camera, so video chat isn't possible.

Snappy hardware

The processor used in the Lumia 520 is the same as in the Lumia 620. It's the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor running at 1GHz, which is plenty to power a phone of this type, and you should be able to run any apps without problems. An Adreno 305 GPU provides dedicated graphics support. The built-in RAM of 512MB is less than we'd like ideally, but in practice the phone zips along without any noticeable lags.

The built-in memory is 8GB and this can be increased by adding a microSD card right up to 64GB, giving loads of space for music, videos, apps, etc. In addition to this, you'll get free 7GB of SkyDrive cloud storage.


For a budget phone, the 520 has excellent connectivity. It's a 3G phone with HSPA for fast data connection on the go, as well as Wi-Fi. You'll also find Bluetooth 3.0, a micro USB 2.0 socket and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There's no NFC connectivity here, but that's not surprising considering the price.

Battery life

The battery life of the Lumia 520 is fair but not exceptional. Nokia claims a maximum 3G talktime of 9.6 hours, but that sounds rather optimistic. The 1430mAh battery is larger than average for a budget smartphone, but that's not saying a great deal. Poor battery life is probably the number-one complaint amongst smartphone users, and the 520 isn't going to fix that, but it's certainly not worse than the alternatives on offer. If you want a cheap smartphone with superior battery life, check out the Sony Xperia E Android phone.


We like to be surprised in a good way when reviewing phones, and the Nokia Lumia 520 does exactly that. It's basically the same as the Lumia 620 but slimmer, smarter-looking, with a bigger screen and a bigger battery! Only the front-facing camera and NFC connectivity are missing.

You could spend a long time searching for an Android phone at this price that matches the power of the Lumia 520. Tip - don't bother trying, you won't find one. The highlights of this phone are many, but include the superb IPS display, the fast dual-core processor, the competent 5 megapixel camera, the ample memory and good connectivity.

This is a phone that truly deserves to become a classic.

Nokia Lumia 520 features include:

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Nokia Lumia 520 user reviews

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Average rating from 12 reviews:

Reviewed by Christine from uk on 26th Nov 2014
I like the phone but it has a glitch that's driving me nuts .. When I store the phone on my pocket and receive a call I can't take the call because the screen won't respond. It wont swipe ours tap just freezes so I'm stuck. No good in an emergency because of this. The shop aren't interested in helping so I'm stuck with it.

Reviewed by Anita from UK on 27th Oct 2014
Only problem is cannot send picture messages.

Reviewed by LUMIALIKE from SLOVENIA on 4th Oct 2014
Nokia lumia is a realy good phone for a realy good price. 5 mp cool camera with autofocus...and windows phone 8.1 which is very very cool. buy it. in my country is around 100 euros, but you can get it for 24 only!

Reviewed by David Shaw from United Kingdom on 3rd Oct 2014
Ok fair phone but what nobody tells you when you but is that you cant charge up the phone when its switched of it will always turn its self on the games on the phone are really bad but it dose have a really good camera the screen is scratches quite easily which is really bad i would not recommend this phone there are better smart phones out there for the same price

Reviewed by tom from scotland on 8th Jun 2014
This is an outstanding phone for the price. Got it for 60 pounds. Great screen, quick , decent camera and battery lasts a day...just. well done nokia, a phone to be proud of.

Reviewed by A. Khan from uk on 13th Mar 2014
I love it. its a great phone well worth the money spent less than 100 from amazon, it does every thing i need. it takes excellent pictures.

Reviewed by Hanna from Sweden on 14th Feb 2014
Lovi the phone, love the price. Had an 800 before, and I do not feel that I have scaled down.

Reviewed by Howard from England on 21st Jan 2014
What's not to like? Amazing value 80 [with 10 credit] - bought one for my wife for her birthday, and liked it so much I got one too. Lack of flash is a shame. Overall it works well and is better value than anything else at the moment.

