Best budget battery phablet: Nokia’s Lumia 1320 reviewed

Not everyone is after a phone small enough to fit in your pocket, and some of us want to take the web with us in a big way. But if this is your goal and you don’t want to spend a lot, you might find it hard to buy a new phone, and that’s where Nokia is stepping in.

Features

The second six inch smartphone from Nokia, the Lumia 1320 packs with it some familiar specs alongside an even more familiar battery.

First up is the screen, which sees Nokia using the same sized display from the Lumia 1520 — 6 inches — but with a lower resolution, adopting the 1280×720 resolution instead of the Full HD 1920×1080 of the Lumia 1520. Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3 is used here to help stop any stray scratches in transit.

Beneath the screen are all the innards, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor here, running alongside 1GB RAM, the Adreno 305 graphics chip, 8GB storage, and support for a microSD slot expanding the memory as much as 64GB.

Connections are relatively standard for a mobile these days, with 4G LTE, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and the typical microUSB charge and data port at the bottom of the handset. Interestingly, there is no Near-Field Communication (NFC).

Like all phones, there’s a camera here, with a 5 megapixel rear camera with flash supporting Full HD video, while the front camera offers up VGA quality.

Ports on the phone are limited, with a 3.5mm headset jack up top and the microUSB down below, while the buttons are also only a few, with the typical three Lumia buttons on the right — volume rocker, power button, and camera button — while the soft buttons below the screen are standard too, including back, home, and search.

The battery is rated for 3400mAh, and the Lumia 1320 takes a microSIM card. The back of the phone can be removed, which will give you access to the microSIM and microSD slots.

Performance

Nokia surprised us all when the company first announced a phablet was in the works late last year, putting an end to all the rumours and speculation suggesting the company would do one.

We checked out that first model recently and found that it was superb, and Nokia had practically figure out the formula from the beginning.

But the company wasn’t done, and had something else ready to show us: a budget iteration of the 1520 with a lower resolution screen, less impressive rear camera, and the specs of a slightly different model Nokia Lumia.

In person, it’s easy to see that the Lumia 1320 has been designed to basically be that budget equivalent, taking the same style of design, consisting of a plastic case surrounding a 6 inch screen, flanked on the top and bottom by the Nokia logo and front-facing camera, and the regular soft buttons every Windows Phone comes with.

In the hands, the casing isn’t quite the firm thick polycarbonate backing Nokia goes with on its high end devices, opting instead for a soft matte plastic on the back that can be removed, exposing the microSIM and microSD slots, while also pointing out the battery which is built into the unit and cannot be removed.

Even without that thick plastic edge, though, the 1320 feels fine in the hands, with a soft touch back that makes the unit appear firm, and with buttons along the right edge that sit in the middle of that side, making it easy for anyone to know where to place their hands. The long-term feeling you get from the handset can be a little on the cheap side, but it’s still easy to grip.

Switch it on and you’re greeted to the same Windows Phone 8 look you’ll see on any Windows-based phone from the past year, with live animated square tiles of all shapes and sizes that you can change at your leisure.

With similar specifications to that of the Nokia Lumia 920 and 1020, we’re not surprised to see the performance has very little lagging, with menus that respond quickly, concurrent apps being run, and a general feeling of efficiency.

You may find that it slows down at times, but the few times it happens, the slow downs aren’t long at all.

Mobile broadband performance moves along just as well, providing decent 4G speeds in our tests. They weren’t as high as others we’ve seen, and while we doubt we can attribute that to the Category 3 LTE being lower than the 1520’s Category 4 LTE (and more to the speed of the network at the time), download speeds between 20 and 50Mbps are still nothing to sneeze at.

One of the best things about the Lumia 1320, though, has to be its battery life, and it just does so well in this area.

Our regular test of making and receiving phone calls, texting, web surfing, emailing, listening to music, and playing the odd game revealed almost three full days of life, and considering that we’re connected to a few constantly updated email services, that’s not bad at all.

Essentially, what Nokia has done is take the performance of the Lumia 920 and 1020, and match it with the battery of the 1520. This provides a two day battery for hardcore users, a three day battery for average users, and a whopping four day life for light users.

When all other 4G phablets can barely grab more than 2 days, providing between 3 and 4 is very impressive.

Contrast it with one of the weakest things about the 1320, and that is the camera.

An image from the Nokia Lumia 1320

Telling the world that “yes, this is a budget phone” is the rear camera, which boasts 5 megapixels, and not an impressive 5 megapixels, at that. HTC’s One, One Max, and One Mini all had a very decent 4 megapixels relying on a bigger sensor, and both the Lumia 1020 and 1520 took advantage of one of Nokia’s larger “PureView” imaging technologies, the latter of which not only boasts bigger megapixels, but also a bigger sensor size capable of producing better and more detailed images.

Not so in the 1320, where Nokia has slapped in a 5 megapixel shooter that seems to offer mediocre performance across the board. We weren’t totally impressed here, and we don’t recommend replacing your compact with the camera inside the 1320 any time soon, though random photo taking won’t be a problem for this shooter.

At least you get access to Nokia’s Camera application (below), which lets you control your camera more precisely if you so choose, or even let it do all the work.

The screen could also be better, though we weren’t bothered by this as much as we expected.

A six inch display is very big, and with only 1280×720, this six inch display only shows 245 pixels per inch, a level of clarity akin to what Huawei showed us in the Ascend Mate (Huawei’s first phablet), and is roughly 100ppi lower than the Retina resolution of the iPhone 5S and 5C.

That said, it’s not a terrible viewing experience, made clearer by the fact that Windows Phone has a lot of contrast going for it, thanks to the flat interface with lots of bright colours. Even the keyboard is clear and easy to use, everything larger on this bigger screen.

You may notice pixilation on some of the text, though, which seems to show up more easily in bright sunlight.

One last thing is the weight, and coming in at 220 grams, the Nokia Lumia 1320 is even heavier than the Lumia 1520 by a good ten grams. This isn’t a light phone, and while it’s very comfortable to use, you may notice it more in your pockets if you’re not wearing a belt.

Conclusion

Nokia nailed its first phablet right out of the gate, and in the first budget edition of the compact pocketable tablet, it’s nailed it too. Mostly.

The five megapixel camera is a bit of a lackluster feature, but if you carry a compact, this isn’t a problem, and we need to say it: the Lumia 1320 has the best battery of any 4G phablet. It goes for days. Plural.

If battery life is a big concern, Nokia’s 1320 throws those fears out of the window, and does it with the extra column of icons that we loved on the 1520, and in a phone that is big enough for everyone to use and stylised in a way that its 6 inch size doesn’t feel terribly awkward in even the smallest of hands. Highly recommended.