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Nokia N1 Tablet Review

What does Nokia's offering in the Android tablet space bring to the table? We find out, in this in-depth Nokia N1 tablet review!

Published onApril 8, 2015

With its fantastic build quality, and hardware that allows for a consistent, smooth performance, the Nokia N1 tablet is certainly a great addition to the tablet space, with the only real hole being the lack of Google apps and services in its current iteration that is intended for the Chinese market.

Nokia was once the most recognizable mobile phone brand in the world, but an unfortunate turn of events resulted in the company not keeping up with the rush of competitors that arose over the years, particularly in the smartphone sector. Even though Nokia is out of the smartphone game, and have no plans to return to it for now, brand licensing of their name and software was possible, ultimately leading to the creation of the Nokia N1 tablet, an Android-based device running Nokia’s Z Launcher and manufactured by Foxconn.

Apart from its Nokia branding, what does this Android tablet have to offer? Does it bring enough to the table to be a viable alternative to the current crop of devices flooding the tablet market? We find out, in this in-depth review of the Nokia N1 Tablet!

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When it comes to the design and build quality, the Nokia N1 tablet can comfortably compete with the finest of the lot. Featuring an aluminium unibody design with a surface anodization, the device offers a solid, premium feel in the hand. The back is smooth, and can best be described as providing the feel of a sheet of metal. The tapered edges allow for a nice rounded look, while also contributing to the grip and handling experience.

Going around the device, the layout of the ports and buttons are standard. Up top are the headphone jack, mic, and the power button, with the volume rocker placed on the right, along with the dual mono speakers found at the bottom, flanking the USB-C port. The buttons provide a solid tactile feel, and have decent travel, which helps prevent any phantom presses. The front is dominated by the 7.9-inch display, with the 5 MP fixed focus front-facing camera above it. The back features no blemishes either, with only the rear-camera tucked away in a corner, along with the company branding and the obligatory technical information found towards the bottom.

It’s hard not to rave about how good this device feels in the hand, and with a thickness and weight of just 6.9 mm and 318 grams respectively, the handling experience is extremely comfortable. While the inspiration for the design is obvious, that isn’t a bad thing, and at least in terms of build quality, the Nokia N1 tablet does go toe to toe with the best.

As mentioned, the Nokia N1 Tablet features a 7.9-inch IPS LCD display, with a 2048 x 1536 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 324 ppi, and a 4:3 aspect ratio. The panel is back lit and comes with a full laminated zero air-gap display, allowing for a great display experience, while keeping things scratch free with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection.

Simply put, this screen looks great, with the IPS technology allowing for fantastic viewing angles. That said, the colors may appear somewhat dull to some at first glance, but running a few tests showed the color reproduction to actually be extremely accurate, with the rather mellow look a result of the easy on the eyes natural color profile that Nokia chose to go with. With this resolution and pixel density, this may not be the sharpest display out there, but IT doesn’t take away a whole lot from the overall experience you will have on this display, be it reading text, watching videos, or playing games.

Something worth mentioning is the fact that there was some noticeable color bleeding when applying a little bit of pressure. It’s not something that should cause any long term issues, and may be an issue with this particular review unit, but is definitely worth making a note of, as it was something I found simply by gripping the tablet. This doesn’t detract from how good the display otherwise is.

While Intel processors aren’t particularly common when it comes to powering Android smartphones and tablets, that is what we get under the hood of the Nokia N1 Tablet, with its 64-bit Intel Atom Z3580 processor, clocked at 2.3 GHz, and backed by the PowerVR  G6430 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. For those unfamiliar with this particular processing package, the good news is the Nokia N1 tablet is a true speedster, with everything from navigating around the different elements of the OS, gaming, and even the start-up time, are all extremely fast. Apart from the occasional hiccup during some graphic-intensive gaming, the overall performance is smooth and consistent, and is certainly one of the better Android tablets I’ve used.

In other hardware, 32 GB of on-board storage is available, without an option for expandable storage via microSD, and the device also packs a standard suite of connectivity options and sensors, except for the presence of the USB-C port, a move away from the standard microUSB. We’ve already taken an in-depth look at the various features and advantages of the USB Type-C, but from a user perspective, it is definitely a joy to use, if only because of its reversible nature, making it incredibly easy to plug in.

