5G is here. Well Kind of, with three local service providers making it available in selected parts of the country. While we await the allocation of spectrum and a wider rollout, what we do not have to wait for is devices that support the broadband standard. These devices, however, are quite expensive and only a handful of phone makers have options in the mid-range space. This brings us to the latest device from HMD Global (owns licence for Nokia Mobile phones) – the Nokia 8.3 5G.
When it was unveiled last year, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nokia 8.3 5G was billed as the first device of its kind. Luckily that still rings true today, with it supporting all existing 5G bands available across the globe. As such, depending on the carrier and country, you should get access to 5G speeds regardless of where you are in the world.
But is that enough of a draw right now, especially given the fact that international travel is all but impossible, as well as South Africa being rather limited in terms of 5G areas?
That’s what we aimed to find out over the course of a few weeks with the Nokia 8.3 5G, which we received for review.
With that in mind, here’s what we learned in that time.
Let’s start as we normally do with smartphone reviews – design. The Nokia aesthetic under HMD Global is unmistakable at this point and the 8.3 5G is no different. The key elements to note here are the punch hole for the front facing camera at the top left hand corner, as well as the Zeiss-designed camera housing on the rear, but more on those later. Added to this is a unique colour option called Polar Night, taking inspiration from the Nordic Lights.
Having never seem them myself, it’s hard to say how this design compares, but it certainly is a pleasant change of pace from the usual silver, space grey and rose gold we normally see from other smartphone makers.
The Nokia 8.3 5G is also not on the small side. Boasting a 6.81″ FullHD display up front, it is larger than most Ultra, Plus or Max versions of phones you find. The phone also has a reassuring amount of heft to it without feeling unwieldy at 227g.
There is, however, one element we need to note as regards the rear camera housing, which does jut out a decent amount from the rear of the body. Placing it camera side down on a surface, the device is unbalanced as a result, even with the clear protective cover (in the box) providing a buffer.
This is not a reason to no longer consider the phone, but something we did pick up over the past couple of weeks. It is also symptomatic of smartphone design in genera these days, as larger lenses are crammed into smaller bodies, so HMD Global is not alone when it comes to this.
Now that we’ve gotten that slight winge out of the way, what does need to be noted is that the dimensions of the 8.3 5G mean slipping it in and out easily from one’s pocket is a bit more difficult. In fact, a lot of the time we’d carry the phone around instead of having it peer out of the top of our front pocket. Again, not a dealbreaker, but perhaps not to everyone’s taste.
Now for what’s happening internally. On the software side of things, Android 10 is taking care of the operating system. It is also a pure version of Android, so no bloatware, duplication of apps or inhibiting skins involved with this device. It also means that security and OS updates are sorted for the next two years.
Shifting to the hardware, the 8.3 5G is well appointed, but if you’re want attention grabbing specifications, you may have to look elsewhere. There isn’t any cutting of corners here, with HMD opting for Qualcomm processors that get the job done and nothing more on their Nokia Mobile smartphones.
The same applies here, with a Snapdragon 765G modular chipset present. This silicon is designed specifically for the higher end of the mid-range phone market, which is well suited for this phone. The 765G is also paired with a generous 8GB RAM on this particular review model (also a 6GB variant), along with 128GB storage and a dual SIM orientation.
This setup ticks all the boxes as far as performance goes, and while a flagship Snapdragon 800 series is not present here, the Nokia 8.3 5G multitasks well and does not show any signs of lag or inability to handle resource heavy apps. As such, it should hold up well over the next couple of years.
Our benchmarking bore similar results, with single-core and multi-core scores on GeekBench registering at 517 and 1 629 respectively. The Slingshot Extreme and Wild Life benchmarks from 3DMark were similarly solid, at 3 125 and 1 670 respectively.
As such the Nokia 8.3 5G should handle multitasking and entertainment in its stride.
Add to that 5G speeds when in range and you’ve got an impressive piece of tech in-hand.
Next is the camera performance, and here there are no frills or fuss. The quad camera array on offer in the rear serves up a very easy point and shoot experience, but also Pro modes for photo and video when you want to play around a bit and see what the 64MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide, 2MP depth sensing and 2MP macro lenses have to offer.
In general though, images come out crisp and clear, with the 8.3 5G dealing with outdoor shooting well in particular. Low light photography is also solid enough, provided your light source is not sporadic.
Where HMD has tried to overcomplicate the photography experience on other Nokia Mobile devices, on this one, they’ve let Zeiss do what it needs to in order to allow any user to capture good pictures.
At R13 999 (RRP) the Nokia 8.3 5G is well priced in what is an already crowded premium mid-range market. What gives it an edge is a larger than average display, well sized 4 500mAh battery, solidly performing chipset and pleasing camera setup. Added to this is its 5G support, which is hard to match, not only in the mid-range space, but in flagships too.
5G may not be important to you now, but it could be later in the year or even into 2022, so buying a good value for money device that futureproofs that aspect of the mobile experience looks a smart move.
If 5G isn’t important to you, you still get a great all-around mid-range smartphone at the end of the day.
Nokia 8.3 5G
An all-around great value for money mid-range phone, the Nokia 8.3 5G just happens to also boast support for all existing 5G bands, which is something that most flagship phones don't even do. Even if you don't care for 5G, at R13 999 (RRP), you're getting a supremely well put together mobile device.