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Nokia 8.1 review: HMD Global's new phone offers premium design, impressive performance | tech


Brand: HMD Global
Products: Nokia 8.1
Key Specifications: PureDisplay Full HD + 6.18 inch, Snapdragon 710, 4GB RAM, 12 megapixel and 13 megapixel cameras with ZEISS lenses, 20 megapixel selfie camera, 3.500mAh battery, Android Pie (Android One)
Price: Rs 26,999
Evaluation: 3.5 / 5

With budget and premium segments gaining all the limelight, smartphone companies are no longer focusing on the Rs 20,000-Rs 30,000 segment. A quick Google search for this category will show a disappointing result with lists with several old and very few new phones.

Fortunately, the likes of Xiaomi (Little F1) and Motorola (Moto X4) kept the segment alive. HMD Global is also trying to take advantage of this forgotten segment with its new Nokia 8.1. Unlike the Poco F1 focused on advanced users, Nokia 8.1 bets heavily on the design and experience of Android stock.

At a price of Rs 26,999, Nokia 8.1 is the spiritual successor of Nokia 7 Plus, the popular mid-range smartphone in India. The HMD Global also offers a Nokia 8 Sirocco premium, but the phone and its specifications seem a little old-fashioned at the moment.

Nokia 8.1: Design
Since its debut, HMD Global has attached great importance to design, whether on entry phones or high-quality phones. The Nokia 8.1 is another beautiful handset from HMD Global. With a glass-metal-glass combination, the Nokia 8.1 is remarkably different from the rest of the metal body phones that flooded the market. The shiny metal frame on the sides contributes to the premium appearance and design.

The back has a dual camera configuration vertically aligned with a metal border around it. The camera module is followed by a fingerprint sensor that stays on the panel. Although Nokia 8.1 looks very good and looks premium, the design is not perfect. As in the case of several glass phones, the Nokia 8.1 Glass is vulnerable to smudges and wrinkles – making it a highly maintained phone. Perhaps this is a major problem that most glass phones need to make to offer better or contemporary design.

Despite a large 6.18-inch (edge-to-edge) screen in the front, the Nokia 8.1 looks almost the same size as the OnePlus 6T or Xiaomi Mi A2. If you have ever used large-screen phones or have larger palms, you will not find it difficult to get accustomed to the Nokia 8.1 format. The volume and power buttons on the right edge are well within range. The fingerprint sensor on the back is also easily accessible. The Nokia 8.1 looks compact and light enough.

Nokia 8.1: camera
The Nokia 8.1 comes with a dual rear camera configuration consisting of 12 megapixel and 13 megapixel sensors with ZEISS optics and OIS (Optical Image Stablization). The smartphone offers almost excellent performance in daylight conditions. Color levels and contrast ratio are impressive, even in standard mode. There is also a Pro mode if you want to further customize the performance.

Notice the brightest colors and the optimized brightness levels (resized for the web)
(Photo of HT)

Two of the key benefits of the Nokia 8.1 camera are the super-fast image processing and the excellent depth mode. If you love taking pictures, Nokia 8.1 will be a pleasant experience. Even macro photos from Nokia 8.1 are quite impressive.

The depth mode in Nokia 8.1 is impressive (image resized for the web)
(Photo HT / Kul Bhushan)

The Nokia 8.1 camera, however, needs to improve greatly in low-light conditions. While doing a good job in low light, but is inconsistent. There is a bit of extra blur of photos in low light. The HDR mode in such challenging light conditions also needs improvement.

HDR mode for low-light photography may have been much better (image resizing for web)
(Photo of HT)

Nokia 8.1: Software, Performance
Like many other Nokia phones, the latest HMD Global phone is based on Google's Android One program. The Google platform ensures that Nokia 8.1 users receive regular security updates and two years of software updates. In terms of software, Nokia 8.1 offers a buttery interface. With the Android experience almost vanilla, there is not much customization, which keeps the software as worthwhile.

Although we have no problems with the software, Nokia 8.1 also does not disappoint you in terms of performance. Equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 chipset with 4 GB of RAM, Nokia 8.1 can run graphics-intensive applications and games such as PUBG Mobile and Real Racing. However, we recommend that readers do not expect optimization of the Little F1 level for gaming and drainage applications. Nokia 8.1 warms up after long gaming sessions.

Adding to the overall performance is the 3.500mAh battery that easily lasts longer than one day. This covers four to five hours of browsing, lots of multimedia streaming and small camera sessions and games. If you are an experienced user, Nokia 8.1 should see you every day. It also features the adaptive Android Pie battery, which is quite effective for battery management. We have seen that the battery life has improved significantly in Motorola One Power after updating the Foot. Motorola's mobile phone, however, already has a large battery of 5.000mAh.

With Rs 26,999, Nokia 8.1 does not have much competition. There is the Little F1 with the upper 845 Snapdragon processor, but the Xiaomi phone has cut many corners to keep prices low. Nokia 8.1 looks good and offers almost excellent performance. If you do not have a budget for OnePlus 6T and you do not want to pay with a cheap phone, it's worth investing in Nokia 8.1.

First published: December 25, 2018 11:32 AM IST

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