Nokia X20 5G

Nokia X20 5G – an alright phone (review)

I am desperately trying to find a clever headline for the Nokia X20 5G, but I can’t. I keep coming up with solid, average, outclassed… it is an alright phone in every way.

Greatest apologies to Nokia for the intro, but I desperately want it to succeed, if only for ‘old times sake’. Its 1 to 9 series, and recently .3 (2019) and .4 (2020) iterations increasingly felt like they had been left in a cupboard for six months and released at a time when the competition had seriously raised the features and specifications bars.

Nokia is one of the last pure Google Android (apart from Google Pixel) suppliers. There is a lot to that, including a promise of three years of OS upgrades (Android 12, 13 and 14) and three years of monthly security updates. To think that a 2021 phone may be running Android 14 and has a three-year warranty is unheard of – and that is good.

So don’t write Nokia X20 5G off – just remember that specifications are not everything. By the way, it also has a ruggedised version XR20 (same internals) here.

Nokia X20 5G Model TA-1341 ANZO 6/128GB, dual hybrid sim and microSD

Websitehere
Price$599 (Officeworks has these now on special at $497)
ColoursNordic Blue or Midnight Sun
FromNokia online, JB Hi-Fi, Officeworks, Harvey Norman
WarrantyThree-years ALC
CompanyNokia is a smartphone brand owned by HMD Global in Espoo, Finland. Many ex-Nokia executives run it. Microsoft previously held the brand from 2014 to make Windows Mobile handsets. The G and X series are the sixth generation under HMD and represent a new naming convention.
MoreYou can read more GadgetGuy Nokia news and reviews here

First impression – weighty

Big, fat and solid in hand. This is a hefty 220g device, right up there with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra for bulk.

It has a centre selfie O-hole, big chin, wide bezels around a flat-screen, and a metallic finish over plastic – a greasy fingerprint magnet. There is a dedicated OK Google key on the left, a USB-C 2.0 port on the bottom and a 3.5mm earphone port on top.

While it is called the X20 and is, for all intents and purposes, Nokia’s best device, but it is more comparable to the older Nokia 5-series.

Screen – big

It has a 6.67″, 2400 x 1800, 20:9, 79.8% screen-to-body-ratio, 16.7m colours, 60Hz, IPS screen covered in Gorilla Glass 5.

This is nice looking standard dynamic range (SDR) screen. It is quite bright (test >450nits), 1000:1 contrast, has a 98% sRGB gamut with a Delta E of 5.8 (<4 is good). The colours look fairly natural despite a default ice blue cast that you can warm up with a slider. It is not daylight readable.

DRM Info reports L1 Widevine and HDSCP 2.3, so it plays Netflix FHD SDR content. It will decode HDR10/HLG content to SDR.

It is not for gamers with a >40ms GTG and a fixed 60Hz refresh.

Processor – a delicate balance of power and battery life

Nokia has chosen Qualcomm SD480 5G 8nm, the only 5G SoC in the entry-level 4XX series. You get entry-level performance, an older X51 5G modem, Qualcomm Aqstic and aptX sound, and QC fast charge.

But Nokia, in a cost-saving exercise, has chosen not to implement the go-fast bits of this System-on-a-Chip (SoC). Where the SD480 can support

  • Wi-Fi 6 AX 2×2 (2400Mbps) we get Wi-Fi 5 AC 1×1 (433Mbps)
  • BT 5.1 we get 5.0
  • USB-C 3.1 we get 2.0
  • UFS 3.1 fast storage, we get 2.1
  • Dual-band GPS we get single
  • Quick Charge 4+ we get 3.0

It is not uncommon to shave dollars by lowering specs. Our job is to point this out compared to the 30+ other brands/models using the same SoC like the OPPO A54/A75 5G, vivo Y53s and Motorola G50.

Tests

  • Geekbench 510/1650 (a little slower than the average)
  • GPU – Adreno 619: OpenCL 1097 and Vulcan 977. It is not a gamer’s phone suffering occasional stutter and freeze
  • 6GB LPDDR4X (average)
  • 128 UFS 2.1 (100GB free) sequential read/write 473/292 (average)
  • CPU Throttle: Max 157,770GIPS, Average 153,352GIPs, 5% Throttle – excellent
Nokia X20 5G throttle

Comms – everything you need.

  • Wi-Fi AC 1 x 1 -31dBm 433Mbps at 2m from Netgear Nighthawk RAX200 tri-band AX11000, 12-stream router. It holds the speed to about 7.5m away (average).
  • BT 5.0: SBC see sound codecs later
  • NFC: Google Pay (PayWave)
  • USB-C 2.0 (external speed about 30MBps)
  • Single-band GPS
  • Accelerometer, Gyroscope, e-Compass, Ambient light and proximity (nice to see an e-Compass and separate Accelerometer and Gyroscope sensors)
  • Combo Fingerprint/power button – not fast but accurate 9/10
  • OK Google key

4G LTE – a very strong signal

It has a hybrid dual SIM/microSD. From what we can tell, it is only one active sim at a time. If you are using 5G, it must be SIM 1 and remain active.

4G Bands include 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 20, 28, 66, 38, 39, 40, 41 – it covers all Australian bands and most common international ones.

Tests (1km line-of-sight from the cell tower – note pre-September 2021 tests were for a 3-bar area)

  • #1: -92dBm/1pW
  • #2: -97dBm/794fW
  • #3: -105dBm/31.6fW
  • #4: -107dBm/1fW

This is excellent – one of the very few to pick up three usable towers and know there was a fourth. This is suited to city, suburbs, regional cities and remote area use.

