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Nokia 8's minimalist approach in design and pricing makes it a winner in 2017

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 30 December 2017, 9:53 IST
(Wikimedia Commons)

It’s Nokia 8’s Scandinavian elegance against OnePlus 5T’s Chinese exuberance (Xiaomi's Mi Mix 2 only has the design going for it). While the former is the flag bearer for HMD Global, the company that is bringing the iconic Nokia brand, back to life, the latter is a Chinese company aiming to offer flagship quality products for half the price of the Samsung’s and Apple’s.

While I’ve already given my thoughts on the OnePlus 5T (REVIEW) and even the limited Star Wars edition of the OnePlus 5T (Read here), let me tell you why the Nokia 8 is the smartphone that, without trying much, outmuscles all others in a similar price range, even the beautifully cultivated Mi Mix 2.

Nokia came out guns blazing with the announcement of a refreshed Nokia 3310 (everyone’s favourite feature phone from over a decade ago) and a trio of budget smartphones – Nokia 3, Nokia 5 & Nokia 6. Unfortunately, they were all underwhelming.

When I reviewed the Nokia 6, I was impressed by just how much care HMD Global had taken with constructing the device and it was a device, that albeit wasn’t great in day-to-day usage, had me excited for the future. That future is the Nokia 8, and eventually the Nokia 9, in a month or two.

Nokia 8 is a device that 2017 needed. It’s a device that will be hailed as the ‘comeback device’ for the company that once ruled the world.

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Nokia’s flagship

Nokia’s flagship device doesn’t attempt to dazzle with its design. Neither does it attempt to wow you with its specifications. It attempts to win you over with its minimalistic approach. Win you over it does. This is a far cry from OnePlus 5T's 'tired' design.

Nokia touted the fact that it is carved out of a single block of series 6000 aluminium. Add to that the curved edges and it’s a device that feels pretty great in the hand. It’s scratch resistant, doesn’t have any flex and the antenna lines blend in perfectly. It’s another sturdy device. It’s yet another device in the HMD Global portfolio that lives up to the legacy that Nokia was.

Nokia chose to forgo the 18:9 bezel-less trend and put in a 5.3-inch Quad HD (2560 x 1440) IPS LCD screen. Initially, I had some issues with the display, but after tinkering around with the settings, I can safely say that this is one of the best smartphone displays out there.

It boasts accurate colour reproduction, great viewing angles (though I do miss the bezel-less devices for watching my sporting highlights), and reading long articles is a pleasure as the text is razor sharp.

Like its mid-range rival from OnePlus, the Nokia 8 has all the top-of-the-line specifications one can expect in a device priced at Rs 36,999. It has Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM, 3,090 mAh battery, support for Quick Charge 3.0 for fast charging and most importantly, stock Android.

Nokia 8 takes anything you throw at it with an aura of calmness. Hardcore gaming, everyday multitasking, watching videos on a train journey and long Facebook/Instagram Live sessions. Nokia 8 doesn’t falter for more than a couple of seconds.

The reason, once again, is the buttery-smooth stock Android. HMD Global promised a bloatware free and clean stock Android and it has delivered exactly that.

The 3,090 mAh battery may seem weak on paper, but a good day’s worth of usage and the battery will last until you hit the sack. There is also the added bonus of Quick Charge 3.0 that’ll help you juice your smartphone in no time. Last but not least, the Nokia 8 has a USB Type-C port at the bottom, keeping up with the latest trends in the industry.

Speaking of that battery, it is one of the few smartphone batteries that rarely heat up unless under immense pressure. Nokia has done this by including a liquid cooling system.

That camera (Plus Bothie)

Bothie. Read it once, then read it again. It's a terrible name, isn't it? I do think they could have kept the technical name Dual-Sight instead. Nonetheless, this is the one feature, on the Nokia 8, that is unique and far ahead of others in the industry. It's a feature that allows for the usage of the front and rear cameras at the same time. They appear in a split screen view.

It's basically for clicking photos of something - an expression, an animal, food, or other things - and capturing your own reaction to it at the same time. Mostly though, this feature is very useful for vloggers (video bloggers) who have taken over YouTube.

The Nokia 8 can record 720p, 1080p or 4K videos using either camera, but just limited to 30 frames per second. While the video and audio quality do the job just fine, they won't give you anywhere near the pixel perfect quality from the Google Pixel smartphone. The videos are recorded with the Nokia OZO spatial 360° audio technology. I am not a complete audiophile, but I couldn't make out much of a difference than Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.

The camera though, holds it own, in a crowded segment that includes the runaway winner, the Honor 8 Pro.

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Sahil Bhalla/Catch News
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Sahil Bhalla/Catch News

One of the smartphones of the year

This is the best smartphone one can buy for Rs 40,000 or less. Period. It’s got everything you want and expects from a Nokia flagship. Sure, there are some areas where it can improve – a more immersive screen, a larger battery, better camera, but the minimalist approach is what is winning HMD Global many accolades.

It may lag behind the OnePlus 5T, Xiaomi Mi MIX 2, Honor 8 Pro and others in the number of 'standout' features available, but the fact that Nokia gets the basics right, and does so aplomb, wins us over. It has taken us back to the glory days of Nokia, and I'm sure with the Nokia 9 and the 2018 version of the Nokia 8, HMD Global will take the brand to greater heights.

For now, this is the best mid-range 'flagship killer' one can get on the market. It's the most refreshing smartphone of 2017 and it's the device I keep returning to, week after week, purely because it's such a pleasure to use.

2017 will be the year of Nokia's revival. 2018 will be the year Nokia takes back its crown at the helm of the smartphone industry. The Nokia 8 may not be setting the agenda, but it picks up the pieces of hardware that are available and makes for an elegant piece of hardware that is most definitely worth owning.

First published: 30 December 2017, 9:53 IST
 
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.

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