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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Good Value for Money, But Not The Best

With back to back launches since its debut in India earlier this year, Realme has been steadily developing a following for itself. However, the company is now looking to make a splash with the launch of a youth-centric and powerful budget device, the Realme U1.

The Realme U1 is the first smartphone to be powered by MediaTek’s flagship Helio P70 chipset, offering users a snappy and likable performance. The company has gone with a tried-and-tested design (much like its arch-nemesis Xiaomi), attractive colors, non-intrusive notch, to check all the boxes in the mid-range segment.

realme U1 launched in India

I’ve been using the top-end variant of the Realme U1 (priced at Rs 14,499) in Fiery Gold for the past week and I’m here to not just share my experience with the device but also give you the answer to an important question. Can the Realme U1 beat the Redmi Note series, as well as the new Honor 8C? Well, let’s find out:
Realme U1 Specifications

Instead of jumping straight in to talk about my experience, let us first take a quick look at the complete specs sheet for the Realme U1:
Dimensions    157 x 74 x 8 mm
Weight    168 grams
Display    6.3-inch Full-HD+ LTPS IPS, Gorilla Glass 3
Processor    MediaTek Helio P70
GPU    ARM G72
RAM    3GB/4GB
Storage    32GB/64GB (expandable up to 256GB)
Rear Camera    13 MP (f/2.2) + 2 MP (f/2.4), LED flash
Front Camera    25MP (f/2.0)
Software    Android 8.1 Oreo-based ColorOS 5.2
Connectivity    Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, A-GPS, GLONASS, microUSB, 3.5mm headphone jack
Sensors    M-sensor, G-sensor, Gravity sensor, rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, proximity sensor
Battery    3,500mAh
Colors    Ambitious Black, Brave Blue, Fiery Gold
What’s in the Box

If you remember, Realme just recently unveiled its new brand identity and the packaging of the Realme U1 reflects the same with its gray and yellow box, along with a U1 imprint on top. It contains everything we expect to find in a smartphone box these days, including a pre-applied screen protector.

Here’s everything you will find inside the Realme U1 packaging:

    Realme U1 (Fiery Gold)
    10W Power adapter
    MicroUSB data cable
    Quick Start guide
    SIM removal tool
    Screen protector
    Silicone case

realme u1 unboxing

Realme could’ve included a pair of cheap earphones in the box to complete its offering, but we are not one to complain at this price point.
Realme U1 Design and Build Quality

In typical fashion, let’s first talk about the build and aesthetics of the Realme U1 smartphone and right off the bat, you will notice one thing: Realme didn’t really have time to design a new smartphone in the two months since its last phone. It has picked the same design from the Realme 2 Pro, which worked in the past (straight out of Xiaomi’s playbook!).

Yeah, the design of the Realme U1 is about the same as the Realme 2 Pro and there’s no major surprise in store for you – except for maybe the more comfortable grip and in-hand feel of the new Realme device. It’s slightly thinner than the 2 Pro and that makes a considerable difference in daily use.

Realme U1 review: the best budget phone

The Realme U1 feels handier, lighter, and its rounded edges give you more confidence in holding the device – even though the plastic feels a bit cheap. The fingerprint sensor and Face Unlock are very responsive, with the latter being a tad quicker than the OnePlus 6’s camera-based Face Unlock.

Circling back to compare the Realme 2 Pro and Realme U1, everything from the dual rear-cameras, fingerprint sensor, and Realme branding on the rear to the dewdrop notch front, these two devices are identical. There’s no difference in button or port placement as well, as you can see right here:
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Realme U1 (left) vs Realme 2 Pro (right)
Realme 2 Pro (left) vs Realme U1 (right)

The newest member of the Realme family is definitely a looker and the ‘Fiery Gold’ variant with us got people drawing comparisons to the iPhone XS. The light pillars (as Realme likes to call the reflective pattern on the back) on Realme U1 set it apart and make it look stunning in different lighting conditions.

The power button (on the right edge) and volume rockers (on the left edge) of the Realme U1 are made out of plastic and may feel cheap to the touch but are quite tactile, so I have got no qualms about them. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB charging port at the bottom, but the secondary microphone up top is missing — which is disappointing.
microUSB charging port, headphone jack
Power button on the right
volume rockers on the left
Realme U1 Display

Moving along, if someone were to ask me one of the key highlights of the latest Realme smartphone, then I would say that the display on the device is gorgeous. The dewdrop notch makes the Realme U1 look a lot more bezel-less than it is, and beautiful.

The Realme U1 features a 6.3-inch Full-HD+ LTPS IPS display, with a 2340 x 1080 pixels screen resolution and 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The company boasts of a 90.8% screen-to-body ratio and the display looks pretty good in everyday use.

The color reproduction is on point, the display gets quite bright in indoor conditions and holds up quite well in direct sunlight as well. I have got no major criticism here, except for the fact that the Realme 2 Pro has a much better LCD panel that offers users more brightness and color range.

