Nokia 8.1: Is HMD's newest flagship phone worth the hype?


Just weeks after launching its Nokia 7.1 phone, HMD Global finally launched its much awaited Nokia 8.1 in India. The flagship phone features a 6.18" PureDisplay FHD+ screen and dual Zeiss lenses. The question now is: Is this the hit Nokia needed to end this year on, or is it a miss?

The box comes packed with the essentials - the familiar candybar handset, a quick-charge adapter, a USB Type-C cable and a pair of earphones, along with the usual quick start guide. At the first glance, the Nokia 8.1 looks like just like a wider version of the Nokia 7.1, with the same robust look and sleek feel.

While barely 8mm thick, the phone retains its structural strength. The camera module, a fingerprint sensor and an LED flash is mounted on the glossy back. On the front the front, there’s a chin with the company’s logo and a notch almost as wide as the iPhone X, which to say the least, is an acquired taste.

The FHD+

The Nokia 8.1 has a stunning 6.18” PureDisplay FHD+ screen with an 18.7:9 ratio. The screen is HDR-10 compliant, meaning that images look vivid and brilliant. Apps like YouTube allow you to zoom in to utilise the entire screen, although the notch and the zoom can cut out some of the content.

Just like on the 7.1, you can choose to eliminate the notch through the developer options, giving the phone a top bezel.

The selling point - click!

What truly sells Nokia are the Zeiss lenses mounted on its back. With a 12MP main camera and a 13MP depth sensor the images are of the highest quality. Not just in natural light, but the camera also performs well under poor lighting conditions. The resultant images have clearly defined edges even in low light, outperforming the 7.1 by a lot.

For the selfie lovers, this may just be the phone for you! The Nokia 8.1 packs a massive 20MP front shooter, making sure your selfies look clear as day. The portrait mode on the front camera works really well, highlighting everything in great detail.

The device is capable of recording in 4K Ultra-HD with its rear cameras and in FHD 1080p with its front camera. The rear cameras have another trick up their sleeves, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), enabling you to take clear shake-free videos.

The custom camera app can also take a picture from both the front and back cameras simultaneously.


Taken in natural light

Also read: The Nokia 7.1 goes on sale tomorrow. Should you buy it?

A true powerhouse with minimal heating 

The Nokia 8.1 is one of the few phones available today packing the new and efficient Snapdragon 710 processor. Despite many of its immediate price competitors coming with 845s, the device has no problem keeping up. The phone ran all my apps smoothly and had no problems running graphic intensive games like PUBG and Asphalt 9.

Another plus point is that the phone rarely heats up. In my experience, despite simultaneously fast charging and playing Asphalt 9 for an hour, the phone got just about warm. It make great use of its RAM, keeping a lot of apps running before one of them reloads.

The Nokia 8.1 is part of the Android One program, which means the phone is running clean and stock android and is guaranteed to get updates for the next three years. Out of the box, the phone is running Android 9.0 Pie.

Battery life? Celebratory!

Nokia claims that the 8.1 gives a two-day battery life, despite a medium sized 3,500mAh battery. A fully charged Nokia8.1 will get you through the day without a problem. Even after some camera use, about an hour of gaming, moderate use of everything else and the screen at reasonable brightness, I managed to get through the day with some juice to spare.

The 18W fast charger works surprisingly fast, but you won’t be needing it much.

Speakers not as sound as expected

Just like the 7.1, the Nokia 8.1 has a small bottom firing speaker next to the Type-C port. Due to its position, its easily covered while watching videos and playing games. The audio quality is not the best. Fear not however, as there is a headphone jack. The box also comes with an incredibly comfortable and well-sounding pair of earphones.


Low light photo - sharper than expected

Nokia 8.1 - the verdict

Overall, the Nokia 8.1 is a great phone on both fronts. On the hardware side, it comes with an excellent set of cameras and an unbeatable screen. The Snapdragon 710 is admittedly a little slower than many of its competitors’ 845s, but it handles just as smoothly.

On the software front, the stock Android goes easy on the processor, meaning the lack of bloatware makes the entire UI experience very smooth.

It's important to take into consideration that the excellent build quality, shimmering glass back and Zeiss brand lenses do drive the cost up to that Rs 26,999 price tag. As with many of Nokia’s new series of phones, they seem to be overpriced compared to their immediate competitors, but outclass them in terms of build quality, looks and display. So if you’re more inclined towards these features, then the all-new Nokia 8.1 is the phone for you.



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