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printed September 1, 2014
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Review: Nokia Lumia 521 for T-Mobile

Form Performance Basics Extras Wrap-Up Comments  10  

Screen

The 521's screen is an in-plane switching LCD, measuring 4.0 inches across the diagonal, with 800 x 480 pixels. This stops well short of the higher-resolution display on the Lumia 925 (to be sold by T-Mobile later this summer), but it still manages to look decent considering this class of device. It’s bright and colorful, and all of the on-screen elements are easy to see and read. You can see individual pixels only if you hold it close to your eyes. The 521's best feature is that it is readable outdoors under a bright, sunny sky.

Signal

The 521 did fairly well on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network. It doesn't support T-Mobile's LTE 4G network. I carried it around New Jersey for the better part of a week and it never had any trouble connecting to T-Mobile's voice and data networks. Calls always went through on the first attempt, and the device only dropped one call during my tests. Data speeds were slightly inconsistent, but fell in line with what I've seen from other T-Mobile HSPA+ devices tested in the same areas.

Sound

The quality of phone calls made with the 521 were good, just as I expected them to be. Not only were they free of background noise and interference, but the earpiece produces clear and loud sound. Those with whom I spoke through the Lumia 521 said I sounded somewhat distant, but otherwise okay. When used around the house, you can probably get away with setting the volume at the 50% mark. If you're out walking a busy city street, set it all the way up and you'll have no trouble hearing callers. The speakerphone offers equivalent call quality, but the volume isn't quite as impressive. Setting it on a desk or table helps. You'll need to stick to quieter rooms to use it. Ringers and alert tones were loud enough to get my attention, though I thought the vibrate alert could have been stronger.

Battery

The 521 got through a full waking day over the course of a week with what I call normal use. That means I unplugged it at 7 AM and it was still going at 11 PM or later. It didn't have much juice left by the time I went to bed each night, though. I kept Wi-Fi and GPS on, but Bluetooth off. I used the 521 to check and read email, Twitter and Facebook regularly, as well as browse the web, download apps, listen to music, take photos, plot directions, and so on.

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