However, I love the dewdrop notch design and it feels like you are using a single slab of glass at night when the chin disappears and only the non-intrusive notch is visible to the eye.
Realme U1 ColorOS

The biggest flaw in the Realme U1, as has been said time and time again with Realme phones, is the software experience. The device runs Android 8.1 Oreo-based ColorOS 5.2 and though it’s quite feature-packed, which is something I appreciate. But the company’s skin requires a lot of work and remodeling to make the experience worthwhile for the user.

The ColorOS UI seems to have been heavily inspired by iOS. It does take some time getting used to this, but you will learn your way around it quite easily, enjoying access to some of the add-on features including the Smart Assistant and Smart Sidebar, along with Kids Space, Voice Call Effects, and many others.

In terms of usability, I constantly faced issues with the gesture-based navigation bar which stopped working for me in the camera and gallery app many times. Swiping up from the bottom does not always activate the gestures.

    Realme U1 has no notification LED and it’s super frustrating!

Another major problem is with notifications. The Realme U1 is missing the notification LED and ColorOS is typically never in the mood to surface the latest notifications as they come in. The device usually just lights up the screen and vibrates when a new notification arrives and doesn’t show which app has sent it, which gets frustrating very soon.
Realme U1 Performance

As we’ve already pointed out, Realme U1 is the first device to debut with the backing of MediaTek’s latest flagship chipset – the Helio P70 and it’s mighty enough to handle almost any of the tasks thrown at it. I have been using the device for around a week and didn’t notice any lag or stutter across the user interface, even though it’s heavily skinned.

Yes, the Helio P70 chipset inside the Realme U1 powers through tasks like a champ and you wouldn’t notice any issues with the user experience, making multi-tasking a breeze. However, I did notice that ColorOS was aggressively closing apps that have been in the memory for too long and they had to reload each time I tried opening them. That’s a bit disappointing but nothing that cannot be fixed with a software update.

Turning our attention to the gaming performance, which has become a core obsession for users ever since the launch of battle royale phenomenon PUBG Mobile. Well, Realme U1 comes packed with the Realme Game Space and it comes in handy for freeing up the memory to run games smoothly, while also muting app and call notifications so as not to hinder your gaming experience.

I tried out everything from low-end games such as Temple Run, Mr. Gun, and Badminton League (my latest obsession) on the device and didn’t notice any issues, however, heavy games like PUBG Mobile (medium settings, by default) did take a bit of toll on the performance. I did notice minor stutter or frame drops during War Mode gameplays but otherwise, Asphalt 9, Shadowgun Legends, and other similar games was a fun experience with no concerns.
MediaTek Helio P70 Antutu Benchmarks

Finally, for those who love to judge and compare smartphone performance via benchmark scores, we’ve attached screenshots of our Geekbench 4 and AnTutu results of the Realme U1 (codename RMX1833) down below. These numbers amazed us when we ran the tests, well, because they are clearly better than the Redmi Note 6 Pro, running Snapdragon 636.

The numbers prove that MediaTek Helio P70 chipset is not only more powerful than the Snapdragon 636 but also closely compares to Snapdragon 660 in benchmark numbers. This means Realme U1 can offer you better performance than the Realme 2 Pro, which is something we’ll be testing out thoroughly in a couple of days.
Realme U1 Cameras

Coming to the highlight of the Realme U1, the company is pitching this device as a Selfie Pro and it goes up against the likes of Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 6 Pro and Redmi Y2. The device packs in a dual camera system, with a primary 13MP (f/2.2) sensor and a secondary 2MP (f/2.4) sensor on the rear and a 25MP (f/2.0) sensor on the front.

realme u1 cameras

Now comes the moment of truth and let me assure you that the cameras on Realme U1 are quite good for the price, but could’ve been better. Let’s check out the camera samples in different lighting conditions to give you a better idea:

    Daylight Conditions

In broad daylight, the Realme U1 performs well but you will notice that while some of the photos look stunning with great detail, the others look oversharpened and a bit saturated (even though the Super Vivid mode was off). The device is quick to focus and manages to capture details and shadows right, but has a tendency to blow out highlights.
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Realme U1

    Low-light Conditions

In low-light and artificial conditions, the Realme U1 performs pretty well and manages to capture a lot of light. The rear, as well as the front camera, does a good job in capturing details but like daylight, some of the images seem to be oversharpened. The highlights, as well as shadows, are handled with ease and the images appear good enough for the price.
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Realme U1

    Selfies/ Portraits

Coming to the selfies and portrait, which the company touts to be the highlight of Realme U1. Well, it’s not completely wrong. The 25-MP selfie snapper on here is considerably better than the Realme 2 Pro (which you’ll see in our comparison below) and manages to capture more detail in the subject’s face and hair. But again, if there’s a light source in the background then it’s overexposed and Realme U1 find it difficult to act during such scenarios.
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The device comes with a portrait mode, much like any other phone these days, and I’ve been quite satisfied with its quality. The edge detection is average, the background blur looks natural, and the photos don’t look dull like they did from the Honor 8C.

