Review,Windows Phone

Lumia 525 Review – Best seller 520 has been future proofed

30 Mar , 2014  

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Nokia announced the Lumia 520 at MWC 2013. This entry level budget smartphone, with an attractively  affordable price tag , broke all the previous records of Lumia with record sales numbers in popular markets. Lumia 520 was a great value for money product, but a small thing that was highly criticized, which applies to all the X20 series phones below 820, the 512MB RAM it ships with. Some apps/games  in Windows Phone store require 1GB of minimum RAM. So despite of having a capable GPU, Lumia 520 cannot run those games.  To overcome this problem, Nokia released a small revision and hence the name Lumia 525.  And in the process it has just future proofed the best selling Windows Phone ever.

Nokia launched Lumia 525 in India in second week of January , 2014 with great price tag of Rs. 10,399.  The main improvement was 1 GB RAM so that it can support all the games and app available in Store. Lumia 525 was targeted to be a budget smartphone for gaming, and for the users moving from a feature phone to a smartphone for the first time. It was launched with free Gameloft games worth Rs. 2025/- .

Summary

Pro

  • Good build quality and Design
  • Pretty Decent Camera
  • Offline HERE maps & navigation
  • Super-sensitive touch
  • Good performance for the price ratio

Cons

  • No front camera
  • No camera flash
  • Outdoor display visibility
  • 8GB inbuilt memory

Read more for the detailed review.

Key Specification

  • 4″  IPS LCD Screen with 480 x 800 pixels resolution
  • Super sensitive touch
  • Dual-core 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
  • Adreno 305 GPU
  • 8 GB Internal Storage and 1GB RAM
  • Windows Phone 8 Black
  • 5 MP Rear Camera
  • 720p Video Recording
  • GPS with A-GPS support and GLONASS

Head to Nokia site for full specification.

Sales Package

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  • Nokia Lumia 525
  • High Efficiency Charger AC-20
  • Nokia Battery BL-5J
  • Nokia Charging and Data Cable CA-189CD
  • Nokia Stereo Headset WH-108
  • Quick guide

Design

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Lumia 525 possesses the same design as its predecessor Lumia 520. Even the back covers are interchangeable. It is hard to notice any different in design of Lumia 520 and Lumia 525. I personally felt device to be bit thick as being used to unibody design. You can remove the backcover and insert a micro SIM and a microSD card. 

Lumia 525 front side below the display you will find three standard windows phone capacitive buttons. Unfortunately, Lumia 525 doesn’t have a front facing camera. But for the price you pay, its asking for more. Nokia has cleverly hidden the sensors on the front.  Edges are curved, unlike other popular Lumia devices, and fits nicely into the hands.

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On the top, there is only 3.5mm audio jack port, you can even use Apple headphones with it. At the bottom, you have a microUSB port to connect the device using USB or to charge your phone, and remember no Qi charging. USB rules them all, be it either data or power.

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On right side of the phone, you will find 3 buttons. A volume rocker, a lock/power key and a dedicated physical camera button.

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Rear of Lumia 525 is made of plastic back cover with a glossy finish making it little slippery, matte versions are totally cool though. It has a speaker on right bottom part on the back. It has a 5MP rear camera, sadly without any flash.

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Removing the Lumia 525 back cover can be challenging at first, but once you know the trick, it gets easier. You will find the microSIM slot, microSD slot and removable battery under the back cover. Many people may be happy to know about the removable battery, but it does make battery smaller and phone a little bulky. But the good thing is that you can replace battery on your own. I have seen people carry extra battery while traveling, joy for them.

Display

Lumia 800 vs Lumia 525

Lumia 525 equipes a 4 inch IPS LCD display with 800×480 pixels resolution, the same display that Lumia 520 carries. At ~233 ppi, you may find resolution a bit lower, but Windows Phone’s design won’t make you feel bad.

Phone has good color quality and temperature but contrast is not up to the mark. You may find colors to be little washed. You can tinker with the software to suite your needs though. Nokia ClearBlack Display has always proved to be pretty good to use phone outdoor. However in direct sunlight, visibility was not impressive. Overall, Lumia 525 works well in controlling brightness and colors in different lighting situation.

Lumia 525 comes with a Nokia’s super-sensitive touch screen. You can use the phone with your gloves on. This can be pretty handy feature to use phone in winters. It is a pain to remove your gloves just to use your phone.

For a budget smartphone, it is pretty nice display compared to other budget smartphones in the market. Definitely there were trade offs  involved against cutting cost and features and Nokia has managed to push pretty good display keeping the cost in control.

Performance

Lumia 520 and 720, undoubtedly great phones in their segments, were criticized for their 512MB RAM. This limit kept them away from some games which required 1 GB RAM. Also, 512MB RAM caused the performance issue, especially switching between the apps. “Resuming..”/”Loading..” was indeed sometimes frustrating, even for the apps which implemented fast app resume. Lumia 525 with 1 GB RAM has significant reduced the time “Resuming..”/”Loading..” used to stay on. 1 GB RAM has greatly helped in multitasking.

