The Nokia 8.1 is the successor of the Nokia 7 Plus, one of the best mid-range smartphones of 2018. With his new smartphone, HMD Global is he still the champion of quality / price? Let's see that with our test.
With the Nokia 8.1, the manufacturer HMD Global changes its strategy regarding the name of its smartphones. If previously the number 8 designated its high-end products, such as Nokia 8 and Nokia 9 Sirocco, this is no longer the case. The Nokia 8.1 is a successor to the Nokia 7 Plus, and the brand leaves the place to the Nokia 9 Pureview to be his flagship.
Version of the OS
2280 x 1080 pixels
Snapdragon 710 at 2.2GHz
Graphics Chip (GPU)
Internal memory (flash)
64 GB, 128 GB
1:12 Megapixel Sensor, Sensor 2: 13 Megapixel
5.0 + A2DP + LE
LTE, HSPA, GSM
2100 MHz (B1), 800 MHz (B20), 1800 MHz (B3), 2600 MHz (B7), 700 MHz (B28)
2x nano SIM
Ports (Inputs / Outputs)
154.8 x 75.8 x 8 mm
This test was made from a smartphone provided by the brand.
A finishing jewel
The Nokia 8.1 takes the design introduced by the brand with the Nokia 7.1 a few months earlier. So we find at the front an edge-to-edge screen, with a fairly pronounced notch and chin. At the back, the phone offers a very classic glass back with a double camera slightly emerging, placed above the fingerprint reader. One can also see the Nokia logo in the middle of the back, above the mention Android One. Both sides are connected by a metal frame, with a Type-C USB port underneath, a jack port above, and the volume and ignition buttons on the right edge.
In hand, the phone is a bit massive, while it is smaller and a little lighter than my Pixel 3 XL surmounted by a shell. This feeling probably comes from the glass surface and the rounded corners of the frame that make it all a little too slippery for my taste. Result, I pay more attention, and therefore uses more force to hold my phone. However, this remains very subjective, and none of my colleagues were embarrassed by the handling of the smartphone during a small trial session.
The Nokia 8.1 is still quite pleasant to use: the fingerprint reader falls well under the index, the buttons are well placed and with enough resistance to be nice. The smartphone is in any case a jewel of finishes.
Very bright and well contrasted screen
The notch screen of the Nokia 8.1 features a 6.18-inch Full HD + HDR10 panel. The notch is rather prominent, but is very well hidden by the notification bar of the phone. The screen is bright and pleasant to use, but it's quite simple for an IPS display in 2019, especially during a test in winter.
Let's see what the screen gives, once placed under our colorimetric probe. According to our results, the screen displays an excellent maximum brightness of 600 cd / m² and an equally good contrast of 1400: 1. It is thanks to this good contrast ratio that the notch melts as well with the black bar. The screen shoots a little blue, as often on the smartphone, but no more than reason. The average color temperature of 7800K confirms this trend. The sRGB spectrum is here totally exceeded by the screen.
The smartphone does not fully adjust the colors displayed on the screen, but offers several display modes in the settings. With Cinema mode, the screen displays colors that are closer to reality, but this is done to the detriment of the maximum brightness which increases to 212 cd / m² with a contrast of 1280: 1.
Android Pie with Android One at the controls
Nokia and HMD Global continue to offer so-called Android One smartphones. Here the smartphone runs on Android 9.0 Pie, with the security patch of December 2018. On our test copy, the phone only managed Widevine L3, which can be problematic with HD video playback.
Google apps are all installed by default, and we can especially note that Google Files and Google Pay are involved. Side Nokia, there is an application for the SAV, and some additional settings ("Gestures").
The interface goes to the basics, and could therefore annoy some by its lack of options and features. For example, you can not hide the notch, to display a complete status bar, and therefore more notifications. For other users, an interface that knows how to be forgotten is on the contrary a good thing.
Performing up to a certain limit
The Nokia 8.1 is equipped with a Snapdragon 710 chip from Qualcomm. This SoC is the first to be placed between Qualcomm's 600 and 800 series. We had already tested it with the Oppo RX17 Pro. It is supported by 4 GB of LPPDDR4x RAM and 64 GB of eMMC 5.1 storage.
This 10-nm chip is composed of a processor with 2 cores Kryo 360 Gold (2.2 GHz) and 6 cores Kryo 360 Silver (1.7 GHz), an Adreno 616 graphics chip and an X15 LTE modem. This allows the Nokia 8.1 to be compatible with the latest Wi-Fi standards (Wi-Fi 5, 802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5.0.
