Nokia has tossed its hat into the tablet ring alongside its soon-to-be corporate partner, Microsoft, by introducing its 2520 tablet based on Windows RT 8.1. But despite being nearly the same size, the 2520 is different from Microsoft’s Surface—enough so to make it a strong alternative in the small world of Windows tablets.
The most obvious difference is that Nokia makes their tablet with cellular communications—something you can’t get from the Surface. In the United States, you can buy the Lumia 2520 from the Verizon and AT&T stores. This fact alone should help Nokia sell more tablets than Microsoft was able to since the Surface was initially available in a few Microsoft-owned stores.
Nokia also included its Zeiss optics with the camera in the tablet, which doesn’t break any resolution records, with only 6.7 megapixels, but its f/1.9 aperture capability made taking low-light snapshots a breeze. This is especially useful since there’s no flash on this tablet. Of course, Nokia includes its well-regarded photo-editing software, Nokia Camera, and its video-editing suite, Nokia Video Director.
The screen on the 2520 is the same size as the screen on the Surface RT, and both tablets are the same thickness, but the 2520 weighs slightly less, and the frame is slightly smaller. Using the 2520 is like using any other Windows 8.1 tablet, although the touch-screen is more responsive than some.
The inclusion of cellular radios on the 2520 is a significant improvement. By nature, a tablet computer is intended to be mobile, and constraining to WiFi limits its usefulness. With the ability to work with LTE regardless of the availability of WiFi, the tablet becomes much more useful.
Nokia brought a couple of other firsts to the world of tablets. One that’s notable is a pair of front-mounted stereo speakers. If you look at the screen of the device, you’ll see two tiny slots on the lower corners that emit the sound. As you might expect, these aren’t world-class high-fidelity speakers, but they are quite loud, which is a benefit in itself.
Another is a truly massive 8000 mAh battery, which far exceeds the capacity of the competition. While estimates of stand-by time haven’t been made available, AT&T claims that the 2520 will play video for 11 hours. That’s longer than I’m willing to watch any video. While not a scientific measurement, I did note that the battery capacity seemed unaffected by steady use during this review. The 2520 can get an 80 percent recharge in an hour.
Nokia’s Lumia 2520 Tablet Delivers What Microsoft Surface Didn’t
Nokia follows the lead of other Windows tablets by including a number of ports and slots. These include a MicroSD memory slot, a micro USB 3.0 connector, a MicroHDMI connector, and there’s a keyboard connector. Unlike most other tablets, the 2520 supports NFC (near field communication) with the antenna location indicated on the rear.
What Nokia did not include is some analogue to the Surface kickstand or the option for more built-in memory. While you can add another 32GB using an SD card, more built-in memory would have been useful for people who like to run a lot of apps.
It’s also worth noting that the 2520 is not particularly cheap. The non-contract price for an AT&T tablet is $584.99, or $499.99 for the Verizon version. AT&T and Verizon customers can get the tablet for $399.99 with a two-year agreement.
The obvious question is whether the Nokia 2520 will do any better in the marketplace than other Windows 8.1 tablets, and that’s a fair question. Microsoft didn’t exactly create a barn-burner with the Surface RT, and some would-be makers of Windows RT tablets have abandoned their projects. How is Nokia different?
Probably the biggest difference, besides the fact that Nokia’s mobile devices unit has been acquired by Microsoft, is that Nokia is marketing its tablets through the same stores that sell its Windows phones. This means that the tablets will start to show up in places where a lot of people who buy mobile devices actually shop.
It also means that the store employees will be reasonably familiar with the tablet when customers show up to take a look, rather than what happened to me when I stopped by a Best Buy to look at a Surface last year, only to find out that nobody had a clue.
The attraction of getting a 2520 for less than $400, even with a two-year contract, may be appealing enough to bring in buyers. That’s a lot less expensive than buying an iPad, especially an iPad with cellular radios. And now that the Microsoft app store has a wide enough selection to make it more likely to find the app you want, the reasons to spend the extra money to buy an iPad become less compelling. Is it a nice enough tablet to be worth $400? I’d say it is, but I still miss the kickstand.