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Nokia 8.1 hands-on: The best yet from HMD Global?
Last week, HMD Global unveiled the Nokia 8.1 in Dubai and today the company launched its latest smartphone in India.
The new Nokia 8.1 is not a successor to the Nokia 8 or Nokia 8 Sirocco in terms of specifications and also isn’t in the same segment as those flagship smartphones. The nomenclature can confuse you, but essentially, the Nokia 8.1 is the successor to the Nokia 7 plus – a segment that the company likes to call as ‘affordable premium’.
I spent some time with the Nokia 8.1 ahead of its launch, and here are my first impressions of the same.
The Nokia 8.1 sports an elegant dual-tone design with 6000-series aluminum frame that packs in a sculpted glass body. The chrome trims, that we’ve seen on Nokia 7 plus before, up the aesthetics of the phone.
The Nokia 8.1 has a definite flair to it without any outlandish design choices, and the glass and metal are sandwiched tastefully.
On the front, there’s a 6.18-inch Full HD+ edge-to-edge display with an 18.7:9 aspect ratio and 420ppi. It’s an HDR10-compliant display and has a contrast ratio of 1500:1. With the notch and minimum bezels, the 8.1 manages to pack in a larger display than even the Nokia 7 plus.
It’s a beautiful and bright display – with great legibility outdoors in sun – and the new Adaptive Brightness feature in Android 9 Pie automatically adjusts your settings learning from your screen brightness preferences.
The Nokia 8.1 is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 710, Qualcomm’s maiden SoC in its new 700 mobile platform series. Snapdragon 710 fits comfortably between the mid-range 600 and high-end 800 series and aims to make premium smartphone features more accessible via mid-range devices, like the 8.1.
And it succeeds in that very well. The AI-powered Snapdragon 710 is a solid chipset and the Nokia 8.1 could give you the impression of flagship innards in your daily drill. With 4GB of RAM, the smartphone just blazes through anything thrown at it.
There’s 64GB of internal storage, and although it’s expandable by up to 400GB using microSD card, many multimedia hoarders would find it a tad underwhelming. The company has also shared that a 6GB RAM plus 128GB storage variant will be available in some markets like India later.
The Nokia 8.1 packs a 3500mAh battery with support for 18W fast charging.
6.18-inch (15.70cm) PureDisplay
Full HD+ (2246 x 1080)
18.7:9 aspect ratio
Corning Gorilla Glass
Qualcomm Snapdragon 710
8 x Kryo 360 CPU
10nm manufacturing process
64GB e-MMC 5.1
Expandable up to 400GB
Front camera: 20MP
12MP f/1.8 aperture primary sensor
13MP depth sensor
OIS + EIS
Dual Hi-Cri flash
18W fast charging
3.5 mm headphone jack
Single speaker with smart amplifier
Nokia OZO surround sound capture
LTE Cat. 6, 2CA, L+L, VoLTE, VoWiFi
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac
mbient light sensor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer (G-sensor), E-compass, Gyroscope, Fingerprint sensor (rear), NFC
Android 9 Pie
154.8 x 75.76 x 7.97 mm
Blue/Silver, Steel/Copper, Iron/Steel
The Nokia 8.1 sports a 12MP primary sensor with f/1.8 aperture and 1.4 micron pixel size combined with a 13MP depth sensor with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). The Zeiss optics are combined with some AI smarts like automatic scene detection and professional portrait shots, and Nokia’s Pro Camera goodness as well as Dual-Sight mode that allows you to simultaneously shoot and stream from both the cameras.
The phone, interestingly, allows you to capture 4K video at 30fps. Apart from hardware stabilization, there’s also EIS that would help in those videos.
On the front, there’s a 20MP adaptive selfie camera with pixel binning technology that helps you take better shots in dimmer conditions.
Like other phones in HMD Global’s portfolio, the Nokia 8.1 is an Android One smartphone. It ships with Android 9 Oreo out of the box, and offers a clean, stock Android experience. With phones on Android 8.1 Oreo still launching in December 2018, HMD Global deserves big props for offering one of the most up-to-date Android experience on Nokia phones.
Android One certification means the smartphone will receive two years of guaranteed Android “letter” upgrades and three years of monthly security updates. Nokia 8.1 is also a part of the Android Enterprise Recommended program.
The Nokia 8.1 sits pretty between the mid-range smartphone segment and the ‘flagship killers’. It’s a well-rounded smartphone that tries to punch above the specifications sheet thanks to Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor that aces the performance bit.
The cohesive experience and stylish design of the Nokia 8.1 makes me wonder if this is the best Nokia phone since HMD Global brought the brand home. You’d have to look hard to find an issue with this one, really.
The Nokia 8.1 comes in three color variants – Blue/Silver, Steel/Copper, and a new Iron/Steel combination – and will globally retail at 399 Euros ($450).
While the device is going on sale in the Middle East for 1499 UAE Dirhams this week, it is priced at ₹26,999 ($372) in India. In India, the Nokia 8.1 will come in two color combinations only – Blue/Silver and Iron/Steel – and will go on sale from December 21 on Amazon.in and Nokia.com/phones and across select retail outlets.