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HMD Global’s budget-friendly Nokia phones have followed a familiar blueprint for a few years now. You can pretty much expect a circular camera bump, a matte plastic construction, and a light Android skin. Now, it’s bringing affordable 5G from T-Mobile into the mix on the Nokia X100. Is it ready to go up against the likes of the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G? Find out in our Nokia X100 review.
See also: The best Nokia phones available
What you need to know about the Nokia X100
- Nokia X100 (6GB/128GB): $252 at T-Mobile
The Nokia X100 launched as a T-Mobile exclusive that promises affordable 5G. It sits just below the Nokia G50 in terms of pricing, though it packs quite a few improved specs. The X100 is also just above the G300 — the most affordable 5G option under the Nokia banner. If you’re not a T-Mobile subscriber at the moment, you can also check out the Nokia X100 on select MVNOs like Metro by T-Mobile.
The X100 keeps things pretty simple with just one configuration to pick up, and it packs 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. If you need more space, HMD Global added a microSD card slot for good measure. Qualcomm’s 5G-ready Snapdragon 480 is keeping everything moving under the hood, too. You’ll only find one color option to choose from; an eye-catching Midnight Blue that seems to transition between blue and dark gray in the light. There’s no mention of an official IP rating — not a surprise at this price — so be sure to steer clear of puddles.
See also: The best budget phones
A 6.67-inch Full HD+ display tops off the entire package, and it’s made from tough Gorilla Glass 3. There’s a 16MP punch hole selfie camera along with four total cameras on the back. You might recognize the circular camera bump right away, and a 48MP wide lens serves as the main attraction. It’s backed by a 5MP ultrawide lens, a 2MP depth sensor, and a 2MP macro option. The cameras utilize ZEISS optics, which brings a whole suite of portrait mode settings to your fingertips.
Our Nokia X100 arrived running Android 11 straight out of the box, which is good for now. However, we asked HMD Global about future support and it confirmed that it is not planning any Android version updates and will only offer two years of security patches.
The Nokia X100’s closest rivals also fall into T-Mobile’s budget 5G sphere. Samsung’s Galaxy A32 5G will set you back $282 at the Un-Carrier, but it comes with a Dimensity 720 chipset and a more robust update schedule. You can check out the OnePlus Nord N200 as well, which matches the X100’s Snapdragon 480 but only promises one new Android version. It’s the most affordable alternative at just $216.
The Nokia X100 is designed to be an affordable media streaming powerhouse, and for the most part, it delivers. The Full HD+ display is crisp, and the 20:9 ratio was chosen specifically for video. It gets impressively bright as long as you’re not in direct sunlight, and the headphone jack means you can still enjoy your wired headphones. If you prefer to skip the headphones, the X100 packs a single down-firing speaker which is surprisingly loud and clear at full volume.
Overall, the Nokia X100 packs some pretty impressive cameras. The 48MP main shooter is sharp, and you can adjust between the default 12MP shots or take advantage of the full resolution. The 2MP macro lens is mostly there for some extra fun, but you can occasionally get cool results like the Dodge hood ornament seen below. I also like the ZEISS portrait options, especially the bokeh effects. Essentially, you can change the background blur to include shapes like stars or hearts in addition to the basic circles.
The 48MP main camera punches above the $252 price tag, especially when you add the ZEISS portrait options.
The hardware setup gives you some pretty good bang for not too many bucks, with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage more than enough for most tasks. I didn’t run into too many lag issues, even when bouncing between apps quickly. Nokia’s Android skin is one of the lightest we’ve seen in a while, and it feels pretty close to stock with just a few creature comforts.
I had no issues making the 4,470mAh battery last beyond a day of consistent usage, and I occasionally got close to a second full day before charging. The 18W wired charging recovered 39% in 30 minutes, and it took about 75 minutes to get back to a full charge. The side-mounted fingerprint reader is reliable, and the software-based Face Unlock works well in clear, bright conditions.
What’s not so good?
I don’t love that the Nokia X100 is a T-Mobile exclusive. While you can grab it on one of the Magenta MVNOs, I prefer to see budget phones come with universal functionality. However, the X100 is also available as the X10 in non-US markets, so that’s your best bet for a truly unlocked version.
HMD Global went all-out making the X100 a solid streaming companion, but it comes up short in one key way — the bezels. It packs sizeable bezels around all four sides as you can see above, and the punch hole selfie camera has a relatively large ring around it too. I almost would have preferred a small notch if it meant smaller bezels overall. The display is bright in most conditions, but it struggles in bright sunlight, which can make it hard to browse social media or stream your favorite shows.
Nokia's 6.67-inch display comes up short in sunny conditions.
Many budget phones embrace the plastic lifestyle — look at Samsung, Motorola, and OnePlus, for example. HMD Global followed suit with the X100, but the plastic doesn’t always feel the best. The Gorilla Glass 3 display feels tough enough, but the plastic backing lets it down. I don’t think the plastic will crack from a few drops, but there’s a little give to it when I press on the back.
The Nokia X100 launched with Android 11 onboard, which is a good thing. However, HMD Global confirmed to us that it has no plans to upgrade it to Android 12 yet. Unless that changes, you’ll be stuck with Android 11 from the moment you open the box to the moment you buy a new phone, and just two years of security patches severely limits the phone’s long-term value. Even OnePlus tends to find a way to bring a single Android update to its budget-friendly Nord options, while Samsung goes far beyond. This is especially odd given the fact that previous Nokia X series phones have been promised three years of updates.
Nokia X100 camera samples
Nokia X100 specs
Gorilla Glass 3
1,080 x 2,400 (20:9)
Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 5G
Rear quad camera:
18W wired charging
171.4 x 79.7 x 9.1mm
Side-mounted fingerprint reader
Nokia X100 review: Should I buy it?
If you’re a T-Mobile customer in search of a budget-friendly 5G device, the Nokia X100 is a solid option. It packs quite a few Nokia trademarks, and it’s geared to keep up with your favorite shows and social media accounts. The software update situation is a little galling considering the Nokia catchphrase of “Love it, Trust it, Keep it,” but the overall camera experience and the large 6.67-inch display punch above its price tag. The X100 is a classic Nokia design, with plenty of updated specs at just over $250.
See also: The best T-Mobile phones
Those of you looking for another affordable T-Mobile option can look no further than the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G ($282). It swaps Gorilla Glass 3 for Gorilla Glass 5, with a classy design that looks more like glass than plastic. You also get a full 5,000mAh battery for your money. The best budget alternative is the OnePlus Nord N200 ($216). It’s one of the cheapest 5G devices around and has the light Oxygen OS skin on top.