As the budget smartphone market is booming up in recent months, we find that the quality on high end smartphones nowadays can also be found on devices with relatively low prices. It is time solid phones don’t have to come at sky-high prices. Nokia has teamed up with Google to release another edition to the Android One lineup, which is the Nokia 6.1, and during my period of testing it, I cannot say more about how this phone actually compares with some of the premium flagship smartphones out there since the test model that I had is priced at only RM1100.
From the looks of it, glass is all the trendy feature in 2018, but HMD Global is sticking with metal, and the deep blue colour with gold accent seems to be a perfect combination. To be honest, the aluminium finish on the Nokia 6.1 is a nice touch which undoubtedly is an aesthetics makeup for the device and actually makes the phone stand out in most cases. On the back of the phone, it does seemingly look like a dual camera setup with a vertically stacked module, but after closer inspections, the device just boasts a single camera on top of the fingerprint scanner, which is a good design choice from Nokia as I find it very easy and speedy to turn on the phone with my finger resting naturally on the right placement. There is no facial recognition on this device, so it is either the fingerprint scanner or the traditional key-in passcode that will do the job. However, the camera module does stick out a little, but overall it has no issues sitting on my desk with little to no wobbling. On the right side of the device, there are the volume rockers and the power button, which I am not really crazy about as they are not that solid and clicky.
The SIM card slot is on the right side and on the bottom of the device, you will find a USB-C port together with a downward facing speaker which sounds decent and loud, but not that all better when you have big hands that tend to cover them easily. As you might have guessed it correctly, yes, it comes with a headphone jack at the top of the device, which I appreciate a lot as a replacement for the mediocre speakers.
Moving over to the front of the device is the 5.5 inch LCD display in Full HD 1920×1080 resolution and a 403 ppi. I have to say, for a smartphone of this price, this display is one that you wouldn’t complain much about. Sure it does not have colours that pop and it does seem a little washed out when viewing outdoors, but it is a display I am satisfied with at this price. One tip to note, is that as long as you don’t compare this display with the ones you see on more expensive devices like the Samsung Galaxy S9, this display is actually pretty good. On the flip side, one of my biggest issue with the display is that it has huge bezels around it with a Nokia logo on the top right of the screen, and by huge, I can literally hold the phone with my fingers on the bezels. But, at least it doesn’t come with a notch. It also sports a 16:9 aspect ratio display and from how HMD Global is taking it, the Nokia 6.1 is not the one to look out for when you plan to buy a phone with contemporary looks in 2018.
Performance-wise, the Nokia 6.1 held up really well despite the mediocre specs on paper. The unit that I had been using boasts a Snapdragon 630 chipset, 3GB RAM, and 64GB storage with expandable storage, and it ships with Android 8.1 built in. In addition, the Nokia 6.1 is an Android One version and by that, you will be getting all the latest updates and security patches as soon as they are released. Plus, it does not come with bloatwares and other annoying duplicating apps as this is the purest version of Android. Also, performance on this device is really up to mark, the reason being the Snapdragon chip on it. It is a mid-range chip, but Qualcomm has been stepping up its mid-range chipset game and to be honest, this is one of the most efficient chips ever to have paired with this version of Android. From my testing, the device is smooth and fluid on most apps without significant lags and hiccups, and surprisingly, it can run high end games like PUBG just fine, if you don’t mind the occasional lags here and there. The 3GB RAM also did its job pretty well as multitasking isn’t an issue on this phone, but definitely check out the 4GB RAM model if you want a smoother experience. Generally, I have no issues using this phone on a daily basis but definitely it could be improved.
The camera on this device is not the one you would compare with other phones, especially flagship smartphones. The camera on the Nokia 6.1 is a 16 megapixel lens with f/2.0 and Zeiss optics. The camera isn’t all that great, but with this price, I would say it is a decent camera for everyday use. Although it does not have a dual lens setup, I find that a single lens on most budget smartphones can complete the task just fine. The downside to this camera is that in less optimal lighting conditions, the camera fails to perform as the photos turn out to be blurry and grainy. Other than that, it performs relatively all right. It does have a pro mode, where you can adjust several settings like the aperture and ISO, but the results were not any dazzling to be called a great camera. The camera can shoot in 4K and while it doesn’t optical image stabilization, I find that the video quality is not up to par with most 4K-enabled devices. The front facing camera, on the other hand, is a wide angle 8 megapixel lens with f/2.0 aperture, and likewise, it can take good selfies under well-lit conditions. In addition to that, it has a beauty mode which in my personal opinion enhances the skin texture a little too much. This camera, however, has a feature called “bothies” where you can have both the main and front facing camera activated at the same time and have a photo taken, which is a feature you can have fun with. See for yourself the photos taken below.
In fact, if you are not a camera person and you do not care about the tiny details but only to view the photos taken in a gathering, this camera is good enough for you. However, for a person who uses the camera almost everyday for instantaneous photo-shooting, a better camera is definitely a wise choice.
Moving on to the tiny details on this phone, I am actually really impressed with the battery life on this device. With the efficient mid-range Snapdragon chipset paired alongside the 3,000mAh battery, this phone simply gave me close to 2 days of usage with regular apps in the background and mostly watching YouTube videos. At one point, the battery showed stunning performance as I was at a screen-on-time (SOT) for almost 7 hours, which really was notable. User experience on this device is hands-down the best one I have ever had because it is the purest version of Android and to me, I love the stock Android experience it provides. It does ship with Android 8.1 and because it is an Android One device, Google has promised two years worth of OS updates as well as security patches. Wireless charging is not available on this phone as it is all metal built but it comes with USB-C fast charging capability. The Nokia 6.1 also lacks IP certification, so a dip in the water might not be suitable, but nonetheless, this is a pretty solid smartphone for its price.
At the end of the day, the Nokia 6.1 really boosted my experience on an Android One version of a smartphone. It really makes me think whether flagship smartphones are worth getting nowadays as with regular usage this device faired up pretty well. Comparing with other budget smartphones, the Nokia 6.1 is truly an impressive phone that falls just within the mid-range price. If you are considering to buy a new device but wouldn’t mind the lack of features from premium devices and one that can nail day-to-day tasks just fine, the Nokia 6.1 should be your choice for now.