Price (RRP): $199
The Nokia 2.3 marks the beginning of the Nokia ‘.3-series’, in fact, the fourth generation under the brands’ new owner’s HMD global.
The Nokia 2.3 follows the 2, 2.1, 2.2 and sits one step above its 1-series and well below its top-end 9-series.
At $199 the Nokia 2.3 occupies an increasingly competitive space with the likes of Nokia 1 Plus ($169), Nokia 2.2 ($149 on run-out), Mintt Coolmintt Duo3 ($179), Mintt Coolmint A3 ($199), realme C2 ($199), Aspera Gem ($149), LG K8 ($139), LG K9 ($179), Alcatel 1S ($199), Motorola e6 ($197) – not to mention pre-paid ‘burners’ from about $90.
The hard thing in reviewing all these cheap phones is to declare a ‘winner’ because all have specs to match the price and all make a range of compromises to do so. And what is interesting is how fast technology changes. What was a 5/5 a few months ago is hopelessly outclassed by a new comer – rinse and repeat!
These compromises include lower-powered MediaTek Helio processors, less/slower ram/storage, 720p screens, Wi-Fi single band, lower-res cameras, plastic chassis….
Yet none of the competitors admits this, all promising fabulous AI photos, significant battery life, pro cameras… Yes, I believe in Santa too but for $199 all you can expect is a basic phone with a social media camera.
For once – it would be nice if phones under $199 (well under $399) stopped all the marketing BS and told it like it is. Nokia is not too bad here, but we strip away the fancy faux metallised plastic paint job and get to the heart of the matter.
Nokia 2.3 TA-1211 SS 2/32
- Australian website here
- Price: $199
- From JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, Big W, The Good Guys and Officeworks
- Telstra has it for $149 pre-paid with free delivery
First look is ‘nice.’
A faux metal ‘sand’ textured/coloured plastic back, teardrop screen with broad chin and bezels (lowish 80.7% STBR), Android One 9, micro-USB port (so yesterday!), and a dual-camera on the back. If anything, it has slightly more squarish and conservative looks than the competitors with their outlandish vacuum electrostatically deposited ‘deep purples’ etc!
Note: Do not buy models TA-1194, TA-1206, TA-1209, TA-1214, TA-1216 as they are not AU certified.
Nokia 2.3 – base specs
- MediaTek MT6761, Helio A22 four-core A53 2.0Ghz + PowerVR GE8300 (same as the 2.2 it replaces)
- 2GB LPDDR3-933 single-channel RAM, 32GB eMMC, microSD to 512GB
- 6.2-inch, teardrop, 1520 x 720, 19:9, 271ppi, 80.7% STBR, IPS
- Single Sim, Cat 4 150/50Mbps LTE 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40, 41, VoLTE
- Wi-Fi N, BT 5.0, AGPS. FM radio (no NFC), 3.5mm audio, earpiece speaker/mic/bottom speaker (mono)
- 13MP, f/2.2, 1.12µm, 69.7°, PDAF + 2MP, 1.75µm, depth sensor, [email protected]
- 5 MP, f/2.4, 64.9° selfie
- 4000mAh battery and 5V/1A (5W) micro-USB charger
- Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer (G-sensor)
- 2D Face unlock (no fingerprint sensor) or use PIN
- Android One, Android 10 ready. Dedicated Google Assistant button
- Cyan Green, Sand, Charcoal 157.69 x 75.41 x 8.68mm x 183g
- Missing: Any IP rating, e-compass, expandable storage is for data only, notification LED
Screen – PASS
The 6.2” screen is 720p, so pixelation is slightly noticeable on text. Auto-brightness can reach 500 nits, but it is closer to 400 (auto-off). There is some unevenness as well – bright in the centre and nearly 10% less at the edges. Black levels are weak (.35) and contrast is about 1200:1. There are no gamma adjustments.
It is not overly bright, contrasty or colour accurate (it is cool). There is no screen protection, and it will scratch.
Some reviews mention ‘Always on Display’ – it does not have that or a notification LED.
Processor – PASS
It is an entry-level (lower-mainstream) Helio ‘A’ processor whereas many in the <$199 bracket use the faster ‘P’ series. Paired with the 2GB (790MB free) single-channel LPDDR3-933 ram it is slow, choking at any attempt to multi-task. There is 16GB free of the 32GB storage. MicroSD storage to 512GB is only for data – not apps.
CPU Throttle – PASSable
Our 15-minute test reveals it is capable of over 44,000GIPS, but every two minutes, it needs to take a big breath and drops back considerably until it cools again and back to top speed. It is not really an issue as this is no use case for this phone to be 100% stressed.
