Review: Nokia Lumia 1320 is a Perfectly Usable Pocket Monolith

By Gary Cutlack on at

Microsoft’s newly acquired phone division is pumping out the hardware at great pace, with the Lumia 1320 offering six inches of fun and a 5-Megapixel camera for capturing evidence of said fun. It won't win any beauty contests, or smallest-phone contests, but it’s not terrible. Don't be a Windows Phone denier, it’s really not that bad.

 

 

What Is It?

A less glossy but equally enormous phone as the Lumia 1520, but with lower-spec internals to allow Microsoft to sell its “phablet” sized device at an affordable price of around £250 SIM-free, or on very cheap monthly contracts. Plus it’s 4G, too.

 

 

Who Is It For?

The modestly sized Venn diagram cross-section of people who like Nokia, Windows Phone, phablets and aren't too fussy about having the best tech specs inside their devices.

 

 

Design

It’s big. It’s wide. If anyone’s ever complimented you on having dainty hands, it’s not the phone for you. Fortunately, though, the Lumia 1320 curves in around the edges at the back and is therefore quite slim and rounded at the sides, so it doesn't quite feel as hefty in the hand as it initially appears.

The buttons are all stuffed on the right-hand side of the 1320, with the power button in the middle, the volume up/down toggle above it and a physical camera shutter key bottom-right. These buttons are pretty well recessed making it a bit hard to find them naturally, so we were left groping for them on occasion.

Around the back, it’s about as generic as a phone can be. There’s no glossy Lumia 1520 finish here, just a matte black slab with a central camera lens and flash. It’s not a thrilling device to behold, so the Windows logo seems strangely at home on this boring rectangle.

The front’s pretty generic too. The Back, Windows and Search buttons sit below the display and aren’t backlit, so finding them in the dark requires some confident guess-pokes.

What is nice is Nokia’s clever Glance notifications area, which illuminates the pixels of the bottom-left corner of the display. It gives you key data and message notifications without activating the entire screen -- if only Windows Phone 8.0 made more use of it it’d be quite the killer feature.

 

 

Using It

It’s Windows Phone, which means a massive single Start screen full of tiles of variable size and colour, now with three columns thanks to the higher resolution display and recent WP updates. It’s a simple system and one that’s quite enjoyable to use once you've pinned and resized all your favourite apps to this curated front page, although the way some are interactive and some are just large inactive icons is a bit of a shame.

Swipe left and the phone’s entire list of apps appears, from where you can choose what to pin to your main page -- or long-press to uninstall them; add to the Kid’s Corner app sandpit; review on the marketplace or share.

As well as the Glance active area, a double tap on the display pulls the Lumia 1320 out of standby. That’s one way of getting around the recessed and hard-to-find power button.

 

 

Tragic Flaw

The Windows Phone menu system is pretty baffling. Press Settings and you're taken to a big list of everything, with no clear grouping of features or function. Trying to find where to delete a social media account or change a Wi-Fi setting is a pretty tiresome trawl.

 

 

This Is Weird

Facebook’s given a prominent Start screen placement and is deeply integrated with its own bespoke set of pages, but it often crashed on launch for us. Plus using a white-on-black colour scheme to read Facebook feels extremely wrong. It makes it look like a website from the 1990s.

 

 

Test Notes

- Battery life was a highlight. The 3,400mAh unit coped well even with the jumbotron arena display, easing through a couple of days on a single charge. And that was with fairly heavy spells on the camera, the usual endless reloading of Twitter and a good chunk of Nokia MixRadio.

- Dare we say something nice about it, but Internet Explorer is fast to load web pages and works really well on the big screen. Those used to Android’s Chrome browser will scoff at its comparative lack of options, but for speed and readability -- which is all most people really care about -- it’s certainly good enough.

- And bloody hell, it’s only got Office on it. If your work involves having to create Microsoft format documents in a miserable office-cum-factory environment, that’s quite a large selling point -- especially on a device of this size, where the enormity of the display means you can get up some serious speed on the responsive keyboard.

- As well as being speedy, Microsoft has integrated next-word prediction in its keyboard, plus one of its key design decisions -- the lurid accents colour scheme concept -- makes typing a little easier. Having a high contrast icon of the letter you just pressed pop up gives your brain just enough feedback to reassure you that the correct key registered.

- The display is “only” 1280 x 720 resolution, but that’s good enough here. The WP colour scheme and chunky fonts mean everything reads clearly, so we didn't find ourselves pining for 1080p clarity.

- One nice thing to see baked into Microsoft’s OS is the custom, password protected Kid’s Corner tool. This lets you boot the phone into an unbreakable separate Start screen, where the only apps accessible are the ones you've selected. Ideal for cherry picking a few educational apps for your kids to use, while stopping them instantly heading to YouTube to watch videos of people hurting themselves and Katy Perry videos instead.

- The camera, although only a 5-Megapixel unit, takes pretty shots. They're not huge in size, but the colours are great and there's little in the way of compression noise. The camera is nice and quick to use too, albeit lacking in serious options other than the token white balance, ISO and exposure tweaks, plus a few preset scenes.

 

 

Should You Buy It?

If you're not already entrenched in the iPhone or Android ecosystems with the relevant gang-member facial tattoos to prove your lifelong allegiance to Google or Apple, it’s a perfectly workable larger phone. It’s a little buggy, with Facebook integration a pain to set-up and you will already know if you like the whole concept of the 6-inch “phablet” or not, but… it definitely works.

It’s fast to use, the camera’s pretty good for a budget-ish bigger device, plus Microsoft and its app buddies are slowly managing to fill some of the larger gaps in the marketplace -- there’s a beta of Instagram for WP now, for god’s sake. And WhatsApp. What more does the mainstream punter need?

The only flaws here are with the Windows Phone OS itself. The sharing integration and notification system isn't anywhere as good as Android, the camera software and app options nothing like as posh as you find on iOS and the menus are rather bewildering walls of text. And the whole "big fonts" thing was surely quite a mistake.

But as a third way for outsiders and mavericks, it’s a decent enough phone with an OS that’s only occasionally baffling.

 

Nokia Lumia 1320 Specs

Price: £299 unlocked
Processor: Dual-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
Screen: 6-inch (15.24cm), 720 x 1080 resolution IPS LCD
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 8GB, micro-SD
Camera: 5MP rear camera, VGA front camera
OS: Windows Phone 8.0
Battery: 3,400mAh