HMD Global’s Nokia 7.1 has arrived to tempt us with another compelling affordable smartphone option. It’s been a pretty great year for more affordable markets, so the Nokia 7.1 has some real competition. Does it stand out?

Performance and camera optics are the name of the game here, so let’s stack this new phone up against its rivals — the Pocophone F1, Honor Play, Moto Z3 Play, and the Asus Zenfone 5Z.

Kings of performance

Historically, performance has required compromise for lower-cost handsets, but things have changed in the last couple of years. The Pocophone F1 is the most affordable smartphone ever to pack in a flagship-tier Snapdragon 845 processor, which powers the $1000 big players. The Honor Play also boasts the flagship-tier Kirin 970 from Huawei’s premium smartphone range, which offers very similar performance.

Nokia 7.1 front screen
Pocophone F1

Honor Play
Asus Zenfone 5Z

Top to bottom, left to right: Nokia 7.1 – Pocophone F1 – Moto Z3 Play – Honor Play – Asus Zenfone 5Z 

The Nokia 7.1’s Snapdragon 636 doesn’t reach quite that level, but it’s not far behind with a big.LITTLE CPU cluster with powerful Cortex-A73 cores to handle more demanding workloads. The older small octa-core CPU inside the Zenfone 5Z is definitely the slowest of the bunch.

 Nokia 7.1Pocophone F1Honor PlayMoto Z3 PlayAsus Zenfone 5Z
2,280 x 1,080 resolution (FHD+)
19:9 aspect ratio
6.18-inch IPS LCD
2,246 x 1,080 resolution (Full HD+)
18:9 aspect ratio
6.3-inch IPS LCD
2,340 x 1,080 resolution (FHD+)
19.5:9 aspect ratio
6-inch AMOLED
2,160 x 1,080 resolution (FHD+)
18:9 screen ratio
6.2-inch IPS LCD
2,246 x 1,080 resolution (FHD+)
19:9 aspect ratio
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 636
(4x 1.8GHz A73 + 4x 1.6GHz A53)
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
(4x 2.8GHz A75 + 4x 1.7GHz A55)
HiSilicon Kirin 970
(4 x 2.4GHz A73 + 4 x 1.8GHz A53)
Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
(4x 1.8GHz A73 + 4x 1.6GHz A53)
Qualcommm Snapdragon 630
(4x 2.2GHz A53 + 4x 1.8GHz A53)
GPUAdreno 509Adreno 630Mali-G72 MP12Adreno 509Adreno 508
Memory32GB or 64GB 64GB/128GB/256GB64GB64GB or 128GB64GB/128GB/256GB
MicroSDYes, up to 400GBYesYes, up to 256GBYes, up to 2TBYes, up to 2TB
Size149.7 x 71.18 x 7.99mm
155.5 x 75.3 x 8.8mm
157.91 × 74.27 × 7.84mm
156.5 x 70.5 x 6.75mm
153 x 75.7 x 7.9mm

There’s a more noticeable performance difference in gaming applications. The flagship-class Adreno 630 and Mali-G72 Mp12 in the Pocophone F1 and Honor Play are notably faster than the Adreno 509 inside the Nokia 7.1. That said, you’ll still be able to enjoy the latest games, just with lower graphics settings and a clunkier frame rate.

The Nokia 7.1 is also slightly behind some of its more powerful competitors.

The Nokia 7.1 is also slightly behind some of its more powerful competitors in the RAM department. Three or 4GB certainly won’t slow you down when flicking through apps, but hiccups may arise when swapping in and out of more demanding scenarios like games. The 6 and 8GB configurations offered by the Zenfone 5Z and Pocophone F1 are more typically what we’d associate with cutting-edge smartphones. Ideally, a 4GB minimum would see the Nokia 7.1 sit more comfortably against its competitors.

Nokia is similarly behind in storage capacity. A 32GB offering is small these days, and most consumers will probably want the 64GB option. Nokia’s maximum capacity is the minimum configuration offered by these rivals, while the Pocophone F1 and Zenfone 5Z supply up to 256GB should you need it. All these models include a microSD card allowing for further expansion.

