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Nokia Lumia 1320 review: A supersize smartphone that fits your budget

It doesn't have all the muscle of the upmarket Nokia Lumia 1520, but this affordable, colorful LTE phablet delivers a complete smartphone experience.

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Jessica Dolcourt
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Jessica Dolcourt

Editorial Director / CNET Franchises, How-To, Performance Optimization

Jessica Dolcourt leads CNET Franchises, How-To, and Performance. With over 15 years in journalism, her experience includes mobile phone and software reporting and reviews, and delivering advice on expansive topics ranging from personal finance to travel and home. Jessica got her start at Download.com and holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).

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7 min read

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.

Nokia_Lumia_1320_35829229-73194.jpg
7.3

Nokia Lumia 1320

The Good

The wallet-friendly <b>Nokia Lumia 1320</b> is an LTE-capable phone with solid build quality, good performance, and a healthy helping of Nokia's extra software perks.

The Bad

You won't find your dream camera on the Lumia 1320, and storage space is limited.

The Bottom Line

Steer toward Nokia's Lumia 1320 for an affordable supersize phone you can rely on, but not before checking out Android rivals with fancier specs and comparable price tags.

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.

Nokia's big, budget Lumia 1320 (pictures)

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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.

Nokia Lumia 1320
The giant Nokia Lumia 1320 comes in shocking orange and yellow shades, in addition to black and white. Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Nokia Lumia 1320
Its 6-inch size is no joke. Josh Miller/CNET

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 Lumia 1320
You can pop off the back panel, but you won't find a removable battery underneath. Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Nokia Lumia 1320
The 5-megapixel camera has autofocus and flash. Josh Miller/CNET

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.

On a more positive note, video capture and playback were smooth, colors looked strong, and the microphone adequately picked up voices within range.

Some Nokia phones preinstall the company's own camera apps by default. Not so with the 1320, which sticks with Microsoft's basic native app. You can still add all the lenses that you want to the phone, for editing, creating funky moods, and taking in a panorama. Otherwise, you'll see flash onscreen controls and the camera toggle. Settings open up scenes like night mode and portrait, some ISO settings, and presets for exposure, aspect ratio, and the focus assist light, which helps out while taking low-light shots.

Click over to our photo gallery to compare the standard studio shot with those of other phones.

These flowers look vivid and defined, but take on a bluish cast. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
You'll find a few artifacts in the full-resolution image, but overall, the 1320 captured the plaza on a gloomy day. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
The writing on the side of the truck looks a bit jagged around the edges. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Flash casts a shadow behind Lynn La's ladylike visage, but doesn't wash her out. Click to enlarge. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
CNET's standard studio shot. Click to enlarge. Josh Miller/CNET

Performance: Speed, processor, battery
Gauging performance is always a bit tricky when evaluating an unlocked phone that's intended for another market. There's the LTE connectivity, for instance, which works with 800, 1,800, and 2,600MHz, or bands 20, 3, and 7.

HSPA speeds were the fastest I got on AT&T's network. I could still do pretty much all the data work I wanted, but it did require a bit more patience on my end. You may not have the same results.

Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

And how about the other kind of speed, the one attached to the application processor? Well, you get a 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chipset in the Lumia 1320, rather than the quad-core processor that debuted with the 1520. Windows Phone champions have always said that the lighter demands of the operating system mean the phones can do more with less horsepower.

I certainly didn't notice any lagginess while playing casual games or navigating around, so I wouldn't consider the processor specs to be a setback the way that the same specs can be on some feebler Android phones with lower-capacity chipsets. Nokia's more budget-conscious big 1320 has 1GB RAM.

Nokia Lumia 1320 AT&T
Install Endomondo (3MB) 25.4 seconds
Load up Endomondo mobile app 3 seconds
CNET mobile site load 4.5 seconds
CNET desktop site load 18.5 seconds
Boot time to lock screen 30.5 seconds
Camera boot time 2 seconds
Camera, shot-to-shot time 2.5 seconds with autofocus, no flash

One concession Nokia did make was with onboard storage. The 8GB you get isn't going to last photo and video fiends long, but you are helped with 7GB of free SkyDrive storage and an additional microSD card slot that takes up to 64GB in external storage.

The 3,400mAh battery on the other hand lasted me plenty long, more than a day with moderate use. It's rated for 25 hours of talk time and 28 days of standby time. During our battery drain test for talk time, the battery lasted a whopping 43 hours and 10 minutes, which is an impressive feat.

Call quality
A GSM phone, the quad-band 1320 supports 850, 900, 1800, and 1900MHz bands. I tested it on AT&T's network, where I got some inconsistent results over the course of a couple of calls.

In fact, call quality was changeable during the same call. At times, my chief test partner sounded like he was divided into two layers, a robotic voice floating over a human backbone. Other times his voice came across muted and distant. So long as my ear hit the microphone target area at the top, volume was excellent, with plenty of room to amplify the sound in noisier environments. Even when the separated voice did seem to glue itself back together, it sounded a little hollow and robotic around the edges.

On his end, my partner said audio sounded a lot better to his ears. I was loud enough, and only slightly muffled with momentary scratchiness.

Nokia Lumia 1320 call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone quality slid to the poorer side when I held the phone at hip level. Volume was lower on my end, which would make it harder to hear in noisier environments. While there wasn't any background fuzz, my calling partner again sounded distant, removed, and hard to hear. Fortunately, speakerphone sounded a little better to him. He encountered some strange feedback and distortion, plus a slight echo, but overall heard me just fine.

Final thoughts
Taken as a whole, the Nokia Lumia 1320 is a sturdy, nice-looking supersize smartphone that does a good job for the price. Its camera resolution is perhaps its weakest point, but this LTE smartphone takes snaps from its main camera well enough to use and enjoy. While I would recommend it for the Windows Phone fan looking for a more affordable ultralarge phone, I'd also urge buyers to check out the Samsung Galaxy Mega and ZTE Iconic/Boost Max, both Android smartphones.

ZTE's phablet is especially compelling because of its 8-megapixel rear camera and $300 price tag, on the US' Boost Mobile at least. A slightly smaller phone, the Max has a screen resolution that might make some images look a bit sharper. Samsung's Galaxy Mega has an even lower resolution and costs $100 more than the 1320, but its Android version is also much more up-to-date than ZTE's 4.1 OS.

Nokia_Lumia_1320_35829229-73194.jpg
7.3

Nokia Lumia 1320

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7
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