Jeremy Laukkonen is automotive and tech writer for numerous major trade publications as well as the creator of a popular blog and video game startup. A fan of EVs since the early 2000s, he stays up-to-date on the myriad complex systems that power battery electric vehicles.
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Lifewire / Jordan Provost
Surprisingly good camera
Android One for guaranteed updates
Lower-end battery life
Display looks very blue
The Nokia 7.1 is an affordable Android One phone with a beautiful HDR display, a great little camera, and decent overall performance, though it does struggle a bit with battery life.
We purchased the Nokia 7.1 so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Nokia is one of the oldest and best-known names in the cell phone business, but the brand is fairly new to the Android world. Since the brand’s rebirth at the hands of HMD Global, it’s become known for phones that pack in some surprising features at a fairly affordable price point.
The Nokia 7.1 exemplifies that trend, with an attractive chunky design, great screen, and a clean, stock version of Android thanks to the Android One program—all at a price that’s competitive with other mid-range handsets.
The mid-range Android market is a crowded field, so we put the Nokia 7.1 to the test around the office and at home to see how it holds up in real-world, day-to-day use.
The Nokia 7.1 is a mid-range handset that could pass for a higher-end device if you squint. It features the same general design—a glass front and back separated by an aluminum body—that we’ve seen so many times before, but it has a few design tweaks that help it stand out. The matte aluminum body features chamfered edges that add a bit of visual flair, especially when they catch the light.
The buttons are all located on the right side of the device, and they feature the same chamfered shape as the main body of the phone. The positioning of the buttons makes them easy to hit with your index finger when you hold the device in your left hand, or with your thumb if you hold it in your right.
When you turn the screen on, the first thing you notice is a chunky notch at the top. This notch is the reason that the phone is able to boast a 5.8-inch display, but it seems like a strange choice when paired with the thick “chin” at the bottom of the screen. This use of space definitely looks mid-range.
Setting up the Nokia 7.1 is a breeze if you have a Google account ready to go. Since it uses stock Android and is part of the Android One program, there aren’t any extra hoops to jump through. The only hiccup we experienced was the flood of required updates right out of the box—make sure you allow some extra time to download and install everything.
The Nokia 7.1 isn’t a powerhouse, but it offers great performance compared to a lot of other mid-range handsets. It features the Snapdragon 636 processor, Adreno 509 GPU, and 4GB of RAM, which is pretty good for a mid-range device like this.
We ran PCMark’s Work 2.0 benchmark, which tests how well a phone is able to handle basic productivity tasks like web browsing, word processing, and even editing photos and videos. It received a respectable score of 6,113. That lags behind higher-end devices but compares very favorably to handsets in this price range.
The Nokia 7.1 showed great strength in photo editing with a massive score of 11,093 but lagged behind in data manipulation with a score of 4,792.
The Nokia 7.1 is a mid-range handset in terms of price, but it packs a lot of features that you’d expect from a much more expensive phone.
We also ran two GFXBench tests to see how the Nokia 7.1 holds up. It performed poorly on the Car Chase benchmark, only managing 5.8 fps, but it did much better on the T-Rex test, notching a much more acceptable 33 fps.
In real-world conditions, the Nokia 7.1 is snappy enough that it won’t trip you up during regular daily tasks like web browsing, email, and streaming video. It’s also powerful enough to run some games, but you’ll have to stay away from the highest graphics settings.
It’s important to note that when the Nokia 7.1 launched, it was plagued with complaints about slow operation, lag, and an unresponsive touchscreen. These appear to have been software-related issues that have since been fixed, as we experienced no such problems in our hands-on testing.
In our testing, the Nokia 7.1 performed exceedingly well when connected to Wi-Fi, but it had far more problems with mobile data compared to similar handsets we tested. Connected to T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network (indoors), the Nokia 7.1 achieved 4.03 Mbps down and just 0.11 Mbps up via the Ookla Speedtest app. Tested at the same time, in the same location, a Google Pixel 3 recorded 4.69 Mbps down and 1.33 Mbps up.
The Nokia 7.1 exhibited similar speed issues when tested in other locations despite showing a very strong connection. The highest speeds we were able to achieve, with full reception bars, were 18.0 Mbps down and 1.42 Mbps up (compared to 37.8 Mbps down and 7.23 Mbps up measured on a Pixel 3 in the same location at the same time).
Despite these connectivity problems, we were still able to stream YouTube videos and music from Google Play over the data connection.
The Nokia 7.1 has a 5.84-inch screen with a resolution of 2160 x 1090, laid out as a tall, narrow display with an aspect ratio of 19:9. It has a chunky notch at the top for the front-facing camera and pleasantly rounded edges. The viewing angles are excellent, and the screen is bright enough to see in direct sunlight.
The display makes use of Nokia’s PureDisplay technology, which means it conforms to the HDR10 industry standard. In practical terms, that means you get an HDR-quality display on a mid-range phone, which is pretty fantastic. It’s also capable of converting standard dynamic range content to HDR, which just makes everything look nicer.
