Nokia 8.1 review

The use of numbers and decimals in HMD Global’s phone name was already confusing. Now the situation has become even more difficult with Nokia 8.1. From the name it seems that it should be more premium than Nokia 8 or Nokia 8 Sirocco. But the new Nokia 8.1 handset is a premium model for those who do not want to spend much money. Today, a very interesting race is going on among the companies to increase their market share. Therefore, you will find many such phones in the price range of Rs 20,000, which were not expected at all a year ago.

However, the price of premium phones is also decreasing. We have phones like Poco F1, Asus ZenFone 5Z and Samsung Galaxy A7 with three rear cameras, which come with the flagship grade feature in the price range of Rs 30,000. Is HMD Global’s decision to bring a new Nokia 8.1 handset in this price range? Let’s know …

Nokia 8.1 design

The Nokia 8.1 feels big and heavy. This is due to the styling of HMD Global and the material used to make this phone. The body of Nokia 8.1 is made of solid aluminum. There is glass on the front and back panel. You have two choices of colors – Blue / Silver and Iron / Steel. We got the iron variant for review. Polished steel is used on the edges.
The build quality of the phone is excellent. Every part feels strong. The body is not even a little twist or flex. The front-facing glass comes with the protection of Corning Gorilla Glass, but information about the version is not available. HMD Global has not mentioned anything about the rear panel glass. It would have been good if there was water and dust resistance.

The display notch is quite wide. But only earpiece, front camera and proximity sensor have got place in it. Chin is also not very wide. The camera module on the back is protruding. When the phone is placed on the back side, the camera bump interrupts. The glass part does not touch the surface at all. Because of this, the phone does not slide.

Even though its thickness is high, Nokia 8.1 is easy to grip. We have been able to use it with one hand many times, without worrying about falling or slipping with hands.


Nokia 8.1 specification and software

The most interesting thing about Nokia 8.1 is that it has not been introduced as an upgrade to Nokia 8 or Nokia 8 Sirocco. Both of these were flagship devices and they were equipped with Snapdragon 835 processor. Instead, we are using the first phone to run on Snapdragon 710. Which is premium, but not the most powerful.

The new processor supports high-end smartphone features such as separate AI subsystems, several high resolution cameras, modern LTE modems. The Adreno 616 GPU claims to offer console-like gaming quality.

Another feature of this phone is the HDR 10 capability screen. The screen is 6.18 inches and the aspect ratio is 18.7: 9. Because of this the resolution is 1080×2246 pixels. The battery is 3500 mAh and it supports 18 Watt fast charging. You will get an 18 watt charger in the retail box. But HMD Global has not used the name Qualcomm Quick Charge.

There is only one variant of Nokia 8.1 – 64 GB storage with 4 GB RAM. This stings a bit, as 128 GB storage is now available in this price range. If you want to use MicroSD card then you will have to compromise with another SIM card. Because it has a hybrid dual sim design. Both SIM slots support 4G and VoLTE. You will also get features like Wi-Fi 802.11 AC, Bluetooth 5, NFC, FM radio and GPS. There is a USB Type C port at the bottom and a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top.


Our review unit out of the box was running on Android Pie. This is Android One phone. This means that you will get the stock Android UI. In addition, regular security updates and future software updates are guaranteed. We found that the UI also has some customizations.

There are preset options like Standard, Vivid and Muted Colors for the display. Dynamic mode is by default, which changes the preset according to your activity. The ambient display feature shows the time, date, and notification icons in monochrome. You can tap and take action when incoming message arrives.

Nokia 8.1 performance, battery life and cameras

It was usually smooth to use this phone. We could easily switch between apps. Similar was the case with switching between several Chrome browsers. Games with powerful graphics like PUBG and Asphalt 9: Legends ran smoothly.

Its HDR screen started working as soon as we played some demo YouTube videos. Even if the resolution drops to 480 pixels, you can watch videos with HDR. There is no worry about any mode or settings. However, it does affect the battery. The sound coming from a mono speaker is very high. Quality is also good.


Talking about battery life, it gives support throughout the day in common use. By nightfall, the Nokia 8.1 has 10 percent battery left. In our HD video loop test, the battery lasted only 9 hours 21 minutes.

Nokia 8.1 has a 12-megapixel primary rear camera. It comes with Zice brand lenses and optical image stabilization. Apart from this, there is a fixed focus depth sensor of 13 megapixels. It has a 20-megapixel front camera with adaptive mode. It will capture photos with better detail in low light by adding four pixels.

Tap to see Nokia 8.1’s camera sample in full size

The quality of the pictures taken with the camera was good, but not consistent. Photos taken in broad daylight came with details and vibrant colors. Nokia 8.1 is fast to lock focus. It was fun to use. Complaints of excessive exposure were found in some photos. The live bokeh shot took a while to lock focus in the right place, but the photos were good.

However, Quality lost the night. The shots usually came bright, but the noise was too much. Details were also lacking. The distant objects did not appear clear. At times, the focus was not even our interest.

Videos recorded in broad daylight came crisp and sharp. Optical image stabilization seems to have an advantage. The night’s video had a strange throbbing effect. The front camera took good pictures under most circumstances. Beautification is available, but is off by default.

Our decision
Nokia 8.1 is a very confusing name. We are not comparing it to its predecessors. But it is difficult to determine the position of this phone. Because there is no flagship level feature in it. And it is neither of value for money price range. If you are willing to spend Rs 30,000, then powerful phones like Asus ZenFone 5Z and Poco F1 will be available in the market. On the other hand, there are many such phones for less than Rs 20,000 that give only this level of performance. They also include Nokia 7.1.

This phone will be seen as an upgrade to affordable phones in the department like build, style and cameras. It is possible that some users will be willing to spend more for the name of Nokia. There are many features to be liked in Nokia 8.1, but most of these will also be found in cheap phones from you.

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