Our smartphone benchmarks are centered around browser-based tests, and this is one area that really shows how far behind Internet Explorer 10 Mobile is relative to the mobile versions of Safari and Chrome. The other part of this is looking at Krait 200 at 1GHz versus the higher-clocked parts we see in the more expensive Windows Phones, which allows us to look at relative performance on the same software platform.

SunSpider Javascript Benchmark 0.9.1—Stock Browser

Google Octane Benchmark v1

Mozilla Kraken Benchmark Sunspider performance is actually quite good, especially compared to other Krait 200-based devices like the One X and AT&T Galaxy S3. Where it falls off is in everything else—Kraken and Octane performance is just horrendous in comparison to the modern smartphone platforms. I didn’t think it was actually possible to see numbers that high in the Kraken benchmark until I ran it a half-dozen times on my 521 review unit as well as a friend’s Lumia 920. Microsoft clearly optimized for Sunspider, as we’ve seen over the years, and while that lets them stay competitive in that one benchmark, it doesn’t really mean anything as far as having decent or even acceptable browser performance. It’s just sad.

Between the 920 (MSM8960, so dual-core Krait 200 @ 1.5GHz and Adreno 225) and the 521, there’s a definite performance delta. Obviously, this comes through in roughly 50% faster benchmark numbers across the board, but in day to day use, it mostly makes itself felt in slower application loading and multitasking/task switching, which is also related to having just 512MB RAM instead of the 1GB of the 920. Multitasking in Windows Phone has never really sat well with me, because it’s not really multitasking in the traditional sense—the need to completely close and rehydrate tasks makes resuming applications exceedingly slow. Microsoft has always seemed to have an issue with app load times with ARM devices—this has been true since day one with Windows Phone, and is a problem with Windows RT tablets too—so the resulting combination can really kill any desire to run more than one task on your phone at a time.

I couldn’t run GFXBench (DXBenchmark) on the 521 because it didn’t meet the 1GB RAM requirement necessary to run the benchmark. I actually wasn’t even aware that GFXBench had such a requirement in place until I tried to install it on the 521. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose it doesn’t matter too much—we’re pretty familiar with Adreno 305 by now, and it seems to be the go-to GPU for Qualcomm’s new series of dual-core Krait 200 SoCs. In a platform that deemphasizes silicon performance in the end user experience as much as Windows Phone seems to, I’m not sure that the performance delta between this and Adreno 225 makes too much of a difference, particularly with a far lower-res screen. We’re starting to see the more 3D intensive games require 1GB of memory to run, so this isn’t the device for the hardcore gamers. It does fine with the typical slate of casual games though—Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, and the like.

The air interface is probably something you could point to and say is a bit lacking—in this day and age, dual carrier HSPA+ is almost an expectation on T-Mobile and international non-LTE devices. But honestly, you don’t end up missing it much. T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network is quite robust both in Seattle as well as in Silicon Valley, the two places I spent time testing the 521, so 10+ Mb/s was basically the norm.

I couldn’t figure out how to get the Windows Phone SpeedTest app to email a CSV of the test results, so no graphs with binned speed tests like we have on Android reviews. We’ve had a lot of experience with T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network over the years though, and it tends to be very good in most metropolitan areas. Obviously, there’s a significant jump in speed between HSPA+ and LTE, but the real-world difference between single and dual-carrier HSPA+, at least on T-Mobile, seems to be much harder to discern perceptively. The lack of DC-HSPA+ is still a bit of a disappointment, but I’m not nearly as cut up over it as I was when I saw it on the specsheet.

Battery Life The IPS Display
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  • cheshirster - Sunday, August 11, 2013 - link

    Not a problem. See "Lumia storage check beta" in store, It has the option to store maps on SD and it works fine.
  • cheshirster - Sunday, August 11, 2013 - link

  • billybobjr - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    I am the happy owner of 2 lumia 521 phones. The hardware you get is an outstanding value. When you look at phones in this price range 8GB of flash memory is rare. 4GB of flash leaves almost no space for any apps with the OS using most of the space. Most apps can not be installed on a flash memory card. The OS fairly quick for a cheap phone and I have yet to run into a problem with 512 MB of memory. WiFi calling is another awesome feature. If you are in building with poor signal you can use your wi-fi to make calls. The OS is pretty stable, I have needed to reboot the phone a few times, but not a common occurrence.

