Reviews

Nokia 6.1 Plus Review: Great Build Quality Meets Android One

We have been using the Nokia 6.1 Plus for quite some time and here are our thoughts about the new Android One smartphone from HMD Global. Nokia went through a large overhaul when HMD Global acquired the name couple of years back. HMD’s focus has been re-imagining the old name with modern Android OS. For that, they have went with a very unique approach. Rather than coming up with a proprietary Android skin and then adding its cost to the hardware, they have stuck with vanilla Android and have tried to beat every price bracket by providing best value. As we reviewed the Nokia 6 last year, we are curious to see how the new 6.1 Plus performs and what has changed.

Loyal Android enthusiasts would remember Play Edition smartphones. This category of phones was launched originally in 2013 with one key feature which was, Play Edition smartphones all ran stock Android despite being made by third-party hardware manufacturers such as Samsung. An evolution of that idea is now Android One. Basically, through Android One, brands can come up with their own hardware but to power it, they stick with pure vanilla Android, same as on Pixel devices, just as Google designed it. At the forefront of this new wave is Nokia and their latest mid-series budget offering comes in the form of new Nokia 6.1 Plus. For our complete thoughts on this promising smartphone, read ahead.

Before we begin with our review, here are all the important specs of the Nokia 6.1 Plus.

  • Network: LTE Cat. 4, 150Mbps DL/50Mbps UL
  • Display: Full-HD+ 5.8’’
  • Processor: Snapdragon 636
  • OS: Android Oreo, Upgrade-able to 9.0 Pie
  • Camera Rear: Main: 16 MP AF, f2.0/1.0um, Secondary: 5 MP, BW/FF/f2.4/1.12um
  • Camera Front: 16 MP FF, f2.0/1.0um
  • Connectivity:USB Type-C (USB 2.0), Bluetooth® 5.0
  • Sensors: Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer (G-sensor), E-compass, Gyroscope, Fingerprint Sensor (on the back)
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM + 64GB e-MMC 5.1 internal storage
  • Dimension: 147.2 x 70.98 x 7.99mm (depth without camera bump)
  • Battery: 3,060mAh

Nokia 6.1 Plus: Design and Hardware

Nokia devices follow few key design strategies that make them unique and stand out. For starters, they feature this elongated central camera bump which no other manufacturer implements and usually, Nokia smartphones are more squared off than curved. All of these features make their way to the new Nokia 6.1 Plus. We see a large camera bump at the back but this time around, it houses dual cameras — something we will talk in detail ahead. The whole chassis is quite square as well. For materials, Nokia 6.1 Plus has glass on the back as well as glass on the front. Joining both ends is a solid metal surround that is concave for easier gripping. This combination gives the Nokia 6.1 Plus a very profound and industrial feel which inspires confidence each time it is held. Not only that, it makes the phone feel more expensive than it actually is!

Starting from the front display, 6.1 Plus comes with a 5.8 inch panel which is fitted in a 19:9 aspect ratio and has 1080 x 2280 resolution. Underlying technology is IPS LCD which yields good results. Following recent trends, the smartphone also has notch fitted up top which houses the front single camera and speaker. This cut-out has been integrated to make for better bezel to body ratio. For Nokia phones, this is relatively new concept and is only present on 6 and 7 series. The tall ratio makes the notch not much of a big annoyance but for users who would rather don’t have it, they can switch it off using an app — no setting present built-in unfortunately. Lastly, on the front, there is a small chin on the bottom which also has the Nokia logo printed at the center.

Inspecting the metal chassis which we pointed out earlier, it has a dual cuts for the speaker at the bottom along with a smaller microphone cut-out and USB Type-C port for data transfers and charging. The speaker itself is average, it isn’t something spectacular but also isn’t the worse we have heard. Moving along to the left-side, there is the standard selection of buttons which includes a elongated volume rocker and power button. There isn’t a differentiating texture on the power button but we found the distance between the volume and power to be adequate enough to avoid accidental presses. As for the opposite side, there is the SIM tray which also has a slot for microSD card expansion. The tray supports dual SIM functionality as well but you would have to sacrifice microSD card expansion for that as you can’t have both at the same time. As for the top, it is comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microphone cut-out similar to the one at the bottom.

As for the rear, our phone shipped in Gloss White whereas there are two other color options, Gloss Midnight Blue and Gloss Black. The color difference is prominent from the back and chassis as all color variants have a same black front. The dual camera system is placed in the signature long oval bump at the back and right below it is the smartphone’s fingerprint scanner. Rest, there are standard markings on the phone such as the Nokia logo and Android One moniker. Generally, in our recent reviews, we don’t really focus on fingerprint scanners a lot since they have all become so fast that there is hardly any difference. However, for the 6.1 Plus, we feel it is lacking. It takes a complete second or more to register which is quite noticeable which is a bit odd. Hopefully, this is a software issue and can be addressed.

