Big phones don't have to be expensive. Nokia's Lumia 1320 Windows 8 phone joins the ranks of midrange, affordable supersize "phablets" that have been slowly spreading into the market, both on-contract and off.
Like the 6.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Mega and the 5.7-inch ZTE Iconic Phablet (also known in the US as the Boost Max,) this 6-inch dual-core device treads the line between features and cost, delivering a polished package for only $340 off-contract.
The LTE-capable Lumia 1320 certainly doesn't have the features-kapow of the higher-end Lumia 1520, but at almost half the price, the 1320 is a good choice for someone on the hunt for a large-screen Windows smartphone experience. That said, if you're open to Android, it's worth comparing the 1320 with its Samsung Mega and ZTE Iconic rivals, both of which have an 8-megapixel camera resolution. While the Mega costs over $100 more off-contract, the Iconic/Max costs about $50 less.
Design and build
The matte Lumia 1320 is most striking in vibrant orange or yellow, but even in black or white, the size of the beast will also turn heads. Rounded corners help trim down the look, but there's no denying that all 6.46 inches by 3.38 inches by 0.39 inch is going to be a lot to pocket.
The smooth, very slightly rounded backing makes for a palm-friendly handhold that can be slippery at times. Of course, the size and stretch of your hands are the main measurement of comfort here. At 7.76 ounces, the Lumia 1320 is a hefty hunk of hardware, though the phone does spread its weight through the length and breadth of its polycarbonate body, so it doesn't feel like an anchor in your hand or purse. While the phone was cozy enough at the ear, I found that if it didn't sit just right, my caller sounded quieter and farther away.
A unibody design means the 1320's battery doesn't pop out, but you can remove the back cover to access the SIM and microSD card slots buddied up beneath the surface.
As with other phones in the Lumia line, the exterior controls map out like this: the power button, volume rocker, and dedicated shutter button along the right spine, the Micro-USB charging jack on the bottom, and the headset jack along the top. Flip the phone over for the 5-megapixel camera and LED flash; a VGA camera rests above the screen.
Speaking of that 6-inch LCD display, Nokia, like Samsung and ZTE, has given its budget-friendly supersize phone a 720p HD screen rather than the high-res 1080p HD display you see on higher-end phones with 5-inch screens or above. The question is, does your eye really notice the lower resolution? The answer is that it depends.
The Windows Phone 8 OS can certainly handle itself on the 1320's 245ppi resolution; in fact, unless you've got it under a microscope, it looks just as bright and crisp as on higher-res screens. Certain games scale great as well, with Temple Run 2's graphics looking as lush as ever.
For the most part, Web sites and social-networking services also render well enough, though they aren't as crystal-clear as images on 1080p HD screens. You'll notice the biggest difference when looking at content that isn't HD-optimized, or that wasn't scaled for a larger display.
OS and features
Running the latest Windows Phone 8 build with Update 3, the Lumia 1320 does all the stuff you'd expect. It has the Xbox games store and Microsoft Office, the Bing music-identifier, improved multitasking, and resizable dynamic live tiles.
Nokia's software package throws in a ton of options, including Here maps, and a whole slew of camera apps for framing and editing your photos. You'll find various other partner apps as well, like LinkedIn, Zinio, and the media-centric MoliPlayer.
Features-wise, you'll get Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and DLNA to go with the typical Wi-Fi and GPS, plus a sensitive screen you can crank up further to use with gloves during blustery days.
Camera and video
A 5-megapixel camera doesn't sound like such a grand promise compared with the 8-megapixel shooters on the ZTE Iconic Phablet and Samsung Galaxy Mega, though I found the 1320's image quality was passable and the camera steps it up to record 1080p HD video. Plus, continuous autofocus worked well.
Image quality was better outdoors than in, and the camera tends to cast the scene in blue, leaving people and scenes a little colder and more muted than in real life. Still, photos were good enough to share online with family and friends. I'd personally forget about using the 0.3-megapixel VGA front-facing camera almost entirely, unless you like grainy, indistinct images, and just ask someone to frame your photo for you.