    Add-on Features

Well, the camera on the Realme U1 also comes with portrait lighting effects – similar to iPhones but certainly not as good. There are also AR face stickers, which make Akshay and Rupesh look particularly attractive, don’t they?
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Realme U1 vs vs Redmi Note 6 Pro vs Realme 2 Pro Camera Shootout

Now let me also give you a brief look into how the Realme U1’s camera compares against its similarly-priced competitors, including Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 6 Pro and the Realme 2 Pro. And well, there’s no doubt about the outcome of the showdown as the Redmi Note 6 Pro still comes out on top with flying colors (quite literally), but the Realme U1 is not far behind.
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Redmi Note 6 Pro
Realme 2 Pro
Realme U1
Redmi Note 6 Pro
Realme 2 Pro
Realme U1
Redmi Note 6 Pro
Realme 2 Pro
Redmi Note 6 Pro
Realme 2 Pro
Realme U1
Redmi Note 6 Pro
Realme 2 Pro

Finally, speaking of the video capabilities of the Realme U1, it packs support for up to 1080p video recording at 30fps and from the looks of it, the video quality is decent enough for casual recordings. The colors seem dull and sections of the video are blown out, with the camera having issues with varying lighting, as shown in the sample attached below:

Realme U1 Connectivity

Realme U1 is carrying forward the triple-slot tray that we’ve seen on the Realme 2 Pro, which means you can use two nano-SIM cards, as well as expand the storage by up to 256GB via the dedicated microSD card slot. This will come in very handy for users who might be looking to use their device to record or download YouTube videos.

The device packs 4G dual VoLTE connectivity support and the reception was decent during my usage, with no network issues during calling or Internet surfing. You also get support for Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n/ac, which suggests Realme U1 can seamlessly connect to 5GHz networks, but I was disappointed to see my 5GHz Wi-Fi network not appear in the available network list.

Further, you’ll get the usual set of connectivity options including Bluetooth 4.2, A-GPS, GLONASS, a 3.5mm headphone jack (thankfully, it hasn’t disappeared from the budget segment just yet), and more.
Realme U1 Audio and Telephony

The Realme U1 packs in a single bottom-firing speaker, which now seems to be the norm for most smartphones, however, I despise this placement. It is easy to muffle the speaker with your hand while playing games and that can certainly get frustrating in no time.

As for the sound quality, well, the speaker gets rather loud and produces a treble-heavy sound that should be sufficient for you to give your friend a listen to that new hit track you can’t stop talking about. You get access to 16 volume steps, which is decent, and you can comfortably enjoy music at around 50-60% volume without vocals being drowned out by the instrumentals.

My telephony experience with the Realme U1 has been good. I had been using my Airtel and Jio SIMs on the device for the past week and did not notice any connection or calling woes. However, the absence of a secondary microphone affected the call quality a tad bit as callers asked me about the increased background noise – which isn’t the case with my usual daily driver, the Nokia 7 Plus.
Realme U1 Battery

Finally, the Realme U1 includes a moderate-sized 3,500mAh battery on board and it has served me quite well over the past week. I was comfortably able to milk the device’s charge for around one and a half day during regular use, carrying out daily office work, speaking to friends on call or WhatsApp, scrolling through Instagram, and watching a handful of videos on the way back home.

realme u1 battery

I also tried to squeeze in a couple games of PUBG during my lunch hours and the device still stood tall with about 10-20% charge at the end of the day. So, I’m pretty impressed with the battery on the Realme U1 but not ColorOS as you’ll not be able to see screen-on-time figures here.

As for charging, the company has provided a power brick rated at 10W and it enables you to juice up the Realme U1 from 5% to 75% in around 90 minutes, which is pretty good enough for a smartphone in its price bracket. It easily takes 2+ hours to completely charge the device but as you’ve already seen, the device would last a day without a hitch.

Realme U1: Should Xiaomi Be Worried?

Well, after everything, we have finally made it to the end of our Realme U1 review and it’s now time to tell you whether the latest device from Realme is worth buying or not. And let me start by giving you the green light for that decision as Realme U1 (Buy here from Rs 11,999) is trying to offer you the best it can in its price bracket – except for the few caveats that we found in the software department.

The Realme U1 at par with the company’s previous launch, the Realme Pro 2 (Buy from Rs 13,990), even though it is powered by a Snapdragon 660 chipset. The decision, it seems, will ultimately boil down to the cameras – especially the selfie one in this case. Realme U1 will take the cake here for its stellar front camera performance.

However, if the rear camera is a priority for you and you cannot compromise even a tad bit on that front, then Redmi Note 6 Pro (starts at Rs 13,999) should definitely be the budget phone of your choice. It also has MIUI, which is more matured than ColorOS. You will have to live with a bigger notch and bigger chin, the usual Xiaomi build, but there’s no better budget phone, with a superior camera out there in this price segment.

