Nokia has just announced its biggest Windows Phone 8 device yet: the six-inch Lumia 1520. How does it compare to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, one of the most popular ‘phablets’ of the moment? Read: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 release date, price and specs.
NOTE: This comparison review is based on the specifications of the yet-to-be-launched Lumia 1520 and our full review of the Galaxy Note 3. Once we’ve had time to fully test and benchmark the iPad Air we will update this review with a proper battery life comparison and benchmark results.
Nokia Lumia 1520 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comparison review: Price
You can buy a Galaxy Note 3 unlocked and SIM-free in the UK for £600. Nokia hasn’t yet announced a UK price for the Lumia 1520, but the estimated dollar price of $750 should translate to between £500 and £600, so it could well be a little cheaper than the Note 3.
Nokia Lumia 1520 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comparison review: Design and build
The Note 3 looks like an oversized Galaxy S4, reviewed here, and is well built. Some may dislike the faux leather back (it’s plastic made to look like stitched leather) but there’s no denying this is a sturdy and strikingly thin device considering the big screen. It’s only 8.3mm thick and weighs 168g.
The Lumia 1520, by contrast, is heavier at 209g and is slightly thicker at 8.7mm. We’ve yet to get our hands on one, but we’ve used just about every other Lumia in existence and the plastic one-piece body is simply brilliant. It’s unfussy which makes it both nice to hold as well as look at. There are enough colour choices, including black and white to suit most tastes.
Nokia Lumia 1520 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comparison review: Performance and storage
Samsung didn’t skimp on power with the Note 3: the quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor is hugely quick. Although comparing megahertz is rarely a good idea, the 2.3GHz chip wouldn’t be out of place in a powerful laptop, even today.
The fact that its paired with 3GB of fast RAM helps, as does the Adreno 330 graphics chip which broke most records in the synthetic benchmarks we use (and yes, we know about the cheating).
Regardless of that, the Note 3 is fast. No doubt about it.
Nokia has used almost exactly the same configuration, so the Lumia 1520 should also be a blazing performer. It remains to be seen how it runs Windows Phone 8, but it’s not going to be slow. The CPU runs slightly slower at 2.2GHz, and there’s 2GB of RAM rather than 3.
Both phablets have 32GB of internal storage and microSD slots for adding up to 64GB extra.
Nokia Lumia 1520 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comparison review: Screen
Nokia has gone big on the 1520’s screen. At 6in and with a Full HD resolution, the 368ppi pixel density means it will look stunningly crisp.
However, while it’s a super-sensitive IPS display that you can use even if you’re wearing gloves, the Note 3’s marginally smaller 5.7in screen uses Super AMOLED technology for eye-popping, retina-burning brightness and vibrant colours. Since it’s also Full HD, it has an even higher density of 386ppi.
The other trick up the Note 3’s sleeve is the S-Pen (it’s NOT a stylus – so say its fans) which means that – if you’re into that sort of thing – you can write notes or draw on your Note 3 with more precision. It can also be used to bring up context menus, which some say is easier than merely using your fingers to navigate around Android.
Nokia Lumia 1520 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comparison review: Cameras
If you’ve come to use your smartphone (or indeed tablet) regularly as a camera, the Lumia 1520 might be preferable over the Note 3.
The 20Mp rear camera, which has Zeiss-branded optics, is (on paper) better bet than the Note 3’s equivalent. Yes, it has 13Mp which is more than most, but the Lumia gets optical stabilisation and impressive software to go along with it, including Nokia’s Refocus app that (similar to Lytro cameras) allows you to choose where in the photo to focus after the shot is taken.
Samsung doesn’t rely on the stock Android camera app either, but while you can get to some advanced settings such as ISO and metering modes, other features such as dual-recording (where your face is overlayed on the main photo is little more than a gimmick.
For videos, the tables are turned. The Lumia shoots the typical 1080p footage at 30fps, but the Note 3 can shoot at 4K (also at 30fps), 1080p at 60fps and 720p at 120fps (just like the iPhone 5S). That means it can shoot in slo-mo at ½, ¼ or 1/8 time.
In terms of the front cameras, the Galaxy Note 3 wins on spec by having a 2Mp webcam; the Lumia 1520 makes do with a 1.2Mp snapper.
Nokia Lumia 1520 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comparison review: Software
This is where the fight gets interesting. The Lumia 1520 runs Windows Phone 8, the Note 3 Android. While Windows Phone 8 is a fine operating system with some nice features, the lack of apps (in particular top-level apps) is a problem.
Android, on the other hand, has no end of apps and, apart from a few exceptions, is almost level with Apple’s iOS in terms of priority for developers.
Nokia, like Samsung, adds to the base OS with a selection of worthwhile apps – some preloaded, others available to download for free. Brand new are HERE maps and Nokia Storyteller.
We like Samsung’s TouchWiz interface, particularly Multi Window which lets you use two apps on screen at the same time. Other additions such as My Magazine and Digital Scrapbook will probably never be used by a lot of people.
Nokia Lumia 1520 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comparison review: Battery life
With similar capacity batteries, the different screens and operating systems will have the biggest impact on battery life. Once we get a Lumia 1520 for review, we’ll benchmark them against each other, but the claims for talk time and standby time are similar for both phablets.
Nokia claims a whopping 124 hours of music playback versus Samsung’s 84 hours, but the Note 3 is supposed to play video for 13 hours while the Lumia 1520 is good for only 10.8 hours, according to Nokia.
On a practical level, the removable battery in the Note 3 makes it simple to swap in a replacement or spare when you run out of juice. The Lumia’s unibody design precludes such user intervention.
Nokia Lumia 1520 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comparison review: connectivity
The Note 3 has microUSB 3, which beats the Lumia’s standard microUSB 2 sync port, but the Lumia has built-in wireless charging. Both phones have NFC, GPS, Bluetooth 4 and 802.11n dual-band Wi-Fi.
Only the Note 3 offers video output, though, so if you want to hook your phablet up to your TV, don’t choose the Lumia 1520.
Nokia Lumia 1520 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comparison review: Bottom line
If both phablets were running Android Jelly Bean, it would be very difficult to call a winner. As ever, the best phone for you depends on exactly what you want to do with it. For us, the fact that the Lumia 1520 runs Windows Phone 8 means it immediately lags behind the Note 3 as far as apps are concerned.
And if you must have a stylus (sorry, S-Pen), the Lumia is again instantly out of the running.
We can’t give a final verdict on photo and video quality until we’ve tested the 1520 but, for photos at least, the Nokia could triumph. The Note 3’s 4K recording isn’t much use right now since few people own a screen capable of displaying the video in all its glory.
There should be little difference between the two in terms of performance