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Nokia 8 Review: Simplicity Is The Ultimate Sophistication

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The smartphone industry of today is an immensely-crowded one, with hundreds of manufacturers rubbing shoulders with each other to catch the eye of consumers. And while there are many big (e.g. Huawei) and not-so-big (e.g. Xiaomi) names that have their own dedicated share of loyal customers, some (e.g. Apple, Samsung) enjoy an almost cult-like following, with scores lining up to buy their latest flagships, year after year.

But before the iPhones and Galaxies came to dominate the mobile world, there was one name that used to rule the roost – Nokia.

The status and reputation of Nokia as a brand in the world of (mobile) technology is nothing short of legendary. From the tough-as-tank 3310 to the optical zoom-toting N93, Nokia’s product line-up is filled up with mobile devices that have now acquired cult status of their own. For many of us (including yours truly), our first mobile phone was a Nokia. Long before the duopoly of iOS and Android, Nokia’s Symbian-powered devices were the very definition of a flagship smartphone.

Nokia 8 Review - Gadget2buy

But as the above-mentioned two OSes were gaining foothold, Nokia chose to ditch Symbian and partner with Microsoft for exclusively-manufacturing Windows Phone-powered smartphones. And even though that collaboration gave the world many incredible devices such as the Lumia 920 and Lumia 1520, Microsoft’s half-hearted efforts towards its own mobile OS led to the downfall of the Nokia brand in the mobile world. It seemed that that the world would never again see a smartphone getting launched with the glorious Nokia logo imprinted on it.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen and in 2016, a Finnish company called HMD Global decided to resurrect Nokia-branded smartphones, this time with the dominant mobile OS – Android – on-board. Though the original Nokia is no longer directly involved in the manufacture of smartphones, HMD Global, through an exclusive brand licensing deal, has launched many Nokia-branded Android smartphones to sate die-hard fans of the brand.

Of those, the most powerful is the Nokia 8. After being introduced to the world a few months ago, the smartphone was recently-launched in India.

Sporting a price tag of Rs 36,999, the Nokia 8 has all the hallmarks of a 2017 Android flagship, including a dual-camera system powered by ZEISS optics and top-tier innards. But are these really enough to make it stand-out in the fiercely-contested Indian smartphone market. More importantly, is the Nokia 8 truly worthy of the iconic Nokia logo that adorns its front and back panels?

The answers await, on the other side of my full review of the Nokia 8, the new standard bearer of the Nokia name in the smartphone world. Read on!

Nokia 8 Display - gadget2buy

Design And Build Quality

Smartphones today are no longer just electronic gadgets. They have become fashion accessories and style statements. To cater to the needs of the consumers, manufacturers are outing modish devices that have everything from swanky bezel-less displays to bodies made out of ceramic. And if you’re among the group, you might find the utilitarian design of the Nokia 8 to be a tad plain, and maybe even boring!

However, if you value function over form and want a smartphone that focuses more on getting the job done instead of trying to look hip, you’ll certainly appreciate just how subtly-elegant the Nokia 8 is, despite its humble outward appearance.

Having a chassis milled out of a single block of series 6000 aluminium, the Nokia 8 looks and feels every bit as premium as you’d expect from a flagship. Its back panel curves gently on all four sides, meeting with the front panel almost seamlessly. The smartphone has a fantastic in-hand feel, although the glossy colour variants (including my Polished Blue review unit), are a bit slippery and tend to attract quite some smudges and fingerprints.

The back panel of the Nokia 8 has its dual-camera system, with two 13MP modules powered by ZEISS optics. Along with that are the phase detection and laser autofocus sensors, as well as the two-tone dual-LED flash. All these components are encased in an elongated, pill-like vertical construction in the centre of the top half of the backplate. A dedicated microphone sits just above the two camera modules, lending the Nokia 8 its spatial audio recording capabilities (discussed later).

Nokia 8 Camera - gadget2buy

A shiny Nokia logo is embossed in the middle of the back panel, while its bottom half has some regulatory information printed on it.

Talking about the sides, a hybrid dual nano-SIM/microSD card tray sits on the left, whereas the right is where you’ll find the volume rocker and the power button, both of which are incredibly well-built and have solid feedback.

