What is the Nokia Lumia 1320?

The Nokia Lumia 1320 is a very large Windows phone. It has a 6-inch screen, and is quite an imposing presence. The more affordable sibling of the Lumia 1520, it cuts out some of that phone’s higher-end features to sell for around £270 SIM-free, or around £21 a month on a contract.

However, its sheer girth makes it a little hard to live with, and the extra screen inches aren’t beneficial enough yet.
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Nokia Lumia 1320 – Design

Nokia has for years proudly boasted of the high build quality of its phones, and with some reason. It makes quality mobiles, and its colourful Lumia phones stand out from the crowd.

However, that the Lumia 1320 continues with established Lumia design approaches becomes a problem here. More on that in a minute. First – what is it made of?

Like other affordable Lumia phones, the Nokia Lumia 1320 uses a removable plastic back whose design successfully mimics the unibody look of Nokia’s more expensive phones. It comes in a few different colours too – yellow and red as well as the more conventional black and white.

The design style doesn’t work perfectly with a 6-inch size in this case, though. There’s clearer flex in the thin plastic cover than in Nokia’s smaller phones, it creaks on one side and the Lumia 1320 is extremely heavy by current standards.
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It weighs 220g, where most of the 5.5-6-inch phones manage to stay well under 200g. The Galaxy Note 3 is just 168g, for example. Nokia has never paid all that much attention to how feather-light its phones are – and most of the time it’s a strategy we’re totally on-board with – but here the chunk factor is a bit too noticeable.

It’s the same story with the Lumia 1320’s dimensions. A combo of 86mm width and 10mm thickness make it quite a handful, to an extent that will put people off. Nokia has made one important adjustment to help out – the power button sits in the centre of the right side, within reach of your thumb.

Still, there is something a little strange about the Lumia 1320 design. Its relative lack of nods to the large size make it seem like a "Honey, I Blew up my Lumia" _phone_ – more so than the sharper-looking Lumia 1520.
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Nokia Lumia 1320 – Screen

Perhaps the most serious difference between the Lumia 1320 and 1520 is screen resolution. The Lumia 1520 has a 1080p display, the Lumia 1320 a 720p one.

As a _phone_ whose screen is always going to be under close scrutiny, it’s a big sacrifice. In past years we’ve commented that Windows phone deals fairly well with limited screen resolutions, but here the difference is quite obvious. From normal viewing distances interface text looks soft – get a little closer and pixellation is obvious.

It raises an obvious question – is a larger screen a good thing when what it does best is to reveal the screen’s technical deficiencies?
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The Lumia 1320’s pixel density is 245ppi. This isn’t terrible, and the phone’s screen is not outright bad by any means, but when we’re used to seeing better in mid-range phones it’s a little hard to accept.

Screen elements other than clarity and resolution are much better. The Lumia 1320 uses an LCD, IPS-based display whose colours are vibrant but not overcooked, with a backlight that’s strong enough to make the screen look quite dazzling if needed. Outdoors visibility is decent too. Nokia also offers control over the colour temperature and saturation of the screen, which display obsessives will appreciate.

The Lumia 1320’s screen is also pretty quick – you need a pretty fast LCD panel to avoid ‘tails’ forming while you’re whizzing around the super-quick Windows phone interface, and the phone copes very well.

Contrast and black level are typical of a decent mid-range LCD panel. In a darkened room, there’s some visible luminance, which a slight blue ‘lean’ to the tone of blacks, but nothing major.
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Is a big screen better?

The only thing that irks about the screen on a technical level is resolution. Just as important, though – is the larger screen of the Lumia 1320 useful?

There is a clear difference between the Windows phone 8 interface on the Lumia 1320 and the smaller Lumia 1020 – here you get three full-size app tiles per row, rather than two. This may also be one of the reasons font scaling doesn’t entirely compensate for the limited resolution, but without it having a 6-inch screen would be fairly pointless.

