Nokia 7.1 – the Nokia notch starts here
4.9Overall Score
Name: Nokia 7.1 Price (RRP): $499 Manufacturer: Nokia HMD

The Nokia 7.1 is a phone for the masses – a Toyota Camry if you will. Fully featured, well priced and we think uber-reliable (perhaps that is why so many Ubers are Camrys).

Seriously the Nokia 7.1 at $499 is all that Joe and Jane Average need to spend to get a 5.84”, 2880 x 1080 IPS screen with a notch (made famous by the iPhone X), Qualcomm 636 SoC, Wi-Fi AC, a decent ‘sharing’ camera and a premium feel and finish.

Damn these clever Fin’s.

Is there is nothing better to do in Espoo Finland than breed Nokia’s like rabbits? Well, I suppose you could take very short walks but from October to April it seldom gets over 5°, and there is thin sunshine for about three hours a day. Oh, and it rains around 23 days each month too.

Nokia 7.1
Nokia is everywhere – now in Asgard!

Mind you one of the best adventures I have ever had was staying in a glass igloo, sledding with huskies and bearing up to -40° at Kakslauttanen Arctic village in Lapland well above the Arctic circle. It makes Espoo look like a balmy tropical paradise. Scratch that from the bucket list. Oh, then it was off to London to see the New Year’s fireworks from big Ben – ditto.

Well, I hope that whets your appetite for all things Finnish including the somewhat above average Nokia 7.1.

How we rate and review smartphones

We rate smartphones both by bang for buck and against a series of robust paradigms – what features should you expect in this price bracket? While this phone is at a mass market price of $499 it meets every specification of mid-high phones costing up to two times more. Just when I was happy saying you needed to spend $799 to get it all, Nokia has made a liar of me.

  • Flagship >$1000
  • Mid-high $500-999
  • Mass-market $200-499
  • Value pre-paid <A$199

In the box – Nokia 7.1

Australian Website here

  • Handset
  • 18W fast charger 5V/3A and 9V/2A
  • USB-C to USB-A cable
  • 3.5 mm earbuds and mic

The first impression

Nokia 7.1

The Nokia 7.1 is a second generation phone from a company barely two-years-old. It is a case of Nokia being fast learners. They have released 21 models in that short time. All second-generation phones have an x.1moniker – hence we are reviewing the 7.1. There is a 2.1, 3.1, 5.1, (combined overviews here).6.1 (review here) and the flagship 8.1 (Sirocco review here). Perhaps you now understand my reference to rabbits!

The Nokia 7.1 is a stylish smartphone. A diamond cut, bevelled silver or copper edge cut from the 6000-series aluminium frame, the notch (love or hate it notches are here to stay), glass front and back, and a small chin.

Turn it on, and the screen jumps out at you. More on that later but its bright, accurate and has official HDR10 certification.

It also seems to be a little thinner in hand – that is because it uses a 19:9 ratio screen. Above all, I can’t help but question the price – it is too cheap.

 Buy here – or you will regret it

GadgetGuy has joined the movement to wipe out parallel and grey market imports (good read) because we receive so many complaints about refurbished-sold-as-new (second hand or repairs) or that they simply don’t work on every carrier in Australia.

We issue the standard warning that you must buy the genuine certified/approved model with Australian firmware as it works on all Australian Carrier LTE bands and can make a 000-emergency call without a sim.

The Australian Nokia 7.1 model number is TA-1096. From what we can find there are five main variants for different countries. These include TA-1085, TA-1095, TA-1097, TA-1100. Also, there is different firmware for each country or region. Have a look under Settings, System, and Certification, and it will show if it is for Australia and New Zealand.

Screen

5.84” FHD, 2280 x 1080, 19:9 (with Notch), 432ppi, IPS
Gorilla Glass 3, 79.9% S-T-B-R
Mobile HDR10
PureDisplay to upscale SD to FHD content and boost contrast ratio
Nokia 7.1

It is a 1080p (FHD+) screen with HDR10 that really helps bring out details in shadows and bright areas. Gorilla Glass 3 is perfect for this phone as it is more scratch resistant than Gorilla Glass 5 (but not as drop resistant). It is, like all Gorilla Glass, a fingerprint magnet!

