Despite its impressive battery life, powerful hardware and inviting looks, the Nokia Lumia 2520 merely limps along due to the thorn in its foot that is Windows 8.1 RT, and it's a shame.
Sure, the OS brings improvements over Windows 8 RT: tighter integration of Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service brings much-needed offline file-editing, caching and automatic syncing, in addition to more flexible customisation of Start Screen tiles. For more on Windows 8.1 RT's new features, check out this.
But it's the equivalent of dousing the fire destroying the tree in the front garden when the house is burning down. You wouldn't begrudge somebody doing it, but it doesn't solve the main issue at hand.
Windows RT 8.1 still doesn't let you install any of the 4 million desktop Windows apps in circulation today, instead forcing you to use ones from Microsoft's own app store. That's not the regular Windows 8 Windows Store that's introduced over 100,000 new apps over the last 12 months either, it's the RT variant that's still majorly lacking.
There are many reasons why this is irksome: the most obvious being that it seriously restricts what you can do with the device. You can't even download a browser other than Internet Explorer, which leaves you locked out of Chrome and Firefox's growing ecosystems of extensions.
Other big name apps are missing too, such as Dropbox and IMDB. Crucially for music lovers, Spotify is missing, forcing you to use the web app instead. Spotify's absence is particularly troubling as the company could be in the running to offer its music service for free on mobile services for the first time (supported by advertisements), which is just one example of how you would be missing out if you opted for a tablet running Windows RT than one running full-fat Windows.
On the other hand you get Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 pre-installed. It includes Outlook, Word, OneNote, Excel and PowerPoint, all of which run on the desktop rather than in full-screen Modern UI mode. The apps are touch friendly thanks to enlarged toolbars, but you'll still need a bluetooth keyboard (Nokia Power Cover or otherwise) and a bluetooth mouse if you're serious about getting any actual work done.
Thankfully, the Office RT apps open faster than ever before, with no waiting around like you had to do on the Surface RT (which has since been renamed to just Surface), and files can be saved directly to SkyDrive and edited offline in a similar manner to Google Drive and Dropbox's desktop apps. Once you're back online the edited files are automatically synchronised to Microsoft's servers.
And then there's Nokia's own apps that come with the device. Though welcome, they're hard to get excited about, made up of Nokia's HERE Maps, Nokia Music, Nokia Camera, Storyteller and Nokia Video Director.
Nokia Video Director is an slickly presented video editing app that lets you line up different clips to make into a longer reel. You can choose to import videos from the camera roll or shoot them there and then, trimming any footage in the process before applying effects and captions. It's a fun and novel way of putting together an amateur production - such as weaving together birthday events in chronological order - but it isn't really suited to anything more complicated.
Google hasn't yet released its own mapping app on Windows RT 8.1 (you would have to use its browser-based Google Maps instead), so you're left with a choice of Nokia's own capable HERE Maps or Microsoft's Bing Maps app if you're looking for a native solution to guide you around on the Nokia Lumia 2520.
Nokia's Maps app features similar controls to Google's offering, allowing you to navigate by dragging your fingers in different directions and tapping to zoom. LIke Google Maps it serves up local search data with directions for walking and driving, but there isn't a great deal setting the two offerings apart. Nokia's HERE maps is a solid alternative in the absence of Google Maps, and opting for a 4G SIM would clearly benefit happy wanderers.
Nokia Music is a confusing app. I expected it to be a Spotify-like music streaming service, but instead you're restricted to music stored locally on the device or 'mixes' sorted by genre that are streamed from the company's cloud.
There's no apparent structure to how you cycle through the tracks; clicking the 'next' button plays the next queued track (there's no way of knowing what's in the playlist), and the service stops every hour after you've gone through six plays unless you sign up to Nokia's premium Nokia Music+ service. All in all, it's not particularly compelling.
It did however give us a chance to test the Nokia Lumia 2520's speakers, which provide rich and satisfying sound out of the front-facing speakers that are hidden behind the screen along the bottom.
The only game bundled with the 2520, Disney's Dragons Adventure, is based on an intriguing concept. You control the movements of a dragon that flies around in the air, whether that's catching fish out of a pond or gathering resources. The path of the dragon changes as you move (it follows the tablet via its GPS link), meaning that your real-world route has an impact on the game. Is it worth buying the Nokia 2520 for? Absolutely not, but it'll keep younger gamers happy during Sunday trips out with the parents.