Internal hardware, the 6.1 Plus has a Snapdragon 636 processor which has 8 cores in total. As for the RAM, there is 4GB onboard along with 64GB storage. In some markets, Nokia 6.1 Plus is being sold as Nokia X6 and it also comes in a 6GB RAM variant but that isn’t available globally. This combination might seem a bit underwhelming and weak but thanks to Android One that isn’t the case. Seeing how Pixel 3 performs well with 4GB, same is the case with 6.1 Plus. For our tests, the Snapdragon processor fared quite well. It handled games, heavy tasks easily. Navigating through the UI was smooth as well. For a slightly better look at performance, here are few synthetic benchmark results:

Nokia 6.1 Plus: Camera

Camera systems on Nokia smartphones in the golden days were quite good especially within the Lumia series. Trying to gain back that same standard, HMD Global is trying to improve on this section with each iteration. Previously, it announced that it will be bringing back the feature-filled camera app that once shipped on Lumia 1020 and had a number of manual controls. Unfortunately, that app has been reserved for phones which have ZEISS optics hence ruling out 6.1 Plus. Despite the app, the new phone comes with dual sensors. One is a main 16MP unit with f/2.0 and the other is a 5MP fixed-focus / monochrome lens for depth data. The package as a whole is quite weak and probably is the only downside to the whole phone. We found the pictures to have faded colors and the photos struggled to have good dynamic range. The white balance was something that created issues as well. You can see some of the photos that we captured with the 6.1 Plus below.

For a mid-range phone, especially looking at the competition, it is quite hard to get away with a lacking camera. From the looks of it, a software change to the camera app can go a long way and we do wish HMD Global does that. Surprisingly, the front camera is much better. It handles all lighting conditions quite well and carries adequate sharpness. Despite being single lens, there is a bokeh mode which implements fake blur to the background. The edge detection was a bit off but only for extremely fine details.

Nokia 6.1 Plus: Connectivity and Battery

Before anything else, Nokia 6.1 Plus is a cell-phone which is intended to make calls and keep you connected when you are on the go. For that, Nokia 6.1 Plus offers LTE Cat. 4 speeds and has support for dual SIM — at the expense of expandable storage. With competing phones offering dedicated dual SIM support along with expandable storage, this is an area which Nokia can improve upon. Further, mid-range phones now have established themselves to endure more than one day of usage on a single charge. This is thanks to latest processor technology as well as improvement in software. For the size, Nokia packs in a 3,060mAh battery which is adequate. For our tests, we got 6 hours plus of on-screen time in slightly heavier usage.

Nokia 6.1 Plus: Software

What makes Nokia 6.1 Plus truly special, except for the build quality, is its software. Pure Android lovers would highly appreciate the Android One program and we think Nokia 6.1 Plus carries it quite well. Straight off, you are getting latest and greatest Android 9.0 Pie. Further, this smartphone will receive future updates much faster than other competing similarly priced smartphones which is a big must for users who want to enjoy cutting edge Android. Also, due to bone stock implementation, the performance gets a boost as it doesn’t carry extra strain otherwise caused by a skin overlay or other bloat.

As for the actual functionality, Android 9.0 Pie does bring in some exciting new changes. The minimal gesture navigation is something that we love along with the new dark notification shade. Further, Digital Wellbeing also makes its way to the Nokia 6.1 Plus. With Wellbeing, you can easily manage your app usage times, set power-down schedule and more. Features that were previously only available through skins have also been added to Pie such as the new built-in Split Screen functionality which lets you pair two apps simultaneously on your display.

Default bundled Nokia 6.1 Plus Apps:

  • Wallpapers: Nokia has added a Wallpapers app which you can use to get perfect resolution wallpapers for your device. These get updated regularly giving you a wide variety of choices.
  • Google Duo: Duo is Google’s video call solution. It is bundled stock with Nokia 3. You can configure it directly with your Google account. It will automatically sync your contacts and allow you to contact them through video call.
  • Camera: The camera app is a modified version suited for the Nokia 3. It includes different modes along with HDR capability for even better shots through the lens.
  • Google Keep: Google Keep is also pre-installed on the device. Keep is a note taking app which supports sync directly with your Google account. This works best when you have multiple devices or you want to view your notes directly on your computer.

Nokia 6.1 Plus: Screenshots

Nokia 6.1 Plus: Gallery

About the author

Taimur Akmal

Devoted writer, enjoys developing code. Appreciates excellent food, exceptional coffee and great company. He is also into sublime design and nicely built cars.