PROS:

    Classy and lightweight
    Waterdrop notch
    Superfast face unlock
    Snappy performance
    Solid battery life

CONS:

    Average cameras
    ColorOS woes persist
    Display could have been better

realme U1 display new copy

SEE ALSO: Realme 2 Pro Review: The “Real” Realme 1 Successor?
Realme U1 Review: Falls Just Short of Mid-Range Rivals

The Realme U1 has shaped up to be the company’s best effort to date but with its flaws in the software and camera, there might be some pause for potential buyers. We hope that Realme optimizes ColorOS for the new MediaTek SoC and also improves its image processing, which would definitely make it a worthy contender to take on rivals. The overall package of the Realme U1, given the price and the more snappy processor, could turn out up be a huge threat to Xiaomi and Honor’s dominance.
Read More »

Explorer Backpack Review: One for the Fanboys

The name OnePlus has become synonymous with the ‘value for money’ tag; you simply can not deny that OnePlus offers a premium experience without burning a hole in your pocket. But that’s a reputation built on its phones, including the OnePlus 6T.

Now the company has ventured into accessories such as earphones, announced plans to launch TVs and also unveiled a new backpack. Today we have the OnePlus Explorer Backpack in its Slate Black avatar for review which is priced at Rs. 4,990.

Yes, the price tag is on the higher side for a backpack, as you can get one from a host of reputed brands at a much lower price point. But guys, this is OnePlus, and regardless of if that makes you go ‘yay’ or ‘nah’, let’s find out what the OnePlus Explorer backpack does to command that price.
OnePlus Explorer Backpack Specifications:

Before we delve into the details of the OnePlus Explorer backpack’s design and features, let’s take a gander at what it has to offer:
Dimensions     340 mm (W) x 130 mm (D) x 465 mm (H)
Weight    860 g
Exterior Fabric Material     100% Nylon (Cordura)
Interior Lining Fabric
    100% Polyester
Compartments     3
Pockets    8
Shoulder Straps    Padded with real Dupont Kevlar fiber sewing line
Laptop Strap     Yes
Rear Padding    Yes
OnePlus Explorer Backpack Materials

Now that we’ve done a rundown of the OnePlus Explorer’s specs, let’s talk about the material quality. We have the Slate Black version of the OnePlus Explorer backpack which is made using high-grade nylon fabric marketed as Cordura. It’s highly durable and also abrasion resistant, which makes it ideal for bags and such.

The backpack’s exterior is made entirely out of Cordura, while the internal lining is 100% Polyester. The texture of the fabric is a little grainy, but it looks amazing and feels very premium. The OnePlus Explorer backpack also comes in a Morandi Green color option which is made out of 100% polyester inside as well as outside.

The shoulder straps have a genuine Dupont Kevlar fiber sewing line and have a thick padding to provide maximum comfort when the backpack is fully stashed. The entire rear surface is also well padded to further up the ante of comfort. Needless to say, the attention to detail paid by OnePlus in creating the Explorer backpack is quite evident and very commendable.

The adjustable shoulder straps are quite smooth which make the process of adjusting the bag’s position on your back quite convenient, but they are not velvety enough to lose their grip on the clips. Overall, the OnePlus Explorer back is a premium accessory from head to toe, and it certainly has the looks and features to push it further up your wishlist.
OnePlus Explorer Backpack Design

When it comes to look and feel, the OnePlus Explorer backpack is stylish and premium. And this carries forward in the design too. OnePlus has stuck to what we know the brand for i.e minimalist design almost to the point of being utilitarian. Even so, the OnePlus Explorer backpack is a head-turner. I carried the bag with me for around a week, and in that span, I got plenty of envious looks from my friends and colleagues.

The Explorer backpack has a total of 3 compartments and 8 pockets, and to be honest, that number is sufficient to house all the necessary items whether you are a student or plan to use this as your work bag.

The bag has a front flap which covers an L-shaped zipper leading to the main compartment and has a single haul loop in OnePlus’s signature red color which adds to the Explorer backpack’s classy looks. But that red haul loop is not just an eye candy because pulling it downwards opens up the magnetic buckle which keeps the top flap in its place.
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Magnetic Lock Closed
Magnetic Lock Open

The magnetic buckle’s implementation makes opening the bag quite convenient, as you just have to give it a little tug to unlock the buckle, while folding the flap across its natural crease will cause the magnets in the buckle to automatically snap into place. I tried to verify whether the buckle mechanism is just a gimmick and is prone to failure, but so far, it has worked perfectly.