In use, it gives a very responsive smartphone in common tasks: browsing the web, playing video, etc. We expected no less than an Android One smartphone. Let's see now how the phone is doing with our performance tests, and in game.
Nokia 8.1Oppo RX17 ProOnePlus 6Nokia 7 Plus
SoCSnapdragon 710Snapdragon 710Snapdragon 845Snapdragon 660
AnTuTu 7.x170 113168 463267 316140 565
PCMark 2.07 0568 5808 2336 132
3DMark Slingshot Extreme1 8281 8474 6681 330
3DMark Slingshot Extreme Graphics1 6991 7135 2041 159
3DMark Slingshot Extreme Physics2 4912 5463 4302 754
GFXBench Car Chase (onscreen / offscreen) 12/13 FPS11 / 13 FPS32 / 35 FPS8,6 / 9 FPS
GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 (onscreen / offscreen) 31/33 FPS28 / 32 FPS59 / 71 FPS21 / 23 FPS
Sequential read / write 287/201 MB / s506 / 195 MB / s718 / 154 MB / s277 / 212 MB / sec
Random Read / Write17,5k / 1,83k IOPS28,7k / 6,61k IOPS35,9k / 5,6k IOPS14,4K / 4,6K IOPS
As can be seen, compared to a Snapdragon 845, the Nokia 8.1 Snapdragon 710 is doing well for tasks that require mostly processor power, like PCMark 2.0, but much less with tasks that require graphics power like 3DMark.
Good point, the smartphone is compatible with Fortnite. By default the game adjusts the graphics settings to medium and 30 frames per second, aware of the limitations of the device. With these parameters, the game manages to remain stable at what seems to be 30 frames per second, but there are some hiccups from time to time.
On Arena of Valor, the game is set with high details by default, but without the HD display. The IPSE mode is present, and once enabled to reach 60 frames per second. It is with pleasure that I was able to become the MVP of my game at my low level, and promised it was not in confronting AI.
The Nokia 8.1 incorporates two cameras on the back, a first with a sensor of 12 megapixels 1 / 2.55 inches and photosites of 1.4 microns, and the second with a sensor of 13 megapixels. First of all, let's start by pointing out, as we did for the Nokia 7.1 test, that the camera application installed by default is very complete.
It even becomes a little anxiety, so – even with the automatic mode – the application offers many options: flash, stopwatch, beauty mode, stickers, movement and Google Lens. On the other hand, in addition to the automatic mode, there are also: a Legia Pro mode, a live Bokeh mode, and the usual panorama, square, slow motion, fast motion and video modes.
Beware of the way HDR capricious
Parenthesis on the application made, return to the snapshots captured by the Nokia 8.1. Let's start with a disappointment, the HDR mode enabled by default knows a little too many failures to be recommended. It happens regularly that elements on the photos appear in duplicate (like the car on the picture taken from a balcony, or a face for the one taken in the street). Another problem, the algorithm fails to correct the sky burned on the picture of windows taken outside.
If you exclude the HDR mode, the Nokia 8.1 camera is doing pretty well during the day. We find a nice dive (on the poster or door Saint-Martin for example), and good color management at the fruit. Too bad that the dynamics are not perfectly managed, what is expected for a smartphone at this price.
Once the sun sets, and in more difficult conditions, there is necessarily a little more digital noise, but the Nokia 8.1 manages to control. The smartphone is doing pretty well on the details (the marking bus, or door Saint-Martin), but the management of lights is again a little disappointing. Lighting and neon lights are easily burned to the point of making them illegible.
Selfies that do not justify the notch
The notch yet large enough Nokia 8.1 home a single camera of 20 megapixels. Smartphones that incorporate this kind of notch generally offer either two front sensors, or a 3D or infrared recognition solution. Here we have to be satisfied with this single camera.
The result is also not up to our expectations. The photos obtained are rather correct, but the management of light is once again problematic by day (my forehead is almost burned) and the whole lack of details. The night shot shows the strengths and weaknesses for the dorsal camera: few noises, light problems and details still preserved.
It is thus the software processing of the photos by the smartphone which seems to be withdrawn, more than a problem at the level of the optics or the sensors of the telephone. Hopefully a software update will improve that.
