Nokia Lumia 2520 review: Fantastic Nokia technology in tablet form

The Nokia Lumia 2520 is an excellent tablet alternative to the iPad with Windows RT 8.1 serving well in the tablet role. Even without a keyboard, the Lumia 2520 is a great tablet to consider for the holidays.
1 of 16 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Retail AT&T packing for the Lumia 2520

Last week I posted my first impressions of the Nokia Lumia 2520 and ordered one for myself. After several more days of use, my enthusiasm waned due to Verizon's processing purgatory. I worked through that and placed a new order for one at the Microsoft Store this morning so should have my own 2520 tomorrow.


Nokia makes some fantastic hardware and the Lumia 2520 continues that tradition with many of their best design features from their smartphone line appearing in the tablet form factor.

The main focus of the device is the display and here is where you first see Nokia rocking their technology. The Lumia 2520 has their brilliant ClearBlack display technology and you won't find another tablet that looks so good, whether you are inside or outside. It has a brilliant 650 nits luminance rating and the display alone almost tips the scale to picking up one of these tablets.

You will find a front facing camera centered above the display and about a half inch bezel around all four sides of the display. This is helpful for holding onto the device, but the bezel could probably be cut in half and still be functional.

There are also good sounding front facing stereo speakers down near the bottom of the front. I was pleased to see the speakers facing the user and think all tablets and phones should have them arranged in this manner.

The one bad part of the display is that it is a serious fingerprint magnet and I found myself constantly wiping off the display. It definitely needs a better finish on it to make it look better during heavy use.

A microHDMI port and micro USB 3.0 port are on the right side, while the left side houses the 3.5mm headset jack and power port. You may confuse the power port with the headset jack since they appear to be about the same, but just remember the power is near the bottom.

Speaking of power, it comes with a rather large proprietary charger that gets you to 80 percent in just an hour. For a device you want with you all the time, this quick charging capability is a welcome feature.

On the top you will find the volume button, power button, and slot with a try that holds the microSIM card and microSD card. The specs state that 32GB microSD cards are supported, but I have read that many people have 64GB cards working. I don't have an available 64GB card to test out so can't confirm this.

On the bottom there is a section in the center with gold contacts that are used to connect to the keyboard. I didn't get to test the external keyboard so cannot comment on its functionality. If I had used the keyboard, I may have decided to have kept the 2520 and hope to maybe try it out when it becomes available.

There is a 6.7 megapixel rear camera in the upper left corner of the back, but it is nothing special. I understand it is the same camera module from the low cost Nokia Lumia 720. I don't care what it is since I never use the rear facing camera and would be happy if manufacturers just took them out and focused on improving in other areas.


The Nokia Lumia 2520 runs Windows RT 8.1 which I personally think is a great tablet-focused operating system. I understand that most people find using a keyboard essential with RT devices, but after using the Lumia 2520 without one I think it performs just fine as a tablet OS. As I previously wrote, my tablet usage is primarily focused on media consumption so using it without a keyboard is just fine.

I am satisfied with the application selection on Windows RT, for the most part. For apps and services that I want to use that do not have apps, I found the web browser serves me well so I wasn't that bothered by some missing apps I used on my iPad.

The ability to use two apps at the same time and have control over where the next app you open goes is awesome. I found this to actually bring this tablet into the realm of serious productivity and make it an attractive alternative to the iPad's simple user interface.

I do find there are more apps I use on Windows Phone than there are on Windows RT. Thus, I wonder what it would be like to see the Lumia 2520 running the Windows Phone OS that would give me apps like ESPN Fantasy Football and Words with Friends. I'm not fully sold on the RT strategy, especially with full Windows 8.1 running on lower cost Atom-processor based hardware, but it is still a great tablet OS and I am warming up to it daily.

There were times when the device did not respond to my touch, such as when trying to delete email, and I am not sure it was a hang up in the OS or a hardware display issue. This actually happened quite a bit while using the email client and actually got to the point where it was really bothering me.

The Live Tiles interface and active tiles works well in tablet form and I find it much more attractive and useful than the simply iPad application shortcuts. The gesture support, customizability of the Start screen, and ability to change themes and colors is great in Windows RT 8.1.

Nokia includes their Nokia Storyteller application that syncs photos via Skydrive, Facebook, and your connected phone. The application attempted to connect to the online services and refresh every time I opened it up and I found the app paused often.

There is also a Nokia Video Director app designed to let you take videos from your connected phone and create custom video productions. I was able to make connections to my phones and see transfers occur, yet the application refused to ever show any videos in the library so I was never able to actually create any videos.

AT&T includes AT&T AllAccess and AT&T FamilyMap. Nokia includes the two apps I mentioned above with Dreamworks Dragons Adventure, HERE Maps (awesome GPS software with offline map support), Nokia MixRadio (rocking music service), My Nokia, and more. The Dragons Adventure game is a good way to keep young children entertained on regular routes and I was pleased with the demo I saw from Nokia.

