Nokia 6.1 | Tech News
Despite having been resurrected by HMD Global and launching the nostalgia-baiting 3310 3G feature phone, Nokia has struggled regain a foothold in the unlocked phone market. Can the Nokia 6.1 change that? Unlike the retro-inspired 3310, the 6.1 is a smartphone that boasts solid midrange specs and stock Android One software for an affordable $269. It’s a solid choice for the price range, but the midrange Android market is crowded with strong competitors like the Moto G6, which offers better camera performance for $20 less, and the Moto E5 Play, which is significantly less expensive.
Design, Features, and Display
The Nokia 6.1 is one of those phones that would have fit in just fine last year, but in 2018 sticks out like a sore thumb with its 16:9 form factor, rectangular sides, and metal back. The matte black body has bronze accents around the sides, as well as around the camera lens and fingerprint sensor on the back. The overall look is classy, but dated.
At 5.8 by 3.0 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and 6.1 ounces, the Nokia 6.1 is a hefty slab that’s difficult to reach across or use with one hand compared with the tall-and-narrow G6 (6.1 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches, 5.9 ounces). You won’t find any features like waterproofing or drop resistance, but the phone feels pretty sturdy, and its metal body makes it a bit less fragile than the glass-backed competition.
A clicky volume rocker and a power button are on the right side, a headphone jack is up top, and a USB-C port and reasonably loud speaker are at the bottom. The left side features a SIM/microSD card slot that worked with a 256GB card after I formatted it.
The front of the phone has a 5.5-inch, 1,920 by 1,080 IPS display with a large top and bottom bezel. The screen is crisp, with pixel density that works out to 403ppi, just a little less crisp than the 18:9 G6 (424ppi). While colors look accurate, viewing angles aren’t the best. The screen washes out a bit from the sides, taking on a filmy appearance. Outdoor visibility is decent, and the screen gets reasonably bright, but direct sunlight can prove to be a challenge.
Network Performance and Connectivity
The Nokia 6.1 is available unlocked and supports LTE bands 2/3/4/5/12/17/20/28/38. That’s fairly comprehensive for AT&T and T-Mobile coverage, but it doesn’t support Sprint or Verizon, unlike the Moto G6. Network performance is good, with the phone registering slightly better than average download and upload speeds on T-Mobile in heavily congested midtown Manhattan.
Other connectivity protocols are a bit better than your typical midrange device. You have dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 5.0 to allow wireless listening on two audio devices at once, and NFC for mobile payments.
Call quality, unfortunately, is less impressive. Transmissions are harsh and raspy, and noise cancellation isn’t quite good enough to prevent background noise from bleeding in. Earpiece volume is decent, but could be louder.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
The Nokia 6.1 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor clocked at 2.2GHz, with configurations of 3GB or 4GB of RAM (we tested a 3GB model). In the PCMark benchmark, which measures a variety of tasks like web browsing and video and photo editing, the 6.1 scored 4,856, which is a bit higher than the Snapdragon 450-powered G6 (4,583), and much better than the Alcatel 3V’s MediaTek MT835A-powered performance (3,151).
This translates to a good ability to multitask, but not to terrific gaming performance. In the GFXBench Car Chase on-screen test, the phone scored just 5.9fps, which is a little bit better than the G6 (3.2fps), but not enough to make a difference in actual gameplay. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was only playable at low graphics settings and suffered from frequent stuttering.
Battery life is decent, but nothing to write home about. The 3,000mAh battery clocked 5 hours, 5 minutes when streaming video over LTE at maximum brightness. It’s better than the G6’s 4 hours, 42 minutes, but doesn’t compare well with the G6 Play, which outran our 12-hour test video. The phone supports fast charging, but you’ll need to get your own Quick Charge-compatible adapter.
Unlike the dual-sensor Moto G6, the Nokia 6.1 has only a single 16MP rear camera. Despite boasting Zeiss branded optics, however, it fails to measure up to Moto. In shots taken side by side against the G6, the 6.1 it fell short in all of the shooting conditions we tested. In good lighting (pictured directly below), colors are a little washed out compared with the warmer, more saturated G6. Zooming in reveals that fine details like bricks and textures of buildings are grainy and lacking in clarity.
While midrange phones typically don’t perform well in low light, the Nokia 6.1 still falls short of expectations. As you can see below, the G6 is able to focus more reliably, take sharper shots, and suffers from less noise. The 6.1 often couldn’t find focus and ended up shooting blurry or noisy photos.
The one big advantage the Nokia 6.1 has over the Moto G6 and most other midrange phones is that it’s able to record 4K video at 30fps, but it’s not particularly smooth or stable due to a lack of optical image stabilization. The front-facing 8MP camera takes decent photos and is passable for video.
The Nokia 6.1 runs Android One, a pure stock version of Android 8.1 Oreo that guarantees at least two years of software updates and three years of security updates. This means the 6.1 is completely free of bloatware and other extraneous features that bog down other phones. That said, Motorola phones also run a lightweight UI, and the extra features they include are often quite useful.
The only apps preinstalled on the 6.1 are Google’s default app suite, and even that is pared down—you won’t find Google Docs or Google Sheets preloaded. Naturally, this leaves you with a good amount of free storage. Out of the 32GB total, 18.65GB is available out of the box, and as we mentioned before, a microSD card is always an option for additional storage.
The Nokia 6.1 is a midrange Android phone that offers solid performance, a sturdy build, and clean Android software for a reasonable $269. For $20 less, however, the Moto G6 offers better camera performance and a more modern design. The Nokia 6.1 is a strong option if you’re sold on the promise of reliable software updates, but if you’re simply in the market for a capable Android device, the Moto G6 is a little more well-rounded, while the Moto E5 Play is a fraction of the price.