Nokia 8 Review – Watch out! Nokia is back in business!

It is not surprising to say that the brand “Nokia” is one of the most famous and valued brand back in the 2000s. Going side-by-side with other famous brands such as Sony Ericsson and Motorola, Nokia has a device for almost everyone, from cheap feature phones to more advanced “smartphones” for enterprise users. Unfortunately, as the years go by, Nokia couldn’t keep up with the smartphone world, and began to disappear in the smartphone world. After the acquisition of Nokia by HMD Global back in 2016, Nokia is back on track again with new Android-based smartphones. The Nokia 8 is HMD Global and Nokia’s creation, and with a price tag of RM2299, is Nokia’s latest flagship smartphone ready to go battle in the smartphone market? Let’s find out.

Unboxing

The packaging of the Nokia 8 is nice and simple in a square box. There are some graphics at the front, with a big Nokia logo at the front. The device is presented on top towards the right when you lift the top cover off. The SIM-tray removal tool and some documentations are revealed once the device is removed from the packaging, followed by a pair of earphones. Apart from that, a 18W USB wall adapter and a USB-C 3.1 cable are also included.

Design

Like the design of the rest of the devices in Nokia line-up, the Nokia 8 adopted the “simple and clean is the new classy” style. The overall design is clean and minimalistic, just like Nokia’s usual design cues. It is beautiful to begin with, but without having to draw too much attention to itself. Nokia has paid quite a lot of attention to detail on the design, which is a good sign as it has its own unique design. It’s smaller screen introduces an overall smaller dimension, and fits perfectly in most hands. With a thickness of 7.9mm, while it isn’t the thinnest device on the market, it doesn’t need to be.

You can tell Nokia put quite some effort to make the Nokia 8 a pleasing experience while it’s in your hands. The Nokia 8 started life as a single 6000-series aluminium block, the aluminium construction of the Nokia 8 feels pleasing and premium, and has the weight to reflect it as well. There are no other devices at that price point that feels this good, and you usually have to step up to real flagship smartphones like the Apple iPhone 7 for the same feeling. To top it all off, the front glass features Gorilla Glass 5 technology with 2.5D edges, protecting the 5.3-inch display.

A 5.3-inch display dominates the front of the Nokia 8, with minimal but acceptable amount of bezels on both sides. The 13-megapixel front-facing camera with Zeiss optics can be found on the top, along with an earpiece and some sensors. While there is no dedicated flash for the camera, it utilizes the display as a fill light. Like the Nokia 6, the Android controls are logically laid out at the bottom, with a fingerprint reader located in the middle which also acts as a home button, with back and recent capacitive touch keys located on both sides.

The SIM tray is located on the left, and can be removed with the included removal tool. Once the tray is removed, a nano-SIM slot can be found for the primary SIM slot, while the secondary slot is a hybrid SIM slot, which takes either a secondary nanoSIM slot for dual-SIM functionality, or a microSD card for storage expansions.

The volume and power buttons are conveniently located towards the right, and we’re happy to see the headphone jack still exists on the top of the device, located next to one of the three microphones. The bottom houses the the USB-C port and a single bottom-firing mono speaker.

The design of the back is where the Nokia 8 stands-out with its own unique design. While it still spots the same familiar camera housing from other Nokia devices, it now holds a dual-lens camera system, with one of them on top of each other. Below that is the laser sensor for the super-sharp autofocus system, along with dual-tone LED flash. The camera housing is surrounded by a chrome trim, and while the entire housing is very slightly bumped, it’s not a huge problem unlike on the Z2 Play. The Nokia logo located in the middle is hard to miss.

At launch, you can pick up a Nokia 8 in few different colours. Our tester comes in a colour called Stainless Steel, and also available are Tempered Blue, Polished Blue and Polished Copper, with Polished Copper being a limited and later availability.

Nokia 8 Exterior Photos

Specs and Performance

To show that the Nokia 8 means business, HMD Global has some ambitious plans for the Nokia 8. Powering the Nokia 8 is Qualcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon 835. Not only it is a huge leap from the Nokia 6 which features a more basic processor, only the OnePlus 5 features similar processor at this price point. The Snapdragon 835 is an octa-core unit, with its main cores clocked at 2.5GHz, and the rest clocked at 1.8GHz. The chip itself is smaller in size, but better in performance. As for the RAM, Nokia thinks 4GB is adequate enough, especially for the vanilla Android operating system.

Putting specs on paper aside, the Nokia 8 is a pleasing phone to use on daily basis. It is a beast, and probably the smoothest and most powerful Android smartphone we’ve used to date. Nokia likes to boast about how they have worked hard to improve the overall experience, and their hard work really pays off. Lighter tasks are processed without any problem whatsoever, and it is smooth as silk. Even when more demanding tasks requires more power, the Snapdragon 835 easily got it covered. The metal body can feel a little too hot under full load, but that’s a small issue to worry about. The experience of the Nokia 8 is really responsive and smooth with its well-optimized hardware and software setup. Even though we’re expecting a 6GB RAM, the included 4GB is also rather adequate to keep a fair amount of processes in the background.

