Bigger is better. That’s the consensus among smartphone makers right now. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3, for instance, sports a display measuring 5.7 inches, while the Sony Xperia Z Ultra measures a whopping 6.4 inches. And yes, you’re still supposed to make calls with them.
Not one to miss out on the ‘phablet’ fun, Nokia brought out its own 6-inch Windows Phone late last year, the Nokia Lumia 1520, and now it’s back with a budget follow-up.
Meet the Nokia Lumia 1320, a 6-inch 4G warhorse at a SIM-free price under £300 ‘ half the cost of a Samsung Note. Is it as good though? It would be if it wasn’t for Windows Phone.
[alert type=alert-blue]Design & build[/alert]
The 1320 channels the exact same design as its Lumia predecessors, with a smooth, robust polycarbonate shell, curved edges and a monolithic front face that isn’t marred by physical buttons. It looks great, and at 9.8mm deep, it’s not too thick to regularly handle comfortably.
The 1320’s display measures a huge 6 inches diagonally. It sounds daunting but it isn’t. As Samsung has proved by selling millions of massive Notes, a giant screen isn’t a problem ‘ it’s the added bulk from an enormous bezel around the screen that can make a phone cumbersome. Luckily, Nokia has avoided making this error, which crippled HTC’s humongous phablet, the HTC One Max. The 1320 is very manageable despite its dimensions. It’s almost all screen, with a narrow frame on the top and bottom. This gives you oodles of space for watching videos, reading articles or thumbing out emails with an ‘embiggened’ keyboard.
What has changed with the display, however, is the pixel density. To cut costs, Nokia has used a 720p-resolution IPS LCD screen. This is technically still HD, but its 1,280 x 720-pixel resolution means a lot fewer pixels than you’ll find on a crisp 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD display, as seen with the Lumia 1520 and HTC One.
But we’re splitting hairs here. The difference is barely discernible and unless you’re a real smartphone screen connoisseur, you probably wouldn’t notice.
Nokia hasn’t skimped on the important specs. The Snapdragon S4 processor powers other top-of-the- line phones including the HTC One and LG G2, and it flies here. You won’t have any problems running taxing 3D games (although you might have trouble finding them ‘ more on that later).
Better still, Nokia’s included LTE support, meaning the 1320 enjoys the same super-fast 4G speeds as the latest flagship smartphones. So long as you have coverage in your area, you’ll come to love near-instant downloads, as well as rapid uploads, if you’re constantly sharing pictures and video away from wi-fi. Despite all this power, battery life (one of the real advantages of phablets) is solid ‘ you’ll easily clear a day of constant email syncing, browsing the web and watching videos, as you would with a Galaxy Note 3. With casual use, you could easily manage a whole weekend.
There is one area that Nokia has cut corners with: the camera. The 5-megapixel sensor on the 1320 is a pathetic pixel count compared to the outstanding 1020 and Lumia 925 snappers. It suffers from weak low-light performance and visible mottling outdoors if you don’t keep still. Nokia’s excellent camera app with slide-out settings on the Lumia 1020 is also sorely missed here. But it’s far from the worst we’ve ever tested.
[alert type=alert-blue]Windows phone & apps[/alert]
So far, good enough, right? Sadly, much of Nokia’s hard work is undone by the software. Android has developed dramatically since it launched in 2008 and it now boasts a store with more than a million apps and games. Windows Phone, by contrast, hasn’t aged a day ‘ it remains as pretty as ever and just as vacuous.
The Start screen is a pleasant way to navigate apps and inboxes, and with that blazing CPU under the hood, there’s no slowdown. But there remain glaring issues.
You’re not able to change your keyboard layout; Nokia’s bundled Here mapping app is one of the best pre-installed navigation apps to be found on the 1320 there’s still no decent universal notification centre; and Internet Explorer is a mess, hiding tabs away behind multiple clicks and sometimes rendering web pages very oddly.
The Windows Store lags behind its competitors on quality and quantity of must-have apps. At least Vine and Instagram are both available at long last (they come preloaded, along with WhatsApp and a few branded apps you should ignore, especially novelty card purveyor Funky Pigeon), and there’s an excellent Flappy Bird game.
There’s still no official YouTube app, while Microsoft only recently added TV shows and movie rentals to its download service, something Apple has offered on the iPhone for more than six years. Windows Phone has always felt late to the party, but it’s especially true here.
The large screen is fine for viewing photos but the pixel density is not that high and the camera lacks quality
The Windows Phone software doesn’t suit a screen this size. Beyond an extra column of tiles dumped onto the homescreen, the massive display offers few advantages. You can’t run apps side by side, as with the Galaxy Note. You can’t adjust the size of the keyboard to suit your thumbs or swipe to type. And there’s no stylus for writing. It’s just the small screen experience, stretched out and blurrier.
Then there’s the price. At around £280 SIM-free, it’s only a fraction cheaper than Google’s phenomenal Nexus 5 ‘ and we know which has better apps. On contract pricing, that small difference melts away, with contracts for both on 4G at around £21 per month. It’s just not that cheap for an affordable phablet ‘ not while Google and LG undercut the market with the Nexus.