Nokia Lumia 2520 review:

A tablet in the shadow of the Surface 2

Nokia Music follows the model of pretty much every streaming-music service, including Xbox Music -- which is also included -- but goes one step further by allowing you to cache some songs for offline playback.

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Nokia Music lets you take your streaming choices offline. Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

Otherwise, this is the same Windows RT you'll see on the Surface 2. Check out the Surface 2 review for more details on Windows RT 8.1.

The Lumia 2520 features a 1,920x1,080-pixel-resolution screen. That's the same resolution as the Surface 2's screen, but there are a few qualitative differences worth noting. For one, the Lumia 2520 has a significantly higher brightness than, not only the Surface 2, but any recent tablet.

However, the 2520's screen suffers from a yellowish tint that's most noticeable when viewing white backgrounds or when I put the Surface 2's screen -- which doesn't display a hint of those color problems -- sitting right next to it. It's not a huge deal, but it could be distracting once you've noticed it. Especially when you know there's something better.

Tested spec Nokia Lumia 2520 Apple iPad Air Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Asus Transformer Pad TF701T Microsoft Surface 2
Maximum brightness 676 cd/m2 421 cd/m2 472 cd/m2 383 cd/m2 315 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.53 cd/m2 0.39 cd/m2 0.40 cd/m2 0.35 cd/m2 0.24 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 1,281:1 1,079:1 1,180:1 1,094:1 1,313:1
Pixel density 218ppi 264ppi 339ppi 299ppi 208ppi

I could smoothly zip around Windows RT's interface, and apps opened just as quickly as they did on the Surface 2. Unfortunately, the active area of the Windows home button is a bit small, and I sometimes had to make several attempts to tap it.

With a Snapdragon 800 system-on-chip, 3D games like Riptide GP ran at high frame rates, and the 2520's extra-bright screen lends even more vibrancy to graphics than I'm normally used to. In 3DMark Unlimited, the 2520 posted impressive scores, but it should be noted that the tablet's lower 1,920x1,080 resolution gives it a performance advantage over both the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and its 2,560x1600 resolution and the iPad Air's 2,048x1,536 screen res.

3DMark (Unlimited)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Nokia Lumia 2520
Apple iPad Air

Graphics Test 1 (GPU)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Graphics test 2 (GPU)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Physics test (CPU)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Sunspider 1.0.2
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The front-facing camera captures grainy, dark, and tawny images. In comparison, the Surface 2's front camera displays sharp, bright images with accurate color. The 2520's back camera isn't much of an improvement, but it at least includes autofocus -- something curiously missing from the SUrface 2's back camera.


The Nokia Lumia 2520 suffers from a yellowish screen, an uncomfortable keyboard accessory, and a body that feels way too thick for a tablet with no kickstand or full USB port. Now, combine that with unimpressive cameras and a Windows key with too small a hitbox, and the overall superiority of the Surface 2 becomes readily apparent.

The Surface 2 by comparison houses a screen that's more color accurate, good games performance, and includes a much better front camera than the Lumia. Not to mention the aforementioned kickstand and full USB port.

The 32GB Lumia 2520 is $499 for the off-contract model and $399 if you sign up with either Verizon or AT&T. The Wi-Fi-only Surface 2 is $449 for 32GB.

The Lumia isn't a bad tablet, but with a better RT tablet available, it makes little sense -- unless you require a cell connection -- to purchase it over the Surface 2.

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