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Nokia 7.1 review: Beautiful looks and a great display. But will it be enough?

Despite all its promise, the Nokia 7.1 is held back a little by its Rs 19,999 price tag. We give it 8/10.

 |  8-minute read |   12-12-2018
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It would be no half-truth to say that Finnish smartphone maker, Nokia, has been busy since its revival under HMD Global in late 2016. Since then, the company has been on a singular mission to get back to the good old days when Nokia used to be the industry leader. 

To find its way to the promised land, we've seen Nokia announce a number of smartphones across multiple price points in the last two years. However, it's the devices that it has brought to the market in 2018 that have truly helped it get closer to its eventual goal. In the past few months, Nokia has refreshed its lineup multiple times, and with each new refresh, it has tried to improve on the shortcomings of its existing devices. 

The latest fruit of such efforts is the Nokia 7.1.

6-copy_121018044018.jpgNokia 7.1 is a close cousin of the now popular 6.1 Plus and 5.1 Plus budget phones. (Photo: Sushant Talwar/ DailyO)

Now, if the name reminds you of the 7 Plus, and makes you wonder if the new device is its successor, then let us tell you that it's not. In fact, the two devices are as different as chalk and cheese, and except for the Nokia brand name, have very little in common with each other. 

Priced at Rs 19,999, the 7.1 is a close cousin of the now popular 6.1 Plus and 5.1 Plus budget phones which were announced a couple of months ago. 

With that bit of clarification out of the way, let's dive straight into the thick of things and see what Nokia 7.1 is all about. 

Design

As has been the case with most Nokia smartphones in 2018, the Nokia 7.1 is a beautifully designed device, one that is sure to turn heads the moment you slide it out of your pocket. The device uses design elements from multiple Nokia phones we've seen in the past months and successfully merges them to create a concoction that impresses at first sight. 

As such, we see Nokia using glass as the primary material of choice to make the Nokia 7.1. The front of the phone sports a 2.5D curved glass covered Full HD+ panel that merges into the phone’s aluminium frame, which then further melts into the Nokia 6.1 Plus-like glass back. 

But unlike the 6.1 Plus, the frame on the phone is matte in texture and blue and in colour – something that will remind you of the Nokia 6.1's metallic frame and back. However, the similarities don't end there. Much like the 6.1, the latest Nokia budget offering also has silver accents around the edges, buttons and the camera module that gives the phone a premium look. 

The phone's frame also houses a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top, and a USB Type-C port as well as the speaker at the bottom. Power and volume rocker is placed on the upper end of the right side of the device, while a round fingerprint scanner has been placed on the back panel that also bears the Nokia and Android One branding. 

3-copy_121018044139.jpgThe Nokia 7.1 supports HDR10 video playback which allows the device to provide a more immersive multimedia consumption experience than what is found on regular displays. (Photo: Sushant Talwar/ DailyO)

Display

Now one of the major talking points about the phone is its display. 

On the face of it, this is the same notch ridden 5.8-inch FHD+ panel with an aspect ratio of 19:9 that we have seen on the 6.1 Plus earlier in the year. 

Only, that it's not. 

The IPS panel employs the recently acquired PureDisplay technology to greatly improve the multimedia consumption experience on the device. Despite the pixel density of the panel being the same as the 6.1 Plus, the newer phone promises better colour reproduction and sharper image. 

You as how? Well, the answer is simple. 

The PureDisplay technology allows Nokia to support HDR playback on the phone. The Nokia 7.1 supports HDR10 video playback allowing the device to offer better detail, sharpness and improved dynamic range than what is found on regular displays – including the one on the 6.1 Plus. 

But more importantly, what really helps the 7.1 truly shine in the display department is the fact that it also comes with the ability to upscale SDR content to HDR in real time using a dedicated 16-bit engine.

With this, the phone basically converts all videos you watch on it to HDR. Nokia also claims the PureDisplay technology also helps the phone to deliver higher contrast ratio (1,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio) and more clarity and better colour reproduction compared to typical LCD displays in this segment.

Even when you're not watching videos and consuming other multimedia content, the device feels like a charm to use. Unlike the 6.1 Plus, the display is plenty bright, and as such, doesn't feel a little dull under direct sunlight. Viewing angles too are great. 

