HMD Global has launched the Nokia X6 for the global market and renamed it to the Nokia 6.1 Plus for reasons I believe are more or less about the slightly larger 5.8-inch display as compared to the Nokia 6.1‘s 5.5-inch display. At its price point of Rs. 15,999 the phone brings in specs that are similar to offerings from Xiaomi like the Redmi Note 5 Pro, and the Mi A2 (which, by the way, also runs on Android One). So, is the Nokia 6.1 Plus worthy of this price, or is it yet another budget smartphone that’ll be overshadowed by Xiaomi’s offerings? Well, I’ve spent almost a week with the device as my daily driver just to come to a conclusion about it’s viability as your new smartphone, and here is my in-depth review of the Nokia 6.1 Plus.
Nokia 6.1 Plus Specifications
First things first, let’s get the specs out of the way.
|5.8-inch FullHD+ 2280x1080 pixels
|16MP f/2.0 + 5MP f/2.4
|Android 8.1 Oreo
|Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer (G-sensor), E-compass, Gyroscope, Fingerprint Sensor (on the back)
|WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 5.0; GPS/AGPS+GLONASS
What’s Inside the Box
The Nokia 6.1 Plus comes in the usual Nokia box. You know, slim and wide, and kind of nice looking? Yeah, that one. Anyway, inside the box you’ll find a bunch of stuff:
- The Nokia 6.1 Plus
- Fast charging adapter
- USB-A to USB-C cable (you know, for charging)
- SIM ejector tool
- a bunch of manuals (neatly tied together so you can throw them away easily)
So, one thing that I noticed is that HMD Global is probably the only major brand that bundles earphones with their budget smartphones. Xiaomi sure as hell doesn’t, and Samsung, well, I wouldn’t recommend a Samsung budget phone anyway so it doesn’t matter.
Design and Build
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is not a ridiculously awesome looking device, or even one that’s built like a tank (at least when it comes to the look and feel of it), but then again, ‘awesome’ is a subjective term, and personally I like the fact that Nokia didn’t go full iPhone X when designing the 6.1 Plus. There’s a notch, sure, and that’s definitely a trend started by the iPhone X, but the rear of the Nokia 6.1 Plus is not similar to the iPhone X (or most other phones from other companies for that matter).
The dual-rear camera is vertical, but is in the center of the back-panel (very HMD like, if you remember the Nokia 6.1 with its rear camera in a similar arrangement even though it was a single unit). There’s a slight camera bump here, but it’s very slightly bumped especially when compared to the Redmi Note 5 Pro, or the monstrosity that is the camera bump on the Mi A2 — that bump alone is enough to deter me from wanting to buy the Mi A2, but I digress.
The dual camera arrangement here means that the fingerprint scanner is at a location where I can’t really use it as effectively as I would’ve had it been a few millimeters towards the top. It’s the same problem that the Nokia 6.1 had when I reviewed that device, but this time around I can’t blame HMD for the longer camera set-up because it’s a dual camera. To be honest, it’s not like the fingerprint scanner will be a hindrance in using the phone, it’s just not placed as well as it could’ve been. You remember the problem everyone had with the Galaxy S8 and the Note 8 where the fingerprint scanners were so far up that they were difficult to reach? This is the exact opposite of that. Also, the fingerprint scanner is slow, not extremely slow, but it’s not fast enough to be satisfactory.
The back panel here has a glossy finish which definitely looks good. It’s made of glass, which can be considered both a good thing and a bad depending on where you stand on the issue of ‘how often do you drop your phone?’ However, the back is still very much a fingerprint magnet. Perhaps not as much as other glass-backed smartphones like, well, almost every other flagship out there, but it still does get smudgy after a short while of using it.
Coming back to the front though, I can’t really fault HMD Global for going with a notch, since every one is doing it now and at-least Nokia’s notch is smaller than a lot of notched phones out there. I do, however, despise the ridiculous chin, and while I understand that the chin isn’t going anywhere until manufacturer’s start bending their displays inwards (like the iPhone X), I can’t help but hate it anyway.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus has all the regular buttons and ports. The power button is on the right, alongside the volume rockers; there’s a headphone jack on the top, and a speaker along with a USB-C port on the bottom. The USB-C port is a great addition here, seeing as the Redmi Note 5 Pro comes with a microUSB port (in 2018! What in the world?). One complaint I do have with the Nokia 6.1 Plus is that the buttons are mushy and just, ugh, I hate them.
