There are a lot of things about this phone that remind me of the legendary Nokia brick phones of old. Battery life is absolutely not one of them. This is the first time I’m getting the chance to fully test battery life on a Windows Phone 8 device. Until now, I haven’t seen the option to set display timeout to “never” on one of the Nokia devices—the maximum was 5 minutes on the 920, 820, and 810. The 521 has a 1430 mAh 3.7V battery, putting it at 5.29 Wh—a far cry from the 9+ Wh batteries we see in a lot of higher end phones these days. This results in battery life being...not great—easily one of the poorest results we’ve seen in the 2013 Smartphone Bench after the original Galaxy Note and the notoriously short-lived Galaxy Nexus.

It’s worth noting, too, that the 521 is using single-carrier HSPA+ as the air interface during our mobile broadband test. That’s technically 4G, but obviously offers less bandwidth than the DC-HSPA+ we’re used to seeing on T-Mobile.

AT Smartphone Bench 2013: Web Browsing Battery Life (3G/4G LTE)

AT Smartphone Bench 2013: Web Browsing Battery Life (WiFi)

Cellular Talk Time

I did the battery life testing at the medium brightness setting (191 nits), since that was the closest to the 200 nits we use as the baseline and well within the margin of error. Talk time is a bit more respectable, indicating that the display and backlight are perhaps a bit less efficient than in other devices.

When you think about these results in the context of the battery capacity, the 521 is actually pretty efficient from a power standpoint. Obviously, with a dual-core CPU clocked so low combined with a relatively small display, this makes sense; I just wish that Nokia had specced at least a slightly larger battery to get more competitive runtimes.

Meet the Lumia 521 Performance, IE10 Mobile, and Cellular
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  • Crono - Thursday, August 08, 2013 - link

    I love my Lumia 521. It's not my main phone - I have an HTC One for that - but it's amazing what $80 (got it from the HSN sale) gets you with Windows Phone. I had a HTC Trophy, Dell Venue Pro, Lumia 710, and a Lumia 920 (for a short while) before that, so I'm not new to Windows Phone, but this is the best budget phone of the lot. A similarly priced Android phone would either be hopelessly old and/or laggy with not enough RAM.

    Nokia can definitely beat Android at the low end since it runs so consistently even on older or lower specification hardware. The only problem is the profit margin is so low at that those points, but at least they are moving in the right direction with overall marketshare. And it's hard to argue what they are doing with their camera hardware and software, though one could argue that's a niche (but rather large niche) market.
    Reply
  • IntoxicatedPuma - Thursday, August 08, 2013 - link

    I've had mine for about 2 months now but use it as my main phone (had a Nexus 7 that I used for browsing/movies etc but gave that to my dad) and other than the battery life I've been really pleased with it. I'd really like to upgrade to a premium Windows Phone, and while the Lumia 1020 is really enticing I'd like for something more like a Galaxy Note. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    I've had a 521 a few months too, and am really impressed. It doesn't come across as "good for the price" but more just "good". The article kind of overemphasizes the speed I think...it runs well, faster than higher end Android devices I have. Reply
  • Samus - Friday, August 09, 2013 - link

    WP8 is a great platform for the aging population. My parents, in the 60's, found the interface easier to use than Android, and my Mom now shopping for a tablet is leaning toward Windows 8/RT over an iPad because of how iOS doesn't give you information without going into an app (no widgets, no live tiles, etc)

    WP8 is incredibly simple, that's why its good for people who are coming from dumb phones, and that's why it makes sense on budget hardware. Android will always be king of features and customization, and iOS will always be king of of apps, which is actually its biggest drawback. iOS needs an app for everything, because without them, it does nothing.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Friday, August 09, 2013 - link

    I've been saying for years now that WP will eventually be Android's biggest competitor, not iOS... iOS will always have the diehard Apple audience, and how much market share they retain beyond that is entirely in Apple's hands (if they mess up they could turn into the Mac of the mobile world, low market share while dominating the high end market). The real battle's gonna be between WP andAndroid, and as much as I like Android I certainly hope WP remains relevant. Attacking Android from the low end like this will certainly aid with that, current low end Android phones tend to cut way too many corners. Reply
  • BryanDobbins - Saturday, August 17, 2013 - link

    my classmate's half-sister makes $88 every hour on the computer. She has been without a job for six months but last month her pay was $21529 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site... http://xurl.es/mcduf Reply
  • jeffkro - Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - link

    windows is desperate for market share so they are basically giving the phones away Reply
  • sri_tech - Thursday, August 08, 2013 - link

    Its really a fantastic phone for the price. It helps in bringing first time smartphone buyers and people who are hesitant about WP to the platform because its so cheap for an no-contract phone.

    That is why it is the best selling no-contract smartphone(both T-mobile and AT&T variants) on Amazon for some time now.
    Reply
  • Crono - Thursday, August 08, 2013 - link

    Agreed. People always say how easy iPhone and iOS is to use for the average, non-tech-savvy user (or their proverbial or literal grandmother), and that's true to some extent, but Windows Phone is even easier to use. Pair that with the low cost and decent build quality of a Nokia phone like this and you have an easy to recommend phone for those who are new to smartphones.

    One thing worth noting about this phone, too, is that OEM batteries are fairly cheap. I picked up 3 batteries for $6 each with free shipping, though you can find them for even cheaper then that. Turns it into a great emergency backup phone. It also makes an excellent music player (especially with free Nokia Music app, Pandora, and/or paid Xbox Music/Zune Pass subscription) with a decent amount of storage with a microSD added in.
    Reply
  • steven75 - Thursday, August 08, 2013 - link

    The problem for WP, as pointed out in the review, is that iOS is both easy to use *and* not feature deficient. So you don't really gain anything over iOS by going to WP. Reply

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