Overall, the Nokia 7.1 offers comparable performance to other phones around this price point, but it’s clearly cut a few corners in the memory department. Hopefully, the cameras and added extras make up the difference.

Cameras and extras

Nokia has deepened its partnership with Zeiss for this phone, yet the camera specifications appear very similar to other mid-tier smartphones. A reasonable resolution primary camera, paired up with a low-resolution depth sensor is par for the course these days.

Nokia isn’t just using the secondary camera for depth sensing and software bokeh, though that’s an option. The secondary camera is a monochrome sensor, used to improve light sensitivity and detail, like in Huawei’s cameras. Powerful software combined with Zeiss lenses could make this a winning combination, but we’ll wait for some hands-on pictures.

The only other really interesting shooting option at this price point is the Asus Zenfone 5Z. The rear camera configuration offers a wide angle secondary sensor with a 120-degree field of view.

 Nokia 7.1Pocophone F1Honor PlayMoto Z3 PlayAsus Zenfone 5Z
12MP 2PD/AF/F1.8/1.28um
Secondary: 5MP BW/FF/F2.4/1.12um

8MP FF/F2.0/FOV 84°
ZEISS Optics
Main: 12MP f/1.9, 1.4um pixels
Secondary: 5MP

20MP f/2.0, 1.8 micron
Primary: 16MP with LED flash, f/2.2 aperture, PDAF
Secondary: 2MP secondary camera with f/2.4 aperture
and EIS

16MP, f/2.0 aperture
Main: 12MP with 1.4 micron pixels, f/1.7 aperture
Secondary: 5MP

8MP sensor with 1.12-micron pixels, f/2.0 aperture
12MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture

Secondary: 120° wide-angle camera with 6p lens

8 MP AF sensor, f/2.0 aperture with 84° field of view
IP RatingNoNoNoNoNo
Audio3.5mm headphone jack3.5mm headphone jack3.5mm headphone jackUSB Type-C3.5mm headphone jack
ConnectivityWiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0
FM Radio
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.2
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0
FM Radio
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0
FM Radio
Charging18W Fast Charge
USB Type-C
Quick Charge 3.0
USB Type-C
USB Type-C
15W Fast Charge
USB Type-C
18W Fast Charge
USB Type-C
SoftwareAndroid 8.1 OreoAndroid 8.1
MIUI 9.6
Android 8.1 Oreo
EMUI 8.2
Android 8.1 OreoAndroid 8.1 Oreo
ZenUI 5.0

Mid-range smartphones have, for the most part, kept the 3.5mm headphone jack for music lovers. The notable exception in today’s comparison is the Moto Z3 Play. A single bottom firing speaker is also a common setup here, as is the inclusion of an FM Radio, in all but the Nokia 7.1 and Honor Play.

There’s no IP rating for water and dust resistance on any of these models. On the plus side, the Nokia 7.1, Moto Z3 Play, and Asus Zenfone 5Z all feature NFC for mobile payments.

Nokia has deepened its partnership with Zeiss for this phone, yet the camera specifications appear very similar to other mid-tier smartphones.

Fast charging speeds are also in place across all of these models. Although, I can’t imagine anyone will run the large batteries in the Pocophone F1 and Honor Play down in a single day. The Nokia 7.1 and Moto Z3 Play batteries are on the smaller side, though 3,000mAh should be enough for a single day of heavy use, given the power-efficient nature of their processors.

The Motorola Moto Z3.

Does the Nokia 7.1 do enough?

Stock Android fans now have another choice on the market in the Nokia 7.1. Its hardware doesn’t appear exceptional, but that’s partly because this year has already seen so many affordable high-performance smartphones hit the market. The Nokia 7.1 looks like a solid performer, it’s just not topping the table. Of course, that’s only a small part of the smartphone experience.

Stock Android fans now have another choice on the market in the Nokia 7.1.

The Nokia 7.1’s appeal hinges on its design and camera experience. It could well excel in those areas, but these elements are a little harder to contextualize without a full review, so stay tuned.

Do you think the Nokia 7.1 will do enough to stand out in the $350 price bracket?

More Nokia 7.1 coverage

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