Oh by the way, the Nokia 6.1 Plus doesn’t have NFC support, if that’s something that matters to you but then again most phones in this price range don’t, and there’s also no wireless charging, which again is something you won’t find in most phones in the price range.
Over all, I’m pretty happy with the design and even though it does feel slightly less, for the want of a better phrase, Nokia-like to hold, it’s a compact device that fits rather well in my hand (something I can’t say for the Redmi Note 5 Pro, or the Mi A2 for that matter). Also, while the build quality doesn’t feel like it’s anything remarkable, is definitely better than what it feels like because I accidentally dropped the phone straight down on concrete from around 4 feet and it didn’t even get a tiny dent. From personal experience, I can tell you, the OnePlus 5 is nowhere near as good at avoiding dents and scrapes as this thing is and that’s saying something considering the OnePlus 5 is more than twice its price, and built entirely from aluminium.
The display here is a 5.8-inch FullHD+ LCD panel and it comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for at least some semblance of protection from scratches. I’m not particularly fond of LCD displays, but the display on the Nokia 6.1 Plus is definitely one that I don’t have any complaints with.
It gets decently bright and can get quite dim, it has decent viewing angles, and like most other budget Android smartphones I’ve used, it has a tendency to lean slightly towards cooler tones, which is especially noticeable when heading into the white-laden settings screen.
If you’ve never used a notched phone before, it’ll take you some time before the notch kind of melts away from your vision, but if you hate it with a burning passion, you can always head over to the display settings and hide the notch, turning the top of the phone into a giant forehead. I’d probably have done that in my usage of the phone, but doing this on an LCD display is honestly not a great idea. It’s there, however, and I’m glad it is, because not everyone would want to deal with a notch even if it was only for a few days before they got used to it.
Anyway, media consumption on the Nokia 6.1 Plus is definitely not a problem with the notch. YouTube videos can be scaled up to fill the display, but they still leave the notch part out like you were using an 18:9 phone. Personally, I find this much better than having the notch eat out a portion of the video I’m trying to watch like some sort of a misshapen Pac-Man.
Also, I’ve noticed that for an LCD panel, the Nokia 6.1 Plus’ display does handle blacks pretty damn well. Unless you’re using the phone in absolute darkness, you’ll probably not even notice the blacks being backlit and that’s pretty damn awesome. I like it. However, ambient display isn’t something that’s meant to be used with LCD panels, and while the option is there, I found myself disabling it after the first night of getting annoyed by the entire phone lighting up just to show me a damn notification.
All that said, I’d say the display on the Nokia 6.1 Plus is definitely a pretty nice one to have on a budget smartphone and the only complaint I have is that it leans to a slightly cooler tone than what I’m used to, and I couldn’t find an option to adjust colors on the display. It’s not a problem though, and for every day usage, the display is pretty good.
Well, this is a tough one. In our Nokia X6 first impressions, we mentioned that the cameras on the Nokia X6 were decidedly only decent enough, and honestly terrible in low-light. They really were. However, I think the Nokia 6.1 Plus is performing a little better. It may be because it’s better optimized in the global ROM, or it may be something else (maybe Nokia’s in-house camera app just sucks, I don’t know), but whatever it is, the Nokia 6.1 Plus definitely improves upon the X6 (though not by a lot). I took a bunch of pictures with the Nokia 6.1 Plus and (on Rupesh’s constant nagging and insistence) with the Redmi Note 5 Pro and the Mi A2 to get an idea of how things stand with the phones.
In daytime shots, the phone fares decently good enough. Whether it’s pictures of objects, or scenery, the phone definitely does better than the Nokia X6. However, when compared to the Redmi Note 5 Pro, and the Mi A2, I feel like those phones perform an overall better job of handling the colors and the exposure in images. In selfies however, I find the Nokia 6.1 Plus reproduces a more natural color tone even if the Note 5 Pro beats it in the amount of details it can capture.
I took images in full auto without adjusting any settings, and all the phones had HDR set to auto, and one thing I noticed was that the Nokia 6.1 Plus definitely handles HDR better than the rest. It could be because of the AI enhancements that HMD Global says it has made to the camera, but regardless of the reason, I’m pretty impressed with the way the Nokia 6.1 Plus handles HDR.
