A while back ,we attended a rather unique event at HMD Global’s Malaysia HQ. We played ping pong with the brand new Nokia 6.1. What can I say – we’re just having fun. After we played ping pong, I got a unit of the Nokia 6.1, the premium mid-ranger smartphone – back at our labs for testing.
What did Nokia to do their latest mid-range smartphone to make it compelling to customers? Does it have the latest and greatest feature that customers are looking for? We’ll take a deep dive into the Nokia 6.1 and see what’s up with it.
The Nokia 6.1 comes in their usual packaging design. It’s flatter, wider, and square. It’s quite a feat for Nokia to actually follow this packaging design philosophy since the Nokia 8 that we reviewed here.
At the back of the packaging shows an image of the Nokia 6.1 and a quick rundown of its specs. Pretty clean in terms of packaging, honestly.
The box sides out from the bottom and reveals the phone right away. The unboxing experience is rather straightforward after that. There’s a bundle of documentation under the phone and the SIM ejector tool is buried under the adhesive. On the left side of the packaging is where the accessories are found.
Digging out everything, we can find the Nokia 6.1 itself, a charger, an earphone, a USB-C cable, and the aforementioned documentation. I think Nokia could have included another TPU case to protect the beautiful Nokia 6.1.
By the way, the included earphone is just… well, I do appreciate the effort Nokia took to include one, but I’m not going to use it – ever.
By reading the title of this review, I’m sure you already know what I’m going to say. Yes – the Nokia 6.1 is obviously the most beautiful smartphone in the market – period. Nokia has opted for a deeper blue with gold accents – which is surprisingly similar to what ASUS has been doing with the ZenBooks since the ZenBook 3 series – particularly the ZenBook 3 Deluxe. It’s a color scheme that takes some time to grow on you – but once it does, you’ll fall in love with it.
For whatever reason, Nokia thinks it’ll be a great idea for a mid-range smartphone to have milled aluminium unibody with a beautiful blue color with golden accent.
In a world where time is money and milling aluminium takes a long time, there’s no surprise why the Nokia 6.1 has such a high price tag.
The entire phone is heavy, feels really solid, and definitely is one of the most well-built smartphone in the market right now. Though, it seems like the process of the Nokia 6.1 started off by insisting a beautiful metal body first, and everything else comes second. We’ll get more into that later.
There is one WTF moment with the design too. The location of the fingerprint scanner was moved down because Nokia decided to make the camera strip to be longer than it needs to be.
This design choice made the fingerprint scanner way too low to be used, and I have no idea how many times I accidentally activated the fingerprint gesture when I’m using the phone.
[nextpage title=”Connectivity & Ports”]
In terms of connectivity, it’s surprising that Nokia made sure this mid-range smartphone is able to handle most of the standards today. The Nokia 6.1 can support up to the 5GHz 802.11ac WiFi, has NFC, and also Bluetooth 5.0.
The only thing missing from the Nokia 6.1 is the support for 4G+. I took my SIM card out of my Galaxy S9 that was connected via 4G+ on Celcom network and inserted it into the Nokia 6.1 – no luck in getting 4G+. It’s not a deal-breaker since Malaysian mobile internet is “very fast”.
Then we have the sports. We have nothing particularly special here other than the Nokia 6.1 being one of the few rare mid-range phones that actually uses USB-C port and supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0.
At the bottom you can see the speaker grill which is moved to the left side, the USB-C port, and a microphone.
At the top is where the 3.5mm audio jack is found. The second microphone is actually placed above the camera strip.
The card tray is on the left side. It uses the typically-found Nano SIM1 + hybrid slot like many other smartphones in the market.
On the right side of the phone is where the surprisingly shallow yet tactile power and volume rocker are found. Yes, those buttons have golden accents as well. The attention to detail that Nokia put into a mid-range smartphone is just amazing.
Nokia could have made the Nokia 6.1 to have stereo front-facing speakers too, since those bezels are thick.
While we’re at the era of long displays with high screen-to-body ratio, the Nokia 6.1 adopts a traditional 16:9 display with on-screen navigation buttons and a huge bezel around all the sides.
The Nokia 6.1 comes with a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1080p resolution. Nothing much to shout about other than having great white balance and great colors, albeit slightly less saturated than what I’d like.
Also, take a look at the bezels around the display. Instead of having either a 2.5D glass that wraps into the phone’s aluminium body at the edge, Nokia decided to plop the display into a much larger frame, then fill in the gaps. This created a really thick and weird-looking bezel on all 4 sides of the screen.
Like what I’ve said earlier – the Nokia 6.1’s camera strip itself is long for no apparent reason, pushing the fingerprint sensor down into an unnatural position. Yet the Nokia 6.1 only has a single camera.
