Nokia Lumia 520 vs Lumia 720 – Differences Comparison

Nokia Lumia 520 and Lumia 720 smartphones side by side

In this article we’ll take a closer look at the differences between the Nokia Lumia 520 and Lumia 720. Both are Windows 8 phones, the Lumia 520 is the most affordable phone in Nokia’s lineup (~$250) and the Lumia 720 is the more expensive model (~$349), both sitting below the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8 phone (~$500).  The question that might come to your mind is what you get for that extra price, so you can make your decision and buy the one that fits you best.  This comparison is separated into sections, each one with in-depth details. OK, Let’s start!

Size, External Design & Display

The first thing that we look in a phone is, most probably, its external design and size. Some of use prefer carrying a compact phone, one that can easily put in your jeans’ pocket. The good news is that both the Nokia Lumia 720 and Lumia 520 are relatively compact phone, with the 520 being smaller. Let’s take a look at some specs first:

Lumia 520: 64×119.9×9.9 mm (2.52×4.72×0.39 in.) | 124 grams (4.37 Ounces) | 4-inch display
Lumia 720: 67.5×127.9×9 mm (2.66×5.04×0.35 in.) | 128 grams (4.52 Ounces) | 4.3-inch display

Lumia 720 and 520 size comparison

Nokia Lumia 520 and Lumia 720 cmopare to Samsung Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 2 – size comparison (via mobiledevicesize.com)

 

From the above image you can clearly see the size difference between four devices, and you can see that the Lumia 70 is shorter than the Galaxy S4 and much smaller than the Galaxy Note II.

The Lumia 520 has a 4-inch screen, a bit smaller than the 4.3-inch of the Lumia 720, but both have the same 480×800 pixel resolution, and that’s why the pixel density of the Lumia 520 is higher (~233 ppi vs ~217 ppi). . It’s not a big difference though, so don’t expect any really noticeable difference when looking at the pixels up close.

Both phones use IPS LCD display technology, which is well known for its accurate and natural color, compare to the most saturated ones on the Super AMOLED’s. The Lumia 720 uses Nokia’s ClearBlack technology, Lumia 520 lacks this feature. This technolgoy used to reduce the reflection on the screen, which results in improved image quality, especially when looking at the screen in bright daylight. Black will look black, and not grayish an according to Nokia’s blog, the effect is similar to what you get when using a polarizing sunglasses.

The Lumia 720 utilizes a Corning Gorilla Glass 2 for improves scratch resistant and protect the screen against occasional bumps and falls that certainly happens on everyday use. The 520 doesn’t have a Gorilla Glass, but rather  a scratch resistant layer. So that’s make the 720′ screen more durable in that regard.

Nokia Lumia 520 and 720 side view

Nokia Lumia 520 and 720 side view

Both phones have a squarish look with rounded corners when you view it from the front, but from the size you can see that they both have a curvature back. Both have the same buttons on the right side, a volume button (the larger one), Power / Lock  button at the center and a camera shutter button at the bottom. Both have a headphone socket at the top, USB and Power connector at the bottom.

Both phones take microSD memory card (up to 64GB) to expand the internal storage capacity  Good for those who install lots of apps, have many videos, photos and games installed on their device. There is a difference here though. The Lumia 720 has a dedicated microSD slot at the left side of the device, so you can easily insert the card. There is a small pin hole that opens that slot. You can use the SIM door key (comes in the box) or a paperclip to open it and insert the microSD card.

On the Lumia 520 it’s different and less convenient. The microSD card slot resides below the battery at the back side of the phone. This means that you need to open the phone’s cover, lift the battery, insert the card, put the battery back in the put the back case back in its place. Much easier to do that on the 720. The issue I have with the 720 is that you need to open the card slot using a the SIM door key, rather than having some kind of a rubber protrusion that you can pull out and open the card compartment.

This is also works the same with the SIM card insertion. On the 720 you have a a slot at the top of the device with a card holder (use the same pin hole as the microSD one), compare to the Lumia 520 SIM slot which resides near the microSD slot below the battery itself.  This isn’t a big issue, most of us will only put the SIM card once and forget about it. Some people more than one SIM. For them its probably better to have a dual-SIM phone like the Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos, but nevertheless, it’s easier with the 720.

