The last two years, the average selling price of smartphones in India has been rising. It is now widely accepted that the Rs 12,000-Rs 15,000 price band is driving volumes in the market. But that does not mean brands are oblivious to the next big opportunity, that when consumers start upgrading they will be willing to pay the premium, perhaps 10,000 more or another Rs 20,000.
This also explains why a relatively newer brand like HMD Global has multiple offerings in the mid-range. With new Nokia 8.1, it plays in the above Rs 20,000 price bracket, which is a not a easy terrain given the level of competition from Chinese players like Oppo, Vivo and now Poco from Xiaomi.
The Nokia 8.1 is a successor to the earlier Nokia 7 Plus, which was launched at a price of Rs 25,999. The latter was an excellent device in terms of what it offered. So does the Nokia 8.1 deliver in terms of performance? And more importantly is Rs 26,999 too high a price for the Nokia 8.1? Here’s our review.
Nokia 8.1 Specifications: 6.18-inch Full HD+ PureDisplay, 18.7:9 aspect ratio | Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 octa-core processor | 4GB RAM+64GB storage | 12MP+13MP rear camera and 20MP front camera | Android 9 Pie | 3500 mAh battery
Nokia 8.1 price in India: Rs 26,999
Nokia 8.1: Design, Display
The last phone I used from HMD Global was the Nokia 6.1, which had impressed me in terms of design quality. The Nokia 8.1 does a lot better, and convinces you that this is a premium phone from every inch. The iron and steel coloured version we got for review is a unique colour, and there’s a hint of plum, which looks very stunning.
The phone has a metal frame on the side, and glass on both sides with a seamless design. Though Nokia 8.1 has a big 6.28-inch display, it fits easily in the hand and using it with one hand is not a problem.
Still all that glass at the back makes one worry for the phone’s safety, and it does pick up smudges. But that’s a problem plaguing most phones now in the market, given how popular the glass back has become. The glossy finish also makes the phone slippery.
Nokia 8.1’s display resolution is full HD+ (2246 x 1080 pixels), and this is an HDR 10 compatible device. Of course, finding HDR 10-ready content might be a problem. The display quality by itself is excellent, with good viewing angles. It works well even in bright sunlight.
However, the display can be a bit too reflective at times. The overall glossy finish of the phone is also a negative in my view, because the screen tends to get covered with smudges rather quickly.
Then that notch on the Nokia 8.1 is too big to ignore, no matter what the company says. It can make for a disconcerting experiencing on some apps. There is no option to turn off the notch, unless you go for developer options.
Nokia 8.1: Performance, Software
Nokia 8.1 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor, which is an octa-core one with a 10nm design. Yes, this phone might not come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 like some of the other phones in a similar price range (Poco F1, Asus Zenfone 5Z), but that does not mean the performance is compromised in anyway.
In benchmarks, Nokia 8.1 scores 1,72,135 for us on Antutu, which puts it behind the LG V30, Galaxy S8+ in terms of performance on the ranking list. The phone works smoothly with all kinds of tasks; from running games like Asphalt 9, BB Racing to opening multiple tabs on Chrome.
Multi-tasking with several apps open works smoothly on this phone and the 4GB RAM is not a problem. The device did not heat up either with prolonged use. But it does get warm while charging.
The Nokia 8.1 runs Android 9.0 Pie, and like other phones from the company this is an Android One device as well. This will mean assured upgrades for the next two years for your device. The user interface works smoothly, and the gestures feature from Android Pie work without any problems.
Users who are not comfortable with the single button can turn it off by going to settings> system> gestures> swipe up on home button and toggle this feature off.
Nokia 8.1: Camera
When I had reviewed the Nokia 8 back in 2017, I was not really impressed with the performance. But the camera on Nokia phones has come a long way since then. With Nokia 8.1, the company does a whole lot better on this front.
In bright light, regular lighting, this is definitely one of the more impressive cameras in its price range. The camera results are excellent, the photos have enough details and the device is quick to focus.
Even the live bokeh or portrait mode works quite well in daylight giving good results when it comes to separating subject and background, both with people and objects. Most phones struggle with bokeh around objects or non-human subjects, and it’s good to see Nokia phones do better.
In low-light, there is a tendency to brighten the pictures which comes at the cost of details. Another issue I had with some of the pictures would be around the colour tones, there appears to be an extra reddish tinge in some of the photos, which is very noticeable. Hopefully a software update can tone some of this down.
The selfies have enough details as well, and the bokeh effect is mostly accurate in these photos. While the camera itself is great to use, the camera app’s user interface could be simpler and has become quite cluttered. But it looks like most brands are headed in this direction.
Nokia 8.1: Battery
The battery on the Nokia 8.1 is impressive and will easily last more than a day, even with heavy duty usage. Watching videos (Netflix and Youtube) and gaming did not cause any significant battery drain and I still had the phone left with around 20 per cent battery the next day.
Plus, the Adaptive battery feature from Android Pie will help increase battery life as it figures out which apps are used more, which are used less to optimise battery performance. The fast charging ensures this is ready for the day in just under one and a half hours.
Nokia 8.1: Conclusion
Nokia 8.1 is an impressive device by all accounts. The performance is smooth, the camera delivers pleasing photos in most scenarios, while the battery life should keep most users happy. There are very little flaws here, except that HMD Global has only introduced one variant with the base 4GB RAM and 64GB storage.
The company could introduce the 6GB RAM variant later on, as we have seen in the past, and those who rely need that extra RAM could consider waiting it out, to see their options. But otherwise, if you are in the market for a phone in the mid segment, the Nokia 8.1 is an excellent option to pick.