The Nokia Lumia 2520 is an important tablet for a number of reasons, though primarily because it’s Nokia’s first foray into the modern tablet market, and it comes at a time when the firm is about to be swallowed up by Microsoft. In some respects, that could mean it’s the last Nokia-branded tablet for some time, but we hope not.

The device runs on Windows RT 8.1, which means it doesn’t have access to x86-based apps that you’re used to on most full-blown Windows machines, but Nokia has tried to offset that with its own experience and its knack for top-notch hardware, ranging from build quality to the camera sensor.

We’ve been using the Lumia 2520 for the past several weeks now, and are ready to report back with our review on the tablet. Without further ado, let’s dive in and discuss.

Lumia 2520 Video Review

Hardware

If you’re like us and love Nokia’s super solid polycarbonate smartphones, then you’re going to fall head-over-heels for the Lumia 2520 hardware build; it almost looks like a gigantic Lumia 1520 smartphone. It feels rock solid, it’s super thin and the glossy cherry red option really stands out against the silver, black and white tablets that flood the market today. The only issue with the gloss is that it attracts fingerprints super easily, so our tablet always looked smudged. Verizon and AT&T both sell the Lumia 2520 in the U.S., and while cyan and white options were built, right now you’ll only find the black and red models here, with the latter currently a Verizon exclusive.

There are still a couple of design gripes that really bother us, though. For one, the charging port is on the bottom left and looks almost identical to the 3.5mm headphone jack, which sits above it. We can’t tell you how many times we tried to plug the power into the headphone jack, it just seems like a silly move to make them look so identical. We have no idea why Nokia decided to put them on the same side of the tablet.

Nokia Lumia 2520-Side-2

The power button and volume controls reside on the top of the tablet, but we wish the volume controls were down on the left; it’s too awkward to reach up and try to balance the tablet while you’re watching a movie and want to pump up the volume. On the right, you’ll find a USB 3.0 jack and another jack for outputting HD video.

The 10.1-inch ClearBlack IPS LCD 1080p screen is fantastic and the viewing angles are great; you’ll almost get a full 180-degrees out of them, though the ppi is lower than competing tablets at just 218 pp. Text and video still looked sharp, however. We prefer it over the Surface 2 display, and loved how bright it gets; in fact, we often had to turn the brightness down. Like the shiny back, though, the screen attracts fingerprints like crazy.

Nokia Lumia 2520-Windows Button

The Windows button seems overly sensitive, and we found we tapped it a lot only to return to the home screen accidentally. Also, while we love the screen itself, the bezels are huge, almost about an inch wide completely moving around the screen. We’re more fond of the edge-to-edge experience.

For the hardware heads out there, here’s a refresher on the other specs: the 2520 has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.2GHz, a 6.7-megapixel camera, a wide-angle 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, a large 8,120mAh battery, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and a microSD card slot for adding even more.

The speakers are pretty awesome. They get really loud and are among the best we’ve ever found on a tablet. We frequently stood the tablet up on our desk and watched shows on Netflix, like Firefly, and easily heard every conversation.
One final gripe with the hardware: we love the kickstand on the Surface 2 and really wish Nokia offered one as well, though to keep the tablet thin we understand why it wasn’t included and it’s not a huge dealbreaker. This can be alleviated with Nokia’s keyboard accessory, which we didn’t get to test, but that’s also going to add some bulk to the tablet.

Software

We won’t dive too far into the software, because we think most people generally know what to expect with a Windows RT machine. As we mentioned in the introduction, you won’t have full access to legacy Windows apps and instead need to rely on those created for the platform and for the Web.

The one true app that stands out is a full desktop version of Microsoft Office, which comes with a purchase of the Lumia 2520. It’s powerful and works well, though without a keyboard we didn’t really ever use the Lumia 2520 for Office documents.

Nokia Lumia 2520-Charms

There are apps for Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard and more, but you won’t find a lot of the hit tablet apps that are available for the iPad or Android tablets, and that’s kind of frustrating. Like some of the Galaxy Note tablets, however, you can run two apps side-by-side. It works well, though we rarely found ourselves actually using the feature.

Nokia Lumia 2520-Desktop

Nokia also adds value with its own apps, such as Nokia Camera, Nokia Story Teller, Nokia Video Director for editing video and more. Nokia Story Teller is pretty cool; it shows you where your photos were snapped and when, while Nokia Camera gives you the granular controls you’ll find on Nokia’s smartphones. Finally, HERE Maps is another great addition, especially if you want to use the tablet for navigation or for saving maps offline.

Also, we should note: it’s really awkward to hold the tablet in portrait but Windows doesn’t really support that mode in most apps.

Camera

The 6.7 megapixel Zeiss lens camera is one of the best we’ve seen on a tablet, though we admit we rarely ever use (read: never, unless we’re testing) a tablet for snapping photos. But, if you want to, you have the option.

Low-light shots were particularly good, though a bit grainy, and there isn’t a flash to help you out when there’s no light at all. Shots snapped during the day looked really crisp, though we’re not surprised since Nokia has focused a lot on using great cameras in its products.

The front-facing camera is grainy and the quality looked a bit low to us, though we liked that it has a wide angle lens for fitting more of your shot onto the screen during a video chat or a quick selfie.

Battery Life

The Nokia 2520 has incredible battery life. It’s one of those devices where you never really have to worry about the battery dying; chances are you’ll plug it in before it ever dips below the 25-percent mark. It’s really impressive that Nokia crammed an 8,000 mAh battery in it considering the device is just over 8mm thick.

We often found ourselves using the tablet during an entire work week, for about five days, on and off until the battery was dead with brightness at about 80 percent. It offered some of the best battery life of any tablet we’ve ever tested, and with a lower screen brightness we probably could have hit about seven days of life. That’s pretty stellar.

Final Thoughts

Rating

8.5
It’s one of the best options on the market

Nokia Lumia 2520

The Lumia 2520 sets out to be the best Windows RT 8.1 tablet, and it does a very good job at that. We love what Nokia’s doing, and our biggest gripe with the tablet – the lack of apps – isn’t really Nokia’s fault at all. We kind of hope Nokia has a full-blown Windows tablet in the works, though that’s probably off of the table for now.

Thankfully, however, we know that Microsoft is acquiring Nokia’s amazing know-how for building first-class hardware designs, so we expect new tablets in the future that build off of what the Lumia 2520 already offers.

We’re breaking the mold a bit with our scoring here because we really loved using the Lumia 2520 on a daily basis, even over the Surface 2 when we didn’t need anything on the desktop side. We wanted to give it an 8.5 or a 9 score, but we’re going with an 8.75 right smack in the middle.

Nokia really nailed its first Windows tablet, and if you’re in the market for a new one you really need to consider the Lumia 2520, it’s one of the best options on the market.

Disclaimer: TechnoBuffalo received two tablets for testing from Nokia and Verizon. One was tested in our Irvine office for about two weeks, while the other was tested in New York City for the same period of time. The tablets will be returned to the companies when further comparisons are completed.