QUESTION: Where can I find and download Nokia Lumia 520 and Lumia 720 user manuals in PDF?

You can view and download them from the following links: Nokia Lumia 520 manual, Nokia Lumia 720 manual.

Another issue that people raided on various forums is the positioning of the Off/Lock switch button, which is at the center of the right side of them phone. This is usually where I put my thumb and I might accidently close to phone. The thing is that you need to press and hold the button and than drag the lock screen down to switch the phone off, so it’s not an issue.

curved edges, lumia 720Another noticeable difference (well, some of you might miss that), is that the Nokia Lumia 520 doesn’t have a secondary front-facing camera, only a rear-facing one. The 720 on the other hand has both front and rear-facing cameras. I will talk about the cameras later on.

Both of the phones have a rather conventional design, but people like the slick stylish look of it. However there is another different that some people miss. The Nokia Lumia 720 display have slightly curved edges (Nokia called it “Sculpted glass“), and this gives the phone a more prestige and stylish look. A touch of  angularity does good to a phone, I personally love that, some prefer the flat design better though.

So both phones have a high quality display, polycarbonate plastic shell slim body design. The Lumia 520 is smaller in size but that’s comes with some shortcoming compare to the 720 which have a faster access for the SIM and microSD cards.  The 720 has Gorilla Glass compare to a scratch resistant coating of the 520. Maybe all the differences here didn’t convince you to get the 720 over the 520, but we are not over yet.

Other things that I should know? – the two screens have a 15:9 aspect ratio

 

Camera & Image Quality

This is another area where there is big difference between the two smartphones.  Let’s take a look at the specs:

 
Lumia 520
Lumia 720
Main camera5MP (2592x1936 pixels)
1/4" sensor
Autofocus
6.7MP (2848x2144 pixels)
1/3.6" sensor
Autofocus

True 16:9 modeNoYes
Back-illuminated sensorNoYes
Secondary cameraNot available1.3MP
f/2.4
Video Max. Resolution720p720p (for both front and back cameras)
Main camera opticsOtherCarl Zeiss Tessar

* Very high quality optics
Main camera lens28mm f/2.426 mm f/1.9
Main camera focus range10 cm10 cm
LED FlashNo FlashYes, 1 meter range

Modes: Off / Automatic / On
Digital Zoom4 x4 x
Auto and Manual exposureYesYes
ISO100 - 800100 - 800
Panoramic ImagesYesYes
Geo-tagging YesYes
Scene modesYes

Automatic, Night Portrait, Sports, Night, Close-up, Backlight
Yes

Automatic, Night Portrait, Sports, Night, Close-up, Backlight

Big difference between the cameras on the two phones. First of all, the Nokia Lumia 520 doesn’t have a front-facing camera, so no video chatting with this one. The 720 has a front-facing camera.  Regarding the main camera, the Nokia 720 also have some much better specs, including: larger BSI (Back-illuminated) sensor, higher resolution (1.7MP more), has true 16:9 mode, faster and wider lens and LED flash.

Let’s talk about each feature:

Larger sensor

The Nokia Lumia 720 has a larger 1/3.6-inch sensor compare to the 1/4-inch of the Lumia 520. 1/3.6-inch equals to approximately 4.00×3.00 mm and 1/4-inch equals to approximately 3.20×2.40mm, so the 720 sensor despite being also a BSI sensor (twice more sensitive to light than conventional CMOS sensor) is also larger.

1/4-inch vs 1/3.6-inch sensor size comparison

1/4-inch vs 1/3.6-inch sensor size comparison

What the benefits of a large(r) sensor?

What we are really interested to know is the size of individual pixel, the size of a single photo diode. The larger those pixels, the more the light can be gathered and that is the major factor that leads to a batter image quality. In other words, a larger pixel can store more photons and hold more information. That’s why APS-C and Full Frame cameras have the best image quality, and have far better low-light performance compare to mobile phone cameras. So in DSLR-terms, the Lumia 520 and Lumia 720 are very small.