In low-light, things tell a different story altogether. Most budget smartphones aren’t adept at handling low-light situations, but the Nokia 6.1 Plus ends up usually being the worst at these conditions. While all three of the phones I tested for the camera comparison ended up performing in a less than optimal way, I couldn’t help but notice that the Nokia 6.1 Plus ends up usually being the worse of the three.
The phone starts messing up focus in low-light, and introduces substantially higher noise than the other phones. Personally, the Mi A2 is my pick in low-light because it performs at-par with the Note 5 Pro, and sometimes even better.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus comes with portrait mode on both the rear (thanks to the dual camera) and the front (thanks to software). I took a couple of portrait selfies, and some portrait shots with the Nokia 6.1 Plus, the Mi A2, and the Redmi Note 5 Pro to see how they fare, and the overall verdict is basically that the Nokia 6.1 Plus usually doesn’t get details quite right in portrait shots whether they are selfies or portraits of objects. In low-light especially you can see a lot of noise in photos from the Nokia 6.1 Plus. The Redmi Note 5 Pro isn’t much better, but the Mi A2 is definitely a lot better with portrait photos.
In terms of videos, the Nokia 6.1 Plus comes with 4K support which the Redmi Note 5 Pro lacks, and it has EIS for stabilisation. I didn’t do a very extensive video test of the Nokia 6.1 Plus partly because it’s been raining in Delhi quite a bit so I couldn’t get out much, and partly because I couldn’t be bothered to get off my lazy ass and actually go shoot anything from the phone. However, the short video I did take was decent enough, although it’s pretty evident that the Nokia 6.1 Plus’ EIS is pretty aggressive since the video ended up getting weirdly shaky.
That was while I was getting down the stairs though, and in normal walking situations the phone can handle things pretty well. I was also pretty impressed with the exposure compensation on the Nokia 6.1 Plus.
The camera app in the Nokia 6.1 Plus comes with stickers and stuff, and one single, lonely Animoji clone. It’s a dragon, and surprisingly it both looks and tracks better than Samsung’s AR Emojis. It’s nowhere near the iPhone X’s Animojis though, but it’s funny that a Rs. 15,999 phone has better animoji clones than Samsung’s flagships.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus comes with a Snapdragon 636 and 4GB of RAM which means we can expect performance that is at par with the likes of the Redmi Note 5 Pro which also comes with the Snapdragon 636 Mobile Platform, and that shows up on benchmarks where the Nokia 6.1 Plus scores remarkably similar scores as the Redmi Note 5 Pro. Obviously it’s not as powerful as the Honor Play (which comes with a Kirin 970 and at a higher price), and it’s slightly less powerful than the Mi A2 as well, which comes with a Snapdragon 660.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus performs really well in actual usage as well. I’ve not experienced any lags from the phone or frame drops in animations even with intensive usage. It’s a pretty well rounded performer to be honest in day to day usage. I also tested the phone out with gaming though to get an idea of how it performs with heavy games like PUBG Mobile, and new games like Asphalt 9.
PUBG Mobile on the Nokia 6.1 Plus automatically goes to Low settings, which is honestly expected with a Snapdragon 636 and 4GB of RAM. However, the gameplay is smooth and I didn’t encounter any issues while playing the game and grabbing a Chicken Dinner. GameBench suggests a similar performance with the median FPS coming in at 26FPS which is pretty good for PUBG Mobile.
Asphalt 9 also runs smoothly on the Nokia 6.1 Plus and I didn’t find the game lagging or stuttering anywhere. I raced through People’s Square and Cairo in Asphalt 9 and everything looked great.
Marvel Future Fight is absolutely not a problem for the phone. Even though the game itself has some choppy animations, the frame rate hovered around 55FPS all the time which is pretty damn good.
Basically, gaming on the Nokia 6.1 Plus shouldn’t be a problem. Obviously, you can’t switch to higher graphics settings on PUBG Mobile unless you want absolutely crappy frame rates but that’s pretty obvious, and over all the phone handles gaming really well. I did notice, however, that the phone gets warm during gaming, especially in PUBG Mobile, but it’s not too warm to get uncomfortable.
Other than that, the phone comes with 64GB of internal storage which should prove decent enough for most users, and if needed you can expand it with a microSD card of up to 400GB capacity — which is definitely more than what people need on a smartphone right now.