The only problem with the Nokia 7.1’s display is that the color temperature is extremely cool. If you hold it next to any similar phone, you’ll notice a somewhat bluish tinge. The phone does include a “night mode” feature that tints the display in increasingly strong shades of amber after the sun goes down, which can help with eye strain at night. But if you’re sensitive to blue light, you may have trouble with this display.
At the bottom of the Nokia 7.1’s aluminum body, you’ll find the microphone, a USB-C port, and two small rectangular cutouts. That’s where the sound comes from, and despite there being two cutouts, it’s all provided by a single driver.
The Nokia 7.1 isn’t a powerhouse, but it offers great performance compared to a lot of other mid-range handsets.
The speaker is serviceable, and we didn’t notice too much distortion when streaming music at high volumes. There is very little bass response though, even compared to other mid-range handsets. The speaker is there if you need it, but you’ll want to plug in headphones or use an external speaker whenever possible. The Nokia 7.1 does includes a headphone jack, located on the top edge of the device, and comes with a pair of earbuds in the box.
The Nokia 7.1 has two rear-facing cameras, 12 MP and 5 MP respectively. The 5 MP one is used for depth sensing to help keep your subjects in focus. The lenses are housed in a bump protrusion, outlined by the same shining metal seen on the edges of the phone.
The camera performs well in a range of lighting situations, and Nokia’s camera app provides you with a pro mode that allows you to manually control aspects like white balance and ISO.
One issue to keep in mind is that when you take a picture with the Nokia 7.1 and view it on the handset, you’re looking at an HDR-enhanced display that upscales regular photos and video with an HDR look.
This means a photo that looks fantastic on the phone may look washed out or less clear when viewed on another device. The camera is capable of taking great snaps, but it’s important to keep that in mind. If you want your pictures to look as brilliant on your computer as they do on your phone, you’ll have to make some image adjustments after the fact.
The handset also supports the “bothie” feature that Nokia has been pushing. This feature enables you to take photos or videos with the front-facing and rear-facing cameras at the same time (if that’s something you ever felt the need to do). It also has a very competent Bokeh feature that holds your subject in sharp focus while blurring the background.
The hardware just isn’t there to challenge the best phone cameras found in flagship devices from the likes of Samsung, Apple, or Google, but the Nokia 7.1 doesn’t come with a flagship price tag either.
In our testing, we found the battery life to be somewhat lacking. We subjected the Nokia 7.1 to PCMark’s Work 2.0 battery test, which is designed to simulate constant web browsing and other tasks, and the battery petered out after about seven hours.
In regular use, we found that the battery was able to stand up to a full day of phone calls, emails, and some light web browsing, video streaming, and playing music.
If you’re a heavier user, you may need to find a charger at some point during the day, but even lighter users would be well advised to plug in at night. You’re unlikely to get multiple days out of a single charge unless you barely use the device at all.
Charging is accomplished through USB-C, and it does support fast charging when you use the included charger and cable. Despite the glass back, wireless charging is not supported.
The Nokia 7.1 ships with the Android Pie OS. It’s also an Android One phone, which means you get stock Android and not a whole lot else. In fact, Nokia’s custom camera app is the only non-standard software that you’ll find on the device when you first turn it on.
Since this handset is part of the Android One program, you can expect updates for at least 24 months from the date of release. Android One phones are also supposed to receive new operating system updates and access to new features before other phones.
With Google ending their own mid-range line of phones with the Nexus 5X and 6P, Android One devices like the Nokia 7.1 are now the best way to keep up with the newest Android features without paying a premium.
The Nokia 7.1 is a mid-range handset in terms of price, but it packs a lot of features that you’d expect from a much more expensive phone. It retails for $349 which, in the world of ever-expanding handset price tags, almost borders on the budget category. For what you get in terms of style, specifications, and features, that’s a pretty good deal.
The Nokia 7.1 has specs and performance that are more or less in line with flagship phones from the recent past and stacks up very favorably against contemporary mid-range phones. For example, the Motorola One retails at $399 and has a lower resolution display, a less competent camera, and an older, slower processor.
That processor, the Snapdragon 625, is even older and slower than the Snapdragon 630 found in the budget-priced Nokia 6.1. It’s also about 40 percent slower than the Nokia 7.1’s own Snapdragon 636.
The display and camera found in the Nokia 7.1 are also significantly better than those found in other handsets in this price range.
The Nokia 7.1 doesn’t compare as favorably to higher-end phones like the $549 OnePlus 6T, which blows it out of the water in both benchmark and real-world testing. But the Nokia 7.1 doesn’t come with that premium price tag, either.
Premium features and great looks, all on a budget.
The Nokia 7.1 isn’t a high-end device, but it brings a lot of premium quality and features to the table. If you’re in the market for a solid mid-range handset, you won’t do much better than this.
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