The Nokia Lumia 720 has a ~1.4µ (microns) pixel size and the Lumia 520 has a ~1.24µ microns pixel size (calculated using: [size in mm / width resolution in pixels] * 1000). So according to my calculations, the Lumia 720, even considering its higher resolution (pixel count) has larger pixels.

Now you should understand why more pixels is not always a good thing. More pixel will result in more details in most cases, but considering the same sensor size, more pixels will result in smaller pixels, that will influence the sensor’s light sensitivity (low light sensitivity) and image quality overall. Bigger pixels will also result in a higher dynamic range and more accurate color, because more accurate data of the light source can be captured for each individual pixel.

What the benefits having Carl Zeiss Tessar optics (lens)?

Carl Zeiss is a world leader in optics. It’s well known for its high-quality lenses for reflex cameras, used by many professional photographers worldwide. It’s also used by NASA to capture beautiful landscape images of the moon. To be short, a Carl Zeiss lens utilizes 4 elements in a compact lens design, using high-quality glass and have low chromatic aberration and support large aperture lenses. Those type of lenses can resolve more details, optically wise, which is not less important than the sensor itself. The combination of a high-sensitivity sensor and high-quality optics are the most important properties that result in a high quality image/video.

You can read more about Carl Zeiss Tessar lens on lenses.zeiss.com.

What’s the difference between 28mm f/2.4 and 26mm f/1.9 lens?

26mm vs 28mm wide angle lens

wider angle lens, better for group shots and self-shots as well (for illustration purpose only, wasn’t taken with the actual phones)

28mm or 26mm referred to the focal length of the lens as in its 35mm equivalent. The actual focal length is smaller, but the focal length is the result of the lens focal length multiplied by the sensor crop factor. The larger the focal length, the narrow the field of view. The smaller the focal length, the wider the field of view. This means that with a wider FOV (field of view) you will get a wider view of the scene.  26mm is a bit wider than the 28mm, and hat means that you can more areas of the scene will be captured by the lens

Lumia 720 angular Field of View: 
Horizontal: 69.4°
Vertical: 49.86°
Diagonal: 79.5°

Lumia 520 angular Field of View:
Horizontal: 65.5°
Vertical: 46.4°
Diagonal: 75.4°

You can see that the Nokia Lumia 720 has a wider angular field of view, a 3.9°[H]/3.46°[V]/3.9°[D] difference. Wider angle lens are usually better when you want to capture more of the scene in front of you. It ‘s great for group shots, landscape, interiors, and even for self-portrait shots.

lens horizontal angular field of view

Lens horizontal angular field of view comparison: 26mm vs 28mm

 

Now to the second part, the “aperture“. 26mm or 28mm is the focal length of the lens equivalent to 35mm, and the second part is f/2.4 or f/1.9 — this is the aperture f-number. Now listen carefully, the larger the f-number result in smaller pupil size, so in other words, the larger the f-number is, the larger the aperture. Larger apertures produces longer depth of field allowing objects that are further away from the camera to stay in focus.

Furthermore, with small f-number / aperture, more light passes through the lens to the sensor.  The different in exposure between f/1.9 and f/2.4 is 2/3 stops.  That means that when the lens is set to use the maximum aperture of f/1.9 on the Nokia Lumia 720 and f/2.4 on the Nokia Lumia 720, the Lumia 720 lets approximately 1.6 times more light passes through lens onto the sensor (considered same shutter speed). The more light, the better the camera’s low-light performance would be.

Now add this to the BSI larger sensor with its larger pixel, a Carl-Zeiss Tessar lens and faster lens (lens with higher f-number, larger maximum aperture) and what we get? — a camera that should perform much better in low light with less visible noise at high ISO sensitivity. Just note that the f-number can be change by the camera, the f-number (ie. f/2.4, f/1.9) refers to the maximum aperture, the largest pupil size that the lens is capable of achieving. Of course that’s all theory, and we need to see how those two cameras perform in real life and view some low-light shots to see how good the Nokia Lumia 720 camera (as well as the Lumia 520) is.

The image processor is another component that have an influence over the final image quality. But we don’t get to know too much about that from the mobile phone manufacturers. It’s better to look at test photos to get a clear understanding how good the camera is. OK, enough of the theory, let’s see how good the image quality is?

