I have been itching for a Windows Phone 8 device since last November, but with a barely seven month old Nokia 900, I was not ready to shell the dollars for an out of contract upgrade. When the Lumia 520 became available for $199 Unlocked, I was ready to test the WP8 waters.

I always like to keep a backup phone around for one of those unexpected open toilet incidents. My HTC Surround has been standing guard since April 2011, reminding my L900 what would happen if it chose to falter. (Maybe that’s why I have never had to return a phone, or have one repaired. Some deep alternate dimension stuff there. Just sayin). It was easy to justify making the L520 my new backup phone. The Surround isn’t getting any younger, and it’s stuck at WP7.5. The L520 is running WP8 and I expect to replace my L900 this fall with a shiny new Nokia WP8 device.



Over the past few days playing with this little phone, I have been surprised at how good it feels in the hand and how well it performs despite what some would call, minimal specs. And all this for $199, unlocked and contract free. I realize as time marches on, things get better, generally smaller, and hopefully cheaper. So I decided to do a comparison with HTC Surround, released a mere 31 months ago, to see what you get today for less than half the price. I didn’t bother with specs like dimensions and weight, focusing more on features which are different on the two devices. Items in red are the category winners.

Not bad for $199, or $129 from Walmart / HSN, but locked to T-Mobile, with some restrictions. Some though may claim the Surround is not a fair comparison with its slide out speaker, and superior build. So I decided to do the same comparison with a similarly constructed Samsung Focus, a best seller in it’s day, being the same 0.39in. thick and 0.3oz, lighter.

Again, for 40% of the cost, a superior device by comparison. That’s impressive. Sure, the L520 is missing a camera flash, but not really much else. Ideal for tweens and teens, anyone on a month to month plan, or for those who may be missing their beloved Focus. While it’s always nice to salivate over the biggest and best phone out there, let’s not forget the other end of the spectrum, where the majority of smartphone owners dwell. Apparently Nokia hasn’t. Well done. Or Hyvin tehty if your reading this in Finland.


  1. I agree with Jim.

    I have the 521 (branded T-mobile).

    If it was not for the headache of unlocking my device, all around for a low end windows phone 8 in rocks.

  2. Expansys. Available in black, cyan, yellow and red. Have also seen it on Amazon for $219.99. I did try the AT&T SIM from my L900 and it worked fine (able to make and receive calls/texts).

  3. Thanks. Are you able to get LTE data speeds? I want to try to get a 925, but I might try the 521 and save for the Elvis

  4. Honesty, I never intended to put a SIM in this phone unless my L900 failed. But during setup I couldn’t log in to my Microsoft account, so I had to figure out how to open the L900 SIM door (almost broke it) and put the SIM in the L520 for a few minutes. I noticed I was getting Edge data speeds, but that may be because I had not set things up properly. I eventually realized my problem had to do with Microsoft’s two-step authentication (don’t forget that temporary app password when setting up a new device) and moved the SIM back to my L900. I did verify the phone calls (inbound/outbound) and received a couple texts in the 15 minutes the SIM was in there. Tonight, I can moving the SIM back over to the L520 and see what kind of speeds I get.

  5. I have unlocked my 521 (what a pain that was ), I have also installed a generic 521 rom. I can say the generic rom does not have LTE but the T-Mobile Rom does. I am trying to port out the LTE from T-Mobile Rom and place it in generic rom as we speak.

  6. @BennyJ. Well, I have some good news and some bad news. There are two variants of the Lumia 52X. The Lumia 521, branded to T-Mobile is variant RM-915 and uses WCDMA bands 1700-2100MHz, 1900MHz & 850MHz. It is intended for the North American market. The Lumia 520 is variant RM-914, the International Version, which uses WCDMA 900 & 2100 MHz. Expansys and Amazon are both selling the RM-914 variant. Only T-Mobile is offering the RM-915 variant on North America. So, yes you can get LTE speeds with this phone in Europe, Africa, Australia, and so on. But you will only get Edge speeds in the US. Not a problem for me (it’s a backup phone and 80-90% of my data usage is over Wi-Fi anyway) but it could be a problem for others. Guess the only option is to get the T-Mobile variant and break the law. They sure don’t make this easy.

  7. @Jim

    actually three variations

    HSDPA 900 / 2100 – RM-914

    HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100 – RM-915

    HSDPA 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 – RM-917

    The last version (rm-917) is T-Mobile USA Version aka Nokia 521

  8. You are absolutely correct sir. And unless you want to deal with a couple semi-shady sellers on Amazon, it looks like you need to live in Australia to get your hands on the RM-915. Quite an elusive phone, although it cleared the FCC in March. Oh well.

  9. Good stuff. I keep hearing good things about the device. A clear example that you can produce solid hardware for a lot less than $600-$700 bucks. I hope Nokia continues to push pricing down for all their phones. A flagship costing $400 would be amazing.

Comments are closed.