Nokia is breeding like rabbits. Perhaps it is those long Finnish nights. The new 2.1, 3.1 and 5.1 take the Nokia range to 13 very different phones for different niches. We present the low-cost Nokia shootout.

We can’t help but feel that they may have had a little too much Koskenkorva (Finnish vodka that will finish you) because all models offer features above their price. But perhaps that is what Nokia, barely 22 months old under HMD Global (based in Espoo Finland) need to do to regain the crown. Read on for our low-cost Nokia shootout.

The Nokia range includes

  • 8 Sirocco $1199 but $999 at JB Hi-Fi (review here)
  • 8 $899 (2017 model) but $499 at Harvey Norman and $599 at JB Hi-Fi (review here)
  • 7 Plus $649 (review here)
  • 6.1 2018 $399 (review here)
  • 6 (2017 model)
  • 5.1 $329 (the subject of this review)
  • 5 $268 at Harvey Norman (2017 model)
  • 3.1 $249 but $199 at JB Hi-Fi (the subject of this review)
  • 3 $249 but $188 at Harvey Norman (2017 model)
  • 2.1 $199 (the subject of this review)
  • 1 $149 (review here
  • 3310 3G feature phone $89 (review here)
  • 8810 ‘Banana phone’ 4G feature phone $129  (not reviewed yet)

Nokia is hoping that having a phone in every market niche will satisfy the hordes of Nokia lovers and bring this iconic brand back to the top. It may just work.

Review: 2.1, 3.1 and 5.1 low-cost Nokia shootout

Rather than present a separate review on each phone here is a combination review. Each phone has strengths (and very few weaknesses). But we think price sensitivity first, and needs, second, will likely drive purchase decisions.

The first impression

While all three have Nokia styling queues its evident that the 2.1 comes from either a different designer or factory. This is a typical a good, better, best scenario. You really can’t go wrong with any of them provided you remember these are lower-cost phones and don’t expect a flagship specification. To get that you would have to spend three-five times as much!

We issue the standard warning that you must buy the genuine model with Australian firmware as it works on all Australian Carrier LTE bands. To be blunt avoid at all cost online merchants, mobile virtual network operators carriers (unless approved), and grey/parallel market sellers.

Specifications

We have changed our ‘monolithic’ specifications table to place relevant comments and tests after each segment. All specifications are for the 2.1, 3.1 and 5.1 (left to right):

low-cost Nokia shootout

In the box

Model TA-1093
Nokia 2.1
5V/2A charger
Micro USB cable
Buds/mic
Model TA-1074
Nokia 3.1
5V/1A charger
Micro USB cable
Buds/mic
Model TA-1081
Nokia 5.1
5V/2A charger
Micro USB cable
Buds/mic

Screen

5.5”, 1280 x 720, 16:9, LPTS
70% S-T-B-R
Oleophobic coating over the plastic screen
5.2” 1440 x 720, 18:9 IPS with
Gorilla Glass 3
Haptic touch feedback
400 nits typical brightness
1400:1 contrast
5.5” 2160 x 1080, 18:9 IPS with Gorilla Glass 3
Haptic touch feedback
Similar to 3.1

2.1: The screen is dull and has a limited colour range. Even at 100% brightness, it is unreadable in direct sunlight. Colours are not even, and there is a darker band across the top. Now that sounds pretty damming, but this is a $199 phone and it is fit for purpose.

3.1: The screen is dull even at 100% brightness. Colour is better than the 2.1, but there is still a darker band across the top of the screen. Daylight readability is better than the 2.1. Haptic touch feedback is good.

5.1: While the screen is brighter it still is not quite there. Otherwise, it is similar to the 3.1.

In all devices, there is no colour adjustment, and the adaptive brightness function is too aggressive towards battery saving. Turn it off, or you will always be adjusting the brightness.

Screenshots are 2.1, 3.1 and 5.1 and clearly show the darker band at the top. What you can’t see is the uneven solid colour on the 2.1.

Performance

Qualcomm 425 28nm
4-core A53 1.2GHz
Adreno 308
1GB single-channel RAM
8GB (4.52GB free)
microSD to 128GB (dedicated slot)
MT6750N 28 nm
4-core 1.5GHz + 4-core 1GHz
Mali-T860 MP2
2GB single channel
16GB – 7.36GB free
microSD to 128GB (dedicated slot)
MT6755S
4-core 2.0 GHz
Mali-T860 MP2
2GB single channel
16GB (6.77GB free)
microSD to 128GB (dedicated slot)
Geekbench rating
Single-core 461
Multi-core 1743

Single-core 661
Multi-core 2642

Single-core 846
Multi-core 3248

2.1: Qualcomm 425, 28nm entry-level processor used by many lower cost smartphone models like the Motorola e5 and Samsung Galaxy J2 Pro. To save costs, Nokia uses a smorgasbord (as is the Scandinavian way) of other branded components. So, it has a reasonable engine but few of the go-fast things that some other brands have used. There is some lag due to 1GB RAM, but overall it is fit for purpose. Forget it for games.

3.1: The MediaTek 6750N is a mid-market solution. It uses a Big/Little format allowing four of the cores to go to sleep in a power saving mode. There was no lag as experienced on the 2.1.

5.1: The MediaTek 6755S is about 80% of the speed of a Qualcomm 625. But it lacks the Qualcomm sophistication with bits digital and image signal processors, modem etc.