The 3.5mm audio port is at the top, while the bottom has the USB Type-C port, in addition to a mono speaker and a microphone hole. It’s worth mentioning that there are two antenna lines (one each at the top and the bottom) that run horizontally across the width of the device and drip slightly to the sides, but they are so nicely-integrated (complete with colors matching with the phone’s frame) into the design that they are barely noticeable.

At the front of the Nokia 8 is a 5.3-inch touch-sensitive display. And yes, there are substantial bezels (especially at the top and the bottom), but they are nothing to lose sleep over. Above the display is the earpiece, the usual assortment of sensors, a 13MP selfie camera, and a Nokia logo. The chin bezel has a fingerprint sensor (which also happens to be a touch-sensitive button), flanked by capacitive, backlit navigation keys.
It might not have the oomph factor of its contemporaries such as the Galaxy S8 and the G6, but the Nokia 8 is still a sharp-looking smartphone, with a build quality that’s definitely flagship-class.

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Display

Gracing the facade of the Nokia 8 is a 5.3-inch IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen. While it’s still a regular 16:9 aspect ratio panel (unlike the funky 18:9 panels that are increasingly making their way into more and more smartphones, including even mid-rangers), the Nokia 8’s display is undeniably up there with the best. Since it’s an LCD, viewing angles are amazing and color reproduction is unerring.

With a resolution of 1440×2560 pixels and a pixel density of about 554ppi, the Nokia 8’s display makes watching 4K/Full-HD videos and playing graphics-intensive games a delight. Heck, even web browsing is fun!

Nokia 8 Smartphone gadget2buy

Oh, and one more thing! Nokia 8 carries forward the ‘Glance’ feature that some of its Lumia-series predecessors had. It’s similar to the ‘Always-On’ functionality that smartphones such as the LG G6 and LG V30 have, except that it’s not always on, and automatically times-out after a user-configurable time period (maximum 20 minutes). Glance is incredibly handy and, as its name suggests, lets you check everything from missed calls to battery status, at a glance.

Performance

Being a flagship smartphone through and through, Nokia 8 doesn’t skimp on the hardware. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s top-shelf silicon – Snapdragon 835 – comprised of a CPU with eight Kryo cores and an Adreno 540 GPU. This is helped by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage (a configuration that has almost become the norm for flagships), with support for microSD cards of up to 256GB capacity.

Nokia 8 Performance

As you’d expect, the Nokia 8 handles all its day-to-day enterprises with aplomb. Whether it’s split-view multitasking, intensive gaming or 4K video recording, everything works/runs flawlessly. During my test run, I encountered no lag or slowdown in the smartphone’s general performance at any point of time, even with multiple heavy apps installed. What’s impressive is that the phone doesn’t heat up, even after extended amount of handling intensive tasks. It seems that the full-length copper cooling pipe and graphite shield that’s built into the Nokia 8, actually work wonders for heat dissipation.

To quantify, Nokia 8 scored 1926 (single-core) and 6591 (multi-core) on Geekbench 4. The score on 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme was 3303. It’s interesting to note that these numbers are better than those managed by Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, which doesn’t just have a Snapdragon 835 SoC, but also more (6GB) RAM than the Nokia 8.

The software experience on the Nokia 8 is equally great. The smartphone runs a near-stock build of Android 7.1.1 Nougat OS, with no bloatware at all. There’s just one additional app that comes pre-installed – Support – and it’s actually quite useful.

Nokia 8 - gadget2buy

Overall call quality was fantastic over the course of my testing. The smartphone latches on to 4G/VoLTE cellular networks sans any issues, and signal reception is generally very good. Individual results will vary, though!

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The front-mounted fingerprint sensor on the Nokia 8 is among the best that I’ve ever used. It unlocks the smartphone near instantly, and supports 360-degree fingerprint recognition.
Lastly, even though you can’t submerge it in water, Nokia 8’s IP54 certification means it can withstand the occasional splash or exposure to dust just fine.

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Camera

Nokia (Lumia) smartphones of the yesteryear were renowned for their class-leading cameras. Unsurprisingly, HMD Global has been touting solid imaging experience as an integral component of the overall package that is the Nokia 8.

Nokia 8 camera | Gadget2buy

To that end, Nokia 8 has a dual-camera system at the back, comprised of two 13MP modules (with ZEISS optics), each having an f/2.0 aperture. While one of the lenses shoots in colour, the other does monochrome. The whole shebang is complemented by phase detection and laser autofocus, as well as a two-tone dual-LED flash.

