Nokia 7.1 Review: Another solid entry

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Ever since HMD Global took over as the official manufacturer of Nokia Mobile branded devices, they’ve been churning out a number of aggressively priced, well specced and value for money offerings.

With their latest smartphone, the Nokia 7.1, HMD Global has kept that newfound tradition intact as it serves as yet another solid mid-range device from the company.

Is it worth buying though, considering the mid-range market is fairly saturated at the moment with great value for money smartphones?

Above average stylings

The Nokia 7.1 does not look like a run of the mill mid-range. In fact, it’s glass and aluminium design would rival that of a premium flagship device.

As with most glass heavy smartphones though, the design although pleasing to the eye, comes with one substantial caveat – it will require a phone cover.

Getting one should be easy enough, but you won’t get one in the box when purchasing the Nokia 7.1, so be prepared to pay extra money in order to protect your new device.

The glass also has another issue, namely that it’s a magnet for smudges. This is something you have to deal with on most flagship phones these days, so we guess it simply comes with the territory at this stage.

As for the rest of the Nokia 7.1, it’s quite lightweight at 160g, and well-balanced, which lends itself to easy one-handed use. The 5.84 inch display is also a joy to use and is crisp for most applications and web browsing.

Just one thing

There is one major issue for us though – the screen notch.

Yes HMD Global has embraced the notch for the Nokia 7.1, and in this case it has not been executed as well as it could have been. The problem is a dark blur along the edge of the notch that is a bit of an eyesore. It’s one of those things you don’t notice at first, but once you do, you cannot ignore.

On the whole though, the Nokia 7.1 is a rather handsome device.

Steady performer

When it comes to processor performance (an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 636) the Nokia 7.1 is steady overall, as evidenced when we put it through its multitasking paces, as well as benchmarked the device.

The latter yielded a score of 116 635 on AnTuTu, placing it in the same company as the Xiaomi Mi 5 which totalled 113 719.

This solid performance is aided by a pure version of Android 8.1 (Oreo), with an update to 9.0 (Pie) arriving OTA while we reviewed the device. As such it served to showcase that HMD Global’s promise of porting the latest Android updates to its Nokia devices is indeed being kept.

As for the operating system everything is clean and easy to use, as is expected from pure Android. It also once again makes a case for other bloatware-filled UI’s from other Android phone makers going the same pure route.

Other specifications worth noting are 3GB RAM and 32GB of onboard storage, which will likely necessitate use of the microSD slot (up to 400GB) if you plan to take a lot of pictures and aren’t keen on cloud storage.

Snappy camera

The rear of the Nokia 7.1 sports a speedy fingerprint sensor and dual lens camera setup.

The latter is comprised of a 12MP lens with predictive autofocus and a 5MP option for depth of field. The result is some great bokeh shots if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s not on the level that an iPhone Xs or Huawei Mate 20 Pro can produce, but certainly gives you the bokeh fix that you’re looking for.

It performs well outdoors, and in the correctly lit conditions can offer you some truly great pictures. The low light performance leaves a little to be desired though, as do most smartphone cameras with these sort of specs, so things can get a little grainy at times.

On the whole though, the Nokia 7.1’s camera performance is about as good as you can get for a R5 999 (RRP) phone at the moment.

Upgrade worthy?

Being a .1 iteration the Nokia 7.1 serves as a refresh to the device that HMD Global debuted last year, despite it being hard to find in South Africa.

This brings us to the question posed at the beginning of this review (thanks for sticking with us this far). Is the Nokia 7.1 worth upgrading to if you already own a mid-range Nokia phone?

The short answer is no, especially if you have something like the Nokia 7 Plus, which sports many of the same specifications sans screen notch.

If, however, it’s been awhile since you bought a new phone and you’re in the market for a mid-range device, your money would be well spent on the R6k Nokia 7.1.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.