Nokia Lumia 1320 Review: In Depth

Nokia’s most recent flagships have done little but impress, but can they still balance a great experience in a more affordable package? The Nokia Lumia 1320 helps us decide.

Nokia Lumia 1320 design: Welcome to the big leagues

If the large-screened Nokia Lumia 1520 is a phablet take on the Lumia 1020, the 1320 is a phablet take on the Lumia 625 and it shares many of the same values too: a simple, clean design, affordable 4G and a big screen, very big in this instance.

Aside from its size, the Lumia 1320 is a pretty unassuming handset, particularly when looking at the black version in our possession. The minimalist design language means that it’s inoffensive, although if you prefer you can swap out the back plate for bright orange, white or yellow.

In the hand the curved back and relative thinness of the 1320 mean that it’s surprisingly comfortable to hold. The hardware controls on the right-hand side require a little shimmying on your thumb’s part for a sturdy grip, but it’s all manageable. What’s more the inclusion of a hardware camera key is always welcome and the capacitive keys under the display give the phone a more balanced look than its sibling, the 1520, which squeezes these keys closer together.

Unless you have giant’s hands, chances are one-handed use won’t be possible, especially when you’re typing. That display is just too darn big, but at the same time, the two-handed typing experience is very enjoyable. The large on-screen keyboard helps keep typing errors to a minimum and you have a more secure grip on the device, so it’s a win, win, provided you’re not a big multi-tasker.

Nokia Lumia 1320 screen: Surprisingly sharp

On the subject of that display, it may be big, but that’s kind of the point and to its credit, it’s very pretty. On-paper a 1280×720 resolution, stretched across a 6-inch display like the one on the Lumia 1320 might cause problems, but in practice, content looks perfectly crisp and clear. Sure it doesn’t reach the pin-sharp prowess of its more powerful sibling, but you won’t feel like you’re watching content, reading text or looking at your snaps on a subpar display.

The screen boasts a great picture and feels more premium than the handset’s price would suggest, particularly when you consider the handy Glance Screen feature, which lets you hold your hand over the display (without touching it) to offer up the latest notification information, unlock free.

In addition, the ClearBlack IPS LCD technology ensures decent viewing angles, it’s protected by a layer of the latest Gorilla Glass 3 and Nokia’s work on the software side gives users more control over colour profiles, akin to Samsung’s Screen Mode settings.

Nokia Lumia 1320 OS: Tons of tiles

If you like Windows Phone’s tiled UI, the modified version found running on the 1320, will be a welcome offering. The abundant screen real-estate has given rise to an additional column of medium-sized tiles compared to what we’re used to, meaning you can have more shortcuts and more live tiles ready at a glance in one go.

It’s a double-edged sword however, with so many live tiles it can be a bit of a visual overload, so organise your apps wisely, too many and the organised chaos will simply turn into, well, chaos.

Beyond this wider homescreen it’s a more conventional Windows Phone experience, with the latest tweaks and extras courtesy of Nokia. We already mention the Lumia colour profile picker, buried in the Settings menu, but Nokia has given the 1320 some more obvious new features.

The latest version of Mix Radio, grants users access to Nokia’s vast music library, there’s a fantastic set of mapping and navigation apps: HERE Maps, HERE Drive, Nokia Transit and more, all of which are invaluable and all of which are free. Windows Phone itself has also grown, with more top apps than ever before. There’s still a long way to go before either of Google’s or Apple’s app stores should worry, but new additions like Instagram and Vine do help remove the sense of alienation Windows Phone users would otherwise suffer alongside their iPhone or Android-toting friends.

Business users will undoubtedly appreciate the larger screen, twinned with Microsoft Office, which allows you the ability to edit documents in native Microsoft formats on-the-go. Said documents can then be thrown to the likes of Nokia Beamer – a screen sharing app that works with any device connected to the internet, perfect for an impromptu business presentation, provided you don’t need to showcase videos or animation, rely on other services for those sorts of features.

Nokia Lumia 1320 performance & storage: Big phone, small insides

We haven’t come across many phones sporting a dual-core Snapdragon S4 chip outside of the Windows Phone camp for a while now, but this tried and testing piece of silicon has proven itself extremely versatile and well balanced when twinned with WP8’s power/performance needs.

Navigation around the phone and multi-tasking showed minimal lag and the 1.7GHz chip, paired to the 1GB of RAM only really seemed to struggle with the most intensive of apps. Namely starting the Camera application, which took a surprisingly long time, especially after the phone had been powered off, and heavy 3D games like Asphalt 8, which didn’t lag, but had clearly been downrezzed to maximise smooth gameplay in comparison to phones with beefier spec sheets.

As with every Windows Phone device, 7GB of SkyDrive (soon to be renamed ‘OneDrive’) cloud storage comes as standard and the 1320 does offer microSD expandability too, but the inbuilt 8GB won’t see you particularly far otherwise. For a phone that is pretty media savvy, we would have liked perhaps twice that amount, although phones with expandability, always feature less internal storage by design at Nokia.

The 3400mAh non-removable battery is likely the biggest contributor to the Lumia 1320’s noticeable 220g weight, but it is certainly no waste of space. It’s just after lunch as these words are being written and the battery indicator has only just shown its first sign of depletion, expect a day and a half to two full days per charge, provided you’re not exclusively watching movies or playing online games over the phone’s 4G connection. Impressive, most impressive.

Nokia Lumia 1320 camera: Pixelated

Nokia has spoilt us when it comes to smartphone cameras. The likes of the Lumia 1020 and 1520 have shown just how capable phones can be at taking great shots, but the affordability focus of the 1320 has gotten the better of its camera module, which totes a 5-megapixel sensor and Full HD video recording.

In practice its camera quality is similar to the company’s entry level Lumia 520, that is to say it’s nothing the write home about. Shots for the most part look flat, with narrow dynamic range rearing its head in a myriad of situations, including high-contrast environments. As with any weaker smartphone camera, plenty of natural light and an evenly lit scene with garner the best results, whilst darker settings will yield noise and lacklustre detaIl.

Whilst the hardware isn’t the best around, you can get pretty creative with the imaging experience. Being one of Nokia’s latest handsets, the 1320 can handle the Nokia Camera app, which grants the user unprecedented manual control and room for some fun shooting effects too in Smart Mode. There’s also Full HD video recording and the most unique feature of the bunch, Nokia Storyteller.

Storyteller, as we first encountered on the Lumia 1520 lets you tag snaps from a specific occasion to a location. By tieing in Nokia’s savvy location apps, you can then explore the area and ‘tell your story’ in a visually interesting manner. It certainly isn’t a necessary feature and it doesn’t come pre-installed, but it’s an engrossing way to enrich the photo taking experience.

Nokia Lumia 1320 conclusion: The affordable phablet the gets the balance right

The Nokia Lumia 1320 is the phablet of choice if you’re after a handset on a budget, sure there are some key shortcomings and oversights in the weak camera and minimal internal storage, but no real glaring omissions.

It has everything you’d need and likely want from a phone of its type. Windows Phone has always been less-demanding than say Android on available resources, so the specs are well suited. There’s a broad enough app library that you won’t feel left out in the cold and the £300 SIM-free price means that it’s noticeably cheaper than the next best option: the 6.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Mega.

If you can swing Windows Phone (which is getting better every day), then the Lumia 1320 will serve you well.

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