Nokia 6.1 Smartphone Review

Nokia 6.1 Smartphone Review  - The Nokia 6.1 is a budget-friendly smartphone but with ZIESS optics and a decent screen, could it be the money-saving smartphone you've been looking for? Let's find out...

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Nokia 6.1 (2018) in Camera Phones



1/80 sec | f/3.5 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
 

Quick Verdict

The Nokia 6.1 is a very reasonably priced smartphone that is capable of producing good images and excellent video in most situations. Yes, it does struggle a bit in low light and when scenes have a wide dynamic range, results can be disappointing but overall, it did a decent enough job. Plus, when you consider how reasonably priced it is, you can almost let slip its low light performance issues as in all other situations, it's a really great smartphone camera. 

If you're looking for a smart-looking smartphone that can take good photos, has 4K video built in and captures awesome selfies then the Nokia 6.1 might just be for you. It's a budget-friendly smartphone that surprised us and we reckon you won't be disappointed with how it performs either.  

+ Pros

  • Lovely design
  • Good screen
  • Pro mode
  • Decent camera
  • Good price

- Cons

  • Not a dual lens camera
  • The battery could be better
  • The camera app is a little clunky and basic (in places)
  • Lack of Optical Image Stabilisation
  • Not waterproof
 

 


1/60 sec | f/4.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 320
 

Space is a little tight in the budget smartphone bracket with various Android smartphone designers introducing devices with excellent specs and decent cameras for a reasonable price. Nokia is one such brand who are having a resurgence in the Android smartphone market with several phones arriving in the budget as well as premium sections of this ever-growing sector. 

We've already reviewed the Nokia 7 Plus, which sits in a higher price band of smartphones, so we thought it was time to look at one of Nokia's latest budget offerings - the Nokia 6.1.  

With an aluminium body and matt design, the Nokia 6.1 already has a premium feel and that's before you realise it has ZEISS optics built in (Nokia and ZEISS have actually been friends for years), a decent size screen and camera specs that are pretty decent for a smartphone that will only set you back just over £200. 

So, for those on a budget who still want a smartphone with decent camera specs, the Nokia 6.1 is lining up to be a good choice but is its real-life performance as good as it looks on paper? Let's put it to the test and see. 

 

Nokia 6.1 Features

1/60 sec | f/4.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 320
 

The Nokia 6.1 has a 16mp, f/2.0, 27mm rear lens and on the front, the camera has slightly fewer megapixels at 8 but the aperture is the same. Video can be captured with both cameras at 1080p/30fps, as well as in 4K with the rear camera, and you can shoot panoramas, use an HDR mode, Pro mode and a beauty feature that will 'fix' images. A rather unusual 'bothie' mode is also built in so you can take an image with the front and rear cameras at the same time. 

There's no optical image stabilisation which, combined with the f/2.0 aperture, could mean the Nokia 6.1 produces shaky shots when working in low light and as there's only one rear lens, you don't get access to a live bokeh mode as you do with the Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 8 Sirocco.

If you use Google Photos, you can get access to unlimited photo storage and cloud back-up which should keep your 32/64GB of storage pretty free but you can use a MicroSD memory card should you run out of room.  

The Nokia 6.1 is powered by a Qualcomm SDM630 Snapdragon 630 mobile platform as well as 3/4GB of RAM depending on what memory size you opt for and a 3000mAh battery is built in which should give you enough power to keep the shots coming. After you've captured your images, you can view them on the 5.5-inch screen (1080x1920 pixels, 16:9 ratio). It also runs Android One for that 'pure Android experience' so you get regular security updates and fewer apps installed on the device when you first open it up. 

As you'd expect from a smart device, the phone has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity but it's not waterproof. It does, however, have a headphone jack - something iPhones are now too cool for and sound flows through a single speaker found bottom-left. 

 

Key Features:

  • Rear Camera: 16mp, f/2.0, 27mm Zeiss lens
  • Front Camera: 8mp, f/2.0
  • Screen: 5.5-inch, 1080x1920, 16:9 ratio, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Wi-Fi/NFC/Bluetooth
  • Flash: Dual LED, dual-tone flash
  • Video: 1080p/30fps (both cameras), 4K (rear camera)
  • Pro mode 
  • ISO 100-3200 (selectable in Pro mode)
  • 3000mAh battery
  • 3/4GB RAM, 32/64GB Storage

 

Nokia 6.1 Handling

1/80 sec | f/4.5 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200

 

Nokia describes the Nokia 6.1 a 'a phone you can rely on' and the way it feels certainly makes you believe this. It feels strong, sturdy and almost makes us feel like it doesn't need a case to protect it (we'd always recommend buying a case for any smartphone you use, though). Some other smartphones feel delicate because of the glass construction but the Nokia 6.1 feels reassuringly well-built. It's actually constructed from Aluminium but the matt black back stops it from feeling slippery and it doesn't mark as easily with fingerprints which is excellent. 