I loaded up tons of my favorite apps, including Twitter, Facebook, Notepad Classic, Flipboard, Fitbit, Evernote Touch, ABC Player, CBS, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Flixster, YouVersion Bible, Audible, Memo List, and more. Nearly all performed very well and showed me that the Lumia 2520 can be a serious tablet competitor.

Usage and experiences

I used the Nokia Lumia 2520 while at home, during my two hour daily train commute, in the office, and while out and about. I love the light weight and durable black soft touch back. Unlike my iPhone, I felt find just setting it down on a table without worrying about it breaking or scratching up.

The viewing angles are phenomenal and the display is tough to beat. I know the iPad has a higher ppi, but the ClearBlack technology of the Lumia 2520 makes it a killer tablet for display junkies.

The battery easily lasted me a full day of heavy usage and the quick charging capability was awesome.

Pros and Cons

To summarize my experiences with the Nokia Lumia 2520, here are my pros and cons.


  • Gorgeous, brilliant ClearBlack display
  • Fast performance
  • Lightweight design with quality construction
  • Integrated Microsoft Office software
  • Charges up quickly
  • Great sounding front facing stereo speakers
  • Expandable storage capability
  • Reasonable price


  • Display is a major fingerprint magnet
  • Limited apps and some don't work as designed
  • No standard USB ports

Pricing and availability

The Nokia Lumia 2520 is available now for $399 with a two-year contract or $499 without any contract from AT&T and Verizon. You can get a red one from Verizon, but I didn't like the glossy finish so went with the matte black model.

Unless you are committed to paying for the LTE data every month for two years I wouldn't recommend saving just $100 to get locked into a contract. I like using my tablets on a prepaid basis where I sign up for data in months when I know I will be traveling and need the wireless data connection.

AT&T also offers specials when you buy their model with select Lumia smartphones so check out those specials too.

The competition

The Apple iPad is the major competitor to the Nokia Lumia 2520 and as I detailed last week, comparable iPads cost $230 more than the Lumia 2520. Samsung has a very capable competitor with their Galaxy Note 10.1 at a similar price point. Google's large screen Nexus tablet is out of stock as rumors of a successor continue to brew.

If you are looking beyond just the tablet experience, then there are plenty of Windows RT devices competing with the Lumia 2520. The major new competitor is the Microsoft Surface 2. The major differentiator here is integrated LTE, but the Surface 2 comes with some special offers on Skype and Skydrive so that is something to consider. With the Surface 2 you have the option to add a fantastic keyboard cover while the Nokia Lumia keyboard is still not available for evaluation or purchase.


  • Windows RT 8.1
  • Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.2 GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM and 32GB flash storage
  • microSD card expansion capability
  • 10.1 inch 1920 x 1080 ClearBlack resolution display at 218 ppi
  • 6.7 megapixel rear camera with Carl Zeiss optics
  • 1.2 megapixel front facing camera
  • 8,120 mAh non-removable battery
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Dimensions of 267 x 168 x 8.9 mm and 615 grams


The Nokia Lumia 2520 is a great piece of hardware and Nokia has done a good job with it. The display is fantastic and tough to beat. As I mentioned last week, if you use your tablet primarily for media consumption then it should satisfy your needs.

The integrated LTE is a nice option for those who want the most robust wireless connection while not killing your phone battery. You can also use the Lumia 2520 as a wireless hotspot for other devices and with the battery you can go for hours with it as a hotspot.

I was not impressed with the Nokia Storyteller and Nokia Video Director apps. I saw demos of them working well at Nokia's California office, but was unable to experience that myself during my evaluation time.

The tablet is light and feels well constructed, but the display is a terrible fingerprint magnet and I was constantly wiping it to try to keep it clean. I noticed this with a lower tier Nokia smartphone before. My iPad was never this bad with fingerprints.

After my order was lost in Verizon's processing purgatory, I had more time to consider whether or not I really needed a tablet as I am more of a smartphone user. The processing issue also may be thought of as confirmation from the mobile gods that the Lumia 2520 was not to be so I let the order be cancelled and will take another look at the tablet landscape later.

The more I write about the Lumia 2520, the more I think I do need to go order one again. I recommend people take an honest look at their tablet needs and what Windows RT 8.1 can offer them. Don't write off Windows RT because it isn't a full Windows OS. Tablets, including iPads, are not computer replacements. They are designed as companion devices and in that role the Nokia Lumia 2520 service very well.

Contributor's rating: 9 out of 10

Further reading

2 of 16 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Opening up the retail package

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Charging and Getting Started Guides

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My Start screen

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Lumia 1020, Surface Pro, and Lumia 2520 family pose

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Matte black finish on the back

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Headphone jack on left side

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Camera and NFC spot

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Fingerprint magnet on the front

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One of the stereo speakers

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Start screen in screenshot form

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Look at all those apps

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Side-by-side web browsing

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Choose where to place the next app

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Work with multiple apps side-by-side

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Never had Video Director working

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