If you find Nokia’s brand architecture a tad confusing, you’re not alone. HMD Global (that
owns exclusive marketing rights for the brand in the smartphone space) launched the Nokia 8
Sirocco earlier in the year at close to Rs 50,000. That device with its slinky form sits at the top of
the Nokia tree. The 8.1 (the Nokia X7 in China) is a significant device for Nokia and arrives at
the end of 2018. This device arrives in the Rs 25,000 – 30,000 price band where Xiaomi’s POCO
F1 has kept the cash registers ringing.
Nokia has tried to fill key spaces from Rs 10,000 – 30,000 in its current portfolio with
devices ranging from the 5.1 to the 7.1. One of the key differentiators for Nokia across these
price points has been its design aesthetic and form. That’s what sets the Nokia 8.1 apart from
competitors like the Samsung Galaxy A7 and the POCO F1. It’s all glass with a premium
dual-tone anodised frame. It comes in a choice of two colour options – blue and iron. Our
review unit was the iron colour variant and it’s closer to a deep burgundy or plum – one of
the most distinctive colour options on any smartphone this year. The 8.1 feels really good in
your hand and every inch a premium device. The conveniently placed fingerprint sensor and
the rear cam feature the same metal embellishments that are consistent with the anodised
frame. You will also find the 3.5mm headphone jack, that will come as a relief to users who
still cling on to their wired headsets.
On paper the 6.18-inch Full-HD+ display’s specs – 1080 x 2280 pixels / 408 PPI, may not be
a big deal for this category but Nokia enhances this with HDR10 support and a 96% colour
gamut. Videos are vibrant and the display is sharp even under bright light. The display pushes
the screen: body ratio above 80% and like all Nokia’s major launches in the second half of
2018, there’s no escaping the wide notch.
Form factor – check, display – check. The other thing we really like about the Nokia 8.1 is
the Android One advantage. The device comes with Android Pie (9.0) out of the box and
offers a pleasing, pure-play Android experience sans bloatware. The Android One platform
ensures the 8.1 is first in line for Android OS updates and security patches. On the hardware
front, the 8.1 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 Processor with 4GB of RAM.
It’s certainly not in the same league as the POCO F1 (in our Antutu benchmark tests) or the
ASUS ZenFone 5Z that costs slightly more. However this device is no slouch when it comes
to performance. We experienced no lags during multi-tasking or when we ran intensive
games like PUBG. There’s 64GB of internal storage and support for extendable memory
through a hybrid SIM slot. You will need to sacrifice your second SIM card though.
The hardware package gets a boost with a solid battery – 3600 mAh, that should comfortably
last most users over a day. There’s an 18W fast charger bundled in. The Nokia 8.1 features a
dual rear cam (12MP + 13MP) with the comforting Carl Zeiss branding, usually reserved for
premium Nokia mobile shooters during Nokia’s heyday. This rear cam and the 20MP selfie
cam shoot sharp images in ambient light and we like the minimal camera user interface. The
camera results dip in lowlight though. This is an area where the Samsung Galaxy A7 with its
triple camera and the POCO F1 have an edge.
The Nokia 8.1 is a solid device with an elegant form factor and a seamless Android user
experience. It has enough hardware firepower to keep it chugging along and keep power
users interested. It doesn’t feature a stellar camera especially in lowlight for serious camera
buffs and is one of the only chinks in its armour. If you’re not too hung up on lowlight
photography this might be all the flagship killer you need.
The Nokia 8.1 costs Rs 26,999 and comes in two colours – blue and iron.