There is only one speaker on the Nokia 8.1 located next to the USB Type-C port, in addition to the speakerphone used for calls. This small element quickly shows its limits as well for watching a movie as for music. We are far from the stereo solutions that are sometimes found in the competition. To broadcast sound, the smartphone can also rely on Bluetooth 5.0 and its 3.5 mm jack. This time, they both do very well.
The capture of sound is more interesting since it uses the Nokia Ozo surround system based on the integration of several microphones on the phone. This system can better capture the sound in noisy environments such as a concert for example. It is less convincing for phone calls. During a test call in a noisy street, my interlocutor complained of a slight saturation in my voice. On the other hand, the sound of the street was correctly, and totally, deleted by the smartphone.
The right student in autonomy and fast charge
The Nokia 8.1 incorporates a battery of 3500 mAh which places it in the middle high of smartphones, especially with a Full HD LCD screen and a SoC 10 nm that will consume little. This is felt in use since I could easily hold more than one day even with a fairly intensive use of the smartphone including streaming video playback, web browsing and social networking, and some gaming sessions.
These first results are supported by the 11 hours and 45 minutes obtained with our Viser test protocol, which simulates a mixed use of the smartphone. It's a very good score that places it among the most autonomous phones we've tested since the beginning of 2018.
The battery is charged by USB Type-C with an 18W charger. Unfortunately, our test copy was not supplied with its charger. We still did our quick charge test with another 18W charger (the Google Pixel 3 XL). The smartphone goes from 0 to 47% in 30 minutes, and it takes 1 hour and 45 minutes to fully charge (0 to 100%).
Network and Communications
The network hang is best done in 4G LTE Cat.6 (300/50 Mb / s). In fact, I had no trouble capturing the 4G, and even a little better in the Paris metro with my Pixel 3 XL. All 4G frequencies used in France are supported by the device.
The GPS chip can connect to the geolocation network quickly and without problems. Similarly the Wi-Fi 5 802.11 ac here is doing its job very well. The Nokia 8.1 also includes the NFC which allows contactless payment, especially with Google Pay.
Price and release date
The Nokia 8.1 comes out January 21 at a suggested price of 399 euros.
Where to buy the Nokia 8.1 at the best price?
Nokia 8.1 Test The verdict
The design of the Nokia 8.1 is not crying originality, and yet the smartphone impresses in hand, thanks to the quality of its manufacture. The notch is there and a little wide, but can be forgotten, and the chin under the screen can be a little too wide. Overall, the Nokia 8.1 does not make a faux pas in terms of design.
A screen rather well calibrated, even if the colors are too blue, but above all a brightness and a record contrast for an LCD IPS screen. This allows the slab to very well hide the notch of the smartphone. In addition, the smartphone's settings make it possible to perfectly calibrate the colors, to the detriment of a little brightness and contrast.
Android 9.0 Pie is installed right out of the box, and Nokia smartphones enjoy a good monitoring of security patches. The Android One interface goes to the basics and offers a fluid experience, but lacks a few features.
The Snapdragon 710 allows the Nokia 8.1 to offer a smooth experience and launch the latest fashionable games like Fortnite, even if you have to make concessions on the graphics quality. It should be noted however that we find competitors in Snapdragon 845 for less now.
With its 3,500 mAh battery, the Nokia 8.1 easily holds two days with moderate use, or a big day a little more intensive. The smartphone is charging fast enough by USB Type-C.
The camera is ultimately the most disappointing point of this Nokia 8.1 while the manufacturer has already proven itself with other models like the Nokia 7.1. The photos, whether taken with the device on the back or in front, remain in all cases correct and sufficient for use on social networks. Too bad the proposed HDR and light management are failing.
The Nokia 8.1 is the worthy successor of the Nokia 7 Plus and a nice favorite on the mid-range segment. The device adds the good points like a beautiful bright screen, a premium design, a software update and a very good autonomy.Certes it is not as efficient as a Pocophone F1, a Honor Play or a OnePlus 6 sold less expensive, but it is proof that the Finnish manufacturer has not succumbed to the intoxication of power at the expense of the rest of the technical sheet. The Nokia 8.1 is above all a smartphone very well balanced, without major defects. We will point out especially the quality of the photos that vary between the very good and the average, and this HDR mode that is sometimes a problem.You will understand, the Nokia 8.1 is a smartphone that can be warmly recommended.
Good quality of manufacture
Bright screen and well contrasted
Android Pie with Android One
Notch well hidden
(HDR10, jack, NFC, microSD and USB Type-C)
Report performance graph / price a little fair
Pictures a little behind
(Widevine L3 DRM)