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.

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Nokia 7.1 front screen
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The Pocophone F1
Pocophone F1
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Honor Play
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Asus Zenfone 5Z
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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
Display
Nokia 7.1:
5.84-inch
2,280 x 1,080 resolution (FHD+)
19:9 aspect ratio
Pocophone F1:
6.18-inch IPS LCD
2,246 x 1,080 resolution (Full HD+)
18:9 aspect ratio
Honor Play:
6.3-inch IPS LCD
2,340 x 1,080 resolution (FHD+)
19.5:9 aspect ratio
Moto Z3 Play:
6-inch AMOLED
2,160 x 1,080 resolution (FHD+)
18:9 screen ratio
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
6.2-inch IPS LCD
2,246 x 1,080 resolution (FHD+)
19:9 aspect ratio
CPU
Nokia 7.1:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
(4x 1.8GHz A73 + 4x 1.6GHz A53)
Pocophone F1:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
(4x 2.8GHz A75 + 4x 1.7GHz A55)
Honor Play:
HiSilicon Kirin 970
(4 x 2.4GHz A73 + 4 x 1.8GHz A53)
Moto Z3 Play:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
(4x 1.8GHz A73 + 4x 1.6GHz A53)
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
Qualcommm Snapdragon 630
(4x 2.2GHz A53 + 4x 1.8GHz A53)
GPU
Nokia 7.1:
Adreno 509
Pocophone F1:
Adreno 630
Honor Play:
Mali-G72 MP12
Moto Z3 Play:
Adreno 509
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
Adreno 508
RAM
Nokia 7.1:
3GB or 4GB LPPDDR4x
Pocophone F1:
6GB or 8GB LPDDR4X
Honor Play:
4GB/6GB LPDDR4X
Moto Z3 Play:
4GB or 6GB
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
6GB or 8GB
Memory
Nokia 7.1:
32GB or 64GB
Pocophone F1:
64GB/128GB/256GB
Honor Play:
64GB
Moto Z3 Play:
64GB or 128GB
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
64GB/128GB/256GB
MicroSD
Nokia 7.1:
Yes, up to 400GB
Pocophone F1:
Yes
Honor Play:
Yes, up to 256GB
Moto Z3 Play:
Yes, up to 2TB
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
Yes, up to 2TB
Size
Nokia 7.1:
149.7 x 71.18 x 7.99mm
160g
Pocophone F1:
155.5 x 75.3 x 8.8mm
180g
Honor Play:
157.91 × 74.27 × 7.84mm
176g
Moto Z3 Play:
156.5 x 70.5 x 6.75mm
156g
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
153 x 75.7 x 7.9mm
155g

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
Camera
Nokia 7.1:
Rear:
12MP 2PD/AF/F1.8/1.28um
Secondary: 5MP BW/FF/F2.4/1.12um
Front:
8MP FF/F2.0/FOV 84°
ZEISS Optics
Pocophone F1:
Rear:
Main: 12MP f/1.9, 1.4um pixels
Secondary: 5MP
Front:
20MP f/2.0, 1.8 micron
Honor Play:
Rear:
Primary: 16MP with LED flash, f/2.2 aperture, PDAF
Secondary: 2MP secondary camera with f/2.4 aperture
and EIS
Front:
16MP, f/2.0 aperture
Moto Z3 Play:
Rear:
Main: 12MP with 1.4 micron pixels, f/1.7 aperture
Secondary: 5MP
Front:
8MP sensor with 1.12-micron pixels, f/2.0 aperture
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
Rear:
12MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture
Secondary: 120° wide-angle camera with 6p lens
Front:
8 MP AF sensor, f/2.0 aperture with 84° field of view
IP Rating
Nokia 7.1:
No
Pocophone F1:
No
Honor Play:
No
Moto Z3 Play:
No
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
No
Audio
Nokia 7.1:
3.5mm headphone jack
Pocophone F1:
3.5mm headphone jack
Honor Play:
3.5mm headphone jack
Moto Z3 Play:
USB Type-C
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity
Nokia 7.1:
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC
Pocophone F1:
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0
FM Radio
Honor Play:
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.2
Moto Z3 Play:
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC
FM Radio
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC
FM Radio
Charging
Nokia 7.1:
18W Fast Charge
USB Type-C
Pocophone F1:
Quick Charge 3.0
USB Type-C
Honor Play:
SuperCharge
USB Type-C
Moto Z3 Play:
15W Fast Charge
USB Type-C
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
18W Fast Charge
USB Type-C
Battery
Nokia 7.1:
3,060mAh
Pocophone F1:
4,000mAh
Honor Play:
3,750mAh
Moto Z3 Play:
3,000mAh
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
3,300mAh
Software
Nokia 7.1:
Android 8.1 Oreo
Pocophone F1:
Android 8.1
MIUI 9.6
Honor Play:
Android 8.1 Oreo
EMUI 8.2
Moto Z3 Play:
Android 8.1 Oreo
Asus Zenfone 5Z:
Android 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.