GPU – PASS
The GPU encodes H.264 and will decode H.264/HVEC/VP8/9 content. It is not a gaming device.
Comms – PASS
It is Wi-Fi N single band 2.4Ghz that archives 65Mbps/-40dBm at 2m from our reference NETGEAR AX12 router. If you need Wi-Fi speed, then you need a dual-band device.
Sensors – PASSable
Note that it only as a 3-axis accelerometer that returns wildly different pedometer results. It lacks many standard sensors although not unusual for this price bracket.
A-GPS is too slow for real-time navigation and took several minutes to find satellites.
LTE – PASS
Signal strength was -79dBm (good) and it was able to find the next nearest tower at -85dBm. It is fine for urban use.
Battery – PASS+
All publicity mentions a two-day battery life – but what does that mean? Well, Nokia says that it is courtesy of AI-assisted Adaptive Battery technology. The AI-feature learns your app usage habits and prioritises power for the apps you use the most. Sorry, a weeklong test does not invoke any AI so we will just have to take its word for it.
We tried to get two days use, but the only way we could come close was just to use it as a phone and disable GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and set the screen to 100 nits (30%) with adaptive brightness off.
A 4000mAh battery is quite large, but a micro-USB 5V/1A charger is quite small. Charge from 0-100% took a massive seven hours of a slow linear charge – no fast charge here and a 5V/2A charger makes no difference!
- Screen-on time – typical daily office use – 15 hours
- Video 720p loop, 50% brightness, BT, aeroplane mode – 15 hours
- T-Rex gaming test – 10 hours
- It has 290mA discharges at idle – 15+ days standby
- We expect two days is a push!
Sound – FAIL
Ring tone is 85dB (great), but music is about 65dB and quite harsh.
There is no sound signature – it has no bass, late mid and some early treble (harshness). Subjectively it has one of the poorer audio speaker experiences in this class.
It was adequate as a handsfree device, but we did find the single mic captures a lot of noise in that mode.
BT Codecs include SBC and LDAC (Opus). BT 5.0 is great, but our reference Sony WH-1000Xm3 (LDAC) would only connect using SBC. And we could only get to about 10 metres away without losing the signal.
Build – PASS
3D nano texture back for good grip. Glass front (level of protection not specified).
It is stock Android updated by Google. Thankfully it is not the cut-down Android Go version that is for very low-end devices.
Nokia states it is ready for Android 10 and beyond so you can look forward to two years of software upgrades and three years of monthly security updates.
It comes with a dedicated Google Assistant button, Google Lens and all Google apps.
It has a 5 November 2019 patch – Nokia seems pretty good in rolling these out.
2D Face unlock works reliably down to about 200 lumens before failing.
- Rear: 13MP, f/2.2, 1.12µm, 69.7°FOV, PDAF + 2MP, 1.75µm, depth sensor, [email protected], ISO 100-1600
- Selfie: 5 MP, f/2.4, 64.9° FOV, FF, ISO 100-6400
This is the same primary camera as the Nokia 2.2. It uses a Samsung S5K RGB sensor and has added a depth sensor for bokeh.
Daylight shots are great – reasonable colours, contrast and detail.
It is quite good in day/office light, but the smaller 1.12um pixels mean low light needs a lot of post-processing.
Office light shots (600 lumens) are OK, but colours are a little washed out, and definition starts to suffer.
Low light shots are very noisy and lack detail.
There is a ‘Recommended Shot’ feature, which captures images before and after pressing the shutter button as well as an AI-powered ‘Portrait Mode’ and low light settings.
GadgetGuy’s take – Android One makes the Nokia 2.3 stand out in a crowded market
Nokia deserves to succeed if only to help HMD, a Finnish company to keep the Asian dominated ‘bastards’ honest. But I fear it is playing in the #MeToo sandpit instead of striking a new, unique Finnish path. And to be honest, that is what I thought of Nokia’s earlier versions – something a littel different.
When we reviewed the Nokia 2.2 here only last October, it was standout for value and it had a removable battery – 5/5. But since then a tsunami of lower-cost phones has emerged, and Nokia’s 2.3 is not so special any more. In fact, it could have had any brand on it!
For example, how can it hope to compete with the likes of BBK (now the world’s second-largest phone maker with OPPO, vivo, realme and OnePlus covering every single market niche? Its $199 realme C2 has better: specs; camera; processor; more ram/storage and a dual sim.
For me, after a few days of use, it was unexciting in every way. But that is what you expect of a $199 phone. And perhaps in that un-excitedness lies the secret – a simple good value phone that should last the distance and see Android 10 and maybe 11.
My best advice to Nokia is to go its own way and develop something the #me-too brands can’t offer.
Note the ribbed effect in the video is not evident on the real product