The Nokia Lumia 2520: My week with the 'other' Windows ARM tablet

The Nokia Lumia 2520: My week with the 'other' Windows ARM tablet

Summary: After close to a week with the Nokia Lumia 2520, what's this Surface RT user's first impressions?


There are two Windows tablet makers still building ARM-based devices: Microsoft and Nokia.


Over the past week, I've had the chance to try out the "other" ARM tablet: The Lumia 2520. Nokia loaned me a device on November 15 and I've been checking it out ever since.

Right off the bat, I can't help but mention that Nokia loaned me (and other reviewers, I believe), the Lumia 2520 without a keyboard/cover combo, as that accessory wasn't ready in time. I admit, the lack of a keyboard colored my "non-reviewer's" review of this device substantially. And not in a good way.

Due to the way I've come to use my Surface RT, Microsoft's first-generation ARM-based tablet, I've come to count on a keyboard as part of my tablet experience, even for casual Web surfing. Yes, I know some of my ZDNet colleagues consider this a mental deficiency on my part. But a real keyboard, like the Type Cover 2, which I recently purchased to complement my Surface RT, has changed my tablet usage patterns noticeably. I pick up my Surface RT a lot more frequently than I did my iPad, as I like the option of typing quickly and comfortably, even for the most mundane tasks.


The Lumia 2520 without a real keyboard/kickstand was just not an optimal experience. The keyboard/cover, pictured at left, is a wrap-around, with the touch pad made of a flexible material. The keyboard/cover is a power one, and Nokia claims it adds up to five extra hours of battery life. The keyboard also adds kickstand functionality to the device.

Missing keyboard/cover aside, the 2520 is a really pretty tablet. It's thin, relatively light (1.36 pounds, or 615 grams), available in four colors, and -- best of all, supports 4G/LTE. Here's a list of specs of the Lumia 2520 and the Microsoft Surface 2 compared.

I didn't think I'd really missed LTE support on my Wi-Fi-only Surface RT. I was wrong. I know there's Microsoft telemetry data that purportedly supports the idea that LTE isn't really wanted/needed by the majority of tablet users. But robust Wi-Fi is not ubiquitous. I found myself happily relying on the Verizon LTE support built into my Lumia 2520 loaner more often than not. I've used it in a variety of places around the U.S. and found it fast and reliable.

After using an LTE-enabled Lumia 2520, I wish I had LTE support in my Surface RT. (Microsoft has said LTE-enabled Surface 2s are coming in early 2014, but so far, there are no plans for LTE-enabled Surface Pro 2 devices.) Requiring users to have MiFi devices or tethering access isn't enough.

I am a "normal" -- compared to many reviewers, at least. That means I don't do benchmarks, unboxings, tear-downs, etc. I just judge devices based on my own usage patterns and past experiences, as an average consumer probably would. From that standpoint, I found the Lumia 2520, which is based on a Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core ARM processor, to be more "performant" than the Surface RT or Surface 2.

The Lumia 2520 felt as though it opened apps more quickly and allowed me to browse the Web faster than Microsoft's Surface RT or Surface 2 ARM tablets. And for whatever reason(s), the battery on this device seems to be lasting longer than on my Surface RT, from which I get about six to seven hours of occasional (non-constant-streaming) usage. Because of the lack of a keyboard, I haven't used the Lumia 2520 enough to feel comfortable providing a more specific battery-life estimate. Nokia, for its part, claims the device gets up to 11 hours.

While the display on the 2520 is good-looking, I was hard-pressed to notice a differeence between the screen resolution of the Surface RT and the Lumia 2520. The Lumia 2520 sports a higher resolution and ships with a 10.1-inch 1080p display. (The second-generation Surface 2 also offers 1080p.) But I still find documents very readable on my 768p Surface RT. Putting the Lumia 2520 and the Surface RT side-by-side, I had trouble noticing a difference in quality of images or typefaces. 

I don't have much more to say about the Lumia 2520. Once I get to try this device out with a keyboard/cover, I most likely will use it more and have more to say about how it compares to my Surface RT.

Here in the U.S., Verizon will be selling the 2520 first, as of November 21, for $499. (It's $399 for those signing a two-year contract). AT&T will offer the 2520 as of November 22 for $399.99 with a two-year agreement. (It's $199.99 for those who purchase it along with certain new Lumia phones.) The keyboard/cover, when available, will be an additional $149.99.

Update (November 22): Nokia is offering a limited-time deal on the keyboard/cover for the Lumia 2520. If you order by January 31, it will arrive via mail for free. "Allow up to six weeks for shipment," according to the deal site.

Topics: Mobility, Nokia, Tablets, ARM, Microsoft Surface


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • for what it's worth...

    ... I realize it's not the same as built-in LTE, but I find that the Windows Phone GDR3 preview and Windows 8.1 has now ALMOST taken away my need for the built-in radio. After pairing my GDR3 Lumia 1020 to the Surface (a Pro 2 for me) via Bluetooth, my phone now permanently appears in the Wifi listing, without doing anything. When selecting that 'hotspot', it connects to the phone with Bluetooth, telling it to automatically enable the Wifi hotspot mode on the phone, and the phone automatically tells the PC what the Wifi SSID and password are. The end experience is that it nearly does feel like the Surface has WiFi built in this way.
    • GDR3?

