Nokia Lumia 2520 Tablet Australian Hands-On: Beyond The Surface

One of the biggest announcements at this year's Nokia World conference was the company's "first-ever" tablet (we see through you, Nokia) — the 10.1-inch Lumia 2520 running on Windows RT 8.1. We jostled our way through the media scrum for some hands-on time with this stylish alternative to the Surface 2: read on for our first impressions.

After years of rumours and fruitless rumblings, Nokia is finally taking on the Apple iPad with a table PC of its own. The timing is somewhat odd given Nokia's recent acquisition by Microsoft which is currently pushing its own range of tablet devices. Or as one wag on Twitter put it: "Wait. Microsoft now makes its own competitor to Surface?"

The Nokia Lumia 2520: it kind of looks like a Surface.

So what does the Nokia Lumia 2520 offer to distinguish itself from the Surface 2? After all, both devices sport 10-inch displays, the same operating system and roughly similar designs (right down to the colourful keyboard attachment). Does the Nokia Lumia 2520 bring anything to the table to justify its existence?

In a word; yes.

One of the most significant points of difference is the addition of LTE connectivity — unlike Microsoft's current Surface models the Lumia 2520 comes with a 4G antenna for improved mobile productivity. Nokia is pitching the Lumia 2520 as a "use anywhere" PC device as opposed to a bare-bones tablet relegated to the home.

This is backed by an optional full keyboard accessory that comes with two inbuilt USB ports, a protective wraparound cover and an additional boost to battery life of up to five hours.

The Nokia Power Keyboard's trackpad is among the most expansive we've seen.

Sticking with the "use anywhere" theme, Nokia has proclaimed the Lumia 2520 to have the best outdoor readability of any tablet. At 650 nits, it currently has the highest peak brightness of any tablet on the market as well as the lowest reflectivity (rated at six per cent).

Other noteworthy specifications include a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.2GHz, a 6.7-megapixel camera with a Zeiss lens (the first time ever on a tablet), 1080p video recording and an 8000mAh battery. Like the Surface 2, it also comes with the full Windows Office suite, including Outlook.

The Power Keyboard comes with a pair of inbuilt USB ports.

With an RRP of $US499, the Nokia Lumia 2520 is likely to cost around the same as the RT-version of the Surface 2, which starts at $529 in Australia. This seems like a pretty good deal to us when you consider the improved camera. The Nokia Power Keyboard accessory will set you back an additional $US149, however.

Although it does share a few design similarities with the Surface, Nokia's new tablet is unquestionably a Lumia device. It has the same unibody chassis and vibrant paint jobs as its smaller smartphone siblings. If you're a fan of the Lumia style, the 2520 won't disappoint. It will be available in red, white, cyan and black.

From the back, the 2520 could be mistaken for an oversized Lumia smartphone.

We had a play around with the device in both laptop and tablet modes during Nokia World 2013 in Abu Dhabi. The first thing that stands out about the tablet is how heavy it is; especially with the keyboard/cover attached. We feel it may be too chunky for users who are used to more lightweight devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and Apple iPad.

This sense of bulkiness also extends to the keyboard's footprint — simply put, it's ridiculously long (insert "that's what she said" joke here. Heh. Insert.) The combination of the folding stand and extra-large trackpad means you need a pretty big surface to rest the device on. We're not sure how it would fare on an overly cluttered desk or fold-out plane tray.

In laptop mode, the Lumia 2520's footprint nearly rivals Bigfoot. Not just his feet — the entire hominid.

However, if you like the design and can live with a bit of heft, the Nokia Lumia 2520 seems to be a decent Windows tablet. During our hands-on time, the tiled UI provided a smooth and highly responsive experience that's easily on par with the latest iteration of the Surface.

The keyboard accessory is also very impressive, with the plus-sized trackpad making gesture control a cinch. If you've been struggling with Microsoft's Touch Keyboard cover, the Power Keyboard will come as a breath of fresh air.

We can't attest to the tablet's online browsing performance as none of the demo units had SIM cards and were thus relying on the conference hall's flakey Wi-Fi connection. We also checked out a handful of apps which looked great and fired up quickly. The sole exception was the DreamWorks' produced Dragon’s Adventure which took nearly 30 seconds to load. This was an isolated incident, however: overall we found app quality and reliability to be strong.

This is one area where Windows RT 8.1 is beginning to gain ground on its OS competitors. As we reported yesterday, the social news reader Flipboard, photo sharing app Instagram and six-second viral video app Vine will all be available in the coming months. In other words the "not enough apps" excuse is beginning to run dry.

Australian pricing and availability for the Nokia Lumia 2520 is yet to be announced. We'll be back with a full review closer to the release date.

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