    I am not a huge fan of the Windows Phone OS. It lacks a ton of apps and not just the fart apps. No support for google apps except gmail. Youtube, and Google maps must run through the web browser and they run poorly. No google drive, google plus, or google music. Amazon music does not work at all. Lots of social media apps are missing from the app store. Facebook support is lacking. I lost track of how many accounts I needed to create to use the included software for this phone.(Windows phone login, skydrive account, nokia account, xbox live account) There is no equivalent to Siri or Google Now.

    Bottom line
    Android does not run well on cheap hardware. The Nexus 4 is the cheapest phone to run android well. $300 vs $130. If you can live with the limitations it is tough to beat.
  • notposting - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    I use jiTalk, MyTube or Metrotube, MetroTalk, and gMaps. One MS account covers email, Skydrive, Xbox, Skype, etc. It has the Nokia Here maps, why not use that? No need for a Nokia account. IIRC, you can play Amazon music tracks through the browser. Which social media apps are missing? Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin apps are all available, and baked into the OS as well. It has Skydrive and XBox Music (or Nokia Music on their phones), would you expect MS to be making apps for their competitors? It does have voice commands (long press the Start button) and text dictation.

    There are legitimate complaints about the OS, but if someone is that entrenched in the Google ecosystem and won't consider using the MS alternatives...what do they expect?
  • Impulses - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Those all seem like valid alternatives, except for using Amazon MP3 in the browser (very kludgy, not even remotely optimized for mobile the last time I tried to access it on an Android phone where the app wasn't installed)
  • skiboysteve - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Totally agree with you. Billybobjr sounds like all the WP detractors... They make no sense at all
  • toraji - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    exactly nonposting ;-) like your name....
  • Myrandex - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Check out GMaps Pro if you want to see a nice Google Maps implementation. I have the paid version and it is quite nice. I bought it back when I was on an LG on WP7, but have pretty much switched to using Nokia's HERE implementation except for every now and then I pull up GMaps again.

    There is also a GMail client app that I use. It isn't the prettiest but it is a GMail app. I also have GMail working with the built in email client which works wonderful as well.

    And there is a Microsoft TellMe engine for voice controls. You just hold down the Windows Flag. Plus there are third party software applications out there that can be downloaded for free that function like Siri as well. I had one before but I uninstalled it because I never used it (and I never used it on my iPhone before and I never use it on my Android now).
  • skiboysteve - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Why do you need a Gmail app? Just use the native email client with Gmail.

    why do you need a google maps app? Just use Bing or Nokia maps. They have a lot of advantages.

    a first party YouTube app would be nice, but metrotube and YouTube.com work really well. There is a legal back story on YouTube app for WP. Google worked hard to prevent one (sent cease and desist, blocked APIs) but when MS decided to go to court google settled and agreed to develop one. Hopefully soon.

    why do you need google drive? SkyDrive is built in and works much better. Especially if you use office 2013 for work.

    google plus would be nice. I don't use it but maybe try their website.

    why do you need google music? Xbox music (formally Zune) is much much better. This is the best part of the phone! Try it out.

    amazon app would be nice but its weird that you're so entrenched into google and refuse to use the Microsoft services that accompany your device... Yet you use amazon??

    which social media apps are missing from the app store?

    how is Facebook support lacking? If anything it is more built in than any other OS out there! It pulls your contact info from FB, integrates friends status and photo posts directly into multiple parts of the OS.

    there is ONE account for all MS services, not separate accounts for everything as you mention.

    there is voice support just hold the home button just like on android and iOS. I use it every day.

    Do you really have this phone??? Clearly you don't and you're just here to fan the flames of misinformation
  • toraji - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    don't blame Wp8 for not having google features included, that is just not fair, there are third party options, If you create one windows account you can sigh in to all windows features automatticly

    Maluuba is comparable to siri but a little different, it will not tell you how AWESOME you are, that is true

    happy to see you can live with the "limitations"

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