As expected, with the release of Windows Phone 8 GDR3, OEMs are releasing phones to go with the update. Nokia, the leader in Windows Phone, announced two phablets, a tablet, and some neat new software features coming with GDR3 updates for Nokia phones.

As always, specs.

 

Lumia 1520

Lumia 1320

Lumia 2520

OS

Windows Phone 8 GDR3

Windows Phone 8 GDR3

Windows RT 8.1

SoC

MSM8974, 2.2 GHz

MSM8930AB, 1.7 GHz

MSM8974, 2.2 GHz

Battery

12.92 WHr, 3400 mAh

12.92 WHr, 3400 mAh

30.4 WHr, 8000 mAh

Rear Camera

F/2.4, 20MP

5MP

6.7MP, F/1.9

Front Camera

1.2MP

.3MP

2MP

RAM

2 GB

1GB

2 GB

Display

6” 1080p LCD

6” 720p LCD

10.1” 1080p, LCD, AH-IPS

Storage

32GB internal, microSD

8GB internal, microSD

32GB internal, microSD

Nokia’s answer to phones like the Xperia Z Ultra and Note 3 is the Lumia 1520. The industrial design, as with all Lumia devices, remains an evolution of the Nokia N9. It appears that this time, Nokia went with LCD, likely because Samsung seems to only allow other OEMs to use its n-1 generation panels, and reasons such as reduced power consumption under high APL conditions, higher overall brightness for better outdoor visibility (although reflectance also plays a major role), and fewer idiosyncrasies such as calibration shift over display lifespan. It also seems that the camera is most likely to have 1.1 micron pixels, as a reduction in sensor size would reduce z-height and BOM (Bill Of Materials) to fit within the phone’s monetary and design constraints, and more pixels allows for greater oversampling. The SoC is also the lower 2.2 GHz bin to reduce BOM. Overall though, the 1520 looks to be a solid phone, and should compete well against the phablet competition. However, outside of the camera experience, which should be second only to the Lumia 1020, the rest of the phone is mostly identical when compared against similar, ~6” display, Snapdragon 800 phones.

The Lumia 1320 is a bit different, although very much the same. In order to fit a midrange price, the specs have been drastically reduced. In specs, it’s almost a dead ringer for a Galaxy Mega 6.3, so it seems that this phone is directly targeted at the APAC region (China, India, etc…), as large phones are much more popular, with much greater pricing pressures.

While phones have been the main focus of Nokia, their tablet is especially interesting in its market position. It’s a Windows RT tablet that almost reads exactly like the Surface 2 in core specifications, but with a few key exceptions. The biggest would be the inclusion of Snapdragon 800 (MSM8974) rather than Tegra 4, which is could make up any battery deficit that the Lumia 2520 has compared to Surface 2. MSM8974 also includes the MDM9x25 modem block, so the 2520 supports LTE out of the box.The power keyboard, which seems to be launching with the 2520, is also likely to make it last noticeably longer than the Surface 2. For people that find a burning urge to take photos with a ~10” tablet will undoubtedly find the Lumia 2520 to have a better camera, as the camera module in the 2520 seems to have the same module as the Lumia 720. The Lumia 2520 also has a specific emphasis on outdoor display visibility, something that the Surface 2 is mostly likely to be worse at due to its display being clamped to ~350 nits. Of course, Nokia’s tablet has the traditional Lumia industrial design, while Surface continues the VaporMg chassis design. Which is better is up to personal opinion.

For Nokia’s GDR3 update, codenamed Black, the notable features essentially boil down to improved camera and a new Storyteller application. On the camera side, Smart Camera and Pro Camera are now unified, allowing both manual control and burst shot-based camera features in a single application, along with the zoom and reframe features that have been the focus of Nokia’s Pureview advertising and a new Lytro-esque feature that takes multiple exposures at varying focus distances to allow refocusing in postprocessing. Nokia also introduced RAW image saving in DNG format, so WP8 extends its lead in this department, especially as both Android and iOS are focused upon auto-everything, while WP8 has some of the best aftermarket camera applications that I’ve seen in any reasonably modern smartphone OS. Storyteller is an application that essentially uses the Nokia maps application to display photos and videos in a story format, and leverages the Lumia 1520’s four microphones to deliver positional audio for greater immersion. It may prove to be popular, but for now it appears to mostly be an afterthought compared to other features.