Some people might question having a flap with a magnetic clasp blocking the main compartment?’ Well, I can agree with it to some extent, but that flap is an integral part of the bag’s design and helps it stand out from the crowd of other backpacks wit ha traditional zipper channel on top. I actually appreciate what OnePlus has done, trying to set itself apart from other backpacks.
OnePlus Explorer Backpack Capacity

While design and material quality is one thing, the main point of a bag is to hold your things safely. OnePlus Explorer backpack is very spacious; The main compartment has ample amount of space and can easily accommodate a few notebooks, files, a laptop, and at least a few textbooks or a couple of novels without a hitch.

Below it sits the laptop compartment which has a strap to keep up to a 15-inch laptop in place. I could easily fit my Thinkpad T470 in the laptop slot with ease, despite it being one of the thicker laptops out there. The padding on the top surface for the laptop is thinner compared to the bottom cushion, but it can protect your laptop well.

There is also a small pocket on the top of the main compartment where you can stash away stationery items as well as a charger, earphones and power bank among other objects.

On the front is another small pocket which is deep enough to easily accommodate a laptop charger or any other item you want to tuck away.

At the bottom is a wide pocket which is lined with a water-resistant material that won’t let liquid seep into other parts of the backpack. This pocket is completely reversible so that it can be cleaned with ease. It’s great to keep an umbrella or wet shoes.

A noteworthy addition here is the circular vent at the corner, which can prove to be quite helpful in draining out the water if you put your soaked umbrella in it, and also airs out te compartment to prevent bad odor.

On the left edge of the OnePlus Explorer backpack is another full-size compartment where you can store documents. And hey, if you are worried that they will get crumpled, the thick padding on the rear surface will prevent it in most cases. I put a copy of some school documents in this slot and commuted for over an hour in the metro, and didn’t see any creases or wrinkles.

There is also a small water bottle pocket on the side, but it doesn’t take in anything thicker than a soda can or a camera lens.

On the back is another pocket which is large enough to store a PS4 disk. It’s also protected by thick padding, so you can also stow away an extra smartphone in there.

OnePlus Explorer Backpack Usability

    The OnePlus Explorer is by no means reasonable, but if you want your backpack to be comfortable above all else, you won’t be disappointed.

The backpack weighs 860 grams and has thick padding on the shoulder straps as well as the entire rear surface, which feels great when you are wearing it.

The padding is lined with breathable fabric so your clothes don’t get all sweaty from carrying it in the heat.

OnePlus has also fitted a horizontal strap on the Explorer backpack’s rear which means you can easily keep your backpack attached to a handle of your strolling bags when traveling.

The zippers are smooth, but you might encounter a slight issue while using the OnePlus Explorer as your daily driver. The main compartment’s zipper has an L-shaped design, which means it only opens till the top-right corner of the main compartment and not all the way around to the left edge. Secondly, the flap on the bottom-right corner of the main compartment further blocks your laptop or files if you insert them sideways.
OnePlus Explorer Backpack: Pros and Cons

If you don’t mind splurging Rs. 4,990 on a backpack, then the OnePlus Explorer is definitely the best option right now, be it for the style, quality, utility or comfort.

Pros:

    Premium materials
    Stylish and comfortable
    Water-proof compartment
    More than enough capacity

Cons:

    Gets dirty easily
    The L-shaped main compartment doesn’t open fully
    Can only be bought via an invite

OnePlus Explorer Backpack: Should You Buy It?

The OnePlus Explorer backpack is yet another excellent offering from OnePlus, but it is quite difficult for me to recommend it given the price. You have tons of alternatives from brands such as American Tourister, Samsonite, JanSport, Wildcraft, Nike and others who can match the OnePlus build quality and materials, at a lower price.

The Explorer backpack knocks it out of the park when it comes to design, build quality and wearer comfort, but I suggest you take a look at the alternatives before splurging on it.

There are simply too many backpacks out there. But if you want to purchase a backpack in the Rs. 5,000 price bracket, the Nike Training Max Air (Rs. 4,315), Wildcraft Imprint 3 (Rs. 4,799), Victorinox Essentials Gear Pack (Rs. 4,310), CAT Urban Mountaineer (Rs. 3,798) and the Skybags TOUR 45 Weekender (Rs. 3,990) are a few options worth considering, and in the same ballpark as the OnePlus Explorer backpack.

However, if you want to buy a backpack without emptying your wallet, the Skybags Crew 4 (Rs. 2,999), Xiaomi’s Mi City 16 (Rs. 1,599), American Tourister Helix (Rs. 1,750) and the Skybags Geek 05 (Rs. 2,054) are great alternatives.

    If you have the cash, the OnePlus Explorer backpack is totally worth it.

OnePlus Explorer Backpack Review: Elegant and Expensive

The OnePlus Explorer backpack is a premium offering which ticks all the boxes of an excellent build quality, outstanding design and utility, but all that goodness comes at a steep price of Rs. 4,990. At that price point, you can find a ton of alternatives from esteemed brands, but then, it all boils down to your personal preference. Like I said earlier, this one is for the fanboys. 
Read More »

Great Display and Cameras, But Mediocre Performance Nokia 7.1 Review

There are many things that make Nokia so very iconic – from the Nokia tune to the “Connecting people” handshake and to the fine hardware design of the phones – and HMD Global, which currently oversees this legacy, has preserved these and many of its qualities very well over the past two years. The recently announced Nokia 7.1 is an example of this commitment and feels like a reminder of the assurance that Nokia phones guaranteed back in the day.