Lumia 525 runs on the same SoC as Lumia 520, more than a year old SoC. Dual Core 1 GHz is somewhat weaker compared to recent offering in the smartphones. But Windows Phone 8 is optimized well to run on weaker processors too and that is the beauty of Windows Phone OS. Navigation experience in Lumia 525 is smooth and it is hard to find lags, if at all any. No doubt, it was not the same experience as I was having Lumia 1020, a high end device though, which was quite snappy.

Browsing on Lumia 525 is not a joy, though. Slower CPU takes a toll on browsing experience especially if you are browsing heavy webpages. Scrolling on heavy webpages is not quite smooth. Yet, it is usable and not frustrating.

Adreno 305 GPU is not strongest but it performs great thanks to Luima 525’s low resolution display. It can play heavy games like Asphalt 8, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Six Guns, etc fairly. Gaming is fairly smooth but not very detailed. As mentioned earlier, free Gameloft games makes it a fun to download and play premium games.

Overall, Lumia 525 performance was pretty good considering it as a budget smartphone. But Nokia should have considered upgrading more than just a RAM when better alternatives were already available.

Windows Phone OS

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Lumia 525 runs Windows Phone 8 GDR3 with Nokia’s Black Update, out of the box. However you can enjoy only few features of the GDR3 updates because it was mainly targeted towards high end devices and proving support for Quad Core, 1080p display, RAW Photography etc. You still get to use new driving mode, custom sound notifications etc.

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Lumia 525 comes pre-loaded with the apps like Nokia Beamer, Nokia Creative Studio, HERE Maps, Nokia Xpress and Zinio. You also get to several exclusive Nokia apps for Windows Phone like Nokia Music/ MixRadio,  Nokia Camera, Storyteller, etc.

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I love Nokia’s  MixRadio. You can stream unlimited Music and also download them (DRM free) for free. I often get bored to same playlist being played all the time. These mixes in the Nokia MixRadio have nice collections of music based on genre.

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HERE Maps and HERE Drive are great for navigation. Offline navigation and ability to store maps in SD card is nice. Accuracy and navigation is pretty nice. You get Office Mobile on Windows Phone which is probably the best Office documents editor on the go.

 

Camera

There is no doubt, Nokia phones are one the best camera phones. Lumia 525 has a 5MP rear camera. It doesn’t have Zeiss lens. But I was pretty surprised at the image quality of the photos.

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Nokia Camera adds more to the camera. Nokia Camera offers you several settings that even other high end smartphones doesn’t provide. You can manually change the exposure and manually set focus. This kind of settings are quite handy in the cases when presets or auto settings don’t work well. I find these features to be very helpful.

Lumia 525 takes decent photos in good lighting conditions. However in low light conditions, noise gets added as there is no flash.  Close up pictures are pretty decent. f/2.4 lens offers allow you take pretty good shallow depth of field pictures.  Auto focus work very well.

Lumia 525 Camera outperformed my other Nexus 4’s camera in many cases. Front camera will surely be missed if you like to do video calls from phone often. You can consider no flash and no front camera to be shortcomings of Lumia 525.

Video recording is limited to 720p as the SoC doesn’t support 1080p encoding. Videos are recorded at 30 frames per second. Video quality is just good, like the still images. There is no Image Stabilization, so shaky hand will shoot  poor videos.

Sample Photos

 

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In some case, white balance didn’t work well. In above picture, towel was red but the color tempature was bit off.

 

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In the landscape pictures, Lumia 525 tooks decent pictures. However those pictures were slightly darker.

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Lumia 525 captured pretty good close up pictures.

Battery Life

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Nokia phones are known for longer battery life and the Lumia 525 is no exception. Lumia 525 packs Li-Ion 1430 mAh battery. Batter, on normal uses lasts more than a day on 3G. Most time on standby (without SIM) and sometimes connected to WiFi, battery dropped to 57% after 6 days and 7 hours!

If you are a moderate to heavy user, you probably will need to charge phone once a day only. Battery life is pretty good, I wouldn’t expect more.

Verdict

Considering the price of about Rs. 10k Lumia 525 is a pretty good buy. There are plenty of android rival for Lumia 525 in this segment, but most of them lacks performance even on the higher specs than Lumia 525. They lack updates and supports. So if you are looking for a smartphone with decent camera, simple yet powerful operating system and if you are not a power user, look no further and have a shot at the Lumia 525.

However, Moto G is a serious threat to the Lumia 525. By adding Rs. 2.5k extra, you can get better screen, much powerful processor and an Android powered phone. So Nokia has to do something about it, perhaps further price reduction? Lets see at what range and features the Lumia 630 will be introduced with the next  version of the OS on April 2nd 2014. And we will review it too, hopefully.

Kishan Gor is a Co-Founder of NokiaTips. He is Software Developer by profession and have a great passion for Programming and Gadgets.

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