Honestly, I can see Nokia wants to cover the basic necessities with the best quality they can offer. Even for a mid-range smartphone, the Nokia 6.1 actually uses ZEISS optics as well, and has these specs:
- Rear-facing camera
- 16MP 1.0µm sensor with f/2.0 aperture, 27mm
- Selfie camera
- 8MP 1.12µm sensor, f/2.0
Moving away from the specs, how does the Nokia 6.1’s camera actually perform? Take a look at them below.
I took quite a few pictures with the Nokia 6.1 – and I only found a handful of them to be acceptable to be shown here. In broad daylight of buildings, it looks quite okay. When zoomed in, the pictures look a bit too noisy and many finer details are definitely lost. Even the patch of grass is a little blurry and noisy. Remember – this is in broad daylight. For night shots, it’s definitely noisy and just too dark.
While the colors are surprisingly good, focusing is extremely slow. Even the shutter takes a good second. Definitely not a camera I’d use on the daily.
Have a look for yourself.
Not a fan of selfies but the selfie camera on the Nokia 6.1 is actually quite okay.
Nothing new or reiterate from what we’ve seen on the Nokia 7.1, to be honest.
[nextpage title=”Software – Android 8.1.0 Oreo with Android One”]
Since early this year, Nokia moved their entire slew of devices to the Android One and Android Go ecosystem. The Nokia 6.1 has Android One, and it is one of the first devices to get the latest Android updates from Google. That includes major updates like Android 9.0 Pie.
Currently, as of the time of this review, the Nokia 6.1 is equipped with the August security patch too. Though, some people might find Pure Android to be a little too plain – and that’s a valid point as well.
For more extra features like rolling screenshot, the Nokia 6.1 does not have it. We’ll have to wait for either Google to implement these extra features that into Android itself, or pray for some 3rd party app to be able to do it.
[nextpage title=”Performance & Gaming”]
This is where things get a little disappointing again. For such a beautiful smartphone, it’s a big letdown that the specs are dated. And I mean they’re dated with one generation of hardware apart. These are the specs of the Nokia 6.1:
- 5.5-inch IPS LCD with 1080p resolution at 16:9 aspect ratio
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
- 8x Cortex-A53 @ 2.2GHz
- Adreno 508 graphics @ 850MHz with 96 ALUs
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage
- 3,000mAh battery
- Android 8.1.0 with Android One
For a phone that is released in 2018, I expected the Snapdragon 630 chipset to be obsolete – and here it is used in the Nokia 6.1. It’s with sub-par performance and definitely sub-par efficiency. I honestly would be happier if Nokia stuck with the Snapdragon 625 or upgraded or something like the more power efficient Snapdragon 636 or the more powerful Snapdragon 660.
Still, here are the benchmarks for the Nokia 6.1.
The Snapdragon 630 chipset is definitely not the best choice for a smartphone released in 2018. The Snapdragon 660 – which is also found in the Nokia 7.1 and Mi A2 – is more powerful albeit will definitely raise the price a bit more.
So why didn’t Nokia choose the Snapdragon 636 instead? That creates a clear separation between the Nokia 6.1 and Nokia 7.1 smartphones, right? The Snapdragon 636 is much more efficient too – hence prolonging its 3,000mAh battery to last for a much longer time.
Speaking of the battery life, let’s move to the next section.
[nextpage title=”Battery & Charger”]
The Nokia 6.1 comes with a 3,000mAh battery – which I’d say is the minimum requirement of any smartphones these days. The Nokia 6.1 can last for nearly 10 hours with our battery life test – which is typical for a smartphone of this caliber.
Still, don’t expect a full day’s worth of usage if you’re not conservative enough.
Surprisingly, the Nokia 6.1 comes with a charger that can output 9V 2A and it is compatible with Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0. It’s quite rare to see a mid-range smartphone to have any sort of fast charging. Here’s the charging curve for the Nokia 6.1.
From our baseline of 15% battery, it takes around 32 minutes to get the Nokia 6.1 up to 50% battery and around 55 minutes to reach the 75% battery mark on the quick charger.
As for the slower 5V 2A chargers, it took the Nokia 6.1 about 45 minutes to reach 50% battery and 67 minutes in total to reach 75% battery. Nothing spectacular here, I’d say.
[nextpage title=”Wrapping up the Nokia 6.1 review”]
The Nokia 6.1 was actually first official early this year. It took HMD Global (or perhaps HMD Malaysia?) quite a long time to bring it into the Malaysian market. Within that time frame, many things happened. The ASUS ZenFone Max Pro (M1) happened. Then, the ZenFone 5z. Not long after that, we had the Honor Play and Pocophone F1.
All of those phones offered much modern hardware that offers greater performance, efficiency, and also a higher screen-to-body ratio with their larger displays. Some of those phones even have better cameras for quick a slightly higher price tag compared to the Nokia 6.1.
The Nokia 6.1 is priced at RM1,169 (after SST) which is alarmingly expensive for what it offers. Yes, the Nokia 6.1 is indeed the most well-built and prettiest smartphone for around that price point – but for the specs and hardware inside the milled aluminium unibody chassis, it’s difficult to justify.