Premium looks and build quality
Compact form factor
Android One provides a great software experience
Underwhelming low-light camera performance
No fast charger in the box
Less than two years after it resuscitated Nokia, HMD Global finally looks like it’s at home. The 2017 portfolio’s middle-of-the-road devices didn’t fare well against the competition, but they were hardly shoddy.
This year’s seen a fantastic mid-ranger, the Nokia 7 Plus, the indulgent Nokia 8 Sirocco, and the company swearing allegiance to Google’s Android One initiative. Its next entry in that initiative is the new Nokia 6.1 Plus.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is the third iteration in the series. The original Nokia 6 launched in 2017, followed by Nokia 6 (2018) — popularly dubbed the Nokia 6.1 early this year — with more incremental hardware updates. The Nokia 6.1 Plus comes with souped-up specifications and a new look.
Does it hold its own in this competitive segment with terrific, high-value smartphones from Xiaomi and Honor, amongst others? Let’s find out in our Nokia 6.1 Plus review.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus ups the ante for the design of budget and mid-range phones. The finesse in design and the reassuring build quality makes the phone seem more expensive than it actually is.
There’s glass on the rear with an aluminum casing running all along the edges sandwiched between the glass display on the front and the glass back. It looks rad, especially the black one I used. Of course, a glass back attracts fingerprints and smudges, so bear that in mind. The metal frame around the edges peeks around the display on the front, adding slight bezels and a small chin at the bottom.
The vertically stacked dual cameras at the back protrude a little so the phone doesn’t rest flat on surfaces. Both the camera module and the fingerprint sensor below it have a chrome lining around them, which looks quite appealing. The power button and the volume rocker have a functional design, though I would’ve preferred a little more of a clicky feel, and both have the same chrome trim.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is amongst the most compact smartphones in the market right now.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is among the most compact smartphones in the market right now, along with my other favorite — last year’s Pixel 2. There’s only a moderately large display at 5.8-inches (with a notch and minimum bezels, that is) and with a thickness of just 8mm along with rounded corners, the device nestles in the palm nicely. One-handed usage and the phone’s grippiness are absolutely fantastic and comforting. It’s also quite light at 151 grams.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is one of the best-designed smartphones out there considering its chic chassis and overall ergonomics. It’s a delight to see this in a sub-$250 smartphone.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus sports a 5.8-inch Full HD+ LCD panel with a 19:9 aspect ratio, made possible by embracing the notch (first for Nokia phones). The screen’s covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for scratch protection, too.
It’s a lovely display, and one of the best in this price range. The colors are punchy and the contrast is great. The viewing angles are decent enough, too. Really only the brightness could’ve been better, exacerbated by the iffy execution of adaptive brightness.
The display on the Nokia 6.1 Plus is sharp with excellent color reproduction. In my opinion, the tall display is also almost the perfect size for most people.
Unlike the Nokia phones of the past, the Nokia 6.1 Plus packs in a competent specifications sheet. It’s powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor with custom Kryo 260 cores, like Qualcomm’s flagship 8xx processors. The same chipset powers other solid budget workhorses like the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, which can be further expanded with a microSD card.
The device holds up nicely in everyday usage. There are no wobbles of any kind and it chugs along nicely for most usual tasks, though you’ll notice a bit of stuttering if you push it to an extreme. Honestly, the performance delta with devices like the new Mi A2 or the Redmi Note 5 Pro wouldn’t be too significant for most users, unless hardcore gaming is your priority.
The smartphone doesn't break a sweat in everyday use unless you indulge in hardcore gaming.
Playing most games is just fine, but graphically intensive games like PUBG Mobile run on its lowest graphics settings by default. There are occasional frame drops as well. Thankfully, the phone doesn’t get too hot even after an extended gaming session.
Overall, the Nokia 6.1 Plus doesn’t break a sweat under a regular load. Much of it is because stock Android requires few resources and the memory management on the phone is terrific. That’s the key for any smartphone instead of just slapping on extra RAM.
