Nokia Lumia 1320 review

As handset manufacturers start to produce more mid-range, shrunken versions of flagship phones Nokia has spotted a lesser occupied gap in the market - the affordable phablet space. It's here that the Nokia Lumia 1320 sets its sights, maintaining the large-scale of its 1520 brother but minus the top-end specification.

And with no sign of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Lite coming to the UK Nokia has limited competition in this category, with the likes of the Huawei Ascend Mate and Oppo N1 viable alternatives, but neither competitor offering the possibility of 4G.

Nokia looks to offer the best of both the size and value worlds to those who want a large display and 4G connectivity but don't want to shell out for the expensive options currently out there. But by going budget does the 1320's reduction in power result in a handset that limps along, or is it the best value prospect in the phablet space right now?

Build

Despite being a phone at the budget end of the market the Lumia 1320 has the high quality build we've come to expect from Nokia devices. The rear casing is a single piece of plastic with a matte finish that snaps on and off easily and remains securely in place to give a unibody feel.

Even though the 1320 measures 164mm along its longest side as is 86mm wide, the power/lock button is perfectly placed on the side at thumb height. Both this, the volume rocker and dedicated camera button are all solidly finished and slightly protruding for ease of use.

The weight of the Lumia 1320 isn't to be underestimated. Though we barely notice it in out pockets thanks to that slim 9.8mm body it was a little heavy in the hand at 220g. This made one-handed use something that required focus as it nearly slipped out of the palm a few times - but that's to expected with any phablet of this size. And with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 that wouldn't even be much of an issue. We had the phone in a bag with keys at one point by mistake and there wasn't a single mark on the screen.

Screen

If it's a phablet screen that you want, then it's a phablet screen you shall get. The 6-inch panel offers a nicely sized keyboard and has huge Windows Phone display icons. But if it's a high-resolution large screen that you're after then the 1320 falls down.

Compared to the Lumia 1520 the 1320 has clearly cut back in the screen department to achieve that more affordable price tag. The 1280 x 720 resolution IPS LCD screen offers just 245ppi which means icons are fuzzy around the edges and text isn't as sharp as most higher-end handsets currently offer. That would be less apparent at a smaller scale, but at this giant size it's noticeable.

READ: Nokia Lumia 1520 review

That's not to say it doesn't do the job well, as we've been pretty happy with the 1320's screen performance. Whether it's a little dark or when in daylight the screen is visible at the highest brightness setting. We did still have trouble photographing the screen without reflections though, and this despite the ClearBlack reflection fighting smarts. However, the colour on screen looks great thanks to the TrueColor technology which is ideal when using the myriad tiles of the Windows Phone operating system.

Power

In spite of a step down from the top-end phones, the Lumia 1320 comes loaded with a quad-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 processor and 1GB of RAM. It's plenty fast enough and there wasn't a moment when we were forced to wait. The only really noticeable difference between this and the faster 1520 was rendering Nokia Cinemagraph images - but even then it was only a difference of a second or two, which is something you might well be willing to sacrifice for the potential cash savings.

After spending so many years limited to dual-core processors, Windows Phone has clearly found an efficient way of running so that even when using an older quad-core as is the case in the 1320 it still runs super smooth.

Best of all is that 4G connectivity, which means super-fast downloads of apps on the go. And with a growing market in Windows Store we're sure you'll want to get in on the action more and more. It's this connectivity speed that will make potential purchasers look at the Lumia 1320 instead of something like the Huawei Ascend Mate or quirky (and brilliant) Oppo N1.

READ: Oppo N1 review

Battery life is also something that the Windows Phone operating system doesn't drain at pace. The 3400mAh battery pack paired with that less-demanding processor gave us a solid two days use from the 1320. And that's with regular use, the Wi-Fi left on and plenty of camera snapping too.

Camera

But don't expect to be blown away by the 1320's 5-megapixel camera, and don't expect to get any digital zooming done without plenty of jagged-edged, granular-looking images. For the 1320 doesn't represent Nokia's imaging excellence to the same degree as the 1520 model.

But do expect to have lots of fun. Thanks to the Nokia Lenses suite, which can be downloaded for free and offers a variety of additional special effects and the like, there's lots to do with the camera that'll keep photos original while offering entertainment.

Nokia Cinemagraph shoots an image for a few seconds and allows the user to animate sections afterwards for a GIF-like moving image. This took a few seconds to render but was very forgiving even when being used by a shakey hand.

For the manual camera fans the Nokia Camera app can be used to have full control over all the settings using an on-screen ring slider. From focus and metering to ISO sensitivity and shutter speed - it's all here and it's all adjustable. Make a change and you'll see the impact displayed live on the screen which is a great way for newbies to learn and experiment with how these settings affect a shot.

Other Lenses include Vine and Twitter, for instant uploads, and Bing Vision for scanning QR codes, barcodes and Microsoft Tags. And of course Instagram now has its own dedicated app on Windows Phone.

Software

The Lumia 1320 comes with Windows Phone 8 with Lumia Black onboard. This latest software means users now have the ability to edit the Glance screen allowing for a choice of notifications from messaging and calls to Facebook and Twitter to be available at a glance without unlocking the phone. Users can double touch the screen to enter the lock screen with more notifications there, before swiping up to unlock. It's a tidy setup.

The Lumia Black update also means tiles can be stacked three wide at regular size, to really take advantage of that screen real estate. We were able to put most applications on the first screen so everything was available without the need to swipe through multiple screens.

Nokia's Here Maps is also included with the phone which really adds huge value to an already well priced handset. Using offline maps while we were testing the 1320 out in the sticks rendered a more expensive Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and S4 totally useless - we know, we carry a lot of phones around we tech folk - as they both lost signal while the 1320 continued offering directions.

READ: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review

The current suite of Nokia software has gone from strength to strength of late. Also included is Nokia Beamer, which we think is somewhat underrated. This allows you mirror your 1320 screen on a web browser anywhere - a QR code pops up on the receiving device and after being scanned by the phone turns it into a real-time mirror of the screen. Snazzy.

Then there's Nokia MixRadio, a huge resource of tunes that play intelligently to suit a user's tastes, learning as it goes. There really is tremendous value from the software Nokia bundles with its handsets - especially with one at this price point.

Verdict

The Nokia Lumia 1320 gives users huge amounts for their money. That can be taken in a literal sense too thanks to the large 6-inch screen, although the so-so resolution will be too poor for most power users and pales compared to the top-spec Lumia 1520. The camera, too, is a big step behind the top-spec offerings from Lumia's suite of devices. But then we knew that was going to be the case, as the 1320 is all about the balance of features for an affordable price and concessions therefore have to be made.

And as a value prospect the Lumia 1320 is great. Decent build quality, amazing battery life, and enough power to keep most people will be happy. It's just a shame that a screen of this scale is the limited resolution that it is.

But what really sets the 1320 off is its 4G connectivity, the likes of which the limited competition can't match at this moment in time. Add valuable Nokia apps such as Here Maps and MixRadio and the competition has a hard act to follow. For the price you pay the 1320 definitely ticks plenty of boxes.



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