Nokia Lumia 2520 review: A tablet in the shadow of the Surface 2

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.0
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 8.0

Average User Rating

3.5 stars 2 user reviews
Review Date:
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The Good The Nokia Lumia 2520 features fast gaming performance and LTE support out of the box. Xbox Music is an incredibly robust streaming app, and Nokia Music allows you to listen to songs you don't own without an Internet connection. It includes the full version of Office.

The Bad It's thicker and heavier than recent tablets, and its pointy corners are distracting. The screen has a yellow tint, storage expansion is only accessible with a key or paperclip, and the keyboard accessory isn't as comfortable to type on as the Surface 2's.

The Bottom Line Unless you want a Windows RT tablet with cellular connection, skip the Lumia 2520 and get the Surface 2 instead.

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Nokia's first tablet isn't a bad device by any means. It delivers impressive gaming performance, has built-in cellular support, an incredibly bright screen, and includes a suite of Nokia-only apps.

However, I couldn't figure out why the 2520 is so thick. The Microsoft Surface 2 has just as much girth, but earns its corpulence with a kickstand and a full USB port.

The Lumia 2520's screen also has a distracting yellow tint, and the $149 keyboard/cover accessory isn't nearly as comfortable to type on as Surface 2's Type Cover.

It's great that it comes with a full version of Microsoft Office -- as all Windows RT tablets do -- but because it's running RT, that also means it's incompatible with legacy Windows programs and lacks app support compared with Android and iOS.

At $499, the 2520 is about $50 more expensive -- for the off-contract version -- than the Surface 2, placing it squarely in the shadow of Microsoft's RT tablet.

Design
If Nokia were going to make a tablet, based on its recent phone designs, the Lumia 2520 is almost exactly how I'd imagine it to look. The Verizon version we got for review has a striking red chassis and a thick jet-black bezel on the front. There's also an unmistakable plastic feel to its body, but it doesn't necessarily give off a cheap tablet vibe. The back is slightly sloped so that the edges of the tablet are a couple centimeters off your desk when laid down flat.

In light of recent tablet releases like the Apple iPad Air and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, the Lumia 2520 feels a bit heavy. To be sure, it's not quite as heavy as the Microsoft Surface 2, but with the lack of a kickstand, I found myself holding the 2520 in my hands a lot more than I did the Surface 2. So its heft was probably more noticeable to me.

Tested spec Nokia Lumia 2520 Apple iPad Air Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Asus Transformer Pad TF701 Microsoft Surface 2
Weight in pounds 1.35 1 0.82 1.28 1.44
Width in inches (landscape) 10.5 9.4 9.1 10.3 10.8
Height in inches 6.6 6.6 6.2 7.1 6.8
Depth in inches 0.35 0.29 0.31 0.34 0.35
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.8 0.7

The Lumia is slightly thicker than the Surface 2, but the Surface 2, with its aforementioned kickstand and full-size USB port, earns its extra girth; the 2520 has no such trade-off. Additionally, its corners are pointy and when held they're a constant reminder that rounded corners are the way to go on tablets -- especially those of the heavier ilk.

With the 2520 held in landscape, you'll find the headphone jack and power adapter port along the left edge, a power button and volume rocker on the top-right edge, and a key-accessible slot for the microSD card and SIM card on the far left of the top edge. On the right edge sits the Micro-HDMI port and Micro-USB 3.0 port. The 2520 also includes NFC. Nokia also outfits the Lumia 2520 with dual cameras: a 2-megapixel front and a 6.7-megapixel back.

The Lumia 2520 does little to earn its girth. James Martin/CNET

The Power Keyboard
If you're going to purchase the Lumia 2520, you should strongly consider buying Nokia's $149 keyboard/cover -- especially if you're planning to do lots of productivity tasks. Like Microsoft's Type Cover for the Surface 2, the Power Keyboard is a full laptop-style keyboard with all the keys and shortcuts you'd expect. However, since it's not as wide as the Type Cover, it doesn't feel as comfortable to type on.

It doesn't cramp up my hands like the Asus Transformer Pad TF701T's smaller keyboard does, but the experience isn't as pleasant as it is on the Surface 2. Also, the Power Keyboard's keys are small, hard, and lack backlighting. The polar opposite of the Type Cover. The keyboard does include two full USB ports in the back, an extra battery, and can fold up like a Trapper Keeper when you're on the move.

The keyboard is essential to the 2520's experience, so while I recommend it, I want to reiterate that it's not as good as Microsoft's Type Cover.

The $149 keyboard accessory's keys are hard and small. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Software features
The Nokia Lumia 2520 is one of only two Windows RT tablets released this year. The other is the Surface 2, which may explain why it's being so closely compared with Microsoft's tablet. In addition to its inclusion of Microsoft Office -- an advantage all Windows RT devices share -- the 2520 comes with a suite of Nokia apps, including its own camera app, Here Maps, Video Director, and Nokia Music.

Video Director allows you to very quickly and easily edit short video clips. You choose the video, select one of four different transition styles, and add intro and outro text. The app then spends a couple of seconds compiling the video before it starts playing.

Video Director is just that simple. Just don't expect anything on the level of iMovie. Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

Don't expect anything on the level of iMovie, but it's an easy way to jazz up your pics and video a bit. Here Maps is Nokia's own map software with an emphasis on personalization and easily finding restaurants, entertainment, and shopping options in your area.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Wireless Connectivity 4G LTE
  • Weight 1.35 lbs
  • Type Microsoft Windows 8.1 RT
About The Author

Eric Franklin is a section editor covering how to and tablets. He's also co-host of CNET's do-it-yourself and how-to show, The Fix and is a 20-year tech industry veteran.