Review: Nokia 8
Since selling off its Lumia range of phones to Microsoft in 2014, Nokia has been notably absent from the high-end smartphone market. Now it’s back with a new Android-powered flagship, called simply the Nokia 8 – and it’s looking more formidable than ever. HMD Global is the driving force behind new Nokia, as it has struck a licensing agreement to use the iconic brand name for its smartphones. But its success comes from some well-chosen and carefully cultivated partnerships with companies such as Google, Qualcomm, and now Zeiss.
Nokia has a legacy to protect and a future to build. Once an industry pillar, the brand has a long way to come back from oblivion. And while the Nokia 3, 5 and 6 surely helped restore some confidence, it’s up to the 8 to rekindle the old glory.
Nokia has really pushed the boat out when it comes to design, Nokia has drawn on the design cues of the iconic Lumia handsets to create something pretty special. The 8 is wonderfully slim, measuring a dainty 7.3mm thick, and as it’s crafted from just a single block of aluminium, it both looks and feels like an absolute stunner.
Although the Nokia 8 has a modern curved feeling on the rear, the main display and front fascia feels less ambitious. There’s a tiny bit of sculpting at the edge of the glass so there’s a smooth transition to the curved edge of the handset, but the screen is resolutely flat with no curved edges or fancy designs. Its chamfered edges and curved sides ensure that it sits snugly in the hand, and make it easy to access the fingerprint reader without adjusting your grip.
The volume rocker and power button are located on the left while the home button is beneath the display. The bottom of the Nokia 8 has the USB Type-C port, the loudspeaker, and the mouthpiece. We are glad to see the 3.5mm headphone jack on top of the phone. The hybrid SIM slot is on the left-hand side of the phone – it can either take two nano-SIM cards, or you can put one SIM and one microSD card.
The first thing you’ll spot is the 5.3in, 2,560 x 1,440 IPS display on the front. That resolution amounts to a pixel-perfect density of 554ppi, and Nokia has wisely opted to protect it with a sheet of Gorilla Glass 5. It’s a tad disappointing to note that the Nokia 8 lacks the snazzy edge-to-edge displays of the Galaxy S8 and LG G6.
As far as color reproduction is concerned, the Nokia 8’s screen does a very good job producing accurate colors. The display panel is very bright, and conveniently visible even when exposed directly under sunlight. This is by far the brightest LCD panel we have seen. So, outdoor usage is going to be a breeze.
The Nokia 8 has the kind of horsepower you’d expect for a modern flagship. There’s Qualcomm’s latest octa-core processor on board – the Snapdragon 835 – and this is partnered with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. It even has a microSD card slot to expand the storage.
Running Geekbench 4, the Nokia 8 reached 1,930 in the single core test, and a blisteringly quick 6,540 in multi-core. Stacking it up against 2017’s other big-hitters, this result puts the Nokia 8 firmly among them, with near-identical scores to the Galaxy S8, Xperia XZ Premium and iPhone 7.
It runs cool under pressure, has no lag when switching apps, and the whole interface feels fluid. It benefits from a pure and lightweight Android OS, without any extra services or bloatware. We hardly encountered any heating issues, the device also incorporates a heat pipe for quick dissipation.
The Nokia 8, just like the 3, 5, and 6, runs the an almost vanilla Android Nougat OS. The device currently runs Nougat 7.1.1 and has already received the September security patch. This has been marked as a big unique selling point, timely security as well as OS updates. Due to the near stock software, HMD shall be able to release updates more quickly and swiftly.
There is absolutely no pre-loaded bloatware except for the essential Google Apps. The notification tray, recent apps menu as well as app drawer are close to stock. The software though does support a multiple array of gestures that can be used to deploy various app or actions. Once a valued feature in the Lumia series, Glance is making its way back to Nokia. It isn’t an always-on screen, but it pops up every time the Nokia 8 detects movement and goes off after a predefined time-out. There’s Google Assistant too – the customary long press on the Home button fires it up. There is multi-window multitasking thanks to Nougat, but the screen is always split 50/50 – it is not re-sizable.
On the rear you’ll find Carl Zeiss-branded dual-camera setup, the first lens is a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. The second camera is also 13 megapixels, but is a monochrome camera and lacks the stabilization. This approach to dual lens allows for more information to be captured in an image, better low light capability and increased contrast.
One particularly intriguing new feature is what Nokia is calling a ‘bothie’ – the ability to take pictures with both the front and rear cameras simultaneously. There are built-in Facebook Live and YouTube Live functions in the camera app. Going “live” is only a few taps away, and broadcasting in Bothie mode is simple.
While everything in the software segment is stock, Nokia has made an exception with the Camera App. The Nokia camera interface is clean and intuitive – on the left you can find a bunch of shortcuts, while the camera and video shutters are on the right. Next to the shutter there is a small key for the available modes – Beautify, Panorama, Auto, Bokeh, and Manual. The Nokia 8 also features the brand’s OZO sound enhancements, using three microphones it produces 360° surround sound.
In daylight the picture reproduction is top notch with enough details and vibrant colours while the dynamic range is pretty wide. The monochrome samples are equally stunning with near perfect contrast and white balance. Even in low light, the camera setup performs very well thanks to the f/2.0 aperture. Though it must be noted that this isn’t even near the best. New comers like the V30 and Note8 have an even more sensitive sensor on paper. HDR works like usual, nothing exceptional there.
Obviously the Nokia 8 too has a portrait mode, after all it’s the latest industry trend. The phone also supports ‘Live Bokeh’, which means after clicking a picture, you can manually change the amount of bokeh effect you want while the Portait Mode option too pops up.
The Nokia 8 has the same front camera as the main color one. It packs the same sensor, ZEISS lens, and phase-detect autofocus. The only thing missing is optical image stabilization. Video mode gives you a choice of [email protected] and [email protected] for general shooting. Video output is decent, while the stabilization is up to the mark.
The Nokia 8 is powered by a 3,090 mAh battery which is average among the flagships. The device supports QuickCharge 3.0 Technology we noticed the battery go from 0% to 50% within 35 minutes. Overall, the device packs enough juice to get you through one full day of usage with Mobile Data / WiFi switched on all the time. On heavy usage, the battery shall easily last 12-14 hours. Like I mentioned earlier, the device sports a special copper tube for internal cooling, this helps in reducing the amount of power the processor loses due to heating.
The Nokia 8 supports dual-band Wi-Fi and all of the available standards. Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, GLONASS and NFC.
While the closest competition to Nokia 8 in terms of pricing is the OnePlus 5, Nokia 8 has a lot of leverage over the ‘Nokia’ branding. Nokia has been long known for top notch after sales, and HMD Global has repeatedly stressed upon the fact that Software Updates shall always be a priority. OnePlus has a had a spotty track record when it comes to proper software upgrades.
Overall, the device is perfect for those who want a phone that lasts. The hardware is promising and performs very well. While professional camera shooters may be disappointed, the camera shall be good enough of the the majority of people out there. Given the price tag, the Nokia 8 looks like a decent option, when put against the current ultra expensive flagships like the Note8 and even the LG V30 to some extent. It certainly helps that Nokia has opted to build a more traditional flagship rather than pushing niche, high-end features.