Nokia Lumia 520 review: Best buys

GSMArena team, 16 April 2013.

Standard connectivity suite sans NFC

The Nokia Lumia 520 has quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support, quad-band 3G with HSPA but lacks LTE connectivity. HSDPA still offers reasonably good speeds at 21Mbps downlink and 5.76Mbps uplink.

The local connectivity is covered by single-band Wi-Fi b/g/n with DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct and hotspot, and stereo Bluetooth 3.0. Bluetooth is no longer limited as to what it can do - there's file transfer support now.

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Sending files is easy with Bluetooth

There is Mass Storage mode and you can upload files without needing to install any software. There is no requirement as to where you put your files (specific folders, etc.). If the phone has the appropriate app to handle a file, you'll have access to it. Since there is no WP file manager, you'll have to access the unrecognizable files only via a computer.

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The storage options

The phone knows music and video, as well as pictures and documents. But if you have a ZIP or a RAR file, you won't be able to attach it to emails, because there is no file manager and there is no app to recognize this file and list it in the phone.

In addition to your phone storage, you also get at least 7GB of SkyDrive cloud space.

Unlike its bigger brother, the Lumia 720, Nokia Lumia 520 is missing NFC. This means you can't quickly transfer contact cards or take advantage of the Wallet app.

Internet Explorer is smart, fast and sociable

The Internet Explorer on Widows Phone 8 brings a major upgrade, but kept its old looks. Almost everything Microsoft has done on the IE is under the hood and the end result is close to excellent. The Lumia 520 has a big enough screen for comfortable browsing, but the pixel density is only average, so text can get fuzzy at low zoom levels.

As usual, the URL bar is always visible at the bottom of the screen (but the status bar at the top of the screen auto-hides, so you don't really lose any screen real estate) and next to it is the refresh button.

The URL bar is united with the search bar - by default, anything you type that doesn't resolve to an URL will be sent over to the Bing app. You can also pick Google as a search provider, which will open the Google search results page in the browser instead.

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Internet explorer mobile • tabs • sharing a site

You can, of course, bring up the extended settings, which offer a great deal of options - tabbed browsing, recent history, favorites, share options, pin to Start, find on page and settings. The settings menu offers the usual options like location, allow cookies, delete browsing history and it prompts choosing a global preference for mobile or desktop site versions.

The Share option is interesting in that you can not only send the page address in a message, but you can share it with your Xbox (if you have it set up). This way you can easily transfer a page from your phone to your TV and continue browsing there.

The browser makes the controls in web pages look just like their equivalents in native apps. So, a web app can look just like a native app with practically no extra effort from the designer.

And finally, you can open more than six tabs simultaneously, eight or ten worked just fine (WP7.x used to have a restriction on the number of tabs).

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In-browser options

We expected the Nokia Lumia 520 to match the other mid-range and entry-level WP8 phones we've tested in terms of performance in the SunSpider and BrowserMark benchmark tests and it delivered. It just about matched the performance of the Lumia 720, posting scores which are much better than you'd expect to see in this price range.

SunSpider

Lower is better

  • Samsung Ativ S
    891
  • Apple iPhone 5
    915
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    910
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    910
  • HTC Windows Phone 8X
    923
  • Motorola RAZR i XT890
    1059
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
    1089
  • HTC One
    1124
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    1192
  • Sony Xperia Z
    1336
  • LG Optimus G
    1353
  • HTC Windows Phone 8S
    1413
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    1438
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1444
  • Nexus 4
    1971

BrowserMark 2

Higher is better

  • LG Optimus G
    2555
  • HTC One
    2262
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2093
  • Oppo Find 5
    1797
  • Nexus 4
    1794
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    1774
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    1760
  • HTC Windows Phone 8S
    1556
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    1554
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1431
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    1247

By the way, Windows Phone 8 has built-in mobile data management tools called Data Sense. Its purpose is twofold - it tracks how much data each app has used and can even help you save data by compressing web pages and images before they are sent to the browser (similar to Opera's Turbo). Data Sense depends on carrier support and doesn't work yet (not even tracking data usage).

Nokia isn't waiting around and has created the Xpress browser for Windows Phone, which does the web page compression independently of carriers (Nokia promises up to 85% savings). You can also save pages for offline viewing to further reduce data usage. Multiple tabs can be opened, just like in the regular browser.

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Nokia Xpress browser reduces data usage, packs other cool stuff

The browser starts off with a screen with bookmarks called Quick links, but the Magazine feature is more interesting. You add several sites to it and Xpress will automatically pull recent headlines, an alternative to Flipboard and the like. Pages from Magazine are preloaded over Wi-Fi to both save on mobile data and make the open faster. Another nice features are Smart text, a quick lookup tool, and on-page translation.

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Nokia's Xpress browser

Bing search

The looking glass button on the Lumia 520 brings you to the Bing search app. At first it displays a pretty background photo with several translucent squares you can tap to learn interesting facts about the subject.

The search field lets you use Bing to search the web, but there's more than just web results - for example, searching for "travel" will offer a travel tool app. This feature is called App connect.

There are three search features you can quickly reach from the default Bing screen. The first one is Local Scout, which lets you search for various points of interest around you. There's the camera scanner too, which can snap a photo of text, run OCR and translate it into another language - this is the so-called Bing Vision camera lens. The third one is the song recognition feature that gives you track and artist name and takes you to the music store so you can buy the track.

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The Bing search app

Bing also tries to be a bit of a homepage too - you can swipe to the left to browse top videos, locally playing movies and top headlines.

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The app also shows top headlines, cool movies and videos

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