It’s been just over a week with the Nokia Lumia 521, so here is a brief account of how I’ve been getting on with it and what my initial thoughts are. Obviously, this is a slightly tricky device to evaluate from my personal point of view, because for the past few years I have only had/bought devices that are way up on the ladder of top-notchiness. I wouldn’t have previously thought that it was worth buying a phone that was deemed “low-end” because my usage and needs don’t really fit in with a more basic device. This is most likely why I’ve steered clear from the Asha range pretty much. Except for Richard Yates’s Asha 302 which I reviewed here.
The Lumia 521 is the T-Mobile version of the Lumia 520 (RM-915). I believe the only difference between the two devices is that the 521(RM-917) holds the relevant radios to work on T-Mobile’s 1700 and 2100 MHz for it’s 3.5G network. (Yes I know they like to call it “4G” but we all know what it really is!)
The phone is very lightweight (only 124g) and does have an overly plastic feel. No high-end materials here really, but it does still feel decent when I’m holding it. Plastic doesn’t necessarily have to mean cheap feeling.
The OS should be called Windows Phone 7.95 because there are some hardware limitations which prevent the phone from embracing the full range of WP8 apps and services. For example, there is no compass built into the 521, so Nokia’s rather excellent ‘LiveView’ (previously known as Nokia City Lens) will not work. A friendly message tells you so when you try to download it from the Store.
While the phone has downloaded ‘Amber’ and GDR2, they are not quite the full versions that 920 and 720 owners are enjoying for example. There is no ‘double-tap-to-unlock’ nor Glance screen features, as the hardware limitations simply don’t allow it.
But apart from these small omissions, the phone is almost identical to any other WP8 device in terms of the user experience. Everything flows quickly and smoothly on the dual-core 1GHz processor, and the screen resolution is fine, despite not being quite as dazzling as that of the 920, 925, 1020 gang. The IPS LCD screen does well to display the content, but in bright sunlight it struggles and even if brightness is set to High in Settings, it’s still not quite what I’m used to with my ultra clear Nokia 808.
I do miss the LED flash too. Not really for photos funnily enough (the Lumia 521 does an excellent job of low-light photos with its 5MP snapper) but as a flashlight! It’s amusing how we come to rely on our phones for the strangest features sometimes!
And this is how I can sum up after only a short period of use: yes there are shortcomings in the hardware and software, but you have to keep reminding yourself that this is not a $700 top-tier smartphone. It is a much more basic unit, albeit very capable, and it only cost a mere $125 from Amazon. That’s just £80 if you’re reading this from the UK! It really is superb value for what you’re getting. I’m not too sure how much of an excellent experience you could get for that kind of price on Android, but I have a feeling the Lumia 521 gives you a very decent experience in comparison.
If $125 is your budget for a contract-free, bought outright phone, then at this point in time, I would say the Nokia Lumia 521 represents excellent value. For more details visit T-Mobile’s page, where you’ll see it’s been given the ‘Top Seller’ badge and a customer rating of 4.5 stars: http://www.t-mobile.com/cell-phones/nokia-lumia-521.html
Now, I must change the time and date on my 521 – I’m pretty sure it’s not March 5th!! 😉
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