Technology

Microsoft Lumia 1520 phablet Australian review: Gadget Watch

Andrew Sadauskas /

Devices and services are a key focus at Microsoft under new chief executive, Satya Nadella. And when it comes to the six-inch phablet form factor, the company’s flagship device is the Lumia 1520.

So how does it stack up? Especially if you run a business, should you look at one rather than a competitor, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note? It’s time to find out.

Hardware and features

The Lumia 1520 is a 4G/LTE Windows Phone 8 phablet, it uses a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. It features a six-inch Clear Black IPS LCD display with a Full HD resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels.

The 1520 includes 32-gigabytes of storage and 2-gigabytes of RAM, expandable to 64 gigabytes through micro SD, along with cloud-based storage through OneDrive.

A key feature of this device is its 20-megapixel PureView rear camera, which can shoot video at Full-HD (1080p) at a frame rate of 30 frames per second.

Photography related apps for the 1520 include Nokia Camera, the Creative Studio photo editor, Cinemagraph for animated pictures, Panorama for panoramic pictures and Storyteller, which shows a map of where photos were taken.

It also features four microphones for rich audio recording, and its front camera has a resolution of 1280 by 960 pixels.

As far as office applications go, it comes preloaded with Office 365 (Excel, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote), Company Hub, and Lync as a free download. It supports a range of email services including Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Exchange Active Sync, Hotmail/Outlook.com and Outlook/Office 365/Exchange.

In terms of its environmental friendliness, it is free of PVC, BFR and rFR, contains recyclable materials and is 100% recoverable as materials and energy.

Other key features include a large 3400 mAh battery with a maximum 3G talk time of 25.1 hours, wireless charging and an FM radio.

It’s available for around $799 outright or on a plan through Telstra or Vodafone, and is available in yellow, red, white or black.

What’s the consensus?

As with other smartphones and tablets in the Lumia range, the 1520 features a unibody carbon fibre design in a range of colours. Pulling out a large, shiny yellow or red phablet is certainly a conversation starter. That said, for those with more conservative tastes, it’s also available in black or white.

One of the great things about Windows Phone as an operating system is how well responsively it performs, even in lower-end dual-core smartphones such as the Lumia 520, 625 or 1320. They avoid the lag often associated with low-end Android devices – especially those from manufacturers with heavily customised skins.

So it comes as very little surprise that, with a quad-core processor and 4G capabilities, the 1520 offers supremely smooth, responsive performance. Meanwhile its six-inch Clear Black IPS LCD display is clear to read at a range of angles and offers vibrant colours.

When held in landscape, the 1520 is around two-thirds the width of a sheet of A4 paper, making it a great device for reviewing Word documents on at close to full size, while still being able to fit in a pocket. Meanwhile, most of the Windows Store/tile interface apps for Windows 8 are also available for Windows Phone.

Cloud-based storage with One Drive means that any photos you take on your 1520 will be accessible on your PC, and likewise if you have an Office 365 account, your documents will also be available on your phone.

What this means is that there will be some situations, such as meetings, where you’re likely to find yourself just using the 1520 where otherwise you would have needed to carry a tablet or laptop.

The elephant in the room for some long-time Windows users, for whom desktop perfection was achieved in the Windows 95 Start button, is the Metro/tile interface. Whatever your thoughts are of it on the desktop, it works exceptionally well as a smartphone interface.

Basically, the tiles allow you to see, at a glance, if you have any new emails (including Outlook emails), calendar events, social media notifications, instant messages, text messages, or other app notifications needing your attention at a glance. Through apps such as Bing Finance, you can even do things like set up tiles that show up-to-the-minutes prices for each of the stocks you own.

For a device with such a large screen, the large 3400 mAh battery on the 1520 means it has really exceptional battery life. Just as an anecdote, I usually charge my smartphones overnight. One day while testing the 1520, I forgot to charge it. Despite having used it the day before for calls, photos, social media and mobile websites, it still managed to last a full day – including at one point being tethered to my laptop.

Aside from the preinstalled apps, there are a few apps that are must-haves for the 1520, including Twitter, the Australian-developed time-lapse photography app Project Tripod, Fresh Paint, and – especially if you’re in Melbourne – the excellent Metro trains app.

Lastly, one of the strongest points of the 1520 is its camera. It includes a 20-megapixel PureView rear camera, which can shoot video at Full-HD (1080p) at a framerate of 30 frames per second. It also includes four microphones for stereo recording with noise cancellation.

Along with the camera, there are a range of apps either preinstalled or available, including Nokia Camera, the Creative Studio photo editor, Cinemagraph for animated pictures, Panorama for panoramic pictures and Storyteller, which shows a map of where photos were taken.

Should I get one?

If you’re looking for a smartphone that will comfortably allow you to check Word documents in a meeting without lugging in a laptop or a tablet and help you stay on top of a myriad of social media and email accounts at a glance, this is a great device.

Likewise, if you’re the type of person who incessantly posts every meal to a social media account or just want a smartphone with a great camera, the 1520 is the one you need to look at.

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

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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