Nokia Lumia 520 review: Best buys

GSMArena team, 16 April 2013.

Retail package

The retail package of the Lumia 520 hasn't got anything special but sees to it that the user's basic needs are met. Inside, aside from the mandatory leaflets, you'll find a single piece wired charger, a microUSB cable and a plain-looking set of headphones.

Nokia Lumia 520 Nokia Lumia 520
The retail package covers the basics

There isn't a memory card supplied but the phone has an ample 8GB of built-in storage to get you started.

Nokia Lumia 520 360-degree spin

The Nokia Lumia 520 is about the size of a Lumia 800 - another proof that smartphones have only been getting bigger lately. Four inches of diagonal is no longer too much even for the most basic of offerings. Anyway, what this means in practice is that the 520 has found room for a bigger screen in a body that's just a tad wider - but slimmer - than the Lumia 800's.

It's a reasonably compact device by modern standards and one that's easy to hold and operate with one hand. At 119.9 x 64 x 9.9 mm, the Lumia 520 is not the slimmest smartphone around but by no means too chubby either. It weighs the perfectly acceptable 124g.

Design and build quality

Nokia has created a simple and sensible design that works equally well across their WP8 lineup. Of course, the finish varies from the flagship to the low-end but it's a consistent and recognizable styling that an entry level package is quick to take advantage of.

In a nutshell, the Lumia 520 is cheap without looking it. The curved shape and soft rubbery finish around back make for a handset that's got plenty of grip and style.

There's a hint at a unibody design, reinforced by the seriously sturdy feel of the phone, but the battery cover is actually removable - to get access to the battery, SIM compartment and memory card slot. The Nokia Lumia 520 lacks some of the refinement of a Lumia 720 but you wouldn't know either that you're dealing with the cheapest device in the range.

Nokia Lumia 520 Nokia Lumia 520 Nokia Lumia 520 Nokia Lumia 520
The Nokia Lumia 520 is one of the better looking entry level smartphones

We have a black and a white Nokia Lumia 520 at HQ but the phone also comes in the more flamboyant red, yellow and cyan. Like the Lumia 820 sibling, the Lumia 520 offers exchangeable rear covers - wireless charging isn't an option though.

Display

The Nokia Lumia 520 comes with a 4" screen of WVGA resolution (480 x 800 pixels), and the resulting pixel density is around 233 ppi. That's higher than the Lumia 720, which has a bigger 4.3" screen but this is where its advantages end.

Nokia Lumia 520 Nokia Lumia 520
The display is hardly spectacular

The Lumia 520's screen doesn't use the ClearBlack tech and contrast is the biggest casualty. The display clearly lacks the punch of a CBD like the one on the Lumia 720. On a positive note, the viewing angles are quite good.

As you can see from the readings in our dedicated test the Nokia Lumia display isn't the brightest around and its contrast is far from great.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Nokia Lumia 520 - - - 0.51 422 834
Nokia Lumia 620 - - - 0.72 762 1068
Nokia Lumia 720 - - - 0.69 813 1172
HTC One X 0.15 200 1375 0.39 550 1410
Nokia Lumia 920 - - - 0.48 513 1065
Nexus 4 0.22 314 1447 0.45 608 1341
LG Optimus G 0.14 197 1445 0.33 417 1438
Apple iPhone 5 0.13 200 1490 0.48 640 1320

The glass above the Lumia 520's screen is quite reflective, which means the phone is barely usable when outdoor on a bright sunny day.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.970
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.680
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • HTC Desire C
    1.300
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.180
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

You can find more about our display testing process here.

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