The scores obtained from Geekbench speaks for themselves. Single-core score is rated at 1931, while multi-core score, which is the best part of this processor, sits at around 6591.

Nokia also included a 64GB internal storage for the Nokia 8, which is pretty much the standard these days. If you’re looking to expand the storage on the Nokia 8, it will take microSD cards up to 256GB, but you’ll need to give up on dual-SIM functionality. As with other latest Android devices, you can use the card as another volume, or have the ability to fuse it together to expand the 64GB internal storage.

Nokia did not skim on the connectivity options for the Nokia 8 either. As usual, you can expect a dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi setup. Like the Samsung Galaxy S8, Bluetooth 5.0 is also present on the Nokia 8, with faster transfer speed and the ability to connect to two devices simultaneously. Cat.9 4G LTE is also present courtesy of the new Snapdragon 835. Apart from those, Nokia has also thrown in the latest USB Type-C connector for charging and syncing, and it utilizes the latest 3.1 version for faster file transfer speeds.

The fingerprint reader located below the display pretty decent. It is quite thin (in terms of height), but it works pretty decently. It may not be the quickest, and at times there is a delay between the moment when you rest your finger on the sensor and the phone unlocking, but it is quite responsive. It can get quite confused with greasy fingers as the surface of the reader is glossy.

The Nokia 8 gets a IP-54 rating, which means that it is splash and dust resistant. It is a rather low score especially when compared to the real flagship’s IP-67 rating, so don’t expect to go swimming with the Nokia 8.

Display

The Nokia 8 packs a smaller screen than what we’ve seen recently. While it’s little brother, the Nokia 6, spots a 5.5-inch display, the Nokia 8 surprisingly only comes with a 5.3-inch display. It does translate to a smaller form factor. Thanks to the flagship-grade 1440 X 2560 display, pixel density is rated at a whopping 554 pixel-per-inch. Text and images looks really sharp, and we can hardly notice any visible pixels.

As for the display panel, Nokia has decided to stick to a regular IPS panel rather than going for an AMOLED panel like the OnePlus 5. At this price point, it’s a small trade-off for a sharper display. Being an IPS panel, it scores well at colour reproduction. The deep black nature of IPS does help in making the colours pop, but it’s not overly done like some of its AMOLED counterparts. Colours are accurate and towards the natural side. Viewing angles are great since there is pretty much no gap between the panel and the front glass. One slight letdown is the brightness, as even at max brightness, it introduces slight problem while under the sun. The polarized display could be the issue that caused this.

Speaker

While the Nokia 6 gets a stereo speaker setup, that setup seems to have lost its way when it comes to the Nokia 8, as for some reason the Nokia 8 didn’t get the similar treatment. A lonely mono speaker can be found at the bottom of the device. Still, it is a decent speaker. Quality of the audio output for a mono speaker is decent enough. It’s clear and rather precise for a mono speaker, with the right amount of bass and clarity. It could use some more loudness, but overall it is a rather satisfactory speaker setup.

The Nokia 8 can be connected to an external audio output either through the 3.5mm headphone jack, or via Bluetooth 5.0, where it can simultaneously connect to 2 devices.

Camera performance

Nokia has a bit of history when it comes to smartphone photography. The relationship between Nokia and Zeiss has allowed Nokia to create some amazing phones with high quality photography capabilities. The Lumia 1020, for instance, is one of the most-loved smartphone by photographers. Even though the Nokia 8 is not as feature-packed as the Lumia 1020, the specs on paper sounded pretty promising. For starters, tbe Nokia 8 gets a dual-lens setup, with two 13-megapixel sensors with f/2.0 aperture. Like Huawei’s setup, one of them is a standard RGB sensor, while the other is a monochrome sensor. The idea is that the RGB sensor captures the colours, while the monochrome sensor is responsible for the details. As for optics, Nokia has once again turned to Carl Zeiss for help in this department.

Under sufficient lighting conditions, the samples obtained from the Nokia 8 is pretty impressive. Nokia allows photos to be captured using either or both the sensors, and most of the time, our samples are shot with both sensors. Colours are accurate and vibrant, but it is more towards natural side rather than overly done. The dynamic range is also quite wide, which doesn’t need the HDR mode to work a lot even if it is in auto settings. With both sensors working together, images are noticeably sharper thanks to the monochrome sensor. To be honest, we expected more from such a setup in terms of colour reproduction and details, but it should be enough for most people.