Reviewed by Tris from Uk on 19th Jun 2013
Had the lumia 520 for a month now. I have to say after owning a whole crop of lumia's this in terms of value for money is outstanding. It's every bit as fast as my old 800 and 900. Very smooth and just works so much better then any android phone in this class. It's got great build quality for price and and the screen does the job well enough. Battery is fine and the installed apps are very good indeed. I'm not an app junkie so content wise it's fine. Social wise it's fantastic. I made the mistake of ditching windows for iPhone 5. I bought the 520 because say nab is top notch and so is social integration. Here's the thing. My iPhone 5 is no better then the 520 if your not an app freak and you don't mind the phone being cheaper build wise. It runs every bit as fast and smooth. iPhone 5 is and the nokia can be bought for as little as 100. It's a fraction of the price yet just as fast. Very happy to use it as my work phone. Apple really isn't so great with competition like this. Another year and I think windows nokia will be there with the best!

Reviewed by Aneela Jameel from Pakistan on 11th Jun 2013
I bought this phone 2 weeks back and from day 1 the camera button on the side is not working. Otherwise there are no other issues with the phone. Infact, the windows 8 system is very fast. My husband has SG S3 so I have direct comparisons.
In my opinion, the cellphone is quite good as compared to other cellphones of the same price from Samsung or HTC . One downside is the apps quality in WP8. For example tha Facebook appl is pathetic. It is not able to do some of the basic functions like sharing posts or saving images on phone. Microsoft has done such a sloppy Job on FB. Similarly other apps like Foursquare and whatsapp are not good compared to android apps.
The phone does not have flash option so pics in dark lights will be pathetic. In day time, the quality of the pics is just ok. It would be unfair to expect more from a 5 MP camera.
To summarise, I really love the cool looks of Lumia 520 but I just wish that some of the main apps get a little better. Without improvement in these apps , Nokia shouldn't expect wonders from this phone.
I am giving this phone 3 star only because of WP8's apps quality otherwise I would've given it 5 stars.

Reply by Aneela Jameel from Pakistan on 25th Aug 2013
I will further bring down the star rating from 3 to 2 because after just few weeks of use, the phone has stopped downloading any apps when on wifi. it is also not letting me download any new updates for already installed apps. since my phone was under warranty so I have given it back to Nokia who could not resolve the downloading issue and I am now hoping to receive a new Nokia Lumia 520 tomorrow. But I am not having high hopes about this new phone either. Wished I had listened to everyone!

Reply by Aneela Jameel from pakistan on 5th Sep 2013
I received my new Nokia Lumia on 26th August. I was still not able to download apps on it from the app store. I took it to the nearest Nokia Care Center where a very polite and humble guy checked the phone on their wifi and there was no downloading issue there. I then took the phone and my wifi modem to my wifi service provider who updated the software on my modem and the problem got resolved immediately. So, please ignore my posting dated 25th August . My star rating stands at 3.

Reviewed by Dan from England on 21st May 2013
A cracking phone at an amazing price. I did have a HTC Desire S but had nothing but problems with it. I needed a cheap phone to replace it but couldn't find anything on the android operating system that looked any better than what I had with the HTC, then I saw the Nokia 520 at a 100.. so I decided to take the plunge and try windows! I'm very glad I did, it's smooth, quick, sleek and has no lag! It looks good, screen is a nice size and more than suitable for reading, pictures, videos etc. It's not so good in the sunshine but then when do we get that ;-)! The windows operating is great and has most of the apps I need. Battery life is fine, although I'm not a heavy user. I get a day out of it easy enough. Music player is good and you can put in a memory card of up to 64GB. I'm more than happy with it and can't fault it especially at the price. The S21 review sums it up.

Reviewed by david from uk on 15th May 2013
This is a purely outstanding phone as the review says for the price. Windows phone 8 is so quick that only more expensive android models can match the operation and reliability of this phone. The review sums this up well.

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