The Nokia Lumia 2520 isn't just Nokia's answer to the Microsoft Surface 2. It's the company's first 10" tablet, and we have high hopes since Nokia once made the world's only chic netbook. Ironically, Microsoft is taking over Nokia's phone and tablet business, so either way you go, MS wins. The Lumia 2520 looks every bit like a Nokia product with tapered sides, a polycarbonate back that's available in matte black (also in gloss red on Verizon Wireless) and white and cyan overseas. Unlike Surface products that are WiFi only, the Lumia 2520 adds 4G LTE. In fact there won't be a WiFi-only model for those who disdain contracts and monthly fees. In the US, AT&T and Verizon Wireless sell Finland's first Windows 8.1 RT tablet.
Design and Ergonomics
This is an attractive tablet and one of the few Windows tablets that's similar in weight to Android 10" tablets. That means it's comfortable hold for longer periods of time and the matte soft touch back feels silky yet grippy. It looks like a high class piece of tech and feels sturdy and rigid despite its waifish design. The tablet has the usual 3.5mm combo audio jack that's easily confused with the small, round charging port also on the left side. That's refreshing: Nokia doesn't go with a USB charger, so you can charge and use the USB port at the same time. Less than convenient is the micro USB 3.0 port rather than a full size port. You may have a hard time finding a micro USB 3.0 to full size USB adapter, but at least it's the faster 3.0 standard. There's a micro HDMI port and a proprietary magnetic docking connector on the bottom for the optional $149 Power Keyboard that adds two USB 2.0 full size ports.
The Lumia 2520 looks slimmer than the Surface 2, though it's the same 0.35" thick; the tapered sides simply make it look thinner. It is lighter at a manageable 1.3 pounds, though it's not much smaller in other dimensions despite the half inch smaller display.
Speaking of the display, it's a gorgeous IPS full HD panel with Nokia's ClearBlack technology and it has an extremely high 650 nits of brightness, making it well suited to outdoor work. In comparison, Surface Pro 2 has a 400 nit display and many laptops hover around 250 nits. The more comfortable tapered design and brighter, more luminous display make the Lumia a more attractive proposition than the otherwise captivating Surface 2. If Microsoft showed the world how to make a high end Windows tablet, Nokia has shown Microsoft how to make it even better. The display has very wide viewing angles and it's protected by Gorilla Glass 2.
Horsepower and Performance
Inside the tablet runs on a 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad core CPU, just like the Nokia Lumia 1520 6" Windows smartphone launched at the same time. That's the same CPU used in top Android smartphones and some Android tablets, and it's the direct competitor to the NVIDIA Tegra 4. The Snapdragon has a mature LTE chipset, so it's the more common pick for devices like phones and tablets with 4G LTE built-in. In terms of performance, it's a close race with the Tegra 4. Like other Windows RT tablets and Intel Atom full Windows 8 tablets, the Lumia has 2 gigs of RAM that's not upgradeable and 32 gigs of internal flash storage (sorry, there's no 64 gig option). You can expand storage using microSD cards (the slot is under the same door as the micro SIM card slot and you'll need a paperclip to open the door). Keep in mind that you can store videos and any sort of file you wish on microSD cards but you can't install programs to removable storage.
Deals and Shopping:
Nokia Lumia 2520 Video Review
Windows RT 8.1: the Good and the Bad
The tablet runs Microsoft's RT version of Windows 8.1, and that means you can only install apps from the Windows store. It can't run .exe programs like Photoshop CS, Eclipse or Civ V. It comes with MS Office for RT pre-installed (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) and it has the same desktop mode with Windows Explorer you'll find on full Windows 8. As always with Windows RT, the Microsoft app store casts a slightly gloomy fog over the tablet: the app selection can't compare to iOS and Android. In a full Windows 8 tablet that can run traditional desktop programs that's less of an issue, but when your only recourse is the Windows Store, you'll feel the pain. The staples of digital life are here, including Kindle, the Weather Channel, Netflix and a growing selection of games. The full web browser with Adobe Flash Player makes up for some shortcomings, since some apps are merely finger-friendly front ends to websites. That means you can watch Amazon Prime video using Internet Explorer and visit the YouTube website even though there are no app store apps for these. But you can't install an alternative web browser like Firefox.
For business users, Windows RT may be more compelling since you get "real" MS Office and not some winnowed-down mobile counterpart. Outlook is now included for business class email. If your world revolves around the web, email and MS Office, then RT has you covered. Driver selection for USB peripherals is strong with most common devices like printers, keyboards and even some MIDI products covered. But if Windows lacks drivers, you can't use the install CD or drivers from the manufacturer's website in .exe format.
The Lumia 2520 has a front camera for video conferencing and a rear 6.7 megapixel camera with BSI (backside illuminated sensor) and a fast f/1.9 Carl Zeiss lens. As tablets go, this is a great camera, and it happens to be the same one used in the Nokia Lumia 720 smartphone. Images have good color saturation and reasonable sharpness (Nokia avoids oversharpening and leaves it to you to tweak sharpness if desired). As with Nokia Windows phones, you get both the Windows camera app and Nokia's own. Nokia's is more feature-rich, but the Windows app has a panorama mode. Doubtless the dual camera apps will confuse some folks.
Nokia offers their Power Keyboard for $149 (lucky buyers in the first month got a voucher for a free one). The keyboard acts as a case and it wraps around the back of the tablet. It has a small battery inside that extends runtimes 3 to 6 hours and it adds two full size USB 2.0 ports. Microsoft decided to make Surface tablets 10.6 rather than 10.1 inches in part because that allowed for a larger keyboard. The Power Keyboards smaller size means smaller keys and a more cramped design. It's not the greatest keyboard as a result, but it's better than typing on glass.
The Lumia has an 8120 mAh Lithium Ion polymer battery that's sealed inside. That's a reasonable battery capacity that's just a bit lower than the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition 10.1" Android tablet, yet the Lumia manages longer runtimes. We averaged 11 hours of actual use time on WiFi with brightness set to a very ample 40%. LTE runtimes are shorter and we averaged 10 hours on LTE. Either way, that's excellent. Happily, since the Snapdragon 800 chipset supports fast charging, the tablet is quick to charge.
The Nokia Lumia 2520 is easily the best Windows RT tablet on the market. It has a lovely, slim and light design, a fast processor, a truly stand out full HD display and both WiFi and LTE 4G. The only drawbacks? There's no WiFi only model for those who hate carrier involvement and the Power Keyboard's typing experience isn't awesome.
Price (without contract): $499 on AT&T and $599 on Verizon Wireless.
Display:10.1", full HD 1920 x 1080 ClearBlack multi-touch display. 650 nits brightness, 218 ppi. Supports Miracast wireless display, has micro HDMI port.
Battery:8120 mAh Lithium
Ion rechargeable, sealed inside.
Performance:Quad core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU with Adreno 330 graphics. 2 gigs RAM and 32 or 64 gigs internal storage.
x 6.6 x .35 inches. Weight: 1.37 pounds.
Cellular:LTE 4G, 3G.
Camera:1.3MP front camera and 6.7MP rear camera with BSI and Carl Zeiss f/2.4 lens.
Audio:Built-in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
Networking:Integrated dual band
WiFi 802.11b/g/n, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 LE.
Software:Windows RT 8.1. MS Office RT Edition included (full versions of MS Outlook, Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint). Nokia Camera, Nokia Storyteller, Nokia HERE Maps, Nokia Music and carrier connection manager.