Gorilla Glass 3 is built into the all-metal body and on test, we have the Black/Copper version which is eye-catching and stands out from other smartphones available at this price point which tend to just be one colour, often black. The copper detailing, rounded corners and matt finish all add up to a really good looking phone that looks much more expensive than it actually is - well done Nokia. As well as the version we have on test, you can also buy a blue/gold or white/iron version. 

A couple of design features that suggest it's not a premium smartphone are the fairly big bezels, bottom chin and thick sides but don't let this put you off as it's a lovely looking piece of kit, particularly at the price bracket it sits in. 

The 5.5-inch screen isn't the biggest but you can't describe it as small and, in general, we had no problems with viewing angles or brightness levels (even though the screen does look very shiny/glossy). Of course, outside in bright sunlight is a smartphone's nemesis but as you can adjust the screen's brightness and there's also an auto light adjustment feature built-in, you can still view the phone's apps easily. As for resolution, so long as you don't compare it to the more expensive iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S9 side-by-side, you won't see any problems with the 1080x1920 resolution it offers. As the screen is so shiny, smudgy fingerprints do show up very easily so you might want to have a lens cloth handy if these kinds of marks annoy you. 

 

1/80 sec | f/4.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
 

Buttons seem to be a thing smartphone designers like to keep to a minimum and the Nokia 6.1 is no different to other smartphones on the market that just have a power button and volume controls on the sides. There's no 'home button', as such, it's just a circle on the digital display you press but there is a headphone jack on the top right as well as a USB-C charging port in the middle of the bottom part of the smartphone which sits next to a left-mounted speaker.

On the back, there's the Nokia logo and the ZEISS name sitting under the camera lens which tells you premium optics are built in. Under the lens and flash is the fingerprint sensor so if you do want to unlock your phone using fingerprint recognition, don't set it as your thumb as that'll just be too much like hard work. On occasion, we accidentally tapped the flash instead of the fingerprint sensor but at least it's not the lens you're getting fingerprints on. 

As we've mentioned the lens, let's have a look at the camera specs, camera app and how the smartphone handles photography. 

The camera app, while performing OK, is a bit clunky and some tools aren't where you expect them to be. Take the selfie mode, for example, you have to click the rear/front camera switch (as you expect) but it's right at the top of the app which means you can't access it with one hand so 'quick snaps' aren't something you can do easily. 

Quick access modes are shown across the top (in portrait mode) and stacked to the left when holding the phone horizontally. The modes include face smoothing, self-timer, HDR, flash and an option for switching between single, dual and P-I-P (combined front/rear shots). Next to these, is a drop-down menu which is home to a panorama mode, the Pro camera and settings. There's also a button to switch from camera to video next to the shutter button. 

Pro mode can also be accessed by pressing and sliding the shutter button which curves the manual settings into view. When using Pro mode, you can adjust the white balance, set the ISO, pick a shutter speed, use manual focus or set the exposure compensation. The Pro mode is a brilliant feature to see on a budget smartphone as some premium smartphones, such as the iPhone X, don't offer this. Having said that, it's not the most intuitive Pro mode we've ever used and we had to play around with it a while to fully understand it. 

The Nokia 6.1 doesn't have dual lenses so there's no second lens to switch to. A digital 'pinch and zoom' function is built in but we'd recommend not using it where at all possible as, with all digital zooms, quality isn't that great. The shutter button isn't a real button, it's just built into the app which usually makes the chin smaller on smartphones but this isn't the case with the 6.1. Mind you, it is a budget smartphone so having a bigger chin where some of the back-end technology sits is understandable. 

There are now 'live' digital filters but you can add them after capture and as it's an Android smartphone, you can easily access Google Photos which gives you tonnes of storage space. 

The phone is powered by a Qualcomm SDM630 Snapdragon 630 mobile platform as well as 3/4GB of RAM depending on what memory size you opt for. The Qualcomm processor is something we're seeing more of on the more reasonably priced smartphones, nowadays, which is a positive as previously, cheaper Android phones used MediaTek processors.

Using Geekbench 4.1 it scored 665/4225 (single core/multi-core) and the AnTuTu benchmark gives the Nokia 6.1 a score of 90918.


Battery life - The Nokia 6.1 has a 3000mAh battery built-in which won't be winning any awards but it keeps the smartphone powered for a day's use. 



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