Microsoft Lumia 1320 phablet Australian review: Gadget Watch

Microsoft’s takeover of Nokia’s devices and services arm closed late last week.

As SmartCompany reported, the deal saw Nokia’s mobile phone handset division rebranded as Microsoft Mobile.

Among Microsoft’s newly acquired smartphone product lines are its flagship 6-inch Lumia 1520 phablet and its mid-range Lumia 1320 phablet. Of course, this raises the question, should you follow in Satya Nadella’s footsteps and invest in a Lumia?

With the deal now sealed, it’s time to take a look at the 1320.

Hardware and features

The Lumia 1320 is a 6-inch phablet powered by Windows Phone 8. It costs $448, compared to $744 for the flagship Lumia 1520.

First announced in October of last year, it features a dual-core 1.7 GHz Snapdragon processor, 4G/LTE connectivity, and a 3400 mAh battery.

It has a 1280 x 720 pixel IPS LCD display, 1 GB RAM, 8 GB of internal storage, a MicroSD slot and 7 GB of cloud storage. It is available in orange, yellow, white or black carbon fibre shell, with a 5 megapixel rear camera as well as a 640 x 480 front camera.

It is also PVC-free, and contains 100% recoverable materials.

What’s the consensus?

The first thing you notice about the Lumia 1320 is its large 6-inch display, with the SIM card and MicroSD card slots hidden under its curved, removable carbon fibre backplate.

Almost universally, one of the first questions I was asked when using this device was “Is that the Galaxy Note 3?”

The great thing about the Lumia 1320 is that, at around $448 outright, it gets you many of the benefits of a six-inch phablet at a significantly lower price point than the $888 Galaxy Note 3.

One of the pleasant surprises about using the Lumia 1320, especially given it features a dual-core rather than a quad-core processor, is just how smooth and responsive its performance is. On Android devices, under the weight of some manufacturer’s custom skins and apps, even the most powerful quad-core processors can sometimes lag and feel a little sluggish.

That’s not the case with the sleek minimalism of Windows Phone 8’s tile interface, which remains responsive and lag-free, even while multitasking or constantly checking and updating social media and mobile messaging accounts in the background.

A noteworthy feature of the Lumia 1320, given its large screen size, is its impressive battery life. According to the official spec sheet, it has a maximum standby time of 28 days and a 3G talk time of up to 21 hours.

In practice, what this means is that if you charge the Lumia 1320 overnight, it will comfortably see out the day while making phone calls, checking websites, sending messages and using apps.

The 1320 comes preloaded with Office 365, and if you ever need to view or quickly make a small change to a Word document while on the go, the 6-inch display is a near-perfect mobile form factor. Unlike a small smartphone screen, it allows you to view graphs and charts at a reasonable resolution, without having to carry around a full-sized tablet or laptop.

After downloading a few essential social media and mobile messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and Twitter, it becomes apparent how well the 1320 performs as an email and mobile messaging device. The Windows Phone 8 tile interface on a six-inch device is particularly good for seeing which accounts have recently been updated or need your attention, and the latest updates are also aggregated in one place under the people tile.

One of the key markets for phablets is commuters who want to look up websites during the morning commute, and in this regard, the 1320’s large screen and 4G capabilities make it a good choice, although be warned that if you tend to use a lot of tabs at once, the tabs option is hidden away in the menu in Internet Explorer rather than appearing alongside the URL bar.

A fun inclusion is a streaming radio app called Nokia Mix Radio, which features streaming radio stations covering everything from classic rock, best of the ’60s, love songs, classical or US top 40 hits through to obscure genres like math rock and melodic death metal. While streaming music for hours on end is probably not a good idea if you have a pay-as-you-go mobile plan, it’s a great way to get some interesting background music anywhere you have Wi-Fi access.

At 5-megapixels, if photo resolution is one of your key criteria in choosing a phone, the 41-megapixel camera in the Lumia 1020 is probably a better choice. That being said, the 1320’s camera does take decent photos, even in poor light.  It’s also worth taking the time to download Nokia’s Camera app from the Windows Phone Store, which provides a range of features that aren’t included in the stock Windows Phone camera app.

Finally, there are a number of apps that don’t come preinstalled on the 1320, but should almost certainly download from the Windows Phone Store. These include the news aggregation app Bing News, along with the restaurant, recipe and wine guide Bing Food & Drink.

Should I get one?

Obviously, the choice between a five-inch smartphone and a six-inch phablet will ultimately come down to personal preference to some degree. Likewise, if you’re a photo buff, there are other smartphones in the Lumia range that deliver far higher photo resolution.

That said, overall, the Lumia 1320 is a surprisingly good device, especially at its price point.

Especially if you regularly use mobile email, browse the web, social media, mobile messaging or need to look at Office 365 documents on the go, the Lumia 1320 performs exceptionally well with great battery life.

This review is based on a test unit provided to TechCompany by Microsoft.

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