The Lumia 520 has a 4-inch IPS display with 800 x 480 resolution, a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor, 512 MB of RAM, a 5-Megapixel camera, 8 GB of internal storage (unlike the Lumia 510, the 520's memory is microSD-expandable) and a 1,430 mAh battery.
DESIGN & HANDLING
With perhaps the exception of the body's edges, which aren't quite as curved as the 620 and 820's, the Lumia 520 has the same basic look as the rest of the Lumia range, with their flashy shell colours. There's no doubt about it, this is definitely a Nokia phone.
The finish is exemplary and it doesn't feel fragile in any way. For an entry-level smartphone, that's not bad.
The Lumia 520 fits well in your hand. Unlike glossy smartphone shells, this one's matte surface means it won't slide out of your hand if you've been using it for a while.
It's a low-res screen, just 235 pixels per inch, and it shows (see below, under 'Multimedia'). The display manages colours well, which are relatively true to their intended tones (Delta E = 4.5), and the colour temperature stays fairly consistent across the spectrum, without any exaggerated overtones in any particular shade.
The screen brightness is practically identical to the Lumia 820's—it's enough to make the display easy to read in brightly lit settings. The 792:1 contrast ratio may be miles away from what an AMOLED screen can offer, but it's still acceptable. For everyday use, the Lumia 520 has a decent display with wide viewing angles, more or less the same display as the Lumia 820.
One neat thing about the screen is that you can use it with gloves on. Nokia has started using this handy bit of technology even on its entry-level models. Who's gonna complain about that?
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
No big surprises here. Microsoft's mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8, offers a quality user experience, a good alternative to the Apple and Android interfaces. For more details about WP8, check out our full article on it here. It's a customisable interface based on Microsoft's movable 'Tiles', for which you can choose between three different sizes. They're called 'Live Tiles' because they show information that's constantly updated (the weather, stocks, Twitter...), that way you can see what's going on in an app right on the homescreen without necessarily having to open it.
The lock screen shows notifications for things like Facebook, e-mails and text messages. It's a handy and well-thought-out system that means you don't even have to go rummaging through your phone to see your messages or friends' Facebook statuses.
Is the Lumia 520 a responsive smartphone? Yes! As we've mentioned in our other Lumia reviews, Windows Phone 8 is without a doubt one of the most well-optimised operating systems on the market, if not the most.
Everything runs smoothly, from web browsing to opening and closing apps. The dual-core processor certainly helps, but it's also important to know that within this ecosystem the 512 MB of RAM really are enough to provide fully satisfactory performance from the processor.
The Lumia 520 has good audio. Sounds and music are faithfully reproduced and don't show the slightest trace of distortion when listening through the headphone output. As for the built-in speaker, it has pretty loud volume, but the sound saturates before you even reach the halfway mark...
When it comes to web browsing, the 520 works well enough. Pages load rather quickly (although Internet Explorer is still a little slow compared to the competing browsers), but the low screen resolution means you often have to zoom in to read text clearly. Nowadays, most mid-range smartphones have high enough resolution that you rarely have to zoom in.
One thing many users like—and for some reason is becoming more and more rare on smartphones—is a physical button for snapping photos. Well, the Lumia 520 has one on the side of the body, so ha. The camera app is clear and understandable and even has a few filters for personalising your shots.
As for the image quality, while you don't get as much detail as smartphones with higher-res sensors, the Lumia 520 isn't that bad at all. It's no miracle-worker, but it's better and more detailed than the 620 and 510. It may lack sharpness, but it more or less makes up for this when it comes to colour fidelity and noise, especially over darker shades. And in low lighting, hey, it does what it can. On the whole, for an entry-level smartphone, this is a perfectly fine camera.
Videos aren't that bad, either. The image practically never gets choppy, but it lacks sharpness, and a little image stabilisation could have gone a long way.
The Lumia 520's battery lasts just about a full day with reasonable use. With more heavy usage (Internet, games, maps), you'll have to expect less than that. To get the 520 last longer, try turning off the GPS when you aren't using it.