Nokia 8.1 was unveiled by HMD Global at launch event in Dubai on Wednesday. The smartphone, as expected, is indeed the global variant of the Nokia X7 that was launched in China in October, and the spiritual successor to the Nokia 7 Plus but brings a host of features that make it look premium for the price.
The Indian market is lately seeing a new trend where a lot of smartphone brands are focusing on the budget flagship category that ranges between Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 40,000. Some of the most popular handsets from this category are OnePlus 6T, Asus Zenfone 5Z, Honor 10, Samsung Galaxy A9, and Oppo R17. All these phones try to offer more features at a very competitive price. The Nokia 8.1 is the latest to join this club.
Talking about some of the highlights of the Nokia 8.1, the smartphone is the first HMD Global smartphone to pack Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 710 Mobile Platform. This means that the company has ditched the Snapdragon 600 series and gone for a notch higher with the new chipset. Coming to the design, the Nokia 8.1, much like the Nokia 6.1 Plus, successfully sports an all-glass body which looks premium for the price tag. The dual-rear cameras, fast charging support, and running Android Pie out-of-the-box are just a few to name.
Can Nokia 8.1 be the next flagship killer in India? Let’s Find out
Nokia 8.1 come with all back-glass design just like Nokia 6.1 and the Notch is way better than Nokia 7 plus. The dual-tone anodised metal frame adds a solid feel to the overall build while glass presence maintains the premium-ness. The 6.18-inch display feels perfect for average hands and doesn’t offer a tall design which makes it harder to use with single-hand.
The front panel is dominated by the display which is edge-to-edge and the phone sports Corning Gorilla Glass with a 2.5D curved display. The Nokia branding is present at the bottom of the display. The Nokia 8.1 sports a minimalistic design with two Nokia brandings – one at the front and other at the back.
The rear panel looks elegant. The dual rear camera with ZEISS Optics is present in a vertical housing. The camera setup is accompanied by dual tone flash. The fingerprint scanner is also placed at the back and is comfortable to use. The Android One design is embossed at the back and is present under the display. The ‘Made in India’ is also printed at the back panel.
The physical power and volume rocker keys are housed in such a manner that it camouflages with the metal frame and in our opinion, has been done perfectly. The buttons offer tactile feel. The dual-SIM slot is at the left panel while top houses the 3.5mm audio jack. The USB Type-C port is at the bottom alongside speaker grille.
The Nokia 8.1 has been built out of 6000-series aluminum which makes it sturdy. The two-tone design is unique, and it will be available in Blue/Silver, Steel/Copper, and Iron/Steel color combination.
The Nokia 8.1 is very slippery both while using it and when placed on a plain surface. We wish the company shipped a transparent case with the retail box like other manufacturer are doing now a days.
Coming to the display, the Nokia 8.1 packs one of the best display panels of this price segment. The 6.18-inch Full-HD+ (1080×2280 pixels) Pure Display is bright and offers rich colors. The smartphone offers 18.7:9 aspect ratio and roughly 81 per cent screen-to-body ratio. The phone offers 408ppi pixel density. During our review, we had a great time watching pictures, streaming videos, or playing games. Images and texts appear crisp while videos look excellent thanks to the HDR10 support. The display has decent levels of sunlight legibility.
One of the highlights of the Nokia 8.1 is the camera. The Nokia 8.1 bears a dual rear camera setup with Zeiss optics, with the primary 12-megapixel camera featuring a 1/2.55-inch sensor, 1.4-micron pixels, OIS, EIS, 2PD (dual photodiode) tech, and a dual-LED flash. The secondary 13-megapixel fixed-focus lens is meant for depth sensing. At the front, the Nokia 8.1 bears a 20-megapixel fixed focus lens with 0.9-micron pixels, and 4-in-1-pixel tech for better low-light photography. The company is touting its camera feature, which allows both the front and rear camera to used simultaneously, as well as its Pro Camera UI, with several manual camera options. The dual rear camera setup will help create portrait shots featuring a bokeh effect, the company said.
Much like other high-end Nokia phones, the Nokia 8.1 also comes with the company’s Pro Camera mode that allows users to tweak settings before clicking images. We liked the new Motion Photos feature on the Nokia 8.1 which is basically a live photo that records a few seconds before and after you hit the shutter button.
One of the biggest strengths of the cameras on the Nokia 8.1 is that they are fast and autofocusing is accurate. This means that you don’t have to struggle with autofocusing. Users can enable scene detection on the Nokia 8.1 which will mean that the phone will automatically detect different scenes to apply different optical parameters.
The HDR processing is automatic on the Nokia 8.1 and that’s a bonus for a lot of users who like to click photos at any given time without the need to adjust settings. Nokia 8.1 can click shots with saturated colors with accurate white balance. However, the color saturation takes a hit when you try to click shots in low-light and we noticed that it can vary a lot depending on how much light is available.
