T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 521 – Unboxing and First Impressions

Another week, another unboxing and first impressions! If this didn’t take so much work, we could get used to this many devices coming out (mostly from Nokia).

This week is the low-cost but high-value Lumia 521, T-Mobile svelte variant of the Lumia 520. The phone ranges from just $30 on T-Mo’s “uncontract” to a still super cheap $150 with no strings attached. Do we really need to point out how crazy low that is for a brand spanking new Windows Phone 8 device in 2013?

Head past the break for some luscious shots of the 521 (if I can brag about my camera work) and our unboxing/hands on with the device, along with my initial thoughts.

At $150 flat, the Lumia 521 obviously has to cut some corners, which it does. But it does it in a “smart” way and still delivers a great user experience.

The specifications are:

  • Dual-core 1GHz Snapdragon CPU
  • 4” IPS 800x480 Super-Sensitive Touch display
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 8GB of storage (4.61GB free)
  • microSD expansion
  • 5MP rear camera
  • OS: Windows Phone 8, Build 10211

So what’s missing? There’s no NFC, no ClearBlack screen polarizer, the camera is not Carl Zeiss, there’s no flash and no front facing camera.

You do still get the Super Sensitive Touch feature, allowing you to wear gloves and still operate the phone and let’s not kid ourselves, a really nicely designed phone that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen with.

Performance is quite solid, even at 1GHz. Actually, we feel almost like Nokia has tweaked the responsiveness a bit compared to our Lumia 520 as it performs quite well. Sure there’s a tad delay here and there, but it never gets frustrating.

Check for that update!

Recently we reported that there is a firmware update for the Lumia 521, bumping it to 1030.6409.1316. That update enabled the coveted Wi-Fi calling feature, which you can see in our video tour towards the end.

The thing is, in order to get Wi-Fi calling to show up you need to hard-reset the phone after the firmware update (something that is not explained to the end user). So the first thing you’ll want to do after setting up this phone for the first time, is to install the firmware update, hard-reset and re-set it up.

It’s unfortunate that one has to do that but we imagine future devices coming off of the assembly line will have this pre-installed.

Full review coming up

Our review’s editor George Ponder also has a Lumia 521, which he’ll review early next week (I need to focus on that Lumia 928 and 720 review). For now, you can ask any questions in comments and we’ll try to answer. You can also head to our Lumia 521 forum for further discussion!

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.