Image Quality – Is there a Difference?

gsmarena.com photo quality comparison tool is a great place to compare the camera performance, but it doesn’t allow you to view images at various ISOs. Here’s some points that summarize my observation, including my IQ analysis of many high ISO photos from both mobile phones:

  1. Lumia 720 produced more saturated images
  2. Lumia 720 better resolved fine details
  3. Different in resolution is relatively small
  4. Both mobile  phones produce sharp images (I was quite surprised with the 510 image quality – in low ISO though)
  5. Lumia 720 very good ISO 800 performance (see this image), there’s noise, but you get pretty good quality when scaled down a bit.
  6. Nokia 720 much better low light performance than the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, Sony Xperia Z, but less exposed than the Nokia Lumia 920, that utilizes a 1/3.2″ (4.54×3.42mm) larger sensor, f/2.0 Carl Zeiss lens and PureView technology (source)
  7. Lumia 520 has more noise than the Lumia 720
  8. Lumia 520 video is on the smooth side and lack those fine details, colors is a bit too saturated in video
  9. Lumia 720 much better low light performance in videos, much less noise, and more details (source)

The Lumia 720 cameras is better than the Lumia 520 for both stills and video. Both cameras perform very well in well exposed scene, but the Lumia 520 just can’t match the Lumia 720′ low light performance. The Lumia 520 sensor is more noisy and it’s noticeable in both stills and especially in videos. Regarding video quality, The Lumia 720 again gains the upper hand and videos look better (e.g. less noise, details). The larger aperture, larger pixels and lens make a difference in practice.  The Lumia 720 image quality is very good!

Here are a few sample images by gsmarena.com:

Nokia Lumia 720 sample video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jkeF6uqj3E

Nokia Lumia 520 sample video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9n1DCPdkCs

Can you notice the difference?

Performance – CPU, GPU, RAM & Benchmarks

speedWe’ve talked about the external design, the display and the camera. Another thing that people are very interested to know which device has better performance, both in general usage and also for playing 3D games. This is where the CPU and GPU have their influence.  Let’s look at the specs..

Lumia 720: Qualcomm MSM8227 Snapdragon S4 Processor 1GHz Dual-core, Adreno 305 GPU, 512M RAM, 8GB storage
Lumia 520: Qualcomm MSM8227 Snapdragon S4 Processor 1GHz Dual-core, Adreno 305 GPU, 512M RAM, 8GB storage

Both have the same CPU and GPU with the same processor clock speed, amount of RAM and internal storage capacity. 512MB RAM might be not enough for some latest games. For example, the two HD games “Asphalt 7 Heat” and “The Amazing Spider-man”  need a 1GB of RAM to work well. This means that they are optimized to run smoothly on higher-end devices like the Lumia 920 and Lumia 820.

So what now, do we expect the same benchmark results too? – let’s take a look at some benchmarks posted by endgadget.com

 
Lumia 520
Lumia 720
benchmark source: engadget.com
WPBench (higher is better)179179
SunSPider (lower is better)14001440
AnTuTu (higher is better)73507348

I did check others sources as well and all report the same result more or less. So in terms of performance, we should expected the same for both devices. The Nokia Lumia 720 and 920 performance were much better than both the 620 and 520. If you want / intend to play the latest 3D game titles, you probably might think of buying/upgrading to a better device. It doesn’t mean that Lumia 520 runs games bad, not at all, but but when you buy a mobile phone knowing that you will play a lot of 3D games, the Nokia Lumia 520 is less future proof. Still, a very impressive performance from the most affordable Windows Phone 8 smartphone on the market (the Lumia 520). Of course this is possible due to the relatively lower screen resolution. The higher the resolution , the stronger processing power needed to run the game in smooth frame rate.

Here’s a video that shows Asphalt 7 game performance test on the Lumia 520 & Lumia 720

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlZbE4_3GIY

 Other Differences?

Let’s take a look at other features that are difference between the two devices.

