The Nokia 8.1 walks out fresh from the 2018 oven and it’s still steaming hot into the new year with its premium body work and freshly baked Android Pie.
It certainly looks like the best Nokia (with Android) crafted and also looks much better than the current crop of competition like the Asus ZenFone 5Z, Honor Play, Xiaomi Poco F1 and the Vivo V11 Pro. It’s got the looks to turn most eyeballs its way, especially when there’s a massive notch placed just like the iPhone.
We’ve done a month’s testing and answered your puny questions, if whether this deserves to be in your pocket. Let’s dig in.
Pick up the Nokia 8.1 and feel its tall and chunky body (180gms) nestling right into your palm. It might feel a bit slippery in the start, but you’ll get used to its body in no time. It’s grown up with its fancy brothers flashing that dual-tone metal frame finish that adds to its premiumness and the glass back brings class to the table with the Blue/Silver and Iron/Steel colourways complimenting its looks too.
If you’re not a big phone guy, this falls right in the middle with its wide screen. If you haven’t realised yet, the phone is easy to pick up from a flat surface because of its rear camera bulging out evenly from both sides. There’s also a headphone jack for those who still use wired earphones. And if you have a second sim card, plonk it in its dual sim/storage tray and go bonkers with extra data. Cheers.
Nevertheless, it feels like it’s made with with love and has that wow factor to attract the masses. Oh, and that body for that price? We’re sold already.
Nokia’s welcomed the notch life and there’s no running away from it. This one borrows a similar notch size like the Nokia 5.1. Good news is you can head to Developer settings and turn on ‘Full Bezel’ mode to hide the notch in case you don’t fancy one. Don’t worry, the notch does not block videos or games played.
The 6.18in Full HD+ (1080 x 2280) screen is ready to bring you some HDR10 action on Netflix. Shoot up Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch and forget about the world. It misses out on the OLED action, but the LCD is pretty good. Visuals look lovely to ogle at and we’re delighted with the contrast and brightness levels.
The Nokia 8.1 uses Japan’s NEG glass instead of Corning’s Gorilla glass.
We all know Nokia needed to do something about its cameras. And guess what, they’ve sort of found a fix.
This time around, the Nokia 8.1 brags a 20MP (FF/0.9um) front camera, and it’s willing to step in the selfie-ring to take on Vivo and Xiaomi. Selfies turn out to be great - not as great as the Vivo’s V11 Pro - and it’s also got an option of adding depth using Bokeh mode which works decently. Choose to turn yourself into an animated character, shine studio lighting to shine bright like a diamond or use its Beauty mode so AI takes care of the make up scenario. Modes like Picture-In-Picture, Bothie are also there to play around for extreme selfie takers. Watch out for photobombers though!
Switch to the rear camera (12 MP 1/2.55’’, 1.4um) and get ready for some quality point-and-shoot. The 8.1 is able to shoot some really pretty pictures, but it’s not always pretty. Sometimes, it struggles to focus on objects and tends to overexpose or shake up the photo. Night shots don’t come out particularly sharp, but the pictures are vivid and the blacks aren’t very noisy or grainy.
The Live Bokeh mode works well and we were impressed with how it does the same cut and blur technique like the Pixel. It’s great to please aunties at a wedding or pose for your new social media display picture. Fire up that IG page.
Nokia fits in a brain called Master AI, which is similar to what Honor, Vivo and Xiaomi have. It basically detects scenes and preps your photo before it’s taken. But there’s one problem. It does not work all the time when you fit in too many things in one frame. Let’s paint a picture: If you point it at a human or a cat, it’ll do just fine, in fact it’ll do really great. But if you’re on a beach with humans, pets and palm trees all around, it’ll get confused, wishing it had a ‘multi-scene’ visualisation.
Shoot videos upto UHD 4K resolutions with OZO Audio for finer audio and OIS for stabilisation. You can then share your videos directly to YouTube or Facebook from the camera app itself.
Apart from that, there’s Motion On/Off and Google Lens baked right into the camera app along with the usual Slow-Mo, Time Lapse and Panorama.
We found the camera app to be a little bloaty and slow. Switching from camera modes is laggy and feels like there’s too much pressure. But yes, it’s Nokia’s best attempt at a good camera.
Performance and Battery
The Nokia 8.1 happily runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 710 chip with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage (upto 400GB external) without any fuss. You see, it’s not about being super fast all the time, it’s also about keeping the phone in optimal condition and being efficient for everyday use in the long run - and 4GB RAM is decent for an average user.
Nevertheless, multitasking, opening and closing apps felt quick and didn’t stutter at most times. Keeping apps running in the background is not an issue and the phone does not heat or stress up. It’s all under control. Playing games like Space Team, A Way to Slay, Clash Royale and Score! Match was fun and performed well for its price.
We edited videos on Quik, multitasked, hopping between Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, streamed music and downloaded files on-the-go and the phone delivered as promised. Best part is with all that, it still managed to give more than a day’s power.
The 3500mAh battery served the purpose and didn’t require an additional boost during the day or a powerbank whilst commuting back home at night. It’s a boon for commuters and power users. And if you feel the urge to charge it, juice it up using its fast charging (18W) feature and within an hour or two, you’re back in action.
Watch out for the tiny battery indicator squeezed right into the battery icon. It’s so small that you actually have to pop your eyes wide open or pull down the notification bar to read the battery level. #NotchProblems
The Nokia 8.1 comes freshly baked with Android Pie right out the box. Most users will take a few days to get used to, but once you have, you can bid goodbye to those boring three-piece navigation buttons and enjoy the Pie.
As usual, the 8.1 runs on the Android One programme and comes with stock Android, 2 years of updates and monthly security patches. This might be the only Android One phone in its price range. So if you’re a purist on a budget, this seems like a good bet to get your hands dirty on.
We know that the ₹20-30k budget is tricky for you readers to make a decision. On one hand you have the Poco F1, on the other you have the Asus ZenFone 5Z and then there’s the Nokia 8.1. We know, you’re also tempted with the relatively pricey OnePlus 6T.
But hey, the Nokia 8.1 is ideal for those looking for a solid body, pure Android experience, solid entertainment perks and almost flagship like speed. Its camera takes good pictures, but we’re hopeful it fixes a few bugs through a software patch to make it even better. Overall, this one’s given a good jab to take down others in its class and deserves enough to be awarded a full five stars. It’s all on you now, reader.