Mobile HDR10 means it can display a wider range of colours, but mostly it is about brightness and contrast. It uses HDR metadata fromHDR10 compatible content (movies, videos and stills) to adjust the image. AboveHDR10 is Dolby Vision. You can read about HDR10 and Netflix support here.

It joins an elite group of Flagship phones with HDR10

These include Apple iPhone 8/X/XS, LG V30/40 ThinQ, Samsung Galaxy S9/+/Note9 and Sony Xperia XZ2 – all phones at least three times more expensive.

Brightness is spectacular averaging 500 nits (typical) and 600 (maximum auto). Given that it is an IPS screen you can’t get perfect black like OLED but it went down to around four nits giving a contrast ratio of 1300:1.

Daylight readability was average, probably because of the reflective Gorilla Glass 3.

There are no colour or saturation controls so what you see is what you get. It favours punchy, vibrant colours over DCI-P3 accuracy – what Joe and Jane Average prefer.

Screen summary: The best word for it is enjoyable – it is a lovely screen far better than you can normally get for the price.

Performance

Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
1.8Ghz Quad-Core Kryo 260 Gold
1.6Ghz Quad-Core Kryo 260 Silver
60% faster than Nokia 6 processor
GPU Adreno 508
RAM 3GB LPDDR4X-1333Mhz
32GB eMMC 5.1 (19GB free)
MicroSD to 400GB (uses dedicated slot2)
Free, unlimited photo storage with Google Photos
OTG external storage support

The Qualcomm636 is a mid-range SoC with many of last year’s flagship Qualcomm 835features now included.

Nokia sticks fairly close to its reference design to ensure good Android One support. You will find the 636 in BlackBerry Key2, Motorola Z3Play (reviewed here) and many more smartphones only seen in China.

Geek Bench 4 performance tests show 1924/4911 single/multi-core. This is in line with other phones using the same SoC and shows a good implementation of the Qualcomm SoC. By comparison, it is about the same speed as last year’s flagship Qualcomm 835 based Google Pixel 2 XL.

Renderscript is 4608, and it will achieve 60fps in common mobile games.

External temperature is 35° under load – great.

Comms

Comms Wi-Fi AC. Dual band, wave 2, 1×1 MIMO, Max 433Mbps
Wi-Di, Hotspot
Bluetooth 5.0 (supports SBC and aptX)
USB type C 2.0 (480MBps bit tops out a 280Mbps)
NFC

The device supports a maximum of 433Mbps on the 5GHz band at 2m from our reference D-Link AC5300 router. At 5M it is 130MBps and then switches back to the 2.4GHz band. This is the only real compromise over flagships that support 867Mbps or even faster. Still, it is fine for most uses including streaming of FHD content.

NFC is handy for Google Pay.

Sound

Sound 3.5mm audio jack
Earpiece
Down-firing speaker
ANC dual mics

It has a particularly loud ringtone measuring over 80dB. Music/voice is around 75dB – very good for hands-free and music use.

Output via 3.5mm cable to buds or an amplifier is 20Hz-20kHz although signal strength (volume) is a tad low.  

We tried the device with a pair of Sony Bluetooth WH-100XM2 headphones that support Hi-Res aptX HD and LDAC. It defaulted to SBC. In developer mode (a secret mode you must enable) you can select SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX and LDAC. The Sony cans were noticeably better with LDAC.

Other

Other Fingerprint sensor
GPS and e-compass

The fingerprint sensor is on the back. It is fast and accurate. It supports NGC/Google Pay.