7-copy_121018044206.jpgThe phone comes with a Snapdragon 636 SoC paired with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64GB of storage. (Photo: Sushant Talwar/ DailyO)

What's under the hood?

Essentially the same that was seen on the 6.1 Plus. 

Nokia's latest offering comes with with a Snapdragon 636 SoC that Nokia has paired with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64GB of storage which can be expanded to up to 400GB using a MicroSD card. 

Now considering that we're nearing the end of 2018, we would have preferred a faster, more powerful SoC running the show here. Yet, the fact remains that Qualcomm's Snapdragon 636 SoC is still one of the better budget/midrange chipsets available in the market, that paired with Android Pie makes it a powerful device capable of handling pretty much anything you throw at it.

During our time with the phone, we found the Nokia 7.1 to be more than capable of handling day to day tasks. Scrolling through pages was buttery smooth and we didn’t encounter any app crashes. However, playing graphically demanding games such as PUBG on high setting was a different beast altogether.

Although nothing crippling, with PUBG we did experience some performance dips. But that’s expected as the SoC 509 GPU is not meant for handling too graphics intensive games out there.

Camera

Coming to the cameras, Nokia has used an entirely new setup on the 7.1. 

The rear camera setup features two lenses – 12-Megapixel main snapper with a f/1.8 aperture and 1.28µm pixels mated to a secondary 5MP f/2.4 1.12µm depth-sensing camera for portrait shots.

Now, to be honest, the setup isn't one that is something out of the ordinary. The camera module clicked good shots in well lit situations. The lenses ability to capture enough detail and its dynamic range impressed us. 

As a result, colour accuracy while clicking pictures using the rear camera turned out to be quite good for the competition that exists in the price range. 

However, as has been the case with budget Nokia phones this year, low light photography turned out to be a hit and miss. When lacking good light some photos turned out to be grainy and lacking adequate detail.

As far as the feature list goes, Nokia has equipped the phone with all that it has as the camera comes with Live Bokeh and Pro Mode. On the device, the latter lets users manually tweak the ISO, White Balance, shutter speed and exposure to their liking.

There’s also the Bothie mode that captures both front and rear images at the same time.

Talking about the front camera, we an 8-Megapixel wide-angle lens for capturing ultra-wide pictures. 

4-copy_121018044250.jpgCompared to the competition in the market, the phone offers a pretty good set of features. (Photo: Sushant Talwar/ DailyO)

Battery

In terms of the battery, we have the same 3060 mAh pack that was seen on the 6.1 Plus and with the core hardware remaining the same, the performance too is pretty much the same as we saw on the device. 

Backed by the energy efficient 636 SoC and improvements brought in by the Android Pie, the Nokia 7.1 easily lasts a day when subjected to moderate-to-heavy usage. Though this is not in the same league as some other Nokia devices which come with a two-day battery promise, the 7.1's performance is still impressive.

The phone also brings with it fast charging technology which charges the phone up to 50 per cent in 30 mins. 

Should you buy it?

Well, if you already own the Nokia 6.1 Plus then the answer is a clear no. 

For all its promise of better display and camera technologies, the phone just doesn't do enough to justify an upgrade, and as such, you'd be better off sticking to your new-ish Nokia 6.1 Plus. 

But what if you want to start from scratch in the sub-Rs 20K segment? 

In that case, the Nokia 7.1 makes a decent shout for itself. 

Compared to the competition in the market, the phone offers a pretty good set of features. The price although on the higher side is justified if you are looking for a device that looks great and on which images, text and videos appear beautiful. 

In terms of design and looks too, it’s arguably the best smartphone in the segment. 

However, if you're looking for something more powerful then there do exist other options for you. Options that also promise to be quite a fair bit cheaper than the 7.1. 

Take for example Xiaomi's Mi A2 and Asus' Zenfone Max Pro M2. Both come with the more powerful Snapdragon 660 SoC paired with stock Android. Then there's also the Realme 2 Pro and the U1 to consider. 

However, with all these phones you will miss out on the beautiful design and craftsmanship of the Nokia 7.1. The choice is a difficult one, but one that depends on what you truly desire from your next phone. 

Also read: Nokia 5.1 Plus review: Sweet blend of price, performance and looks

Writer

Sushant Talwar Sushant Talwar @sushanttalwar

Tech journalist, DailyO

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