The modest 3,060mAh battery on the Nokia 6.1 Plus serves you well for an entire day on moderate usage. I would usually finish the day with 10-15 percent of charge left. With the bundled charger, it takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to charge the battery from zero to 100 percent.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus also supports QuickCharge 3.0, allowing you to charge the battery from zero to 100 percent in about 80 minutes with a fast charger. Unfortunately, HMD Global didn’t bundle one in the box. Thankfully, there’s USB Type-C for charging, rather than microUSB.
The smartphone packs a hybrid tray, so you can use two nano SIMs or lose one of them for a microSD card if memory expansion is important to you.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus sports a dual-camera setup on the rear, with a 16 MP f/2.0 primary sensor with PDAF and a 5MP f/2.4 depth sensor.
In daylight conditions, the photos are quite good. The color reproduction is perfect, and the images are sharp and crisp with a good amount of details. The camera is quick to focus and portraits come out quite good, correctly focusing on the subject and detecting edges well. It got skin tones pretty much perfect, too.
In low-light conditions, the Nokia 6.1 Plus struggles. Often images are blurry and the dynamic range goes for a toss in challenging light conditions.
The 16MP f/2.0 front camera manages to capture some brilliant selfies, even the ones taken indoors. Even with a single lens, the bokeh mode works. The Nokia 6.1 Plus could well be pitched as a “selfie phone” like many others in the segment claim to be.
There’s also the Dual-Sight mode, previously marketed as “bothie,” which allows capturing photos and videos from both the front and rear cameras at the same time. It’s quite handy for pictures with you kids or pets or for vlogging, but pointless otherwise.
You can manage to shoot some decent videos in good lighting but only average ones in low light conditions. If you zoom in or out during recording, there will be definite frame drops.
The camera on the Nokia 6.1 Plus is not bad, but people expect more from budget and mid-range phone cameras now. It’s good, but not good enough. Check out the high-resolution samples here.
Like other phones in HMD Global’s recent portfolio, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is an Android One smartphone. Out of the box, it ships with Android 8.1 Oreo, with the July 2018 security update installed, and offers a clean, stock Android experience.
Android One certification means the smartphone will receive two years of guaranteed Android “letter” upgrades and three years of monthly security updates. It’s likely to receive Android Pie sooner than most smartphones on the market (in 2018). It’ll also get Android Q, whenever that happens.
There’s also the fantastic Nokia Camera app and a few utilitarian customizations like the ability to swipe down on the fingerprint reader to open the notifications shade, as well as gestures like double-tap to wake. You can also double press the power button to quickly launch the camera. I find these very handy, having already gotten used to some of them with my daily driver, the Pixel 2 XL.
Unfortunately, the Nokia 6.1 Plus does not offer modern gesture-based navigation, so you’ll have to wait for the Android Pie upgrade for that. It’s not a showstopper, but once you get used to gestures (like I have on my other devices), it’s hard to go back.
|Nokia 6.1 Plus|
|Display||5.8-inch Full HD+ (2280 x 1080) IPS LCD|
19:9 aspect ratio
2.5 D curved glass
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 636|
Expandable up to 400GB with MicroSD card
|Front Camera||16MP |
1.0um pixel size
|Rear Camera||16MP AF primary camera|
1.0um pixel size
5MP secondary camera
1.12um pixel size
Dual-LED dual-tone flash
Fast charging support; bundled 5V/2A charger
|Sensors||Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer (G-sensor), E-compass, Gyroscope, Fingerprint Sensor|
|Software||Android 8.1 Oreo|
|Dimensions and weight||147.2 x 70.98 x 7.99mm, 151g|
|Colors||Midnight Blue, Gloss Black, Gloss White|
Pricing and final thoughts
At 15,999 rupees in India (~$228), the Nokia 6.1 Plus is priced just right for someone looking for an unfussy mid-range smartphone. HMD Global doesn’t have a track record of competitive pricing in India, but this time, the company aced this all-important factor.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is for those discerning individuals who want a seamless smartphone experience in an attractive chassis.
For the money, you get a well-rounded package that looks striking, feels great to hold, and performs just as well as others in the segment. Sure, it’s not the absolute best, and the camera performance certainly lags behind the leaders in the segment, but the Nokia 6.1 Plus is an easy recommendation nevertheless.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus brings good value to HMD Global’s portfolio. There’s something reassuring about a Nokia phone with a stock Android experience. You cannot go wrong with one, really.