Well, as you’d expect from a flagship smartphone having imaging hardware this formidable, the Nokia 8’s twin rear shooters capture some really amazing shots. Photos taken in daylight come out to be well-detailed and look vibrant. Colour balance and sharpness are pretty good too, and noise is barely there.

Nokia 8 Camera review - gadget2buy

As far as lowlight images are concerned, they aren’t half-bad either. They have quite a bit of detail and while a little noise is there, it’s not that big of an issue.

Same goes for monochrome photos, which look stunning and have rich contrast and dynamic range.

Turning on the HDR mode further helps in enhancing the details in brighter and darker parts of the images.

The only problem I encountered during my testing of the Nokia 8’s camera(s) is that the phone sometimes messes up the focus. The results of this are more pronounced in case of lowlight images. But again, this only happens sometimes, and I hope it’s fixed via a future update.

Nokia 8 Rear camera - gadget2buy

Completing the trio of Nokia 8’s imagers is a 13MP selfie-camera, which also comes with ZEISS optics. And believe me when I say this, this is not just another high-resolution camera with useless oversoftening and beautification nonsense!

The front-facing shooter clicks incredible-looking selfies. The photos are packed with detail and overall image quality is far superior than selfie cameras on other flagship smartphones can manage. If taking a gazillion self-portrait photographs is your thing, the Nokia 8 is the phone for you!

And while we’re on the topic, Nokia 8 lets you capture not just selfies, but bothies!

All you have to do is enable the ‘Dual’ mode in the camera app, and you can capture a bothie that’s actually composed from two images – one taken from the rear camera(s) and one captured from the selfie shooter – combined together. How cool is that?

Bothies can be captured in both landscape and portrait modes. That said, image quality does take a slight hit in these multi-part images.

The Nokia 8’s video recording capabilities are equally rad. It can shoot 4K videos at 30fps, using both front and rear cameras. What’s more, videos can be captured with Nokia’s OZO 360-degree spatial audio capture, made possible via dedicated extra microphones. This feature makes a world of difference when you’re capturing videos where there’s a lot of mixed sources of sound, such as a live concert.

If you often livestream videos, you’re going to love the Nokia 8. That’s because the flagship lets you directly livestream videos to YouTube and Facebook Live. And just like bothies, the video feed to be streamed live can be captured simultaneously using the front and rear cameras. During my testing, the feature worked quite well.

General video recording quality on the Nokia 8 is really good. Captured videos have good amount of resolved detail and are plenty sharp. Distortion in audio is kept at a minimum too.
Summing it up, I’d say that the imaging/video experience on the Nokia 8 is great, and gives it a much-needed edge over the competition.

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Battery

The Nokia 8 is backed by a 3,090mAh battery. While the battery capacity may seem a bit less for a smartphone wielding a Quad-HD display and a Snapdragon 835 SoC, I found the battery performance of the Nokia 8 to be just fine over the course of my test run.

The battery easily lasted me an entire day with moderate-to-heavy usage. This involved about an hour each of calls, audio and video playback, coupled with about half an hour of gaming, all while keeping the Wi-Fi/4G cellular data turned on. The Screen On Time (SoT), as recorded by AccuBattery, was a little over 5 hours.

nokia 8 Battery - gadget2buy

During my test run, recording a Full-HD video (for 30 minutes) caused the battery level to drop by 11%, whereas playing back a 30-minute long Full-HD video caused a 5% drop in battery level.

Nokia 8 includes fast-charging support with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 standard, and the included power adapter juices up a fully-drained battery in just 2 hours.

Verdict

Flagship smartphones aren’t just about powerful hardware specs and premium build quality. What truly makes them worth the extra moolah is how well they combine those things, and make them work in harmony with each other, to provide a user experience that’s unmatched.

And that’s precisely what the Nokia 8 offers. It has a fantastic build quality, top-of-the-line hardware and class-leading image experience, all encased in a gorgeous-looking chassis. Sure, the Nokia 8 doesn’t have a fancy features such as a bezel-less display and it looks a tad plain compared to the competition, but it’s a well-crafted communication device that gets just about everything right. Add to it things like stock Android experience and two guaranteed major Android version updates, and you’ve got a flagship that’s a winner all the way.

But most importantly, the Nokia 8 is worthy of the legendary Nokia brand name that so many of us love and adore. At Rs 36,999, you won’t find anything better.

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