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Nokia 7.1 review: Flagship features at a palatable price

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
299
inc VAT

Nokia seeks to outclass the OnePlus 6T with the Nokia 7.1, but a handful of issues hold it back from greatness

Pros 
Well-priced
Great camera
Stunning design
Cons 
Lacklustre performance
Poor sound quality
Disappointing battery life
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Nokia’s big re-do may only be in its second year, but its phone lineup already covers every possible price bracket. From feature phones that cost peanuts to the flashy Nokia 8 Sirocco flagship, the firm is making itself comfortable in every nook and cranny of the smartphone space.

READ NEXT: The best smartphones you can buy today

Cut to the latter portion of the year and, as the winter nights begin to creep in, yet another Nokia smartphone has made its first appearance in shops across the land. Greetings Nokia 7.1, welcome to the (ever-increasing) Nokia smartphone family.

Nokia 7.1 review: What you need to know

By my calculations, HMD Global – the Finnish firm pulling Nokia’s strings – has released a total of eight phones this year, not to mention the countless others launched in 2017 during Nokia’s revival following a brief hiatus.

What’s so special about Nokia’s ninth phone to launch in 2018? Well, this is a mid-range smartphone with its sights set on the phone aficionado who isn’t lucky enough to have iPhone Xs levels of cash to burn on the latest upgrade, without too much of a compromise in any department.

Nokia 7.1 review: Price and competition

The best thing about the Nokia 7.1 is its launch price. Finally arriving in UK shops for a mere £299, Nokia’s latest mid-range phone successfully undercuts a significant chunk of its competitors.

Those rivals? Well, there’s the mighty Honor Play (£280), which offers top-notch gaming performance on a tight budget, and the Moto G6 Plus (£269) isn’t to be trifled with, either. Samsung’s Galaxy A7 also makes a last-minute appearance and will set you back £309 when it launches later this month.

Best Nokia 7.1 contract and SIM-free deals:

Nokia 7.1: Design and key features

Like the rest of Nokia’s fleet of smartphones, the 7.1’s chassis is crafted from a single block of aluminium. It may just be another rectangular sandwich of metal and glass, but it looks positively lovely. Everyone loves a nicely chamfered edge and these are quite plainly some of the finest silver-tinted chamfers you’ll encounter on any smartphone.

It doesn’t just look good, though: its curved sides ensure that the handset sits snugly in the hand, and make it easy to use the rear-mounted fingerprint reader without adjusting your grip or shuffling the phone about too much in your palm.

The single speaker on the bottom edge is a bit of a letdown. Yes, phone audio is never going to be the last word in hi-fi, but the Nokia 7.1’s sound output does feel rather limited and sounds particularly flat across a range of genres.

Still, you’re not limited when it comes to headphone options: there’s a USB Type-C connector at the bottom, a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top and the phone also supports Bluetooth 5. A nano-SIM and microSD tray can be accessed from the left edge, adding an extra 400GB of storage, and the volume rocker sits next to the rectangular power button on the right side.

Nokia 7.1 review: Display

Front and centre is the phone’s 5.84in, 2,244 x 1,080 IPS display, complete with a rather chunky bezel underneath and a narrow iPhone Xs-like notch digging into the top of the screen. It’s capable of handling HDR content, with support for YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

Rest assured, this is a high-quality screen, especially considering its budget-friendly price. We found it covered 99.4% of the sRGB colour gamut, with lovely-looking colours across the entire palette. The screen resolution translates to a dot pitch of 432ppi, and everything from text and images look pin-sharp as a result.

Brightness isn’t too shabby, either. Our X-Rite display colourimeter measured a maximum of 524cd/m², which is fine for outdoor use, although you may have to squint on the sunniest of days. A polarised coating also helps cut down on glare, and an excellent contrast ratio of 1,373:1 helps, too.

Nokia 7.1 review: Performance and battery life

Powering the phone is Qualcomm’s mid-range Snapdragon 636 chipset, rather than a premium 800-series chip, which is clocked at 1.8GHz and works alongside 3GB of RAM. This is the same internal setup as the Moto Z3 Play and Asus ZenFone 5.

Its performance is decent, but it isn’t quite as speedy as some of its similarly priced rivals. In Geekbench 4’s duo of single- and multi-core CPU tests, the Nokia 7.1 scored 1,344 and 4,906 respectively. You won’t be ripping your hair out in frustration in everyday use, but this phone is far from the speediest in its class.

Graphics performance was similarly underwhelming – identical, in fact, to the results of the Asus Zenfone 5 and Moto Z3 Play. In the GFXBench onscreen test, it ran at an average frame rate of 15fps, so it’s really not suitable for playing the most demanding Android games on the Google Play store, but you should be able to play more simple titles such as Alto’s Odyssey without too many hiccups.

Battery life is equally unimpressive. With the screen set to our standard brightness of 170cd/m² and Flight mode engaged, the Nokia 7.1 lasted for 10hrs and 11mins before needing to recharge. Sure, that’s not an abysmal score by any means, but you’ll be topping up the Nokia 7.1’s stamina much more frequently than any of its competitors. A power bank is essential in this case.

Nokia 7.1 review: Camera

As for the 7.1’s photographic capabilities, you’ll find a dual-camera arrangement on the rear of the phone. One is a regular 12-megapixel wide-angle sensor, while the other is a 5-megapixel depth-sensing lens for those fancy bokeh-effect portrait shots. On the front is an 8-megapixel selfie snapper.

Outdoors and in good light, the Nokia’s camera performance is actually rather good. Our test shots of the London skyline were bursting with crisp details and colours were both neutral and accurate. The HDR mode also worked very well, equalising bright and dark areas effectively without making everything look unnaturally candy-coloured.

In low light, the Nokia 7.1 achieves the perfect balance of grain to noise suppression with the camera retaining an impressive amount of detail and colour. It’s not Pixel 3-levels of good, but this phone costs a mere fraction of Google’s flagship handset, and it holds up nearly as well under scrutiny.

Nokia 7.1 review: Verdict

When it comes to it, though, the Nokia 7.1 is essentially the smartphone equivalent of unbuttered toast. It does the job, sure, but it does little to stand out in a tightly competed price range.

Yes, its camera capabilities are riding high with the likes of the Moto G6, and its display is actually rather nice, but issues in other key areas – notably, poor battery life and performance – hold the Nokia 7.1 back from greatness. If you’re committed to buying a smartphone in the £300 to £400 price bracket, your money is better spent elsewhere. Probably the Honor Play.

Hardware
ProcessorOcta-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
RAM3GB
Screen size5.84in
Screen resolution2,280 x 1,080
Screen typeIPS
Front camera8-megapixel
Rear camera12-megapixel, 5-megapixel
FlashLED
GPSYes
CompassYes
Storage (free)32GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
Wi-Fi802.11ac
Bluetooth5.0
NFCYes
Wireless data4G
Dimensions149.7 x 71.2 x 8 mm
Weight160g
Features
Operating systemAndroid 8.1
Battery size3,060mAh

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