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Nokia 8.1 smartphone review – an impressive midrange performer

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  • VERDICT

The Nokia 8.1 is a solid mid-level device that offers impressive all-round performance, decent camera quality and above-average battery life.

Nokia was once the biggest mobile phone brands back when most customers were buying their first device. Today the brand is enjoying a comeback of sorts and it’s thanks to products like the Nokia 8.1.

The Finnish company now owned by HMD Global has made it into the top 10 smartphone brands in the world after spending a number of years in the wilderness.

The Nokia 8.1, priced at $699, offers a lot of bang for your buck starting with the 6.18-inch full high definition PureDisplay with HDR10 support as well as a dual lens Zeiss camera system.

The screen is slightly wider and shorter than what you’ll find with other smartphones that are going for the longer and narrower displays.

This makes the Nokia 8.1 a nice shape and size to hold and you can still navigate the screen with one hand.

The display is squared off at the top but still has information on the left and right side of the front facing camera.

We tried to opt for the notch rather than the squared off look but couldn’t get it to work despite going into the developer settings.

It appears the Australian version of the Nokia 8.1 won’t allow users to go down this path so you have to be happy with the squared off look.

That is by no means a deal breaker and still gives us plenty of screen real estate play with.

The display also has HDR10 which enhances the contrast and offers more detail and richer colours on the screen.

For a customer who is watching a lot of content on the go, the Nokia 8.1 will give you a great experience.

The design of the device is also clean and minimal.

It has a nice steel band that goes around the circumference of the phone to give it a more premium look.

That is some camera bump

There is a USB-C charging port along the bottom edge beside a speaker and you’ll also find a headphone jack on the top edge.

On the back you will see the dual lens Zeiss camera above the fingerprint reader.

No notch for you

There is a decent camera bump on that back panel – one of the biggest bumps we’ve seen on a smart phone.

But it doesn’t detract too much from the design.

The Nokia 8.1 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor which is also enhanced by AI so it not only makes the device fast and responsive, but smarter as well.

The AI also comes into play to manage battery efficiency and other features of the device like brightness preferences and identifying what the on-board camera is aimed at.

Shot taken with the Nokia 8.1

Speaking of the camera, the Nokia 8.1 has 20 megapixel resolution on the front and back cameras so your selfies are going to look as good as your regular shots.

The images captured with the device are great quality with bright colours and plenty of detail.

Shot taken with the Nokia 8.1

There is also a pro mode if you want to take even more control of your images to adjust shutter speed and ISO.

Shot taken with the Nokia 8.1

We particularly liked the Live Bokeh which allowed us to control the background blur for portraits and other close-up shots.

The camera is not at the level of a flagship device but it’s not far off.

The Nokia 8.1 is running Android 9 Pie with Android One so there is very little software clutter so it’s a very clean user experience.

There is already plenty of pre-installed apps as well as free unlimited high-quality photo storage with Google photos.

Users can take comfort by knowing that there are also regular security updates and two years’ worth of software upgrades so the device is always in optimal condition.

On the battery side, the Nokia 8.1 certainly delivers all day use with enough juice in the tank to take you into the evening and even into the next day.

Not quite the two-day battery life that Nokia suggested but still above average.

Being a mid-priced phone, you’re not going to get all the features of a flagship device.

What you won’t get with the Nokia 8.1 is wireless charging and it’s also not water resistant.

NOKIA 8.1

Price: $699

VERDICT

The Nokia 8.1 is a solid mid-level device that offers impressive all-round performance, decent camera quality and above-average battery life.