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Nokia 8.1 review (30 Days as daily driver): This value Flagship is a true Flagship killer

Nokia 8.1 Plus has been launched recently with the punchline “expect more” outside its first market China, where it was launched as Nokia X7.  Code-named Phoenix, Nokia 8.1 brings lots of attention to the Nokia smartphone portfolio by ticking many right boxes.

It is the first Nokia smartphone to be powered by Snapdragon 710 processor and packs the best rear Camera module ever on a Nokia Android smartphone. It also comes with Pure Display that boasts of HDR10 support and cool AI-supported auto scene-detection feature. Read all about Nokia 8.1 at our dedicated page.

We have used Nokia 8.1 4GB Indian variant as our daily driver for around 30 days and this is our detailed review of the smartphone. It may help you in deciding whether you should really go for Nokia 8.1 as your next if you really wanted to own one and are still undecided.

Nokia 8.1 design:

Nokia 8.1 is a beauty and looks like every bit a premium flagship smartphone design wise. It sports a Glass unibody with dual-tone anodized Aluminium frame to support and impart required strength and feel.

In terms of design language it follows Nokia 7.1 with glass unibody and metal frame. With Nokia 7.1 and Nokia 8.1, HMD has shown its depth in industrial design by making these two Glass body smartphones stand apart from the crowd.

It feels robust in your hand and the notchy design makes it sure that even with a big 6.18-inch display it doesn’t feel too big. Here is the unboxing of the Nokia 8.1 Iron Red color Indian model.

Nokia 8.1 Display Quality review:

  • Nokia 8.1 display comes with HDR10 support and boasts of PureDisplay branding
  • The display is bright and ideal brightness level is around 40-45% in most of the cases. Adaptive brightness is calibrated properly and does its work in most of cases well.
  • Outdoor readability is excellent
  • Nokia 8.1 display offers really great image and video watching experience taking advantage of HDR10 support.
  • Viewing angles are excellent. The best that you will see on any of the displays out there
  • Fingerprint resistance is a very nice feature of Nokia 8.1 display and you don’t need to wipe it time and again

Nokia 8.1 Audio output Quality:

Audio output wise Nokia 8.1 speakers work very well. Audio output is loud, rich and doesn’t get distorted even at maximum output. Audio quality is excellent via headphones too.

For evaluating Nokia 8.1 display and Audio quality we compared it to Nokia 8’s 2K resolution display and audio output. Check our display and audio output quality comparison below.

Nokia 8.1 detailed camera review:

Nokia 8.1 Plus comes with 12MP/13MP Dual-Cameras on the back. You can have a quick look on the rear camera specs below.

  • Rear lens main lens : 12MP, 1/2.55” Sony IMX 363 sensor, f / 1.8 aperture, 1.4um pixels, dual-core focus, optical image stabilization, Zeiss Optics

  • Sub lens : 13 MP FF

  • Front lens 20MP, dynamic sensor, FF/09 um, f/2.0 large aperture, 1.8μm (4 in 1) large pixel technology

  • Flash Dual color temperature double LED flash

  • OZO Audio capture

You can check our detailed camera review and comparison to and Nokia 7.1 Plus camera by clicking here. With the AI powered scene detection feature Nokia 8.1 camera performs very well in all lighting conditions. The improvement over Nokia 7 Plus camera is significant in low-lighting conditions while capturing both images as well videos.

We even pitted Nokia 8.1 against DSLR Canon EOS 1300D to evaluate the imaging quality of Nokia 8.1 and you can read the comparison by clicking here.

Nokia 8.1 Software, AI scene detection, PureDisplay, & Notch hiding:

Nokia 8.1 being an Android One smartphone comes with pure unadulterated Android Pie out of the box. Android Pie is stable, smooth and addictive on Nokia 8.1 with its new gesture navigation.

Coming to special features, the AI powered auto scene detection is a powerful feature of Nokia 8.1 rear Camera and we found it very useful. It detects subjects and lighting conditions easily and tunes the camera parameters to give you the best shot. Check our auto-scene detection hands-on video demo below.

PureDisplay branding brings HDR10 support and related options to Nokia 8.1. You can check how to use PureDisplay dynamic display adjustment in the video below.

Nokia 8.1 Performance review & comparison against Nokia 8:

Nokia 8.1 comes running Android Pie out of the box and is powered by Snapdragon 710 processor. The processor-RAM-Pure Android combo makes it fly and it is a very capable performer.

