Nokia has clambered to wrestle a substantial share of the smartphone market from the likes of Apple and Samsung over the past 12 months, but its Lumia line of handsets is capable of standing up alongside any of Nokia challengers.
The Nordic firm has learned a thing or two about hardware manufacturing over the years, and it has applied many of those lessons to the development of its first Windows RT tablet, the Lumia 2520.
This impressive new slate boasts the same attractive design and cutting-edge specs as its high-end smartphone counterparts, but is that enough to compete with the Goliaths of the tablet world?
Hardware and Design
The Nokia Lumia 2520 will look and feel familiar to anyone who has ever used a Lumia smartphone, made from the same colourful and robust polycarbonate.
Its glossy shell feels sturdy and smooth to the touch, but is prone to fingerprints.
At 8.9mm thick, the device is relatively slender for a 10.1in tablet, and its 16:9 design makes it comfortable to use one-handed.
Although it weighs in lighter than Microsoft’s Surface 2 at 615g, don’t expect anything like the same featherweight proportions of Apple’s iPad Air, which tips the scales at just 469g.
The tablet’s 1,920 x 1,200 Full HD display is among its greatest assets, with wide viewing angles, legibility in direct sunlight, and colours vivid enough to rival Apple’s technically superior Retina technology.
Photographs look crisp and vibrant, video footage sparkles, and ebook text is razor-sharp thanks to the inclusion of Microsoft’s ClearType display tech.
A 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 and 2GB of RAM run the show, ensuring a smooth performance whether you are multi-tasking, running the latest 3D games, or watching movies.
USB 3.0 and HDMI are both supported, but the Lumia 2520 is only compatible with the less common micro variations of these inputs, thus creating hassle for the user.
Battery performance is laudable, with the slate lasting for around 25 hours on standby, and withstanding up to two days general usage on a full charge. This drops to around one day when media content is heavily consumed, which is still competitive.
A bespoke small-pin charger is used to power up the battery, and although this sends juice to your device considerably faster than a USB charger, there are scores of users out there who will no doubt favour the flexibility offered by traditional chargers.
However, there are no shortage of connectivity options for transferring media to the device, such as support for LTE wireless broadband and NFC technology.
The tablet comes with 32GB of internal storage available, expandable via microSD support.
Nokia has quite the reputation to uphold on the camera front, considering its Lumia 1020 smartphone comes with an on-board snapper that is second to none.
The Lumia 2520‘s rear-facing camera comes with a 6.7-megapixel sensor and a Zeiss lens, combining to produce some of the best results we’ve ever seen on a tablet.
Imagery shot in well-lit conditions comes out crisp, and low-light performance is admirable considering there is no flash for the main camera to fall back on.
Although the Lumia 2520 is capable of out-shooting most tablets, such a camera will be superfluous for most users considering the average smartphone is a more viable option for serving photographic needs.
The slate’s front-facing camera is of the 1.2-megapixel variety, in line with the majority of its competitors.
Video calls over Skype are slightly grainy under in-door lighting conditions, but the inclusion of a wide-angle lens is a small bonus, framing extra background scenery.
User interface and apps
The Lumia 2520 is an impressive piece of kit in almost every respect, but the Windows RT 8.1 operating system that comes pre-installed lets the side down.
Windows RT 8.1 comes with many of the same features as its desktop counterpart, but is hampered by its inability to run fully-fledged Windows apps.
This means that many big names are absent, such as Adobe Photoshop and alternate web browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, which will no doubt irk those who have issues with Internet Explorer.
Users are limited to the apps stocked on the Windows Store, which is still playing catch-up to its iOS and Android counterparts.
Native apps for the likes of BBC iPlayer, Spotify and Sky Go are missing, while services like Facebook offer an inferior user interface compared to other platforms.
However, there are some positives on the software front, such as the inclusion of a full-fat Microsoft Office suite.
Word, Excel and Powerpoint function almost identically to their desktop counterparts, but a separate keyboard dock must be purchased to maximise their potential.
It would have made sense for Nokia to bundle in a keyboard attachment with the tablet indefinitely (rather than as part of a time-limited offer).
Nokia has thrown in a raft of its first-party apps, most of which are worthwhile inclusions. The Here Maps service is a feature-rich offering, and the next best thing to Google Maps, while MixRadio does its best to compensate for the lack of native Spotify support.
Windows RT at least offers a solid user interface on tablet, its tiled layout easy on the eye and the swipe and slide gestures it’s based on feeling like the natural way to browse.
Glitches and freeze-ups occur on occasion, but Microsoft has been proactive with its software updates, several coming through during our week with the Lumia 2520 to add increasing stability.
Unfortunately, Windows RT feels like a halfway house between Windows Phone 8 and the desktop edition, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it was eventually phased out or combined with one of the other versions.
The Lumia 2520 is up against fellow Windows RT slate the Microsoft Surface 2, which comes in at around £40 less expensive.
However, the Nokia device is superior in a number of ways, from its more powerful camera to its wider range of connectivity options, although the Surface 2 does comes with an integrated kickstand and keyboard attachment.
Both tablets are held back by the limitations of Windows RT, putting them at a disadvantage to slates that excel on both the hardware and software fronts, such as the iPad Air, but they will save you around £80 if chosen over the Apple device.
The Nokia Lumia 2520 is an excellent piece of hardware – it’s high-powered, aesthetically pleasing, and boasts one of the best screen resolutions around.
Sadly, the Windows RT operating system prevents it from fulfilling its potential, proving that cutting-edge hardware is only half the battle.
Lacking many key apps and services, this impressive tablet is in dire need of more killer content, but whether Windows RT will survive long enough for it to ever receive it is a matter of some debate.