HMD Global’s most recent addition to its range of Nokia-branded smartphones is the Nokia 8.1. The smartphone isn’t entirely new, since it was first launched in China as the Nokia X7. HMD has focused on the Android One strategy for the global market outside China, sticking to clean software and quick updates as its USP. In 2018, the company aggressively launched new Nokia smartphones around the world, and it remained a busy year for the manufacturer.
After China, HMD first launched the Nokia X7 as the Nokia 8.1 in Dubai earlier this month followed by other markets including India. The smartphone only comes in one variant with 4GB RAM and 64GB onboard storage. It has been priced at Rs 26,999 for the Indian market and here’s what it offers against big competition from manufacturers like Xiaomi and Asus.
Nokia 8.1: Build and Design
The Nokia 8.1 is a good looking package with a dual-tone anodized metal frame and 2.5D glass design. HMD Global has taken good care of overall build quality, aesthetics and color treatment. Perhaps the only thing about the phone that may not appeal in terms of aesthetics is the large iPhone X-like notch at the top of the display.
The only other problem apart from big notch design is its slippery body. The handset does attract fingerprints and smudges prominently. To overcome the issue, you would anyway need a protective case and it will also help you in better gripping of the phone. Also, I would suggest you to put a screen protector as we encountered prominent hairline scratches with little bit of daily usage despite it having a 2.5D front and back glass.
Up front, the Nokia 8.1 packs a 6.18-inch PureDisplay IPS LCD panel with full-HD+ resolution of 2246×1080 pixels and a notch similar to iPhone X. In comparison to Nokia 7.1, the Nokia 8.1’s display is a little broader and gives a good balance to its design. HMD has taken good care of the chin bezel as well, and it is much smaller than that of the Nokia 7.1, but I personally disliked its wide iPhone X-like notch design.
Nokia 8.1: Display, Performance and stock Android 9 Pie
HMD has given the Nokia 8.1 a Full-HD+ IPS LCD panel, which is pretty much the norm on devices in this price range. The 6.18-inch notch display performs great and reproduces close to natural colors. I also found the brightness levels on the Nokia 8.1 display panel to be adequate for outdoor sunlight conditions. The ambient light sensor works perfectly fine as well.
Coming to the performance part, the smartphone includes the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 SoC coupled with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage. The combination works well with stock Android OS and I found the performance to be satisfactory, if not great like the other similarly-priced flagship devices from competitors like Xiaomi or Asus.
During my time with the phone, I was thoroughly impressed with smooth Android performance on Nokia 8.1. For daily usage and multitasking, I faced no problems at all. In terms of gaming, lower graphics games such as Subway Surfers and intensive high-resolution games like PUBG Mobile worked smoothly enough even on high-performance settings. The phone does heat up a little during longer game play, but it isn’t unpleasant or dangerous.
The Nokia 8.1 is an Android One smartphone, and it offers a stock Android experience that I personally prefer over most manufacturer UIs. It comes with latest Android 9 Pie out-of-the-box and we even got the December security patch delivered as an OTA update during my time with the phone.
Nokia 8.1: Cameras
At the front, the Nokia 8.1 boasts of a 20-megapixel f/2.0 camera for selfies and video calling. At the rear, there is a dual-camera setup tuned by ZEISS at the back which includes a 12-megapixel f/1.8 aperture sensor of 1.4-micron pixels coupled with a 13-megapixel secondary sensor. I really liked the rear camera on this one as it shoots colors accurately along with great details in good light. In low-light or dark conditions as well, the back camera performs reasonably well for the price of the device.
During my review, I found the camera to be impressive on the whole. We have already done a detailed camera review of the Nokia 8.1, and you can check out few samples below. Furthermore, you can and should read our full Nokia 8.1 Camera Review for an in-depth look at how the camera on the device works.
Nokia 8.1: Battery and Connectivity
I would straight away say that the Nokia 8.1 will only last you one full day if you use it for emails, social networks, navigation and little bit of video playback – essentially basic use. But in case you are fond of gaming, then you’ll be disappointed with battery life. Having said that, Nokia has done well when it comes to apps management, making optimal use of the 4GB of RAM. You can easily leave your phone on 10 percent battery before sleeping and be sure of the battery not dying when you wake up. During my review time, I found the battery to be usually around 7 percent despite constant notifications.
The Nokia 8.1 packs a 3,500mAh battery with a USB Type-C port for charging and an 18W fast charging adapter included in the box. It takes about two hours to fully charge this phone, and you can get about 60 percent in one hour. In terms of connectivity, the smartphone will let you use two 4G SIM cards (Nano-SIM + Nano-SIM) or one SIM and one microSD card of up to 400GB. Both SIM slots support 4G VoLTE and simultaneous 4G connectivity, so your Jio connection will work along with any other telecom operator’s 4G connection using data.
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Nokia 8.1: Verdict
The Nokia 8.1 is a complete package which gets almost everything right, except the price tag which is perhaps a bit on the higher side. The handset definitely looks premium and feels well built, but it is playing in a segment which is rather competitive in terms of value for money.
At Rs 26,999, the smartphone performs quite decently, but isn’t quite as capable compared to flagships offered in the same price range. The best part about the Nokia 8.1 is its stock Android 9 Pie OS. With the trust of Android One and Nokia’s proven track record, you can expect quick updates and regular security patches for this smartphone. In comparison to the Xiaomi Poco F1, the Nokia 8.1 only qualifies as a mid-range device with better looks and build. Also when it comes to Asus ZenFone 5Z, the 8.1 feels less powerful but wins when it comes to the software experience, with stock Android under the hood.
In my opinion, the Nokia 8.1 sits well in a mid-range premium segment with an upper hand on the software front with Google’s Android One. In case you prefer brand trust and software over the latest tech and powerful hardware, then the Nokia 8.1 is the kind of device you would like in your pocket.