5G – no Optus Low-band 5G

Bands n1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 28, 66, 78. It is not entirely compatible with the new 5G Low-band that requires n5 (Telstra), n28 (Vodafone) and n40 (Optus) as well as sub-6Ghz n78.

Yet another reason to wait for the next modem version, although the OPPO A54/74 has 5G low-band already enabled.

Battery – solid performer

  • 4470mAh (below average of 5000mAh for this bracket)
  • 18W (5V/3A/15W, 9V/2A/18W, 12V/1.5W (QC 3.0 is average for this bracket

Tests

  • 100% load screen on drain: 7 hours
  • GFX Bench TRex 460.7minutes (7.67 hours) and 3778 frames
  • GFX Bench Manhattan: Out of memory error
  • PC Mark 3.0 battery life: 16.5 hours
  • Charge 0-100: 1.5 hours (device off)
  • Charge 0-100: 2.7hours (device on)

With care, you could get two days. But that depends on screen-on time and if you use 5G – both of which will pull it back.

Sound – mono

It has a single bottom down-firing speaker that focuses on a clear voice. The maximum volume is 78dB – fine for personal use. It has twin mics for reasonable hands-free use.

BT 5.0 only supports the SBC codec for wireless headphones. The system shows the range of AAC, aptX and LDAC, but these are greyed out, and we could not test them. BT quality and volume are good.

Build

It is 168.94 x 79.7 x 9.1 x 220g. The screen is Gorilla Glass G5 with a plastic back and frame. There are many excellent plastic-framed devices covered in vacuum-deposited paint, but after a week of use, this showed decided signs of wear. Use the supplied compostable bumper cover.

It has no formal IP rating – average for this price bracket.

Pure Android 11 – good if that is what you want

Nokia is one of the last pure Google Android (apart from Google Pixel) suppliers. There is a lot to that, including a promise of three years of OS upgrades (Android 12 and 13) and three years of monthly security updates. To think that a 2021 phone may be running Android 14 and has a three-year warranty is unheard of – and that is good.

The security patch is 5/08/21 – excellent for a September review.

But we do warn you that pure Android is not as polished as those brands that use a User Interface to smooth over Android rough edges.

Camera – easy to take good shots

It may claim Zeiss optics, but the reality is that the underlying sensors and the SoC AI capability impact image quality. We have managed to determine the sensors, and these largely explain our results. Overall this is a great camera setup except for a lacklustre ultra-wide lens and a very touchy 4cm fixed-focus macro.

  • 64 Main PDAF, .7um/1.4um, f/1.79, 69.7°, 8X digital zoom, 16MP binned, Samsung S5KGW3, [email protected]
  • 5MP Ultra-wide, 1.12um, Ultrawide: Galaxy Core GC5035
  • 2 Depth: FF, f/2.4. 1/75um, Omnivision OV02B1
  • 2 Macro: FF 4cm, f/2.5, 1.75um Galaxy Core GC02M1B
  • 32MP Selfie, FF, .8um/1.16, f/2.0, 71.3°, [email protected] bin 8MP S5KGD1

GadgetGuy’s take

Close but no cigar. It is competing in the premium-low-end and is outclassed for the most part because it seems to have failed to keep up.

Cheaper phones offer brighter displays, better cameras, faster charging, and a generally improved smartphone experience.

That makes it hard to recommend the Nokia X20 5G to anyone aside from the most dedicated pure Android fans. And will someone explain to Nokia that an ‘alright’ phone is alright (OK, good, satisfactory)!

Competition

The competition is fierce with extremely good 5G phones from $439.

  • realme 7 128GB $439 (review here 9.7/10, 120Hz adaptive screen)
  • OPPO A74 128GB $439 (review here 9.8/10, 90Hz adaptive screen, Qualcomm SD480)
  • Motorola Edge 20 Fusion 128GB $499 (review coming, Qualcomm SD480)
  • OPPO Reno4 Z 128GB $499 (review here, 8.9/10, 120Hz screen)
  • OPPO Find X3 Lite 128GB $599 (was $749) Review here 9/10, AMOLED, Qualcomm SD765)

Judging by the competition, the Nokia is $100 overpriced (but it is $497 at Officeworks), and the OPPO A74 and Motorola Edge offer superior specifications. The real pick here is the OPO Find X3 Lite at $599 with sub-6Ghz and 5G Low-band, 35-minute fast charge, a similar Android upgrade policy and a better camera.

Rating – NOKIA X20 5G

From September 2021, we have adjusted our ratings to give us more ‘headroom’ to recognise exceptional features and performance. Until now, 8/10 was considered a ‘pass’. It is now 6/10. If you compare the Nokia X20 5G with the older reviews above, reduce them by two points.

It starts at a 6/10 as it meets all expectations for a fit for purpose. We add Nokia’s only class-leading features – a three-year warranty and Android update policy (same as the OPPO Find X3 Lite).

Nokia X20 5G
The Nokia X20 5G appeals to anyone that wants pure Android with three OS upgrades and three years security patches. Add to that a 3-year warranty, decent camera and battery life.
Features
7
Value for money
6
Performance
6
Ease of use
10
Design
6
Positives
3-year Warranty
3-years Android OS upgrades and security patches
Good battery life
Decent camera
Negatives
Can be laggy in video and CPU/GPU intensive tasks
Not class-leading - average hardware
Heavy
No IP rating
Competitors have better value/features
7