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Jun 08 2014

Nokia Lumia 1520 Case Reviews

Not too long ago I bought myself a new Nokia Lumia 1520 to replace my Lumia 920 which was still going strong but I just couldn’t resist the upgrade to a six inch screen offered by the 1520. Yes, I know for some people that is ludicrously huge (mind you, I didn’t go for the Sony Xperia Z Ultra @ 6.4 inches although I found that to still be easy to hold when I’ve popped into the telco shops).

Anyway, as many people do when they get a new phone, I wondered about suitable cases to protect it. I learned the hard way last time with my Lumia 920 when my case arrived a day after I had dropped my phone (doh). The official Nokia case for the 920 was fantastic though – fantastic fit on the phone, resilient and didn’t detract all that much from the design.

Given that I went for yellow this time for my phone I was keen to preserve or at least complement its presentation – I’ve usually had black phones (aside from a white Samsung Galaxy S III and my original green Nokia 7110). So, I managed to whittle things down to two cases after having a browse at the various Lumia 1520 cases at MobileZap who kindly sent them out to me to check out.

So, what did I choose?

Well, following after my good experience with the official Lumia 920 case I went for the cover case for the Lumia 1520. I ended up with a red one due to yellow stock being depleted but for the purposes of the review I will assume that Nokia would be competent in matching the colour of their official cases to their phones. Then, for contrast, I chose the Melkco poly jacket case which was a more traditional case in a translucent, matte finish.

First up, I’ll cover off (no pun intended) the Melkco case.

Melkco case for Nokia Lumia 1520

Melkco case for Nokia Lumia 1520

Installation was easy enough – just slide the phone in and then work the case around the edges so that the phone is enveloped. The phone is held in securely at each of the four edges and it never slipped on in the week I used it.

Front view of the Lumia 1520 in the Melkco case

Front view of the Lumia 1520 in the Melkco case

The Melkco case also has raised bumps that align perfectly with the power, volume and camera buttons however I did find that I had to push a little harder to make the two-stage camera button work (to focus and then shoot) but you get used to it.

Lumia 1520 in the Melkco case

Lumia 1520 in the Melkco case

There are also a number holes to cater for the USB and headphone sockets as well as the camera, flash, rear speaker and microphone (one of four, count them, four in the Lumia 1520). There’s also another hole exposed which would seem to be for the North American variant of the 1520 for the three contacts for the wireless charging shell. This seems a bit odd as exposing the contacts would serve no purpose as you couldn’t attached the wireless charging shell on top of the Melkco case anyway – then again, I could be missing something here.

Essentially, this case covers the bits that don’t need to be exposed and allows provision for everything else.

The only potential draw back is that the hole for the stereo socket may prevent stereo cables with chunkier connectors from being inserted completely. The solution may be to buy another cable or obtain a slimline adapter to get around this quibble.

As far as the thickness of the case, it added roughly another millimetre to the depth of the phone.which would have helped smooth out the camera bump on the back had the case not also contoured uniformly around the optics. That said, the case does prevent the camera bump from physical wear and tear when being laid on surfaces so there’s a positive to the case design.

Another bonus with this phone is the inclusion of a screen protector and a small microfibre cloth. Unfortunately, as I have found with other screen protectors for the 1520, the protector doesn’t span the entire screen. If you centred the protector on the screen you are left with a gap several millimetres on all sides which frankly looks terrible and just draws attention to the fact you have a screen protector on it – hardly ideal. In my mind, a screen protector should serve its purpose but should otherwise be unnoticed when looking at or using the phone. To that end, I didn’t try the screen protector at all – call me picky 🙂

As for the finish of the case, I appreciated the matte and translucent surface. It allowed the colour of the phone to be seen (albeit a little frosted) and offered perhaps a little more grip compared to the polycarbonate finish on the phone itself. There is a small Melkco logo on the back but I believe that would go largely unnoticed to others as your hand would typically cover it when on the phone or taking a photo (depending on your grip).

How about the official cover case from Nokia?