Overall though, it seems that Nokia is extending their lead in their traditional strengths for camera experience and building on their prodigious software library for Windows Phone. The Lumia 2520 seems to take Nokia’s traditional strengths and industrial design into the Windows RT space, which is a bit strange as it could be easily argued that Microsoft’s Surface isn’t nearly as appealing as this tablet, which is effectively the same in design philosophy and price range. It just seems that the reasons to buy or not to buy into the Windows Phone ecosystem remain the same, especially when compared to the Lumia 920, which also had a notably good camera experience but not much else that really pushed it above the rest of the competition to drive Windows Phone sales. The same goes for Windows RT, as arguably, both the 2520 and Surface 2 have the same advantages and caveats as the original Surface.

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  • Laxaa - Saturday, October 26, 2013 - link

    I agree.

    It's been a year now since Windows Phone 8 launched, and the preview of the HTC 8X is a close as we've gotten to a lenghty article about the devices and the system. I really hope AT and Brian takes it's time to at least look at the Lumia 1520. It packs some exciting hardware, and even if they don't agree on the software front(Windows Phone has it's problems for sure), I think it's woth a look.
    Reply
  • ananduser - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    Joshua you could have added that the Qualcomm choice amounts to LTE capability. 500$ for an LTE capable tablet is pretty good. The LTE option is at a premium for ipads and Sammy's flagships.

    Another cool info you could have provided was the "assertive" display for the 1520. Definitely a cool tech that basically amounts to individual pixel manipulation to provide maximum readability in bright conditions(not to be mistaken for the basic brightness increase upon sensor detection that all other devices do).
    Reply
  • JoshHo - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    Sorry, I thought it was implied when I wrote that the 2520 had a MSM part rather than an APQ part.

    I'm skeptical of assertive display. Dynamic display adjustment tends to reduce display quality, not improve it.
    Reply
  • Belegost - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    Well, I wouldn't expect all readers to know that MSM parts include modems. Also, there are MSM parts existing that do not include LTE support.

    Other point, the 8974 is CAT4 supporting 150Mbps and carrier aggregation (which should become useful in the US in 2014) this is the same features which SS has touted as LTE Advanced in the S4 (though I personally would not.)
    Reply
  • JoshHo - Saturday, October 26, 2013 - link

    Yeah. Thanks for the feedback. I'll add that in now.

    All MSM8974 parts will have cat4 LTE support.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    The Lumia 1020 has just shipped and is still very expensive well, they deserve to get some money back for their investment). It's my current favorite if my trusty old Win Mobile 6.1 HTC fails. Yet.. with GDR3 I'd obviously want a Lumia 1020 upgraded with a more modern SOC. It wouldn't have to be a quad core, although the huge images could probably actually make good use of them. Reply
  • Bobs_Your_Uncle - Saturday, October 26, 2013 - link

    I won't reiterate specific observations about WP8/WP8.1, (Win8, Win8.1, Nokia...etc.) that have been well enumerated earlier & have a demonstrably, very legitimate basis. Slighting of WP (to say nothing of outright dismissal) could possibly be understood were it not such a solid &, in a number of ways, clearly superior platform with respect to both OS & hardware.

    WP was undeniably late to the post 2007 smartphone market, despite WM being early in the game. It's far from a perfect ecosystem, but it is evolving relatively quickly & significantly. Any suggestion that MS doesn't take their mobile OS seriously is either misinformed or deliberately petty.

    I read every word of Brian's review of the HTC One & I consider it to be a truly masterful exercise in tech journalism (& expressed such in e-mails sent to Brian & Anand). It's really quite unfortunate that such considerable abilities & insights are focused/applied in such a non-technical/unscientific/uneven fashion. Furthermore, It's even ironic, as market research indicates the perception of Apple is waning among younger consumers; it's becoming viewed as being kinda "Hipster-ish"!

    Count me among those who are quite disappointed in lack of coverage on MS platforms.
    Reply
  • JoshHo - Saturday, October 26, 2013 - link

    Hopefully I'll be able to change that. :) Reply
  • Bobs_Your_Uncle - Saturday, October 26, 2013 - link

    Q: How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    Hipster A: Oh, it's like a really obscure number that can only be arrived at though complex mathematical processes. You probably wouldn't recognize it if I told you.
    Reply
  • Hobot - Sunday, January 05, 2014 - link

    First off, thanks to Josh for a glimpse of a review of a Nokia Wp.
    Second I would also like to say that I've been a long time lurker AT enthusiast. For All the PC's I've built in recent years, I first made a research here. Really love your thorough tech reviews. But the lack of such reviews for the Lumia series by Nokia is a major disappointment. No other site makes such proffessional reviews as you guys. Hope to see a review of 1020 & 1520 soon :)
    Reply

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