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Review: Nokia Lumia 520

Nokia’s Lumia 520 is one of Nokia’s cheaper additions that continue the bright, bold approach the Finnish phone maker has to smartphones. The handset is available in cyan, red, brown, black, yellow and white. So there’s a choice for every mood and reason for you to be as loud as you could ever be.

For once, the Lumia 520 is one of those handset where one ought to look at the specs sheet, compare and make an instant decision, the price tag of R2000 agrees too. There are numerous ways this seem to be possible for one; it has the same reliable internals and happy design language as it’s brother the Lumia 620, but of course, it makes a couple of sacrifices for its tedious entry-level R2000 price tag.

The sacrifices are simple enough, they include things such as the absence of a front facing camera, general LED flash module and NFC ability. Like with any press release, one cannot rely on the spec sheet alone to draw point on your review, once you really go hands-on with the device, that’s when it’ll surprise you. And boy, oh, the Lumia 520  has a few tricks up its sleeve.

I’ve grown fond of Nokia’s good manufacturing over the past few years since the Lumia range’s introduction, I love it, but it isn’t perfect. Getting the handset to switch on from the box was a bit of a challenge, for we had to at least charge it for an hour before we could make use of it. For inconvenience sake don’t these smartphone’s come already charged? Nonetheless, it was only a minor hiccup.

Other than that, the simple but yet striking exterior of the Lumia 520 is punctuated by its 3.5mm headphone jack on the top left corner while the micro-USB charge and sync port are on the bottom centre. The earpiece and capacitve Windows Phone navigation buttons rest on the front face with the volume up and down rocker and power on/standby button on the right. Lastly, the camera and lens and speaker are on the back.

The LCD on the 520 is rather washed out and suffers from relatively poor viewing angles, as you would expect from an entry-level handset. No special treatment here. It isn’t a patch on any of the higher models, and it’s something that the spec sheet doesn’t warn us about. Absence of the word ‘ClearBlack’ is a clear indication that this is a lesser panel.

Look, trying not to compare the 520 to its predecessors is a rather difficult task, with that being said, the 520 is also technically worse off in terms of pixel density due to its 4-inch size.

Dimensions 119.9 x 64 x 9.9mm (4.72 x 2.52 x 0.39 inches)
Weight 124 g (4.37 ounces)
Screen size 4.0 inches
Screen resolution 800 x 480 (235 ppi)
Screen type IPS LCD, Sensitive Touch
Battery 1,430mAh Li-Polymer (removable)
Internal storage 8GB
External storage microSD (up to 64GB)
Rear camera 5MP, f/2.4, no flash
Front-facing cam None
Video capture 720p
Radios GSM (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900)
WCDMA (900 / 2100) Max DL speed: 21.1 Mbps HSPA+
Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
CPU 1GHz dual-core
GPU Adreno 305
WiFi Dual-band, 802.11b/g/n
Wireless Charging No
Operating system Windows Phone 8


The Lumia 520 handles Windows 8 just fine, with its top notch components offeing decent HSPA+ speeds, so reception is definitely on the strong side. In terms of computing, the 520 behaves exactly like its brother the 620 in every single respect except for one, it seriously lacks in stamina especially for a entry-level handset of its calibre.

Surprisingly, the 520’s battery has a far higher capacity than that of the 620. This must probably be due to the less-efficient components – with the cheap display being the most likely culprit. The 520 struggled to last up to 12 hours of regular everyday use in our battery rundown test. This of course includes making calls, sending and receiving emails, a bit of tweeting, facebook and streaming music in the afternoons. All of this over WiFi or 3G coverage, the phone would prompt for a charge by around 7pm.


The 520 has exactly the same camera found on the 620, its for viewing and sharing stills on passable small displays. However, there is no focus assist light, for a start, which results in unpredictable focus in low-light shots alongside its rather slow shutter speed, and the slight shake resulting from the sometimes sticky camera button.

But its not like the camera is no fun. I applaud Nokia for putting a lot of effort into its software, even though there aren’t as many settings as we’d like, there plenty of quirky lenses to play around with like the Cinemagraph, Panorama, and the Best Shot mode.  All of them work perfectly fine, but each does suffer from general sluggishness when in use.

The real qualm comes when has to establish who the 520 is for. Could one be coming to the 520 as a smartphone beginner, or someone who desperately needs to be introduced to the Windows 8 platform after a brief run with a budget Android but couldn’t get along with it – then this Nokia would be everything they need. The 520 provides access to the Windows Store which in returns gives you access to great first party apps like OneNote, EverNote, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Spotify, WhatsApp, Skype and Nokia’s suite of services and Lumia exclusives such as Here apps, CityScape and maps.

One must then bear in mind that the Lumia 520 has 512MB of RAM, so the few apps available in the Windows Store may be denied to you. Not a big deal, but it’s a sense of exclusion again, which says a lot about the strength of Nokia Lumia phones and how they’re often their own worst enemy.

The Lumia 520 has a fine screen, not perfect, a fast processor like other Lumia’s. This is the smartphone to reach for if you want the Windows 8 experience, but don’t want to risk too much cash. The 520 gives you a flair of the perfect Lumia flavour without the expense and delivers just as good a performance as its more expensive brothers.


Papi Mabele
Tech enthusiast at heart. Lover of all things digital. Papi is the founder of SA Vibe and has been sharing his love for gadgetry since 2010. Papi sees no need for wearable tech in his busy schedule and considers the Xbox One as non existant. He may come across as bias at times, and still holds a grudge at BlackBerry for creating the 8520.