Hands on: Nokia 6.1
Nokia had a reputation for building excellent hardware with exemplary battery life. That was, however, before the era of the smart phone.
Developments have now meant that Nokia, under HMD Global, have returned to its original philosophy with well thought out and executed hardware, nicely packaged and fit for purpose.
In a widely appealing range, the Nokia 6 for 2018, for 6.1, gets a raft of improvements on its predecessor and as the middle weight in the stable, comes out fighting.
In look and feel, the device has a metal chassis, with chamfered edges and a nice anodised colour to the exposed edges. This colour cue, copper on the test device, is continued around the camera lens and flash and fingerprint sensors. It gives the phone a classy look without being blingy.
At 148.8 x 75.8 x 8.2 mm and weighing 172g, this is no lightweight, but it sits easily in the hand and does not feel too big, or weighty. That is until you put it in your trouser pocket, when it makes itself known.
However, the sturdy body accommodates one of the standout features, the gorgeous IPS LCD capacitive, multitouch touchscreen that is a full 82.6 cm2 or 5.5”, with 1080 x 1920 pixels resolution on a 16:9 ratio and a 403 ppi density. It is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3.
Despite this impressive screen, the battery, which is the same capacity as the last model, at 3000 mAh, powers the phone with ordinary usage at a full two days.
In testing, morning email, Twittering and news consumption, followed by various media consumption through the day, from a bit HD video, to more social media and even a bit of document processing, rounded off by an evening of TV companion work, left 66% on the battery! Sitting overnight in airplane mode and vibrate-only alarm clock duty used a miserly 1%. A second full day pretty much as above and it had not gone below 33%.
Other reviewers have argued that a full two hours of HD video streaming saw the 6.1 perform no better than competitors, to which this hack says, if you are regularly watching two full hours of streamed HD on a hand-held device, you need to consider your life, as well as your technology, choices.
But seriously, for common, as opposed to ‘normal’ usage, the Nokia 6.1 is probably a little better than claimed at a full two days battery life. And when one considers that this is also a USB C-sporting model that offers a complete charge in about 90 minutes (or 50% in 30 minutes), that means a lot.
This level of battery performance is due in no small part to the heart of the device, the Qualcomm SDM630 Snapdragon 630 chipset, with Octa-core 2.2 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU, partnered with the Adreno 508 GPU, with 3GB of RAM and 32GB internals storage (4/64GB option), expandable via MicroSD card. Plenty of power for all but the most demanding tasks, but even in a bit of casual gaming, no limitations were found.
A key part of the value proposition of the Nokia 6.1 is the fact that it runs Android One (8.1.0). This is the unadorned version of Android, free of the bloatware and overlays common among so called premium manufacturers. As a long time user of the Nexus line of devices, for this hack, it is a welcome development and one that reassures with an indication of security patch status too. Assured of regular updates direct from Android HQ without having to wait for manufacturers to integrate, if they ever bother. This is a very good thing.
As regards cameras, there is an 8MP on the front and a 16 MP (f/2.0, 27mm, 1.0µm) on the back with phase detection autofocus, Zeiss optics and dual-LED dual-tone flash. On the interface, there is full access to the various functions that are applied as you look on a screen slider. This makes for very easy control and an instant view of the effect. It makes messing with the capture parameters far less daunting for the curious as opposed to professionally informed and a welcome addition.
That said, the only real criticism of the device was the camera. In usage, with the High Dynamic Range (HDR) set to auto, it often took quite some time to process images after the shutter clicked. This often led the on-screen image freezing and the camera appearing to be unresponsive while it squirreled away the pixels.
Turning off HDR or setting it to manual resolved this, but it seemed a bit glitchy and interrupted usage. Usually on the second or subsequent shots, it may just be a minor bug that needs an update. Camera results were generally good, though noticeably below what might be expected of the top end of such devices, but competent nonetheless.
The Nokia 6.1 is Nokia doing what it does best, taking the best of hardware, moulding it with its philosophy and packaging it attractively. Sturdy, with good performance and exemplary battery life, the 6.1’s minor niggle with the camera pales into insignificance.
At €249 recommended retail price, this is a very strong offering in the field.
The Nokia 6 (2018) is available in Ireland exclusively with Three from free.