Official Nokia Lumia 1520 cover case

Official Nokia Lumia 1520 cover case

As the name implies, the Nokia solution servers two functions – a case for the corners and rear of the phone as well as a cover for the front. The rear case is plastic whilst the cover is made from a soft but rigid fabric segmented so you can fold it underneath itself like the Apple iPad smart cases.

Installation is straightforward – just clip the phone into each of the four corners of the case and you’re good to go.

Lumia 1520 in the official Nokia cover case

Lumia 1520 in the official Nokia cover case

I had no issues with the phone remaining secure in the Nokia cover case for the week that I used it. In lieu of a screen protector (not included with the Nokia solution) it was good to know that the screen was protected by the cover when in my pocket (although I try and keep my keys and pen in the other pocket to avoid scratches).

Nokia Lumia 1520 - case closed

Nokia Lumia 1520 – case closed

I also made use of the two alternative viewing modes afforded by the case; one with a shallow viewing angle and a more upright angle. I am sure that these modes might be convenient for some people but given that most of the Windows Phone 8.x operating system is optimised for portrait mode rather than full time landscape mode the value at least in my mind is limited to watching videos. This is not a failing of the cover case itself as when this was designed and manufactured the amount of cohesion between Nokia and Microsoft  probably did not afford this sort of foresight, collaboration or change to the underlying operating system.

Lumia 1520 cover case - shallow angle

Lumia 1520 cover case – shallow angle

Lumia 1520 cover case - upright angle

Lumia 1520 cover case – upright angle

In terms of button and port accessibility, the Nokia cover case avoids obstructions but conversely does nothing to protect the edges and buttons from potential scratches and damage. At least on the Nokia devices the colour is not just skin deep (i.e. the colour is consistent all the way through the polycarbonate shell) so if you do scratch it then it hopefully won’t show up too much unless dirt gets ingrained.

The corners are protected though and may provide enough protection from drops on the floor aside from a full frontal drop (i.e. screen first). Unlike the Apple iPad smart covers the cover is not magnetised so if you do drop it you run the risk of the cover not protecting the screen at all in a screen first drop. That said, the Melkco case probably wouldn’t fare much better but I wasn’t about to do drop tests 🙂

The camera bump is also adequately protected aside from a direct hit to the optics (you’d have to be very unlucky for that to happen – I wince just thinking about it).

Wireless charging also worked without issue even with the cover folded underneath the case.

I did have a few minor issues with the Nokia cover case though.

It made creaking noises presumably as gripping the phone made the cover case flex slightly. Not a deal breaker but some people may find it annoying. Also, when taking photos in landscape mode can be problematic with the cover dangling down where you would normally put your thumbs. You can’t fold the case up as it’d block the camera and there’s no in between option for the case to fold and secure itself out of the way (no magnetism in the cover). This is a problem inherent in cover cases, not just this specific solution.

Leading on, you can’t accept or undertake a phone call with the cover closed. To accept the call you need to open the cover and then slide to answer, Unfortunately, you cannot close the cover as it’d block the earpiece and the front microphone used for phone calls. This means you have to hold the cover around the back of the phone for the duration of the call.

Anyway, after giving these two cases I’ve worked out which works best for me – the Melkco case.

I think Nokia was very keen to play to the phablet market and offer an accessory that attempted to sell the Lumia 1520 as a via mini tablet or sorts but the fact that Windows Phone 8.x cannot be used completely in landscape mode is a hindrance. The alternative viewing modes are nice but I just never used them enough to benefit from them.

I think the Lumia 1520 is great as a mini tablet but would have liked Nokia to have provided an official case minus the cover. It’s not too late to do so but I can’t see Nokia doing so six months into the lifespan of the product but I reserve the right to be pleasantly surprised 🙂

Ultimately, the Melkco case does a far better job all round in my opinion. The back and edges of the device are protected and fits the Lumia 1520 perfectly without impacting the usability and functionality of the device. The translucent finish still allows you to appreciate the original finish of the handset whilst minimising distraction from its design.

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