Beyond the Live Tile home screen, though, we hit something of a dead end. Windows apps do not tend to make optimisations for these phone-tablet hybrid size screens, and Windows-based tablets run a version of Windows, not Windows Phone. The two systems remain separate at present, so tablet apps can’t bleed into phones like this as they do with Android.
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Of course, large screens don’t excel only with apps designed for large screens – games and video eat up such displays too. The big, bright Lumia 1320 screen is mostly a great fit for such activities, and it’s more immersive than a smaller one. However, with high-end 3D games like Asphalt 8 the lower screen resolution does become apparent.  It looks jaggy-tastic compared with an iPhone 5S, or a higher-res tablet.

Nokia Lumia 1320 – Performance and Software

Considering the phone’s limited specs, gaming performance is very good. The Nokia Lumia 1320 has a dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, which in an Android phone would be considered an old lower mid-range chip, and 1GB RAM. However, here it’s enough to make high performance games – like Asphalt 8 – run well.  It’s down to a combination of the relatively undemanding 720p resolution and the efficiency of Windows phone 8.

As with most Nokia Windows phones, general performance is solid too. One of the key benefits of the Windows mobile system is that it’s speedy on virtually any device – one of the reasons you don’t see £50 Windows phones, yet. To put the phone into a wider Lumia context, the Lumia 1320 uses the same processor family as the Lumia 620, but its chipset is clocked a lot faster (1.7GHz to the 620s 1GHz).
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There are still significant loading pauses when you run apps, and some lag within some apps, which separates the Lumia 1320 from the Lumia 1520, but scrolling through menus and switching between the apps scroll and the Live Tile home screen is slick.

Windows phone is also quite accessible. It comes with a pretty usable Live Tile layout that features most core phone features in a sensible arrangement. It can all be fiddled about with, but it’s not strictly necessary.

Windows-based phones like the Lumia 1320 still come with caveats, though. The apps and games selection is nowhere near as good as that of an iPhone or Android phone. We’ve been complaining about this issue for years, but it’s still a real problem if you like mobile gaming or discovering new apps on a regular basis. Windows phone either misses out on the latest app fads entirely, or gets apps a bit later than Android and iOS.

The Lumia 1320 does have a few apps you won’t find on every Windows Phone. The most important are the HERE navigation apps. You get HERE Maps and HERE Drive, which are on-foot and in-car maps tools. They’re fairly good, although we still find the Google Maps app to be a bit more reliable.
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You also get a couple of Nokia-specific photo/camera apps. Cinematograph takes a burst of photos to let you make fun little animated GIF-style motion JPEGs. It’s silly, but fun. And Nokia Creative Studio is a fairly rudimentary photo editing app. Editing like this is left out of Windows Phone’s default camera app, so it’s a must-have.

The most unusual of the lot is Nokia Beam. By scanning a QR code from a website the app gives you, you can transmit what the camera sees to any computer around the world (over the web). We’re yet to find a killer application for this, but it is neat to see in action.

Nokia Lumia 1320 – Camera

The Nokia Lumia 1320’s camera is another area that – like screen resolution – is conspicuously restricted. It appears to use the same camera module and f/2.4 lens as the Lumia 620 and Lumia 520, two of the lowest-end Nokia Windows phones.

In those mobiles such a low-end camera makes sense – and it’s a solid performer in that field. But in a phone that costs almost £300, its hardware does not impress.
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There are two key deficiencies in its tech specs: sensor resolution and sensor size. The 5-megapixel camera is fairly low-res, and its ¼-inch sensor is tiny. Given the size, it’s actually a good thing that the resolution isn’t higher. Let’s see how this hardware affects picture quality.   

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Lumia comparison

This shows quite how clear a class-leader the Lumia 1020 is. The slight lack of contrast in the Lumia 1320 is partly down to it being a hazy day

What’s rather amusing – if not surprising – is that given the sensor limitations, the Lumia 1320 doesn’t even use its whole image sensor as standard. It has a 4:3 sensor like almost all mobile cameras, but shoots in 16:9 aspect by default. This can be changed in Settings, though.

Image performance is mixed. Given the size of the sensor, we’re impressed by its handling of dynamic range and its approach to trickier lighting situations. Nokia has clearly put a lot more work into getting the camera sensor working as well as it can – more so than the budget phones we tend to see these sort of camera setups in.