      How'd you get that update? Is the update officially out?
      • Kind of...

        ...GDR3 is slowly being rolled out, however Windows Phone Developers now have the ability to access Developer Previews of Updates, so some of us have had the GDR3 preview for a while now. Although a developer license is incredibly cheap, you can actually get a free license, unlock your phone and then download the Preview for Developers app and it'll cost you nothing. Just do a quick Bing for instructions :)
        • Forgot to say...

          I also use my Surface 2 & Lumia 1020 (with GDR3) in the same fashion as above. Its incredibly quick and means I don't miss LTE support.

          Don't get me wrong, having the option/ability of LTE would be great and I'd take it in a heart beat, but there's a really simple solution for Windows Phone users that takes no technically trickery to use :)
      • Boom
    • Thanks!

      Wow! It didn't realise it worked this way.

      Just confirmed this feature with my Lumia 920 and my Windows 8.1 machine. This is so awesome! Totally removes the need for built in LTE option on my laptop!
      • I believe that AT&T will charge you more if you tether like that

        Or at least they used to. I believe they can detect that some other device is using their network and come back and say "you owe us for an upgrade to a tethering-capable contract"
        • I think it depends on your plan

          Unlimited data should be a tethering fee. I think plans over 5gb get tethering free, but they really all should. You pay for the data and should be allowed to access it how you want.
          • I think

            over here it's the other way round, no idea about where you are. More sensible approach being anything capped is tether allowed, ie. you have a set amount of data, use it how you like, whereas the unlimited plans generally prohibit tethering. My provider explained it that the unlimited plans assume a maximum level of data usage through a mobile device and if tethering it could be far higher. Not sure I follow that seeing as I could easily download everything to SD card instead of direct to non-mobile device.
            Little Old Man
          • to tether or pay?

            Tethering is included in AT&Ts Data Share plans, regardless of the cap level. I never thought the burden of going to settings>internet sharing and sliding a switch was onerous, but the one time pair with the phone then showing up in the WiFi list has made saving $10 a month even easier.

            I always found it silly, given tethering was included in my plan, to pay extra for my tablet's connection. I would put it near 100% of the time I want to be on line with my tablet and am not near WiFi, I do have my phone with me as well.
        • They can't do that anymore, FTC ruling

          • I mean FCC

    • Well, great, apple business model advocate

      now we need the whole armada of MS devices, right?

      when I only hear once again of telemetry, I’ll propose myself as MS’ next CEO. What kind of imbecility is that? A tablet is a mobile device per se. You want to use it along the way, it has to be internet connected all the way.
      Enough tethering, telemetry and market research, people start THINKING!
      • of course not

        Of course that's not what I'm saying, buy I'm saying that if you do happen to have a Windows Phone, there is a solution that is almost as good.

        Yes, an LTE radio in my Pro 2 would be even better. Since that's not possible right now, this is nearly good enough instead.
      • And those monthly data plans that go with each device are free?

        not everyone wants to pay $30 PER device every month just to access the internet.

        His way is $30 a month for 3 devices, yours is $90 a month for three devices.

        What makes more sense, seeing that these are just unimportant mobile devices, and not a pacemaker or anything like that?
        • You do realize

          Other phone can function as WiFi hotspots? I think his complaint is having to pay for unneeded devices, and complications, to do what a mobile device should do.
          I hate trolls also
          • I was going by the statement

            "A tablet is a mobile device per se. You want to use it along the way, it has to be internet connected all the way."

            it sounds like (to me) that moodjbow was pretty much arguing that there's no reason why the tablet shouldn't be LTE equipped, and not reliant on orther devices to connect.
          • everything has a price

            The reason the tablet doesn't have to be LTE equipped is price. Apple has determined that LTE costs you $130. Check the difference between the WiFi and LTE models. You'll find similar premiums applied to other device that offer both a WiFi only and LTE model. You could imagine a WiFi only 2520 might be had for closer to $370 rather than $500.

            Not saying there shouldn't be an LTE option, as I'm sure there are those who would buy and benefit. I just don't find it essential to pay for an option I don't need and costs extra to use, when I can get the equivalent for free.

            This isn't just academic incidentally. I did have a Verizon capable iPad, which I bought to spread my carrier dependence out. There are those places without WiFi that may also not have good AT&T coverage. I figured buying the Verizon I could WiFi, AT&T tether, and as a last resort turn on Verizon for a month (that's the minimum). Did that once, worked. Cost me $20, for the one day I wanted it.
    • This works very well

      I have a crappy Wi-Fi access at my main worksite but strong LTE coverage from AT&T. After loading the GDR3 on my 920, accessibility for my Surface 2 is not an issue anymore. As long as my employer pays for my unlimited data plan, I can't think of a better way to go.
    • I was hoping that would be my case, unfortunately...

      the Samsung Series 7 Slate with Windows 8.1 crashes if I try to use the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connection with my HTC 8X with GDR3. I can manually connect it, but that is less convenient.