Nokia enters a the tablet fray this week with the Lumia 2520, its first tablet.
The 10.1-inch device hits store shelves at Verizon on Thursday, with AT&T versions to follow Friday. Off-contract, the tablet costs about $500; on-contract, the price drops to around $400.
It’s hard to look at the new tablet, which runs Windows RT, without comparing it directly to Microsoft’s own new RT machine, Surface 2. Both use the tablet-focused version of Windows, which means they can run apps and some modified Windows programs but not the full spectrum of PC applications. The Lumia 2520, like the Surface 2, comes with Office programs, making it a tablet aimed as much at productivity as it is at play.
Nokia’s tablet, however, has at least one major advantage over the Surface 2: LTE connectivity. While that adds to the full price of the device — the Surface 2 costs $450 — it’s a feature that many customers want and almost expect of tablets now, and one that keeps some potential Surface buyers on the fence about buying.
But the Lumia isn’t exactly a tablet that one should rush out and buy immediately. For one, the size and shape of this device isn’t quite right. It’s a tad too long to be held comfortably in one hand, either in landscape or portrait positions. That wobbly feeling is even more pronounced when you grip the back of the tablet, which flexes in a disconcerting way when pushed. That alone is not a deal-breaker, but it can make someone a bit nervous about carrying the thing around. Nokia provided us with the matte black version of the device that will be available for AT&T and Verizon users in stores. Verizon is also selling a version in — what else? — bright red, for online shoppers.
Although the exterior styling isn’t completely on target, the rest of the tablet has its fair share of strong points. The Lumia 2520’s quad-core, Snapdragon processor means that the tablet runs well, even under load, whether you’re gaming, watching video or trying to actually get some work done.
Speaking of work, typing on the on-screen keyboard is quick and responsive — good for e-mail, if not for writing novels. The screen is also a selling point, with bright colors and crisp resolution. Nokia is also touting the screen’s low glare, making it a good option in direct sunlight — sadly, a claim I didn’t get much time to test.
The camera on the Lumia 2520 is also strong, which should be no surprise to anyone who follows the main selling points of the Lumia line. It’s always a bit cumbersome to take photos with a tablet — plus it makes you look really cool — but if you’re so inclined, the 2520’s 6.7-MP camera and its camera app produce some good-looking snaps.
In other ways, the tablet is firmly middle-of-the-road. Those that lament a lack of ports and memory expansion on the iPad will be happy to hear that the 2520 sports a MicroSD card slot, Micro USB 3.0 port and MicroHDMI alongside proprietary ports for its power and optional keyboard cover. But there isn’t a full-sized USB 3.0, as there is on the Windows Surface, which may bother people who rely on their thumb drives.
Then there’s the problem of apps. The Lumia 2520 is, after all, a Windows tablet, which means that there aren’t quite as many apps to choose from as there are on other tablets. The tablet itself comes with surprisingly good standard music, video editing and photo-sharing apps, but users are limited to the programs that run on Windows RT. Microsoft has put a lot of energy in expanding its tablet app portfolio, so if you’re happy with Office and don’t need too much more, you may be happy to wait it out. But if you’re the kind of person who has to have the latest apps as soon as they come out, you may want to take a pass.
A couple of other things to note: I didn’t have time to run a full battery test, but other reviewers, including Business Insider’s Jillian D’Onfro, have said that the Lumia 2520 lives up to its promise of more than 10 hours of battery life. That’s enough to get you through a day of light use, and probably means that people who don’t use the tablet all day long could get away with not topping it off every day.
I also didn’t get the chance to try out the tablet’s optional, $150 keyboard cover, which potentially makes it a more productive device. But other reviewers seem underwhelmed by the prototype covers they received, which wrap around the tablet like a journal or planner. PCWorld’s Jon Phillips said that while typing was comfortable, he felt there was too much space between the keyboard and the touch pad.
“I didn’t discover any hiccups with the keyboard itself, but the touchpad consistently failed to register mouse-button taps,” he said, adding that those may be software kinks that Nokia will work out before the cover hits stores.
All in all, the Lumia 2520 is a strong effort from Nokia for its first tablet but doesn’t have quite enough to distinguish itself from the field. It will be interesting to see how Nokia expands on the foundation of this device — especially now that its shareholders have approved Microsoft’s acquisition of the firm’s phone and tablet division.
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