REVIEW / Nokia Lumia 520, Low Cost Windows Phone

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Wait! There's a newer generation of this model: Nokia Lumia 530
Florence Legrand Published on April 25, 2013
Updated on October 16, 2014
Translated by Hugh Ehreth
This is an archive page, the content is no longer up to date.


  • Operating system (OS) Windows Phone
  • OS version tested 8
  • Screen size 4 inches
  • Screen resolution 800 x 480
  • Weight 124 g
  • Dimensions 119.9 x 64 x 9.9 mm


The Nokia Lumia 520 is a Windows Phone 8 handset that costs roughly £150. It comes in an array of attention-grabbing colours and has respectable hardware for an entry-level model, similar to the smaller-screened Lumia 620 and more powerful than the Lumia 510.

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.


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.

Nokia Lumia 520 - side

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.

Nokia Lumia 520 - back


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?


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.

Nokia Lumia 520 - tiles

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.
Nokia Lumia 520 - maps
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...
Nokia Lumia 520 - web
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.

Nokia Lumia 520 - Barbie
Nokia Lumia 520 - Scene

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.
The Lumia 520 as a phone
The Nokia Lumia 520 is a budget smartphone, so naturally it isn't 4G or NFC-compatible. It does, however, connect well and rarely cuts out.

The sound is clear and loud enough so you can hear the person on the other end even in noisy settings.

The Contacts function in Windows Phone 8 is by far the best on the market. It has smart contact and social network aggregating, clear and detailed contact pages and simple content sharing. You can even start groups and discussion rooms. It's easy to get sucked into this dynamic way of sharing your life with those you love.

Like all Windows Phone handsets, this one includes Nokia HERE Maps (including pedestrian routes and public transport) and HERE Drive, two very good geolocation and voice navigation services. The GPS fixes quickly, but depending where you are, it can sometimes take a while to calculate itineraries.


  • Finish
  • Screen quality (not including resolution)
  • Alright camera for a phone this price
  • Great responsiveness
  • Effective user interface
  • Nokia's added apps and services


  • Screen resolution
  • Built-in speaker sound quality
  • High SAR


With similar specs to the Lumia 620, Nokia's latest smartphone is a good choice for anyone who wants to discover the world of Windows Phone and Nokia's extra services at a reasonable price. It's a responsive handset with a good screen (despite the low resolution). And compared to the 620? We prefer the 520, which takes better photos.
2 Nokia Lumia 520 DigitalVersus 2013-04-25 15:21:00
Compare: Nokia Lumia 520 to its competitors
Store Available Price £
Pixmania 99.00 See offer  
Ebuyer 106.49 See offer  
Very 119.00 See offer  
Carphone Warehouse 130.00 See offer 133.09 See offer  
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