However, the fundamental limitations of the hardware are obvious. Even photos in extremely well-lit conditions photos are very noisy and the level of detail in all shots is very limited. Compared with Nokia’s better-equipped phones, the Lumia 1320 shots look very soft. This is the camera of a budget phone, jammed into a mid-range mobile.

For all its faults, there are things to like about the 1320 camera. It’s highly usable, for one. Its autofocus isn’t as quick as most other Lumias and its shot-to-shot speed is around 2-2.5 seconds (not fast), but focusing is reliable. And while you’re unlikely to take any stellar shots with the Lumia 1320, it generally doesn’t take absolutely terrible ones either. Nokia’s image handling engine is simply quite good. Here are some more samples:

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This shot is extremely soft in parts but metering is fairly good given the variation in light intensity

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With the sun just out of shot, this photo's foregound exposure could have been a whole lot worse

The Lumia 1320 shoots video at up to 1080p resolution from its main camera, although 720p resolution is selected by default. Testing with both modes, it becomes pretty clear why. When shooting in 1080p there are lots of dropped frames and weird changes in frame rate. 720p videos are much better.

Aside from the separate Cinematograph app, the Lumia 1320 camera experience is much like that of any other Windows Phone. You get a physical shutter button, which has a nice two-stage action to let you control focusing and the shutter separately, and the camera app is very simple indeed.

Rather than offer loads of inbuilt filters, you download extra ‘lenses’, which make up the various photo modes. The only controls at your fingertips are those for switching between the rear and front cameras, the flash switch and the stills/video control. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but makes for a very immediate, iPhone-like shooting experience. And if you don’t want to use the physical button, a single on-screen press both focuses and takes a picture.

In summary, the Lumia 1320 main camera is easy to use, but fundamentally not much cop.

There’s also a front camera, and once again it’s very basic. It uses a VGA-quality (0.3-megapixel) sensor. Again, this is the sort of camera we’d see in an entry-level phone, but £270 SIM-free isn’t really an entry level price.
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Nokia Lumia 1320 – Battery Life

The Nokia Lumia 1320 is a huge, heavy phone, but the battery goes some way to explain this. It has a mammoth 3400mAh battery. That’s larger than the unit of the Sony Xperia Z Ultra (3050mAh) or Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 (3200mAh).

This phone will be able to last a solid two days for the majority of users. Naturally, the more you use the screen, the quicker the battery will be zapped. And stamina isn’t actually as good as it could be had the phone used a more efficient chipset.

The Snapdragon S4 chip of the Lumia 1320 is pretty old at this point, and doesn’t have the same level of clever power management as something like the Snapdragon 801.
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Nokia Lumia 1320 – Connectivity and Call Quality

It makes up for the ageing processor a little with its connectivity. The Nokia Lumia 1320 is a 4G phone – something that still is not a given in new mobiles.

4G in cheaper phones will be one of the main mobile ‘stories’ of 2014, and it has been prioritised over other connectivity extras in the Lumia 1320. There’s no NFC and no Wi-Fi ac for example (it tops out with Wi-Fi n). However, so few people will actually notice that these are missing that we think it’s a sensible place to make cuts.

As is common in Nokia phones, the call quality of the Lumia 1320 is strong, and it uses a secondary mic for active noise cancellation during calls.
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Should I buy the Nokia Lumia 1320?

The Nokia Lumia 1320 is a tough sell. It’s big and heavy, has a lower resolution screen than we’d like given its screen size, and we’re not convinced that Windows really offers enough big-screen benefits to compensate for the practical size issues. 

It is significantly cheaper than the Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520, but doesn’t distinguish itself in the way those phones do. The only thing that’s remarkable about the Lumia 1320 is its size, and that’s not a positive in all respects. Want to play games or watch videos? A large screen is great. But then Windows phone is not a great game-playing or video-watching platform.

Verdict

The Nokia Lumia 1320 is a big phone that doesn’t try to hide its oversized dimensions. However, the large screen’s benefits don’t outweigh the practical issues of a phone this size, especially one that weighs as much as 220g.

Next, check our the best mobile phones money can buy