The dual speakers at the bottom of the device do get very loud, but begin to lose a lot of quality with the volume beyond the 75% mark, becoming distorted, sharp, and airy. Also worth noting is that each speaker is a mono speaker, so if you cover one up, you can still hear both channels out of the other speaker, but overall, this doesn’t allow for the more immersive audio experience available from stereo speakers.

On the battery front, the Nokia N1 tablet packs a 5,300 mAh unit, that does provide an impressive battery life, and even more impressive standby time, with the device lasting for as long as 4 days with low to moderate usage. One thing to keep in mind is that Google Play Services and various Google applications aren’t available on this version of the device that is intended for the Chinese market, and the always running in the background nature of some these apps will result in a faster battery drain. Your mileage may vary in terms of battery life when the international version, with Google apps pre-installed, is made available, but should still be great nonetheless.

The camera prowess on a tablet is certainly not going to be the highlight, and while the Nokia N1 packs an 8 MP rear shooter, the image quality is just about average, but at par with what you would expect from most tablets. Images aren’t strong in detail, low light performance is questionable at best, and there are some issues with Dynamic Range as well, even with HDR turned on.

The same story continues when it comes to the 5 MP front-facing camera. A lot of images have a yellowish tint to them, and are very grainy, even in the case of shots taken in good lighting situations. As far as the camera application is concerned, it seems to a very stripped down version of the stock Android camera software that leaves out most of the features and extras that are otherwise available. Overall, it does feel like the entire camera setup has been added just for the sake of it being there, as opposed to being a notable aspect of the tablet experience.

On the software side of things, the Nokia N1 tablet is running Android 5.0.1 Lollipop, with Nokia’s custom Z Launcher on top. The Z Launcher will of course be familiar to some, with the app, in its beta iteration, having been available for download from the Google Play Store for a few months now.

The Z Launcher is a minimalistic launcher that consists of primarily two screens, with the first featuring the most recent applications you have accessed, while the other is essentially the app drawer, featuring a long, alphabetized menu of all your installed applications. The launcher also learns what apps you use during what time of the day, and automatically makes those available to you at that time. What makes this launcher unique is the built-in gesture controls, called Scribble, that lets you a letter or word on the screen to easily open a particular app.

Apart from that there isn’t a whole lot to the software experience, with only a few additional settings available, including Compass and Gyro sensor calibration, and Intel Smart Video. As mentioned, this particular version doesn’t offer Google Play Services, but that will not be the case when the device makes its way to a wider release. It is also important to keep in mind that the Z Launcher is still in its beta iteration, with the upcoming full release likely taking care of any bugs and glitches you may notice now.

Display7.9-inch IPS LCD
2048 x 1536 resolution, 324 ppi
2.3 GHz Intel Atom Z3580
PowerVR G5430 GPU
2 GB
32 GB, not expandable
8 MP rear camera
5 MP front-facing camera
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band
Bluetooth 4.0
USB 2.0 Type-C
Accelerometer, gyroscope
5,300 mAh
Android 5.0.1 Lollipop
200.7 x 138.6 x 6.9 mm
318 grams
Natural aluminium
Lava Gray

The Nokia N1 is currently available only in China, priced at approximately $260, but can be picked up from Amazon for a comparatively far steeper $459. Keep in mind that the device available from Amazon is still the Chinese version, and does not support Google Play services, and it is recommended to wait for the international release that should be happening shortly.

So, there you have it – a closer look at the Nokia N1 tablet! In a lot of ways, it is truly difficult to judge an Android device without testing its full capabilities, something not possible due to the lack of Google Play services and apps in this particular version of the device. That said, everything that was thrown at it, from everyday tasks to some intense gaming, the device handled admirably. The Z Launcher certainly gets the job done if you’re looking for a very simple, easy to use software experience, and of course, you always have the option to replace it with other launchers. There’s no doubt that the Nokia N1 tablet is a great offering in this space, and is easy to recommend, as long as Google apps are made available that is.


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