But the market is quite a lot different now and quality cannot be Nokia’s only hope to help it set a firm foot in the market. This is because an average smartphone buyer now has more affordable options from the likes of Xiaomi, Honor, and Realme.

The Nokia 7.1 goes on sale today and so we decided to see whether it justifies the price of Rs 19,999 with its striking looks and dual Zeiss cameras, despite a not-so-powerful processor. Unlike phones from those brands, the Nokia 7.1 is only available on the Nokia online store, which is all the more reason for Nokia to get it right.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

The Nokia 7.1 surely has some premium features that give it an advantage over other devices in the price segment. It is not targeted at power users, but those looking for a smooth and dependable user experience, which is backed by the Zeiss lens in the cameras. No waste much time here, so let us start with the specifications of the Nokia 7.1.
Nokia 7.1 Specifications

With some decent figures to show off, the Nokia 7.1 falls behind in terms of processing power but makes up with a great display and fantastic cameras. Here’s what the specifications table looks like:
Dimensions    149.7 x 71.2 x 8 mm (without camera bump)
Weight    160 grams
Screen Size    5.84-inch Full-HD+ IPS LCD, PureDisplay Screen, 432ppi
Processor    Snapdragon 636
GPU    Adreno 509
RAM    4GB
Internal Storage    64GB, expandable up to 400GB via microSD card
Rear Camera    12MP (f/1.8) + 5MP (f/2.4), with EIS
Front Camera    8MP (f/2.0)
Operating System    Android 9 Pie, under Android One
Battery    3,060mAh
Connectivity    Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, AGPS, GLONASS, Beidou, USB Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack, NFC
Sensors    Fingerprint sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, compass
Colors    Gloss Midnight Blue, Gloss Steel

Before we start exploring the smartphone, let’s see what is packed inside the box of the Nokia 7.1.
Nokia 7.1 Box Contents

Nokia 7.1’s box has a slide-to-open design which is very convenient.

Here’s what you get inside the box:

    Nokia 7.1 handset
    18W charging brick
    USB Type-C cable
    Standard earphones
    SIM ejector tool
    Warranty guide and user manual

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

A pair of earphones is present within the box but its plastic build is a bit disconcerting especially when the phone itself feels so classy.

    Nokia 7.1 is a looker and its design is surely a delight to the eyes

Nokia 7.1 Design and Build Quality

Your eyes are bound to light up after looking at the sheer simplicity and symmetry with the very first gaze you throw at the Nokia 7.1. If you’re a former Nokia user, you’re – at the very least – likely to look at the smartphone with pride and confidence. There is a striking blend of glass on both front and back, chrome finish, and 6000-series aluminum frame – which should appeal to most users.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

The very first time you hold the Nokia 7.1 in your hand, it feels incredibly light compared to other smartphones. This might have something to do with the squat design but I prefer smaller smartphones which fit in my palm instead of those spilling out, ready to neet the floor any time. So, I really admire the shape and the size.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

HMD Global has done a great job of making sure that Nokia 7.1 feels really sleek, giving me a sense of assurance that it will not pop out, even when my palms are sweaty. The glass back is very reflective and while it easily attracts fingerprints, it also gives a very striking appearance to the smartphone.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

On the front of the Nokia 7.1 is a gorgeous 5.84-inch display which I have a lot to talk about, but I’ll reserve that for later in the review. From a design point-of-view, the only thing I don’t appreciate is (although not specifically about the display) the thick chin at the bottom which carries the Nokia logo. Compared to the Nokia 6.1 Plus, which came out a few months, the chin is bigger, despite a similar screen size.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

The buttons on the Nokia 7.1 feel very tactile and are easy to locate, especially because of metal accents around them. At the bottom, there is a USB-C port along with the mono speaker and the primary mic. Meanwhile, the top features the headphone jack and the noise-canceling microphone. The smartphone has support for dual SIM but you get a hybrid SIM slot which will limit you to choose between that second SIM card and a microSD card if you want to more storage than the onboard 64GB.
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The front glass is the outdated Gorilla Glass 3 but HMD does not talk about any sort of certification for the glass on the back. But the Nokia 7.1 feels sturdy and I admit I’ve managed to drop it from a height of more than a meter, which it survived with a small ding at the corner and escaped without any damage to the glass. The bad thing is that the glass design and the lightweight design make a hazardously slippery combination, especially when you place the phone on on a low-friction surface, which in my case was a smooth tablecloth.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

