Nokia 8.1 Smartphone Review — Nokia’s Value Flagship?
The Nokia 8.1 comes in a premium design and dual rear cameras that features ZEISS optics. It packs a Snapdragon 710 and 3500mAh battery under the hood. Dubbed as the 'value flagship' from the company, we shall put it to the test.
+ Aesthetics really screams it's a premium device
+ Android One
+ Android 9 Pie out of the box
+ 3.5mm port available
+ Snappy performance
+ Speaker is loud
- Notch should've been smaller
- Camera AI could be better
- Slightly pricey for what the specifications offer
- Doesn't provide any phone case with the box
- No facial unlock
- No fast charging available
Nokia 8.1 Smartphone Review
While HMD dubbed the Nokia 8.1 as a ‘value flagship’, it is more of a mid-range device as it is packing a Snapdragon 710 chipset. Similar to other recent Nokia smartphones, the Nokia 8.1 is under the Android One program. So what makes this smartphone special? Is it worth your money? Let’s dive right into it, shall we?
Unboxing the Nokia 8.1
So here’s what you get with the Nokia 8.1. There’s the phone itself, the power brick, a USB Type-C cable, a pin to eject the SIM/microSD tray, a user guide, as well as a 3.5mm handsfree kit.
We got our hands on the Blue variant of the Nokia 8.1. On the display side, there’s a rather large notch where the selfie camera resides. There’s also the standard Nokia logo which can be seen on the bottom part here.
Over on the right side, you’ll find the volume rockers and a power button. It is also here where you can clearly see the metal finish which covers all four sides of the Nokia 8.1 smartphone.
Switching over to the left side, the SIM card / MicroSD tray resides here in solitude.
On the top part of the device, you have the 3.5mm jack where you can plug in your headphones / earphones. There’s also a microphone hole on the opposite side of it.
Head down to the bottom of the Nokia 8.1 smartphone and you’ll find the two perforations for the loudspeaker, a USB Type-C port, and yet another microphone hole.
Flip it over and you’ll get a clear look of the Nokia 8.1 smartphone’s glass back. It goes well with the color of choice (in this case, blue). In terms of look, it really does look like a ‘true flagship’. There’s the dual camera setup that’s accompanied by the LED flash and also the fingerprint sensor just beneath it.
|CPU/Chipset:||Snapdragon 710 Octa-core (2×2.2 GHz 360 Gold & 6×1.7 GHz Kryo 360 Silver), 10nm FinFET|
|Display:||6.18″ FHD+ (1080p), 18:7:9 PureDisplay, HDR10|
|Storage:||64GB (up to 400GB via microSD)|
12 MP, f/1.8, 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS
13 MP, HDR, ZEISS, LED flash, Live Bokeh, Bothie
20MP f/2.0, 0.9µm
AI beautification, Bokeh, AR sticker
|OS:||Android 9.0 Pie, Android One|
|Connectivity:||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz + 5 GHz)
|SIM:||Hybrid Dual SIM|
|Battery:||Li-ion 3500 mAh (non-removable)|
|Dimensions:||154.8 x 75.8 x 8 mm|
Before we begin our usual benchmark suite, I would like to point out once again that the Nokia 8.1 smartphone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 chipset, which is the company’s premium mid-range SoC.
Starting with the Antutu benchmark, it managed to beat the OPPO R17 Pro, which uses the same chipset. It’s not by much but it’s worth noting. It managed to get a decent score, but it’s nothing particularly impressive.
In Geekbench, we can see that the Snapdragon 710 does slightly better when compared to the lesser Snapdragon 660 chipset, which is used on the Mi 8 Lite. This suggests that it has an all-around better CPU, although not by much.
The Nokia 8.1 (Adreno 616) scored higher in all three tests on 3DMark than the OPPO R17 Pro. Despite that, they are way behind when compared to a flagship’s chipset scores. This is to be expected given the chipset that it is using but it’s a good indication that you should manage to enjoy a decent gaming experience.
PCMark performance test shows that the device actually managed to score higher than the original Nokia 8, which uses a higher-end Snapdragon 835 chipset and was the company’s flagship smartphone previously.
The battery test results of the Nokia 8.1 is below my expectations. It lasted 9 hours and 55 minutes. While this may be considered a decent score, you’d also need to take in the fact that it comes with an above than average battery capacity of 3,500mAh under the hood.
In terms of my daily usage, I find that the phone can easily last me up to 1 and 1/2 days before i feel the need to recharge it (usually around 15%). With a 30-minute charge, I found that the phone was able to charge 24% of its 3,500mAh battery capacity, using the charging brick that was provided. It’s not bad, but not impressive at the same time. So the next time you’re planning on going out, be sure to plan that out.
When it comes to aesthetics, the Nokia 8.1 smartphone certainly does feel and look like a premium device. The display is pretty decent, colors are vibrant, and it also has support for HDR10 content.
The fingerprint sensor on the back does the job and it’s pretty fast in picking up your prints. For a Nokia device, the Nokia 8.1 was probably one of the smoothest experience I had from their lineup. There was no lags or delays when I was using it and performance has been rather snappy.
I felt that the phone had a notch that was way too big. If you compare it to another device that has a similar sized notch, they’d at least put in LED notifications or even infrared lens to fill in the space. For the Nokia 8.1 smartphone, the space is as empty as my soul, so I can’t see the reason why they opted for a notch of that size.
In terms of connectivity, it appears that the phone doesn’t support LTE-A, commonly known as 4G+ here in Malaysia. Even so, I’ve been getting good reception here using Hotlink / Maxis so most people shouldn’t have problems with it either.
The phone’s UI offers the smoothest experience yet from Nokia based on my experience as it was buttery smooth, with no lags whatsoever. The Snapdragon 710 pretty much does the job in the Nokia 8.1.
Coming to the camera’s UI, it’s quite straightforward and what you’d expect from a device in this price range. There’s a couple of features like Live Bokeh and Nokia’s very own Bothie feature which allows you to capture both front and back of the phone at the same time. Its Pro mode gives you more control as it allows you to adjust the white balance, shutter speed, exposure, and focus mode.
If you’ve used their previous Nokia 7 Plus, the Nokia 8.1 comes with the same 12MP+13MP rear camera combo but this time around, it offers optical image stabilization (OIS) as well as a depth sensor for those instagram-worthy bokeh shots.
Shots with adequate lighting is pretty decent. As for night-shots, you’d notice some noise. I wished that they had offered a night-mode, a feature that some devices on Android 9 Pie are already packing. Other than that, the AI in the camera doesn’t really help much. More likely than not, it just won’t focus on where I want to. This is especially the case when I took shots of buildings. Close objects and person was okay though. One thing that irks me with the phone is the Nokia watermark. I think that it’s just too big and doesn’t make the pictures feel ‘special’.
You can check out the full-sized images here on Flickr.
Nokia 8.1 Verdict
Let’s get this straight, the Nokia 8.1 smartphone isn’t really a flagship. It is more of a higher end mid-range device. Priced at RM1,699, the Nokia 8.1 will surely make some people think twice before purchasing because of what the specifications offer. They could’ve add in more RAM and storage or even offer fast charging to justify the price. Its price tag is slightly higher than what I would’ve expected.
Don’t get me wrong though, I was quite satisfied with the phone. The number one thing that I look for when I use a device is the experience of daily use and how smooth that the device can offer me, and the Nokia 8.1 didn’t let down. This phone looks one of a kind and it certainly won’t disappoint Nokia fans anywhere. Therefore, I am giving the Nokia 8.1 our bronze medal.
We would like to thank HMD/Nokia for the Nokia 8.1 that was used in this review.