Review: Nokia's new 2520 tablet is one to avoid

Lumia 2520

Nokia recently released its first-ever Windows tablet, the Lumia 2520. After testing the device, I wonder why Nokia bothered.

There's just not much to recommend about the device. Its design is unremarkable. Its screen is of lower resolution than those of its competitors. Its app store lacks the breadth and depth of selection that you'll find for other tablets.

And if those weren't enough reasons to be unimpressed, there's this: It runs a version of Microsoft's Windows that seems destined for the scrap heap because it has struggled mightily to find an audience among either consumers or device manufactures.

In short, if you're shopping for a tablet this holiday season, I'd pass on the Lumia 2520.

Nokia used to be a powerhouse in the mobile device industry, and has long been known for making high-quality hardware. But nearly three years ago, the company linked its fate to Microsoft and subsequently saw its sales, profit and market share plunge.

Despite those results, Nokia has stuck with Microsoft's Windows Phone software and now has chosen to enter the tablet market with a device running an out-of-favor Windows flavor: Windows RT.

Microsoft designed Windows RT so its partners could offer Windows-based tablets that could compete with Apple's iPad in terms of price, weight and design. As an added bonus, Windows RT includes versions of Microsoft's Office applications, notably Word and Excel. And the latest version of Windows RT also has a version of Outlook.

But Windows RT has one huge flaw: It's not really Windows at all. It doesn't run any Windows applications that were written for Windows 7 or older versions of the operating system.

Likely because of that shortcomings, Windows RT devices have suffered poor sales, and manufacturers other than Microsoft have abandoned the software. Recently, Microsoft has even indicated that it might get rid of Windows RT altogether. So you'd be wise to think twice about getting any tablet running Windows RT these days.

And there are other reasons to dislike Windows RT. The Office apps it includes lack many of the more advanced features found on Windows 8. And you have to run them using Windows RT's hidden desktop interface, which wasn't designed with touch screens in mind.

And you may find yourself trying to navigate that old, difficult-to-use interface for other reasons. Some of Windows RT's more advanced settings can only be accessed through the old desktop-based Control Panel, one of three settings areas in the operating system.

The Lumia 2520 had problems beyond running Windows RT.

Like other Nokia devices, it's solid and well built. But its design is boring: It's just a flat, rectangular slab. And it's both thicker and heavier than Apple's iPad Air.

The design is more oblong than other tablets on the market, which makes the Lumia 2520 ideal for watching high-definition, widescreen videos. But it discourages you from holding the tablet vertically because it feels awkward and limits what you can see on the screen. That's unfortunate, because many of the things you might want to do on a tablet-reading books, making video calls, jotting down notes-feel more comfortable when the tablet is vertical.

Another thing about the Lumia 2520 that comes up short is its screen. Apple set the standard nearly two years ago when it put a super-high resolution "Retina" display in the iPad. While other tablets now have screens that match or exceed the iPad's resolution, the Lumia 2520 falls short. Compared side by side with the new iPad Air, the difference is subtle but noticeable; text in particular looks fuzzier on the Lumia's screen.

Nokia has included with the Lumia 2520 some of its own applications, notably its HERE map app and Video Director, an app that helps users splice together videos they've shot and add titles to them.

Those apps are fine, but they don't make up for the paucity of apps available in the Windows store, which is the only place to get programs for Windows RT devices. While the number of apps in that store has increased steadily over time, it still trails far behind what you'll find for the iPad or even for Android-based tablets. For example, none of the top 10 paid applications for the iPad are available for the Lumia 2520.

And I had another complaint about the Lumia 2520 - it was unstable. While updating its software, the device froze, and I had to reset it. Several apps crashed or didn't work properly. And I couldn't even get Outlook to connect to one of my email accounts, even though I used the same settings I use on my iPhone and other devices.

All of this might be tolerable if the Lumia 2520 was a bargain. But it's not. The device will cost you at least $400 with a two-year cellular contract with AT&T or Verizon. Without a contract, it costs $500.

That's more than you'd spend for Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, and the same as the base model of Apple's iPad Air. Either of those would be a much better buy.


Troy's rating: 5.5 out of 10

Likes: Solid feeling case; relatively speedy processor

Dislikes: Uninspired and awkwardly oblong design; lacks "Retina" quality display; poor selection and breadth of available apps; unstable; runs Windows RT

Specs: 2.2GHz quad-core processor; 10.1-inch 1920 x 1080 pixel screen; 1.2-megapixel front and 6.7-megapixel rear cameras; 32GB of storage

Price: $400 with a two-year wireless service contract; $500 with no contract

Web: .com

©2013 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
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