Nokia can finally lay claim to a tablet worthy of its brand name.
The Nokia Lumia 2520 is stunning. It has a 10.1-inch screen and it's incredibly thin, light and comes in one of four colors (glossy red or white and black or cyan matte). I got a glossy red one and—like many Nokia products—it's a joy to hold. With a few notable exceptions, Nokia makes really attractive and ergonomically-inclined hardware. The Lumia 2520 is a perhaps the epitome of Nokia design since it adopted the Windows operating system several years ago.
The hardware in the Lumia 2520 is nothing to sneeze at either. It employs a 8000 mAh battery that Nokia claims can get an 80% charge in one hour. The innards consist of a 2.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 2GB of RAM 32GB of internal storage with MicroSD support for up to another 32GB. It has a 6.7-megapixel back camera with Carl Zeiss optics and a 2-megapixel front camera, which are both very good for full-sized tablets
Unlike its big sister the Surface 2, the Lumia 2520 has LTE cellular connectivity with a broad range of carrier support. I got a Verizon version of the Lumia 2520 and it connects as fast as any smartphone.
The screen on the Lumia 2520 is excellent, comparable to other high-end tablets with 1080p HD (1920x1080). As with the Surface 2, the screen is fairly responsive and quick though I did run into a little lag in certain apps, like Flipboard. At one pound ,5.7 ounces, it's heavier than the iPad Air but still doesn't feel too clunky or cumbersome.
These specs (the battery and processor mostly) are all top of the line for a device running on an ARM chip and give Nokia a respectable offering at the top of the tablet market.
Nokia’s Hooks Into The Tablet
Unlike Microsoft, Nokia is no stranger to building apps for ARM devices, and so offers a number of proprietary services that run on top of Windows RT.
Nokia HERE Maps, Nokia Music, Storyteller, Nokia Camera and the Nokia Video Director all make their way to the Lumia 2520. These are welcome additions to the standard Microsoft core apps that run on Windows 8.1 RT.
The only problem with the Nokia-specific apps is that they require the user to establish a Nokia account instead of just using the Microsoft account that Windows 8.1 RT forces users to sign up for on Windows devices. Since Microsoft and Nokia are almost the same company, the two might as well push for a single sign-on for all the apps between the two companies.
Nokia does bring a couple of third-party apps specifically to the Lumia 2520, including DreamWorks Dragon Adventure, a game based on the movie How To Train Your Dragon. It's a location-based game where your missions and quests are dictated by your travel. It's primarily designed for parents to give their kids on road trips.
Still Running Windows RT
If you've ever used Windows RT, you're not going to be surprised or enlightened by the operating system in the Lumia 2520. Really, except for the Nokia-specific features, the Surface 2 and the Lumia 2520 might as well be the same tablet.
This is somewhat of a problem in Windows 8 devices including the Pro, RT and Phone divisions: The user interface looks the way Microsoft wants it to look. Outside of customizing hubs and tiles within the operating system, there is very little difference between any two Windows 8 devices. The hardware specifications and build quality may look different between devices, but you get the same user interface and experience on the inside.
That means that all the good and bad parts of Windows 8.1 RT come to the Lumia 2520. The good parts are Internet Explorer, a top-quality browser, and all the standard Windows-based system apps. Like the Surface 2, the Microsoft Office apps come bundled on the Lumia 2520 and can be toggled from the limited Start button on Windows 8.1 RT. If you want to turn your Lumia 2520 into a productivity tablet, you've got that option.
Windows 8.1 RT’s primary problem, though is a lack of top brand apps. Spotify, Zite, HBO Go, Pandora, IMDB and their ilk are all still missing in action. The absence of those apps is a very clear obstacle to users of rival tablets who might otherwise consider switching to the Windows platform.
Correction: The original version of the article said that there was no Netflix app on Windows 8.1 RT. There is an official Netflix app in the store. We apologize for the error.
The Lumia 2520 also supports a keyboard, though it doesn't come with one. The Nokia Power Keyboard is available for $149.
Mobile All The Way
The biggest advantage that the Lumia 2520 has over the Surface 2 is that it's LTE-equipped. Rumors suggest that the Surface 2 will have a data connection next year, but right now if you want a Windows 8.1 RT tablet that doesn’t rely on Wi-Fi, the Lumia 2520 is it.
According to a Nokia Conversations blog post, the Lumia 2520 will be available through AT&T on a two-year contract for $399. If you buy a Lumia device like the 1520 or 1020, that price comes down to $199 on contract. Without a subsidy, the Lumia 2520 will retail for $499 before taxes.
The notion of going on contract for a tablet is a little bit odd. The carriers tried to attach data plans to tablets when the Motorola Xoom was originally announced, but that didn't go well. That was partly because of the device—the Xoom was widely panned—but also that it seemed odd to sign a contract for a device that wasn’t a smartphone.
The standard way to add data plans to tablets these days is to either bundle them into a shared data plan or to pay month-to-month for the amount of data you want with the ability to add more or cancel on any given month.
That being said, the Lumia 2520 matches up favorably to the iPad Air in terms of price for a LTE-enabled tablet. A 32GB iPad Air (with no MicroSD slot) with a data connection costs $729. The same storage and data cost $499 from Nokia. So that's is a point in Nokia’s favor.
The Lumia 2520 will be available starting November 22.
The Advantages Of The Lumia 2520
While Nokia brings a worthwhile effort to its first tablet, it is hard to get over the fact that the operating system and user interface is absolutely no different than the Surface 2.
Yes, it's more attractive—not that the Surface 2 is ugly, it is just that Nokia is very good at making things pretty—and has LTE. But if you're not partial to Windows 8.1 RT, there's really no good reason to step up and buy a Lumia 2520. If you are a Windows RT fan, then you should take a serious look at the Lumia 2520 over the Surface 2.