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REVIEW: Nokia's Crazy-Huge New Windows Phone

Think bigger is better?
Nokia’s Lumia 1520 smartphone with a 6-inch screen hits stores this week. The super-large Lumia phablet (yup, that’s the lingo for those part phone, part tablet giants) is .3 inches larger than its competitor, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

It’s also the first phablet powered by Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system.

The Lumia 1520 goes on sale in the U.S. this week for about $US200 on contract with AT&T. It comes in black, white, yellow, and red.

Size-Wise

The Lumia is large and in charge. I don’t consider myself a super small-handed person, but holding onto this behemoth took some getting used to. If you’re thinking about buying this (or any) phablet, I strongly suggest trying it out in the store first to make sure you actually dig its proportions.

The joy of a phablet though is the big, beautiful screen. The Lumia’s 6-inch HD display looks stunning and is perfect if you plan on playing a lot of games or watching videos or shows. I tried out “Halo: Spartan Assault” and couldn’t believe how amazing the graphics looked. Ditto for videos on Vimeo and Netflix. Plus, the phablet runs on a zippy quad-core processor, which means it runs fast and I could multitask like crazy.

Another great perk of its giant-status is that the battery lasts much longer than it does on smaller phones. I got more than a day’s use out of it, compared to my usual schedule of charging overnight and hoping that my phone will last if I go out after work.

Plus, the huge screen means that the keyboard is great for jotting out emails or, if you’re the kind of person planning to use Microsoft Office on their phone, Word documents.

Using It

The Lumia 1520 runs Microsoft Windows Phone OS, with all that entails. I’m still getting used to the customisable Live Tiles format and it took me a while to switch out all the pre-loaded apps (like AT&T’s branded TV streaming app) for the ones that I actually wanted to use.

The phablet did come pre-loaded with some cool apps though. I quickly fell in love with Nokia Music, the built in Pandora-esque radio app on the Lumia. I could create amazing mixes — without commercials — for free that managed to stick to my music tastes way better than the real Pandora ever does.

It also comes with the Storyteller app that lets you pull all your pictures into a clean, pretty interface and display albums or events on a map so you can virtually walk someone through your vacation, for example. It’s definitely cool, though I question how much I’d actually use it, as opposed to just throwing all my pictures up on Facebook. (I’m in my early 20s and at times I got the feeling that this phone was geared towards an older audience. This app would work better for my mum to brag about our family vacation to a relative than it would be for me to share my experience with a friend. Plus in the “Helps and Tips” section, I was recommended “all the apps to keep you (and your kids) busy.”)

Of course, one of the biggest selling points of the Lumia is the camera, which runs with Nokia’s new-and-improved camera app. With 20 MP (for comparison, the new iPhone 5S has a 8 MP camera), the Lumia takes great shots, even in low light, and if you want to shoot video, you’ll appreciate the four microphones, which capture audio crisply no matter which angle it’s coming from.

I absolutely loved the amazing camera experience, but I have to admit that the size of the phone was an issue for me here. I mean, it takes great pictures, but it’s way larger than my old digital camera. When I went to a show the other night without a purse, I just couldn’t bring it.

Conclusion

The giant Lumia 1520 phablet isn’t for everyone, obviously. It’s not the kind of thing that you buy to use simply for texting because it can’t fit into your pants pocket (and hogs space in a small clutch). And it’s not for someone who cares about having access to the latest apps. As a regular Android phone user, I’m occasionally annoyed when I find an app that’s only for iPhone. I can’t imagine being a Windows Phone user and having that happen even more often, with more popular apps.

The good news is, Windows Phone is finally getting some apps users have been craving (Instagram and Flipboard are scheduled to hit the store soon). Twitter recently released its video app Vine for Windows Phone too.

If you prioritise great graphics on your X-Box Live games, getting work done with the Office Suite, or sharing high-quality photos and videos of your family vacation, then the Lumia 1520 will look pretty good with its giant screen and $US100 off the price of the Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3.

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