 
Lumia 520
Lumia 720
 
NFC (Near Field Communication)NoYes

(NFC sharing, pairing, tagging)
Lumia 720 allows easily exchanging data between other NFC-compatible devices, like other smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, etc.
Dolby Headphones sound enhancement NoYes
Dolby Headphone will give you more pleasurable audio experience, more natural sound, simulated surround sound. Nokia referred to it as an acoustic illusion that resembles the sound in a Cinema or concert hall. This should be similar to Beats Audio technology, but from what I've read people preferred the "Dolby" one (conversations.nokia.com for more information
Battery removable Li-Ion 1430 mAh battery (BL-5J)Non-removable Li-Ion 2000 mAh battery (BP-4GW)
Battery Life- Maximum 3G talk time: 9.6h
- Maximum 3G standby time: 360h
- Music playback time: 61h
- Maximum Wi-Fi network browsing time: 6.2 h
- Maximum 3G talk time: 13.4h
- Maximum 3G standby time: 520h
- Music playback time: 79h
- Maximum Wi-Fi network browsing time: 13.4 h
Lumia 720 IMPRESSIVE battery life but the battery is not removeable, still much more powerful than the Lumia 520. That's a big advantage for the Lumia 720 for those who do heavy multimedia use (ie. watching videos, browsing the web, playing games, running lots of apps, using the GPS and Wi-Fi connectivity)
Wireless ChargingNoYes (with accessory cover)
Love having wireless charging, don't you?. With the Lumia 720 you'll need to buy the wireless charging cover that comes as an optional accessory in five difference colors (model: cc-3064). You'll also need a wireless charging plate for the Lumia 720, you can buy the DT-900 charging plate which is compatible with the Lumia 720 wireless charging cover.
Bluetooth3.0 (OPP, HFP, PBAP, A2DP, AVRCP)3.0 (OPP, HFP, PBAP, A2DP, AVRCP)
Wi-FiWLAN IEEE 802.11 b/g/n WLAN IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Internal Storage Capacity8GB8GB
microSDYes (up to 64GB)
+ 7 GB free cloud storage
Yes (up to 64GB)
+ 7 GB free cloud storage
GPSA-GPS + GlonassA-GPS + Glonass
Stereo HeadsetNokia Stereo Headset WH-108Nokia Stereo Headset WH-108

Other advantages of the Nokia 720 include:

  1. NFC
  2. Dolby Headphones Sound enhancement
  3. Removable battery
  4. Much better battery life
  5. Wireless charging

Those aren’t gimmicks, those are very useful features that are demanded by many users. I’ve also noticed that the buttons on the Lumia 720 are illuminated and on the 520 they aren’t.

I’ll finish with two Lumia 720 vs 520 videos that I found useful on YouTube, enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCFyFbrpQsE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMCv4GrSJuM

Let’s sum things up shall we?

Conclusion

The Nokia Lumia 520 is the most affordable Windows Phone 8 in the market (as for the time of writing this article). Performance wise, is the same as the Lumia 720 but in a smaller package. But that’s where the Nokia 720 takes off, offering curved-edge larger display with Gorilla Glass 2, better SIM-card and microSD card acceptability, better camera with larger sensor and faster Carl-Zeiss optics (oh, and with LED flash too) which offer great image quality, front-facing camera,  NFC, much better battery life, wireless charging and Dolby Headphone Sound enhancement.

The Nokia Lumia 520 costs approximately £170 (~$230), the Nokia Lumia 720 costs approximately £300 (~$420). No doubt that the Lumia 520 offers a tremendous value for the price conscious buyer, but in my opinion, if you can afford it, get the Lumia 720 instead It’s just a better phone overall.  I would get the Lumia 520 if I want a Windows Phone 8 smartphone and cannot afford buying a more expensive device, it still over amazing value and its really a bargain in my opinion — however, as as whole package, the Nokia Lumia 720 with all its got it’s also offer great value in return for you money.

I hope that you find this comparison review interesting and useful. I also recommend reading my Nokia Lumia 620 vs Lumia 720 comparison for those who are interested to know the differences between the two smartphones. If you are tickled getting the Lumia 920, check my Nokia Lumia 920 vs iPhone 5 vs HTC One comparison.

If you have anything to add, please comment below. Thanks.

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