In terms of software, HMD Global has loaded the Nokia 6.1 Plus with stock Android Oreo 8.1, and it’s an Android One device which means you’re guaranteed 2 years of Android updates, and 3 years of monthly security updates which is great.
Since it is stock Android it doesn’t come with any bloatware, other than the Nokia Support app. It’s also the clean, standard Android UI you’ll find on stock Android phones, and that’s something I prefer. Obviously, you’ll not get any additional features here, so there’s no Face Unlock on this (unless you count Android’s Trusted Face feature, and somehow, no one seems to count that, least of all me), there’s also no feature for locking apps, or hiding apps, and if you’re used to features that MIUI brings, you’ll probably find it feature-less.
All that said, I personally prefer stock Android on everything, and if you’re in the same boat, the software experience here is excellent.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus packs in a 3,060 mAh battery that comes with fast charging support; and yes, a 3,060 mAh battery in a phone with a 5.8-inch LCD display might sound like it’s probably underpowered, I was surprised at the battery performance of the phone. In my normal usage of the phone which usually involves a game or two of PUBG Mobile, reading through Twitter, and browsing on Chrome along with the usual Instagram, WhatsApp, and phone calls, the phone consistently lasted me well over a day. With a screen on time of around 4 hours, I think the phone lasts decently long enough.
However, if you’re a more intensive user and you like playing games like PUBG Mobile a lot of times in a day on your phone, you’ll definitely need a charger along to get you through the day.
Fortunately though, the Nokia 6.1 Plus charges decently fast enough as well, taking around 1 hour 40 minutes to go from 10% to 100%.
Most of the battery consumption I saw on the Nokia 6.1 Plus was from PUBG Mobile which can suck up quite a bit of battery in just a single full game. Asphalt 9 burns through battery as well, but it’s considerably less of a battery drain than PUBG Mobile is.
In terms of connectivity, the Nokia 6.1 Plus comes with support for WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac and supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi networks. There’s also a hybrid SIM tray that can house either two SIM cards, or a single SIM card along with a microSD card should you need the additional storage. Calling with the Nokia 6.1 Plus is no problem at all, the voice is crystal clear, and the earpiece can get loud enough to be easily audible even if there’s noise around you. I did notice that WhatsApp calls sounded a little muted, but that’s most likely due to internet issues than anything related to the phone itself.
For connections with Bluetooth devices (and for file transfer if you still use Bluetooth for that) the Nokia 6.1 Plus comes with Bluetooth 5.0 which is something I’m really glad about since it’ll ensure a stronger, more stable connection over longer distances than previous Bluetooth versions.
Pros and Cons
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is a pretty decent phone, and actually performs very well. However, there are pros and cons to the smartphone.
- Great display
- Compact design
- Performance won’t let you down
- Guaranteed and timely software updates
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Below par camera performance
- Fingerprint scanner could have been better
- No face unlock
Nokia 6.1 Plus Review: Should You Buy It?
All that said, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is one of those phones that put me in a difficult position. Recommending this phone outright is something I might have done, but the lack of good cameras is a problem. I mean, the Redmi Note 5 Pro brings in better cameras, and a metal build along with a bunch of configuration and color options and a bigger 4,000 mAh battery. However, the biggest reason I find it difficult to recommend the Nokia 6.1 Plus is because the Mi A2 beats it in almost every single way. The Mi A2 comes with stock Android, Snapdragon 660 SoC, cameras that beat the Nokia 6.1 Plus in every scenario, and a pretty great metal build; all for a price of Rs. 16,999 — just Rs. 1,000 higher than the Nokia 6.1 Plus. Also, if you can increase your budget to Rs. 21,000, the newly launched Poco F1 (Rs. 20,999) is the phone I’d recommend for its incredible value for money.
All of that is not to say that the Nokia 6.1 Plus is not worth your attention; the phone does have redeeming qualities in there — there’s a build that’s actually strong enough to handle drops, a design that won’t bring the iPhone X to mind everytime you look at it (other than the notch), stock Android, a headphone jack, and USB-C. All of those are pretty impressive things that put it at an advantage to the Redmi Note 5 Pro, even if not so much against the Mi A2. So, if you have a budget constraint that won’t let you go to the Mi A2, and you want stock Android on your phone, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is definitely a phone you can go for.
Buy the Nokia 6.1 Plus from Flipkart (Rs. 15,999)