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Nokia 8.1: Alluring design, capable hardware in a 'value flagship'


New Delhi, Dec 26: Finnish company HMD Global, which sells Nokia-branded phones, has more or less designed products based on the traditional "Nokia build" that has been received warmly by Indian buyers.

The latest Nokia 8.1 smartphone retains the design language that we have been seeing in Nokia devices.

Available in India for Rs 26,999 in a single configuration of 4GB RAM and 64GB onboard storage, the device supports high-quality HDR10 display, like its predecessor, the Nokia 7.1.

While the handset maker's focus has been on manufacturing value-for-money devices for the price-conscious Indian market with good hardware and neat Android One experience, this device has been priced a little higher and, according to the company, falls under the "value flagship" category.

We used the phone for a few days and here's how it fared in real-life usage.

HMD Global has used a single block of series 6000 aluminium to build the device -- in a rich glass sandwich design with a sand-blasted finish. The iron/steel-coloured review variant was a refreshing change from the usual blue and red tints that we see in smartphones these days.

Considering the design language, the Nokia 8.1 looked a lot more premium than its rivals in the same price segment. The maroon-coloured finish with hues of steel looked great.

Talking about the front of the device, a 6.18-inch Full HD+ screen takes up most of the space. There's a notch as well that houses the earpiece, and the selfie camera.

The screen definitely outpaced Xiaomi Poco F1 in terms of sunlight legibility and brightness.

The phone's display settings can be tweaked between the default Dynamic mode, the Vivid mode and Cinema mode. The FHD+ LCD screen is also protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass from Corning.

The Nokia 8.1 features a 12MP auto focus (AF) sensor and a 13MP fixed focus (FF) sensor at the rear that churned out good photographs with the right amount saturation. Images shot in both landscape standard auto were equally sharp.

The smartphone also sports HMD Global's famed "Bothie" feature that essentially lets the user shoot photos from the rear and selfie cameras simultaneously.

A 3500mAh battery powers the device that let us churn out over a day's juice on a single charge.

Android "Adaptive Battery" feature is worth mentioning that adapted to the usage pattern and helped increase the battery life after using it for 2-3 days.

A Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 system on chip (SoC) paired with 4GB RAM and 64GB onboard storage handled most everyday tasks efficiently. Usual social media surfing, Internet and video streaming and gaming was pretty smooth on the device.

The internal storage can be further expanded up to 400GB via a hybrid MicroSD card slot.

What doesn't work?

While the Nokia 8.1 ticks most boxes, it comes with a few caveats too. For example, the size of the notch could bother some users. Also, considering the price point of Rs 26,999, we would have loved some sort of weather-proofing (IP rating) on the device.

The photos taken in low-light conditions fell short of detail.

Conclusion: Android One (pure Android experience) and timely software paired with the Snapdragon 710 chipset make this one stand out in the mid-range priced smartphone category. Those looking for an enticing design and capable hardware should consider buying this phone.