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Nokia 7.1 hands-on: Low-cost luxury

At $349, the Nokia 7.1 delivers the goods: HDR10 support, a headphone jack and smart amp, Android One, dual camera, USB Type-C and microSD expansion.

Published onOctober 4, 2018

It was only ever a matter of time until Nokia started getting noticed again. Once the initial wave of nostalgic joy subsided, the sticky business of putting out phones began, and so far Nokia has hardly skipped a beat. Nearly every phone it’s put out over that last two years has been great. This is no easy feat, not even in the mid-range Nokia occupies so comfortably. Despite the difficulties, the results are showing: Nokia is now in the top ten smartphone manufacturers globally and the top five in 25 markets. Not bad for a less-than-two-year-old effort.

Nokia is now launching the Nokia 7.1, a premium-looking, premium-feeling Android One device that retails for $349 and 319/349 euro. In the U.S. there will only be one version with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, but European markets will get that as well as a 3GB/32GB version. Both are powered by the Snapdragon 636 mobile platform from Qualcomm.

Nokia 7.1 back glass on window, Nokia 7.1 review

Despite its mid-range specs sheet, there’s a bunch of stuff here you don’t always get in a phone at this price. A headphone jack, USB Type-C, a dual camera, HDR10 support, microSD expansion and guaranteed OS updates for two years and security patches for three years round out a well-considered design and excellent build quality. The Nokia 7.1 uses a glass sandwich design around an aluminum frame extruded from a single piece of metal.

More: Nokia 7.1 specs: Another great Android One phone

The Nokia 7.1 has a 5.84-inch Full HD+ display with a 19:9 aspect ratio and 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass 3 display. There’s a notch and a pretty large chin you’ll have to accept if you want to call this phone your daily driver, but this thing feels solid and looks great. It comes in Gloss Midnight Blue and Gloss Steel color options.

Nokia 7.1 front screen, Nokia 7.1 review

HDR10 support via the new PureDisplay screen is a big deal here, and Nokia has a 16-bit pipeline for real-time conversion of SDR content to HDR. The LCD panel only hits 450 nits but some clever software tweaks your content to enhance contrast which has the side effect of increasing outdoor legibility without additional brightness.

The 3,060mAh battery won’t be big enough for everyone, but it should handle the Full HD+ display and unbloated Android One software sufficiently well. Wired fast charging via the bundled 9V/2A brick will get you a 50 percent charge in just 30 minutes. Android 9 Pie will be landing “by November” but you’ll get 8.1 Oreo out of the box. The Nokia 7.1 is Android Enterprise recommended.

Nokia 7.1 back of both colors, Nokia 7.1 review

Both the U.S. and international versions have dual-SIM support, but it’s a hybrid tray, so if you want expandable storage you’ll have to sacrifice a SIM. Connectivity is good, with Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, GPS/AGPS+GLONASS and NFC for contactless payments. A Cat. 6 modem means up to 300Mbps download speeds and 50Mbps up.

Besides supporting the 3.5mm headphone jack, the Nokia 7.1 also ships with Nokia OZO audio for spatial 3D sound capture and playback. Audio focus mode lets you tune out unwanted background or ambient noise and stay focused on what’s most important. A Smart amp and Qualcomm aptX codec support mean you’ve got plenty of audio options at hand, whether you’re wired, wireless or using the built-in speakers.

Nokia 7.1 back dual cameras, Nokia 7.1 review

The dual camera setup on the Nokia 7.1 features ZEISS Optics. On the back, there’s a primary 12MP RGB sensor with f/1.8 aperture, dual phase-detection autofocus, and 1.28-micron pixel size. The secondary rear-facing camera is a 5MP black and white sensor with f/2.4 aperture and 1.12-micron pixels.

The dual cameras not only work in concert to provide additional detail in color images, but they also let you shoot portrait mode bokeh effects with a real-time slider to increase or decrease the depth effect. Bothie mode — whereby you can see the view from both the rear- and front-facing cameras in split screen — has also been updated, so you can adjust the size of each window, tap each one to shoot a still image or freeze one side of a video.

Nokia 7.1 front dual selfie camera, Nokia 7.1 review

The front-facing camera is an 8MP fixed focus f/2.0 lens with 84-degree field-of-view which uses software to simulate portrait mode background blurring. The front-facing camera also has a live bokeh slider. AI has been added to detect faces and create a bunch of AR effects similar to animoji and real-time filters as well.

Electronic image stabilization will keep your footage looking crisp and clean and a full manual mode in the camera lets you control shutter speed, white balance and ISO for more professional shots. Thanks to the Android One program, you’ll get free unlimited storage in Google Photos for the photos you take on the Nokia 7.1.

Nokia 7.1 holding back of phone, Nokia 7.1 review

With a solid specs sheet, great styling and build quality, clean software and guaranteed support, the Nokia 7.1 looks set to continue Nokia’s great run under HMD Global. When the results are this good and this affordable, we can only say more power to them.

The Nokia 7.1 goes up for pre-order on October 5 at Best Buy, Amazon and B&H and ships October 28. You’ll be able to pick one up in-store at select Best Buy locations starting November 4.

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