Battery

Battery 3060mAh battery
Quick Charge 4.0 compatible
18W Quick Charger 3.0 supplied
30 minutes for 50% charge
No Qi wireless charge

Tests

  • An FHD video loop and it lasts for 10 hours.
  • In heavy office use, we got 22 hours.
  • GeekBench 4 scores are 4108 taking 7 hours and 12 minutes to exhaust the battery under full load.
  • Using the supplied 18W adaptor, it took under two hours for a full charge
  • Using a standard 5V/2A (10W) charger took just over four hours.

It is a full day phone, and Quick Charge makes it a breeze to top up.

4G/LTE

LTE Cat 6 (300/50Mbps)
Bands (care – not confirmed): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 28, 38, 40, 41
Sim Single (as dual sim model may be available)
The second slot is dedicated microSD
Other VoLTE, VoWiFi and HD voice depends on the carrier

We are not 100% sure of the TA-1096 LTE bands but suspect it uses the Qualcomm X12 LTE modem that supports up to 18 bands.

Our test unit has a single SIM and a dedicated microSD slot. While dual sim is nice the second slot is often hybrid (shared with microSD) so if this is your need then look for a phone with a dedicated microSD slot.

As far as a phone goes, it gets similar download speeds to any other phone.

Operating system

OS Android One 8.1
Android Pie coming

Android One (pure Android) phones feature a curated set of pre-installed Google apps that maximise functionality and available storage space. They will run any Google Play store app.

Android One phones gain free, unlimited high-quality photo storage with Google Photos, regular security updates, two years of OS upgrades, and additional software innovations from Google.

Our test device has October 2018 security updates – currently, no other Android test phone is past September.

Build

Colours Midnight Blue with silver highlights
Steel with copper highlights
Build 6000-series milled aluminium block. Gorilla Glass 3 front and unspecified glass or polycarbonate rear
Dimensions 149.7 x 71.18 x 7.99mm x 160g (add 2.25mm for camera bump
IP Rating Not stated

It is well made, and I must admit to falling for the Steel and copper highlights version – it is so masculine. Nokia still uses a single piece of milled 6000 aluminium for the frame, and that makes it very durable. While Gorilla Glass 3 does not have the drop resistance of Gorilla Glass 5, it is more scratch resistant.

What’s missing

Missing Notification LED
Colour adjustments
No formal IP rating

Lack of a notification LED is more about the convenience of knowing someone has called or there is an email – it is not about functionality.

Colour adjustment is for photographers and no deal breaker for Joe and Jane Average especially as this is a great screen.

Price

$499 from JB Hi-Fi or Harvey Norman. Remember there is no such thing as an ‘international’ version – they all need Australian firmware and LTE band support to work here!

Camera

Rear Camera 1
Primary
12 MP RGB/2PDAF/f1.8/1.28um, dual flash, HDR, Zeiss Optics.
It will do [email protected] without EIS – don’t try it.
[email protected] with EIS.
Rear Camera 2 5 MP, BW/FF/f2.4/1.12um depth camera
Selfie 8 MP FF/f2.0, 84° FOV

These days we must review the smartphone camera based on various capabilities.

For example, the top smartphone cameras (over 100 DxoMark) are in the Huawei P/Mate 20 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S9/+/Note9, HTC 12+, Sony XZ2, OPPO Find X, Google Pixel 2/3 XL etc. These phones are all well over $1000, and frankly, the difference is a scant few points on the DxoMark.

Then you have the real star of the mid-high tier (80-100 DxoMark) where OPPO rules supreme with its $799 R17 Pro. It offers an incredible camera punching well above its weight.

So, where does it leave a $499 smartphone camera? We have coined the term ‘social media sharing’ camera where it is a good allrounder for capturing candid moments in fully automatic mode. You want good daylight and office light (500 lumens) as well as above average low light shots. These tend to score close to 80 in DxoMark.

Nokia uses Zeiss lenses in this model so add extra points as well.

The Nokia 7.1 rates at the top end of the social media sharing cameras offering the best overall performance we have seen in this class. Not to say there may be better – but we have not seen them!