We have conducted the Nokia 8 performance test in heavy to very heavy usage scenario. So, there are some of the heaviest Android games open in the background along with browser with 13 tabs, camera and other apps open in the background. So, how does Nokia 8.1 actually perform in this very heavy usage scenario. You can decide for yourself by checking the video, but here are our observations.

Browsing:

Even with 13 browser tabs open it always seems that Nokia 8.1 can take even more load. Pages load very quickly. Scrolling, zooming, panning, tab changing all are very snappy.

Gaming:

Gaming is much enjoyable on Nokia 8.1 and it is a gaming powerhouse in itself. We have tried to demo the game-play with heavy and critically acclaimed games like GTA San Andreas, PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9. The device certainly holds the promise of hours of enjoyable game play without a pause. You would love the volume output and the performance of the phone remains blazing fast.

Multitasking:

With 3 super-heavy games (GTA San Andreas, PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9) and 13 browser tabs, Camera, and many other apps open in the background Nokia 8.1 remains totally responsive and lag-free.

As you will notice in the video, apps/games resume fast from background during multitasking and there are no crashes/lags/freezes even with so much load. Though games which are not yet optimized for Android Pie may resume or reload from background.

In the Nokia 8.1 vs Nokia 8 hands-on performance comparison we started with basic tasks, moved to browsing and finally heavy gaming. While doing speed tests side-by-side we also kept on launching heavy games until the time the apps/games start restarting from the background. Just to inform both Nokia 8 and Nokia 8.1 have 4GB RAM and both are on Android Pie. The speed test reveals how close Snapdragon 710 is to Snapdragon 835 in terms of real-life performance.

Nokia 8.1 Battery Life, Fast Charging & Call quality:

Nokia 8.1 has an excellent battery life and while official claim of 2-day Battery life may be achievable only in standard testing conditions, in real-life conditions, I have been getting around 40-42 hrs of battery life with heavy “blogger” usage of the device. This involves lots of browsing, apps testing, attending calls and daily chores.

It may be around 42-44 hrs for a moderately heavy usage scenario and that is really very impressive. Screen-on time typically varies between 7-8 hrs for heavy usage scenario. Nokia 8.1 supports charging via USB-C port and the fast charging really feels like a must-have feature nowadays.

Nokia 8.1 comes with a Glass unibody design and offers stellar call quality because of its innovative Antenna design. Call reception is usually very good. I didn’t face any issue like call drops etc and it holds well even during long conversations.

Nokia 8.1 Positives & Negatives:

Negatives

  • Nokia 7 Plus was declared “the most durable smartphone of the year 2018”. It needs to be seen whether Nokia 8.1 with Glass unibody can repeat this

Positives

  • Very Premium looking glass unibody design with metal frame
  • HDR10 PureDisplay with best-in-class color interpretation, contrast, high brightness, and outdoor readability.
  • Performance wise very capable with Snapdragon 710 processor
  • Rear Camera is the best on a Nokia Android smartphone yet. Capable AI supported and much improved Camera software

Nokia 8.1 Conclusion:

Nokia 8.1 succeeds Nokia 7 Plus in the Nokia smartphone portfolio as the value Flagship. It also succeeds Nokia 8 in the portfolio price wise. We subjected Nokia 8.1 to a rigorous and detailed evaluation and after using it as our daily driver for over 30 days, we think that it is not just the value Flagship but a real Flagship killer.

With its high-end design, PureDisplay, highly capable camera and top-end performance it just works and feels like a true flagship smartphone. It ends the urge to have a true-blue and expensive Flagship smartphone. But, in case you have the urge to own the latest and the best in terms hardware/software and monies to support, then you can still go for one.

Being an Android One smartphone, Nokia 8.1 has guaranteed two years of Android OS update and 3 years of monthly security updates. Keeping HMD’s track record in mind one can expect Nokia 8.1 to be in the league of very first Android smartphones to receive OS updates.

Nokia 8.1 is priced at Rs 26,999 in India, EUR 449 in Germany, EUR 456.55 in Spain and EUR 460.32 in Italy and £379.99 in the UK. You can read all our Nokia 8.1 coverage.

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Nayan
Nayan has more than 10 years of experience of covering Technology and innovations. He is a big Nokia fan and Tech disruptions aficionado. He loves to review new cool gadgets and writing about Android, iOS, Gadgets and general Technology stuff. He has been associated with other well-known Tech sites WinCentral and GadgetOx since long. He currently sports a Lumia 950 XL and Nexus 5X. Other interests include listening to Nu-Metal Hits and Kick-Boxing. Write to him at Email: [email protected]
http://www.nokiapoweruser.com
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