Nokia 6 2018 mass-market smartphone (review)
The Nokia 6 2018 also called 6.1 at A$399 sits in the middle of mass-market ($199-499). Yet it offers quality and components that you would pay more for in a competitor’s brand.
Nokia is on a resurgence. We won’t repeat all the history of how Microsoft bought the Finnish phone company and finished it. It is now under Finnish company HMD. Just take it as read that this barely 1.5-year-old company is doing everything right to be in the top-five global smartphone makers.
It starts with the huge Nokia range from The Nokia 8 Sirocco flagship to a dumb 3310 3G handset and everything in between.
- 8 Sirocco $1,199 review
- 8 (2017) review
- 7 Plus $649 review
- 6 (2018) also called 6.1 $349 – the subject of this review
- 1 $149 – review
- 3310 3G $89.95 review
Please Nokia – no more new models for a while!
Beware of fakes and grey/parallel imports – these don’t work on all bands here
At this stage, we know there are several variants in 3/32, 4/64, Single and Dual Sim. There may also be different numbers for carrier locked and unlocked.
- TA-1016 Hong Kong and Taiwan
- TA-1068 China (no Google services and CDMA)
- TA-1054 EMEA/Global
- TA-1050 APAC
- TA-1043 LATAM
- TA-1045 US/Canada supports GSM
Why am I making such a fuss? Because parallel imports (read the GadgetGuy exposé here) don’t have Nokia warranty (meaning you deal with the company you bought it from), and often only work on the Optus network. I hope you get the message.
The first impression
It is a solid device. Built like a deluxe tank, this time from a single milled block of 6000-grade aluminium. While not overly heavy at 172g it’s 16:9 screen makes it heavier and wider than 5.5” 18:9 screen competitors.
The key differences between Nokia 6 (2018) and the Nokia 6 (2017) include
- Reduced bezels
- Fingerprint sensor moves to the back
- Update to faster Qualcomm 630
- Fast charging 3.0
- Android One Oreo
I like the Black/Copper style – very masculine with a hint of style.
These are in the context of a mass-market device. There is no way you should compare a $399 device with say a $500+.
|Nokia 6 2018 also called 6.1 Model TA-1050 SS 3/32||GadgetGuy Comments|
|Screen||5.5”, 1920 x 1080, 403ppi, 16:9, IPS LCD
Gorilla Glass 3
Claimed 450 nits and 1500:1 contrast
|Colours are average – there are no colour options. Daylight readability is not bad for an IPS screen.|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
Octa-core 2.2 GHz Cortex-A53
60% faster than Nokia 6 processor
|Good processor and fixed the lag issues with 6 (2017). It also gives the extra power for better photo post-processing – it shows.|
|GPU||Adreno 508||Capable of mobile games requiring up to 30fps and will play some 60fps.|
32GB eMMC (19GB free)
MicroSD to 128GB (uses dedicated slot2)
Free, unlimited photo storage with Google Photos
|3GB/32GB is fine but does not offer a lot of future-proofing. microSD can NOT be formatted for apps.|
|Rear Camera 1
|16 MP (f/2.0, 27mm, 1.0µm), PDAF, Zeiss optics, dual-LED dual-tone flash,[email protected] and [email protected]
Dual Sight – Bothies (front and rear camera at the same time)
|Smaller pixels and f/2.0 means it is not a good low light camera. Lack of OIS means ‘hold it still’.|
|Front Camera||8 MP (f/2.0, 1.12µm, 84° FOV), [email protected]
Both cameras use the stock Android app.
|God results in good light|
NFC – rare on a mass market phone
USB-C 2.0 speed
|W-Fi N is dual band and gained 867Mb/s at the router and 433 about 3 metres away. This is more Wi-Fi AC performance– see note later.|
|Sound||3.5mm audio jack
Single earpiece – not used for music playback
Bottom firing mono speaker and amp
OZO spatial audio recording via 2 mics
|IP Rating/build||No IP rating
Built from a single block of milled 6000 aluminium
|No IP rating is typical for this range. Solid build is well above the range|
|Other||The fingerprint sensor on the rear
GPS – all
Android Enterprise Recommended
Qualcomm Quick Charger 3.0 5V/2.5A, 9V/2A, 12V/1.5A (18W)
50% charge in 30 minutes
Endurance rating 76 hours
|It’s a one-day phone. The Quick charger goes from 0-100% in two hours|
|LTE||Cat 4 150/50Mb/s
Bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 41
Single Sim model in Australia (plus microSD slot)
Supports VOLTE and Wi-Fi calling in Android 8.1 update
|Standard for mid-range. Tested at 100/Mbs in 4 bar reception.|
|Dimensions||148.8 x 75.8 x 8.15/8.6 mm x 172g|
Regular security and two years of OS upgrades
|Google provides the updates – no Nokia.|
|Colours||Black/Copper, White/Iron, Blue/Gold||The body is matt anodised. The chamfer accents are lovely but are painted so they may show wear.|
|Missing||Nothing for this mid-range device|
|In the box||Nokia 6.1
Qualcomm Quick Charger 3.0
USB-A to USB-C cable
|Good move to provide the Quick Charger 3.0 – few other bands do this at this price|
Screen – 5.5” 1080p, 16:9
We get so used to the newly popular 18:9 format that it feels a little strange to use the older, wider 16:9. There is nothing wrong – it’s just a tad wider.
Nokia claimed 450 nits and 1500:1 contrast. Our measurements reached 420 nits and contrast at 700:1. The latter is possibly a difference in testing regimen.