The Nokia 8.1 struggles a bit when it comes to low-light shots as the camera tends to underexpose a little with even autofocusing being slightly inconsistent. We noticed that the level of details also dropped in a lot of our low-light shots.
We have to credit the camera team of HMD Global for putting a fast autofocus system on the Nokia 8.1 which can challenge any modern-day flagship out there. In a lot of our sample shots, we noticed that noise was visible in indoor and low-light conditions.
The portrait shots on the Nokia 8.1 come out decent with a good balance between background blur and subject in focus. We have to admit that the depth estimation was off in some of our sample shots until we spent some time keeping our hand steady before taking the shot. The Nokia 8.1 lacks 4K video recording support, something we wish was included.
The 20-megapixel selfie camera is decent for outdoor and well-lit conditions. It managed to impress us with a good amount of details and color accuracy. However, the detailing also suffered a bit when tried to click selfies in low-light.
Overall, the Nokia 8.1 is a very capable shooter in varied lighting conditions and may surprise you with some of the samples. But we do expect HMD Global to bring some more refinements in the upcoming updates.
The Nokia 8.1 is powered by Qualcomm new Snapdragon 710 octa-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz coupled with 4GB of RAM. It comes with 64GB onboard storage that can be expanded via microSD card (up to 400). The smartphone comes with VoLTE and LTE Cat. 6 support for greater download speed on the mobile network.
During the review, the Nokia 8.1 was easily one of the best smartphones in terms of performance we have ever used in this price segment. We didn’t notice any stutters or lags while jumping from one app to another. The phone also comfortably handled pauses during an ongoing game for occasionally responding to emails or typing to a friend on a social media platform.
While gaming the Nokia 8.1 managed to handle heavy graphics games like PUBG and Asphalt 8 with ease. We didn’t encounter any random lags or stutters.
The Nokia 8.1 in benchmark tests where it actually beat phones like the Oppo R17 Pro powered by same Snapdragon 710 chipset but priced almost at double the price. In AnTuTu benchmark, Nokia 8.1 scored 171,449 while the Oppo R17 Pro managed just 155,614.
The stock Android 9 Pie on Nokia 8.1 works smoothly thanks to pure Android. Talking about Android Pie, the latest Android software packs enough features to make you feel fresh and up to date. The Adaptive Battery makes sure that your phone can last for more with a single charge.
The Adaptive Brightness is another good change. App Actions have also received refresh and can now predict your actions at a given time of the day. Android Pie also brings native gestures which feel more intuitive than using buttons. Just swipe up from the bottom of the screen to jump to a recently opened app. Android Pie also improves battery performance by restricting certain apps that are running at the background.
Another handy feature that Android Pie adds is now it can connect up to five Bluetooth devices. For user convenience, Pie also brings At-a-Glance on Always-on-Display feature that wakes up the screen to show the new notification without the need to unlock it.
As HMD Global has been marketing its smartphones, the Nokia 8.1 comes under Android One program that guarantees two major Android updates and three years of monthly security patches. Looking at the rate at which HMD Global has been lately rolling out software updates for its older Nokia models, it gives you more confidence to pick a Nokia rather than any other model that doesn’t come with guaranteed updates.
The Nokia 8.1 packs a 3500mAh battery with 18W fast charging support. The smartphone during our review easily lasted for over a day with heavy usage. The fast charge support is a bonus where the Nokia 8.1 took around 80 minutes to fully charge which was impressive. A mere 20-minutes of charge gave roughly 35 per cent battery which was decent. However, it’s worth pointing out that these figures aren’t close to what VOOC charging, Turbo charge, or Dash Charge offer.
In our tests, the Nokia 8.1 ran for roughly 13 hours in video loop test which is impressive considering it packs Full-HD+ panel with HDR support. It managed to last longer than Nokia 7 Plus in our video loop test which actually packed a larger battery with slightly lower resolution.
Nokia 8.1 For the price of Rs. 26,999 the Nokia 8.1 is truly a value flagship proposition and feels perfect for anyone looking at a smartphone which is an overall package as it does not offer flagship processor and wireless charging and another flagship feature, but the phone at this price point coming from renowned brand is just amazing you cannot go wrong with it. Talking about some of the stand-out features, the design is one of the most unique things you will find in this price segment and the performance is good enough for power users. The camera and battery performances are decent as well.
Soo if you have a budget of 27k and want a premium device which looks aesthetic in hands you can not go wrong at any point with Nokia 8.1.
Things we Like
- Premium design
- Feels solid
- Display is vibrant
- Value for money
Things could be better
- Cameras could have been better
- Very slippery
- No protective case in the retail box
- No bundled earphones