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Second Look: Nokia Lumia 2520 Windows Tablet

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Posted on Feb 26, 2014

By Juan Bagnell

JC Bagnell

We’re a couple of years into the “Post-PC” revolution. Led by the iPad, and followed by a bevvy of Android-powered competitors, tablets have taken a significant chunk out of computer sales. It seems many consumers are looking to these companion screens for their casual browsing, media and social networking needs. This is troubling news for Microsoft.

Even though the company has pushed the idea of tablet computing since Bill Gates was CEO, Microsoft was essentially left without a dog to race when consumers finally started warming to slates and touchscreens. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems proved flexible in making the transition from phones to larger screens. At that same time, Microsoft was just taking the wraps off of its updated Windows Phone mobile operating system, so it did something drastic. It pushed an entirely new user interface, one focused on touch, onto its Windows PC partners and customers.

The showcase devices for Microsoft’s new strategy were the Surface RT and the Surface Pro. Pro was a full-fledged computer, as powerful as a MacBook Air, in a form factor slightly larger than an iPad. RT was a different beast. Instead of traditional laptop guts, it used the same low-power internals as the rest of the tablet market. The trade-off was its inability to run legacy Windows software, meaning customers could load only those apps found in the new (and somewhat empty) Windows App Store.

RT was positioned as a stopgap measure to ensure Windows had some presence in the consumer tablet and hybrid market, and it completely failed to capture any confidence with hardware partners like Lenovo and Asus. One reason may be that Microsoft launched its own Surface tablets and thus entered direct competition with its licensees.

Fast forward a year, and Microsoft is set to absorb Nokia’s devices and services division as part of a bid to reinvent itself. One of the final devices to be released by an independent Nokia is the Lumia 2520, a Windows RT tablet. The Lumia 2520 is an interesting example of a phone maker attempting to transition its design language to a larger device, a device with different usage and ergonomic considerations. It’s a transition many companies have fumbled, and one that might inform the future of Microsoft.

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Of late, Nokia has been championing a molded polycarbonate for several of its phones. It’s a process that results in a very attractive plastic unibody, with subtle curves and nearly zero seams. It also comes with the benefit of making scratches and abrasions more difficult to spot. The body of the phone is molded out of colored plastic—it’s not painted—so scratching the surface reveals only more of the same color. The 2520 is built on this process, available in glossy red and white or matte black and cyan. It’s refreshing to see color options instead of black, white and some derivative of “gun metal.” I have been test driving a black 2520, but I absolutely love Nokia’s cyan.

The polycarb construction allows for beautiful organic shapes. The edges on the 2520 taper toward the corners, which tricks the hands into thinking they’re holding a thinner tablet than they actually are. No small feat. The Lumia is lighter than the Surface 2, Microsoft’s latest in-house tablet, but it’s still noticeably heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 and the new iPad Air. It’s very easy to hold on to as far as 10-inch tablets are concerned. Plus, the satiny finish on the matte Lumia is nicer than most of the other plastic (and usually glossy) tablets in this category.

The 2520’s internals are cutting edge. A 10.1-inch screen with a 1080p resolution is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 series chipset, which also includes LTE for high speed data. Different models are built to support AT&T and Verizon’s 4G networks (we’re reviewing AT&T’s variant). You’ll find 2GB of RAM for powering apps and 32GB of storage, with the ability to pop in a MicroSD card if you need more room for media. A 6.7MP rear camera with Zeiss optics and 1.2MP front camera help you capture moments and jump into Skype calls. The rest of the list is what you would expect from a premier device: Bluetooth 4, NFC, front-facing stereo speakers, Micro USB 3 accessory port and Micro HDMI.


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