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You have to remember that at a price $199/249/329 this is about as good as it gets. If you want power, the Geekbench for the current most powerful Android processor in the Samsung Note9 is 3718/9026.

Comms

Wi-Fi N single band 2.4Mhz
Bluetooth 4.2
FM Radio (with buds)
Wi-Fi N dual band
Bluetooth 4.2
FM Radio
Wi-Fi N dual band
Same as 3.1
65-72Mbps 2.4GHz band at 2m 135Mbps 5GHz at 2m 135Mbps 5Ghz at 2m

For comparison, a Wi-Fi AC smartphone gets 867Mbps at 2m from our D-Link AC5300 reference router. All will handle streaming HD/FHD content over Wi-Fi out to about 20 metres.

Sound

Dual front-firing speakers (earpiece and bottom bezel)
3.5mm combo jack
Earpiece
Downfiring bottom speaker
3.5mm combo jack
Earpiece
Downfiring bottom speaker
3.5mm combo jack

2.1: has dual speakers that will go up to 86dB – the sound of an alarm clock. Handsfree was good in both directions but lacked ‘sparkle’. Upper-bass creeps in at 300Hz and the frequency response is good until 10Hz. A mid-sound signature for voice.

low-cost Nokia shootout

3.1 has a single bottom-firing speaker that will go to 78dB. Handsfree was not as loud needing to keep the phone within 20cm of your ear to hear adequately. Callers commented that it was hard to hear me too. Upper-bass creeps in at 300Hz and the frequency response is good until 10Hz. A mid-sound signature for voice.

low-cost Nokia shootout

5.1 has a single bottom-firing speaker that will go to 84dB. Handsfree was better than the 3.1 but still not great. Upper-bass creeps in at 300Hz and frequency response is good until 10Hz with a hint of upper treble to 15Hz. A mid-sound signature for voice.

low-cost Nokia shootout

Not surprisingly they all sound similar despite the 2.1 having dual speakers. The 3.1 is quietest. All use standard Bluetooth SBC codec.

Battery

4000mAh
5V/2A MicroUSB charger
17 hours in a 720p video loop
About 36+ hours continuous use

2990mAh
5V/1A MicroUSB charger
10 hours in a 720p video loop
About 15 hours continuous use
Very long charging time with 1A more than 7 hours.
Re-tested with 10A and came down to 5 hours.
2970mAh
5V/2A MicroUSB charger
Similar to 3.1
About 24-hours of continuous use
Charge time <5 hours

It is beyond me why the 3.1 comes with a 5V/1A charger when it can handle 5V/2A easily. What is the price difference? 50 cents maybe?

The later processor in the 5.1 is a little more energy efficient accounting for longer battery life over the 3.1.

4G/LTE

Cat 4 150/50Mbps
Single Sim (there may be a dual sim variant)
Cat 4 150/50Mbps
Single Sim
Unable to test for VoLTE, WoWiFI
Same as 3.1
Single Sim

Australian LTE Bands:

  • Telstra needs bands  1, 3 and 28.
  • Optus needs bands 1, 3, 7, 28, and 40.
  • Vodafone needs 1, 3, and 5.

Nokia does not publish bands on the website. Telstra lists bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 20, 38, 40 and 66 for the APAC modem version.

All three do not support Telstra/Optus band 28 (700Mhz) which means that maximum download speed is 50Mbps as it cannot aggregate several bands. It also means you will only get 3G in Telstra micro-cells (4GX-Lite) and in-buildings.

We tested on a 4-bar Telstra signal and achieved between 25-38Mbps download. We did not test at Telstra George Street, Sydney where a maximum 4GX signal is because these devices cannot go any faster than 50Mbps on Telstra 4GX without band 28.

Interestingly Telstra has the 2.1 for $149 as a pre-paid, locked to Telstra.

We are surprised Telstra would sell phones without band 28. They do not support carrier aggregation and can have very poor in-building signal strength.

These are phones for city dwellers only. This will also limit its use in other countries. If you need a phone for both city and rural areas the Samsung J2 Pro (same price as Nokia 2.1) has the Telstra Bluetick.

Operating system

Android 8.1.0 Go edition
For 1GB RAM and uses Go Edition apps.
Android One Oreo
Two years of platform updates
Three years of security updates
Unlimited Google Photo storage
Google Assistant
Same as 3.1

2.1 uses Android Go designed for smartphones with 1GB RAM and limited storage. It has Go edition of Google Assitant, Maps, Files and other apps. Standard Android apps may work but will likely slow down the system.