As in low-lighting conditions, the samples fall short of expectations. For starters, there are lots of noise with the camera bumping up its ISO to compensate for lighting in dark conditions. Colours are pretty inaccurate as well, and at times things look washed out or overexposed. Image also looks rather soft and lack of details as well, despite having optical image stabilization. We expected the setup to perform well in low-light conditions, but it is what it is.

A dual-camera setup also translates to portrait mode, or Live Bokeh as Nokia calls it. Using details fed by both sensors and the laser focus sensor, it determines the distance of the object and its background, and applies simulated blur effect to the background, which makes the image looks like it’s been taken with professional gear. The Nokia 8 is probably one of the best performer in this section. The effect looks real, and probably one of the best bokeh effect we’ve ever seen.

With the Nokia 8, Nokia also introduced Dual Sight mode, which essentially enables both the front and rear cameras to work together by combining 2 feeds side-by-side. You can take a photo, record a video or even livestream the feed to supported social media and apps.

Nokia 8 Samples

The front camera consists of the same 13-megapixel RGB sensor with Zeiss optics, only this time without the monochrome sensor. It even includes phase-detection autofocus. The image quality is pretty much the same, even though we do notice the slight reduce in details. The autofocus is there to make sure that your face is in focus all the time. Image quality has adequate amount of brightness and contrast as well, and the colours are natural and true to life.

As expected, the Nokia 8 will record videos in 4K resolution, but there isn’t much to choose from, apart from 1080p and 720p resolution. There’s no option to switch to higher framerate for 1080p videos. There are lots of details and vibrant colours in 4K resolution, but even though the framerate is solid at 30 frames-per-second, it is not as smooth as it could be. The audios were great, and this is largely due to Nokia’s OZO Audio technology, where audio is recorded with 3 microphones placed at different parts of the device. It gives a real 3D audio feel, and there are options where you can choose between front, rear or surround audio, like the HTC U11. The built-in speakers are pretty much useless for this technology, but an external audio output device or other devices works best. The front-facing camera can also record videos in the same resolution as well.

The camera app that came with the Nokia 8 is clean and easy to use, with the usual setting shortcuts on the left, while the shutter, switching between photo and video modes and preview buttons are to the right of the viewfinder. The small camera icon next to the shutter button reveals more modes, including Live Bokeh, Beautify, Panorama, Standard Photo and Manual Mode. Surprisingly, even in Manual mode, there is limited amount of settings that you can tweak. Even though it is a manual mode, you can’t tweak the ISO and shutter speed, which is a bummer.

Software

In accordance to Nokia’s goal to provide the best experience for its users, the Nokia 8 comes with a pretty vanilla version of Android Nougat operating system. Nokia really took the software side seriously, and promises constant security and latest operating system updates. Like the Z2 Play, there is just a satisfaction feel using a vanilla version of Android. It is extremely smooth and shows little to no lags, and you can credit the Snapdragon 835 processor for that. Nokia did add some extra functionality here and there and replace a few apps with their own, but it is still a blast to use.

Nokia 8 Software

Battery Life

The Nokia 8 packs a non-removable 3090mAh battery, which is pretty much the average since this is a “flagship” device. But no matter, it does not stop the Nokia 8 to be a good performer when it comes to battery life. After a long busy day, the Nokia 8 returns around 30% of capacity in the battery. The more efficient processor and less bloat definitely contributed well to the battery life. While it is hard to get 2 days of usage, with careful and efficient usage, it can get pretty close.

The Nokia 8 also benefits from Qualcomm’s Quick Charging 3.0 technology, and a big advantage is that you can enjoy quick charging on any chargers that supports QC 3.0, rather than having to only rely on the charger right out of the box. It was able to juice up the Nokia 8 to around 50% in 30 minutes from a flat battery.

Conclusion

The Nokia 8 is a warm welcome from a company that has a great history, and it seems that HMD Global has done a great job at putting Nokia back on track in this huge smartphone market. It is a good alternative to mainstream brands like Huawei, Oppo, Vivo or Samsung especially if you want a great experience and value.

Recap:
5.3-inch IPS LCD display, 1440 X 2560, 554 ppi
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 4x 2.5GHz, 4x 1.8GHz, Octa-core processor
4GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, microSD support up to 256GB
13-megapixel dual cameras with Zeiss optics, RGB + monochrome, f/2.0 aperture, 4K video recording
13-megapixel RGB sensort with Zeiss optics front-facing camera
3090mAh battery

Pros Cons
Good value with low price and flagship specs 4GB RAM is slightly lackluster
Solid construction, premium feeling Rear camera could be better in low-light conditions
Vanilla Android OS is a blast to use No stereo speakers to go along with OZO Audio
Probably the best bokeh effect Battery with average capacity
Solid front-facing camera Screen size slightly small