The main camera sensor is likely a Samsung 12MP ISOCELL Fast 2L9 Dual pixel with fast autofocus (2PD/AF). It is in the Galaxy Note 8 that is particularly good at depth-of-field effect for taking bokeh.

Interestingly the second is a mono camera with fixed focus and is likely a Samsung ISOCELL S5K5E3. This adds additional definition for bokeh. Depending on post-processing software it may improve low light.

2PDAF has been around for a while – the Samsung Galaxy S7 was first to use it. Nokia uses the equivalent of a 24MP separated into left and right to produce a 12MP image. This enables 100% full-pixel focusing (called on-chip phase detection) that is faster and more accurate than Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) that uses about 5% of the pixels.

The selfie camera likely uses an 8MP Samsung ISOCELL S5K4H5 frequently used in tablets. Here the trick is the wider 84° Field of View for groupies and boothies.

Samsung Sensors are as good as comparable Sony Exmore, and it makes sense for Nokia to align with it as a supplier, as it has done for AMOLED screens and memory/storage.

This uses the Android camera app, so you get Square, Bokeh, Pro, Photo, Panorama and Video. Auto HDR and flash are for stills only.

There is no OIS (optical stabilisation) – EIS cuts in for [email protected] video.

Daylight, outdoors

Nokia 7.1

This is a spectacular shot. Accurate colours, wonderful definition (shed on mid right and bird), good shadow definition under the jetty, and even definition in the clouds – all on a $499 snapper. ISO 100, 1/2500 sec, 6.3MB.

Indoors Office Light 500 lumens

An almost perfect shot rivalling the $1599 Huawei Mate 20 Pro for the toy dogs fur definition. Colours are accurate, and tone (contrast) is even. Where many cameras badly blur the background, e.g. the toaster) there is more than enough detail. ISO 160, 1/125sec, 2.6MB.

Nokia 7.1

Low light 50 lumens

I am blown away with this camera. No other $499 snapper has captured the details or sky on the monitor nor the definition in the HP logo on the printer. Colours are as good as it gets. ISO 640, 1/40sec, 4.3MB. Lack of OIS means hold it still.

Nokia 7.1

Selfie

8MP is a tad low when you see OPPO putting 20MP or more on its selfie cameras. Let’s just say that it produces excellent selfies and groupies (84° FOV).

Boothie

Dual-Sight simultaneously takes a picture with the rear and front camera, placing each image side by side. Dual-Sight also lets you enhance your bothies with 3D personas, masks, and filters. When you have your bothie looking perfect, you can stream it directly to Facebook or YouTube right from the camera app.

Video

Daylight video is fine – great colours and detail but lack of OIS mean EIS is working overtime. Video in office and light shows noise increasing in shadows. Digital Zoom causes too much pixelation.

If you shoot at [email protected] it is more than fit for purpose.

AI software

There is a selfie beautification mode. The rear camera has AI technology lets you add an artistic touch to every photo with 3D personas, masks and filters.

I suspect we will see more ‘apparent’ AI in the Android Pie upgrade.

Camera summary: I would put this in the same class as of camera as the Nokia 8 Sirocco, LG G7 or Google Pixel XL – well above a $499 camera.

GadgetGuy’s take. Nokia 7.1

As you can probably guess, I am very taken with this second-generation Nokia 7.1. Nokia has pulled another rabbit out of the hat. There are no deal breakers; it offers features common to devices at twice the price (including the Nokia 8.1 Sirocco).

If it had an IP rating, it would have scored a perfect 5-out-of-5. As it is it has become the one to beat in the mass-market.

Nokia 7.1 – the Nokia notch starts here
Name: Nokia 7.1 Price (RRP): $499 Manufacturer: Nokia HMD
Nokia build is superbSteel/copper finish is the one for me - stnads outBest camera in mass-market class (by far)Reasonable 24-hour batteryAndroid OneWhat Joe and Jane Average should be using
No IP rating (yes it is rain resistant)
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
4.9Overall Score
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