Overall, the clutter-free design of the Nokia 7.1 is appealing in every sense except the chin, which could possibly have been smaller. The smartphone is comfortable to hold in the hand and the mix of glass and aluminum gives it a delightful appearance.
Nokia 7.1 Display

Part of the premium experience on the Nokia 7.1 is because of its display. The 5.84-inch “notched” screen comes has a Full HD+ resolution. While it is smaller than the usual 6-inch-plus displays on most other smartphones currently dominating the segment, the Nokia 7.1 wins in terms of pixel density. At 432ppi, the display appears really sharp and soothing to look at, great viewing angles and a gripping sunlight legibility.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

Another appealing bit about this display is that it is certified for HDR10 content, giving it a better contrast and higher brightness than most LCD displays out there. Nokia is also testing the upscaling of content that is not native HDR. The colors on this display are super vivid, thanks to the “PureDisplay” technology which backs this panel, and almost on par with AMOLEDs. If you’re into binge-watching video content on your smartphone, this panel would not only strike a chord but also hit the right notes.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

Further, the display is very responsive and if you’re used to swipe-typing or playing games that require a lot of swiping across the screen, you might feel at home. If that makes you feel better, the display on Nokia 7.1’s biggest competitor – Poco F1 – has been a pain point for its users.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

The 7.1 is also certified for Widevine L1 which means that you’ll have a chance to enjoy high-resolution videos on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Videos, and similar over-the-top video apps. This compliments the brilliant viewing experience that this PureDisplay panel has to offer. Hooray!

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performanceThe saturation of the display is amazing, and I believe that anyone buying the smartphone for the purpose of entertainment will have their desires fulfilled – primarily because anything on this screen is instantly more engaging.
Nokia 7.1 Performance

Coming to the performance of the Nokia 7.1, this is where the smartphone takes a hit. It is not really comforting or convincing to see Snapdragon 636 powering the device for Rs 19,999 – although Nokia has always priced its devices lavishly compared to its peers.
Nokia 7.1 Gaming Performance

The performance is not troubling in any way but the smartphone feels underpowered for intensive gaming sessions. I would have been delighted to see HMD use a Snapdragon 660 on the Nokia 7.1, same as its apparent predecessor – Nokia 7 Plus (the more deserving successor to 7 Plus, however, is Nokia 8.1).

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

However, if you’re not into hardcore mobile gaming, the Snapdragon 636 feels sufficient for usual media consumption, social media usage, and playing casual games like Retro Shooting, Breakneck, Space Pioneer, Dragon Hills 2 etc.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance
2. Nokia 7.1 AnTuTu, Geekbench Benchmark

If numbers might help you see a clearer picture, here’s how the Nokia 7.1 fares on popular benchmark tests.
Powered by Snapdragon 636, the Nokia 7.1 fairly decently when it comes to benchmarks. Only 4GB of RAM variant available in India and this is how much it scores on benchmarks:

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

These numbers are comparable to other Snapdragon 636 devices such as Redmi Note 6 Pro and Motorola One Power. As I have mentioned above, this is really not a smartphone that will live up to high expectations in terms of gaming, and for such usage, a suitable option would be the Poco F1, which you can buy for the same price for the next two days.
3. Sound

When it comes to audio, it complements the high-performing display. The solo speaker on the bottom is sufficiently loud to rock you with an alarm in the morning, delight you with clear audio, and make you want to break a leg with decently loud music playback.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

You also get a pair of earphones within the box and while its build quality is not very impressive, it starts feeling comfy after a while. If you’re into wireless audio, the smartphone also supports hi-res audio playback via Qualcomm aptX, which not only amplifies the playback but also adds a rich flavor, especially when you’re streaming media online.
Nokia 7.1 Camera

Nokia 7.1 comes with Zeiss optics, intended to improve the overall production quality of images. On the back, it features 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel combo which clicks some really breathtaking pictures, especially for its price. On the front, there is an 8-megapixel shooter which is also decent but not as impressive as the rear camera.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

Simply my words won’t justice to the camera’s performance, so here are some of the shots in different scenarios.
Nokia 7.1 Camera Samples: Daylight

During the daytime, Nokia 7.1 captures significant detail along with richly saturated shots. Natural colors are mostly retained and this does not require bright sunlight, which is impressive.
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Nokia 7.1 Camera Samples: Night and Low Light

Nokia 7.1’s sensor does a fairly good job in terms of capturing intricate detail at night too. While some noise creeps in due to the exposure, it does not necessarily mar the quality or defeat the purpose of the image.
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Nokia 7.1 Camera Samples: Portrait Mode

Portrait shots, as you can see, turn out pretty well on the Nokia 7.1. However, when the subject is backlit, the background is often washed out as a result of artificial exposure. And, this also comes at the expense of slightly inferior edge detection.
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Nokia 7.1

At night or in low light, portraits turn out impressive only when there is a clear contrast between the objects at different levels of depth.
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Selfies

In terms of selfies, the 8-megapixel sensor on the front is a great performer just like the one on the back. The amount of detail, however, varies with the intensity of light hitting your face.
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Selfie Portrait

Selfie portraits, just like normal selfies, depend majorly on the amount of light falling on the subjects’ faces. The edge detection is pretty good and comparable to the rear camera, although sometimes falling short.
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Nokia 7.1
Poco F1

When there are more than one faces in the frame, the Nokia 7.1 captures both faces without blurring out the rear one, which is good.
Nokia 7.1 Camera Samples: Bothie, AR Effects

A feature on Nokia phones that is not available on other devices is the bothie which lets you click images from the back and the front camera simultaneously. The image captured in this mode is not very impressive and barely passable.