Brightness-wise it’s lower than flagships at 600+nits. It does very well in daylight readability as the screen has good low reflectivity.
Colours are OK. There is a bluish tint making colours a little colder. There are no colour customisations – as you will find with most Android One devices. Nor is there a notification LED – ditto.
There is an ambient display that turns on when you lift it. This shows new notifications. You can double tap the screen to wake it up.
It’s a good honest screen for the price.
The 3,000 mAh battery is good for a day – more like 12-18 hours than 24. When heavily using it battery life decreased by about 10% per hour. In idle it was about 5% per hour.
A 1080p video loop at 70% screen brightness in aeroplane mode gave just over 11 hours.
Quick charge 3.0 should fill to 50% in 30 minutes – this took about 40. A full charge, however, is around two hours. If you use a standard 5V/2A charger, expect this to go to over four hours.
The phone reached 35° under peak load and fast charging – well within limits.
A single down-firing speaker is not for high-fidelity. It is to help with hands-free and play mono music. This has no bass, emphasised mids and no treble. It is a mid-sound signature for clear voice and hands-free.
The speaker reached 80+ dB ringing and around 70dB for voice and music.
Using a 3.5mm cable to an external amp was a little disappointing. Distortion was too high, and sound quality was lower than expected. Bluetooth tests to our reference Sony WH-1000XM2 headphones (one of the world’s best) lacked the full audio range.
Still, a mass market phone is not going to be hooked up to a several-thousand-dollar amp. Or $500 headphones. So, it loses no points here.
As a phone
Callers were comfortable with the clarity and volume. I could hear them clearly too. It had a similar ‘bar’ reception to any other phone.
It gave the same performance as any other 14nm Qualcomm 630 processor. These include HTC U11 Life (2017), Moto X4/G6, and Xperia XA2.
It is an eight-core device (4×2.2 GHz + 4×1.8 GHz) meaning it can scale back to ‘one cylinder’ when not needed.
The Spectra 160 image signal processor is a gem. It supports the single front and rear cameras with loads of post-processing power.
Our Wi-Fi tests make us think it is Wi-Fi AC, not Wi-Fi N as listed. We would be surprised if Nokia is NOT not using the Qualcomm 630 Soc with its X12 modem that supports Wi-Fi AC and Cat12 LTE.
The 32GB uses eMMC (flash) storage. Its achieved 350/290Mbps sequential read/write which is faster than most.
Spoiler: It takes good quality, accurate colour, detailed shots in outdoors and in office lighting. It takes average to poor shots in low light. Lack of OIS and digital zoom are characteristic of this price. It’s a great camera for the price.
Both front and rear cameras use the standard Android app (below). It is not bad with Auto HDR and Flash, Regular photo, Pro, Panorama, or ‘Touch up’ mode (‘Beautification’).
Outdoors – daylight
16MP captures a lot of detail with accurate colours. Leave it on Auto HDR – it does not slow down shutter speeds.
Indoors – office light
Low light images (no flash) are variable. Hold it still, cross your fingers, and you can get pretty good results. Go back and retake the same shot and it can be blurry (no OIS), dark and have too much noise. Flash improves this but can wash out colours.
Good detail and colour in good light. Let’s not talk about low light. At this price, you don’t get screen fill or flash. Bothie allows images from the front and rear camera.
Panorama – good light
At 3,000+ pixels high these capture the scene well with good detail (16MP) and good stitching.
The Qualcomm Spectra 160 ISP enables [email protected] at 42.2Mbps. While you can use this, it is pushing the limits of ram, the photosensor and the chip. Our results here were mediocre at best.
[email protected] at 22Mbps was excellent, and the Qualcomm has EIS to eliminate judder. The sound is at 256Kbps.
Good: Good light equals good video and still shots. Respectable results in office light and variable results in low light.
Bad: No OIS means hold it still.
Its Android One. Google, not Nokia provide updates for two years meaning Android P and probably Q. Although I suspect 3GB RAM may limit this.
Android One dictates the phone is ‘generic’ in design. As such it loses some of the features that a phone with a custom UI has. For example no notification LED and maintenance tools
Android Enterprise Recommended makes it easier to deploy, scale and support Android in business. It’s a workers phone.
GadgetGuy’s take – The Nokia 6 2018 is a good honest phone
Android One, a decent camera, good battery, great build, no back glass to break, and a price that belies the technology and pedigree.
I review lots of phones. Had you not told me the price I would have said it’s a mid-range, not a mass-market device.
Its strongest ‘apples for apples’ competition here is the new Moto X4. This is the same price with a 5.2” screen, dual cameras, IP68 and Android One (as well). Its s tough choice a) because we are reviewing Moto over the coming weeks and b) both are iconic brands. I guess it will come down to style
- I love the iron/copper accents
- Good camera results for its class
- Android One – pure Android updates and no bloatware
- Built like an attractive tank
- All day battery and Fast charging 3.0 and USB-C
- Useful swipe gestures on the fingerprint scanner
- Would have preferred the 4GB/64GB and dual sim model for future-proofing
- No notification LED
- No IP rating (yes it will withstand rain)
Rated as a mass market phone in the $199-499 price band.
- Overall: 4.5 out of 5
- Features: 4 out of 5 – No notification LED and maintenance tools
- Value for Money: 4.5 out of 5 – competitive
- Performance: 4.5 out of 5 – Good use of the Qualcomm 630 SoC
- Ease of Use: 4.5 out of 5 – Its Android One!
- Design: 4 out of 5 – I like it but am concerned that copper highlights will wear.
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