You also get AR filter and effects which are currently limited in number and are not very accurate in terms of tracking the face. You can still use them for some fun if you want.

Nokia 7.1 Camera Samples: Video

When it comes to videos, Nokia 7.1 can capture videos at up to 4K at 30fps and it comes with electronic image stabilization (EIS) which works best in Full HD videos. The quality of videos is decent enough and the colors look natural, but I wish the stabilization was better. Below are two samples of the Nokia 7.1’s video capturing capabilities.

The below sample is recorded in 4K:

Here’s a sample of video captured in Full HD and you can see the frame shaking while trying to cancel out vibrations due to walking.

For sound recording, you get OZO Audio, which I presume, is recording the audio with both mics to create a stereo effect and as you hear, it could easily pick up sound from my the Sony WH-1000XM3 that I’m testing currently.

On the front camera, video recording is limited to Full HD and there’s no stabilization. Furthermore, the Nokia 7.1 gets time-lapse videos on both the front and the rear camera.
Nokia 7.1 vs Poco F1: Camera Comparison

The new Nokia 7.1 competes directly with the Poco F1 in terms of price, and since the latter offers one of the best cameras in the segment, I thought comparing the two devices would help you make a better decision. So, here’s our comparison between the camera results of the Poco F1 and the Nokia 7.1:
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Nokia 7.1
Poco F1
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Nokia 7.1
Poco F1

    images clicked with Nokia 7.1 are crisper and brighter

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Nokia 7.1
Poco F1
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Nokia 7.1
Poco F1
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Nokia 7.1
Poco F1

You can easily see that the Nokia 7.1 captures images with a higher saturation, despite the fact that Poco F1’s camera uses AI for scene recognition and optimization.
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Nokia 7.1
Poco F1
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Poco F1
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Poco F1

Selfies clicked with Nokia 7.1 are observably better too and while the difference is tiny, it surely makes a difference if you’re a perfectionist.

    Overall, Nokia 7.1 deserves to be called the winner in this close fight against the Poco F1 camera.

Nokia 7.1 User Interface

Like other Nokia devices, the 7.1 is part of the Android One program and runs on stock Android. While the phone originally comes with Android Oreo, I received the update to Android Pie in the first hour of usage. The commendable part about this is that the Android Pie experience is exactly the same as on Google Pixel devices.

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Besides the pure vanilla Android experience, you get features such as Adaptive Brightness, Digital Wellbeing, Adaptive Battery. I have also been using Pixel 3’s cool and engaging live wallpapers. Furthermore, you can choose between the standard navigation buttons and the revamped single button navigation gestures on Android Pie and both the options work without causing any pain.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

You don’t get any modification from Nokia and there’s no bloatware. The only additions from Nokia’s side are the Nokia Camera and the Nokia Support apps. I personally prefer the minimal interface without any bloatware or intrusive applications over those like MIUI and here the Nokia 7.1 scores well.
Nokia 7.1 Battery

The battery on the Nokia 7.1 seems somewhat of a discomfort. First, because it is only 3,060mAh in capacity and just not up to the competition, although the small size helps keep the smartphone lightweight. With moderate usage including a few hours of gaming, media and social media consumption, and occasional photography, the Nokia 7.1’s battery lasts only 15-16 hours with close to 4 hours of SOT (screen-on-time).

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

While only being connected to Wi-Fi but not being used, Nokia 7.1 loses 6-7% of battery overnight. This is possibly a bug because if it is not, the battery life is seriously not up to the mark. When its limits are pushed further, the smartphone gives up much earlier and you will probably have to carry a charger every time you’re heading out of home. Despite the glass back, you don’t get wireless charging, so wired is the only way to go.

When it comes to charging, Nokia 7.1 takes precisely 2 hours to go from 10% to 100% and about 35 minutes to go from 10% to 50% using the bundled 18W charger. But since the battery backup is really distressing, you might want to plug your phone while going to sleep so that it can bear with the daily usage.

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Since there is no notification LED, you have to rely on Always On display, which is another sucker for battery.

Lastly, there’s Adaptive Battery as part of the Android One experience which means that over time, the battery backup should improve slightly as the system learns which apps you use the most and which it can kill while they’re inactive in the background. At the time of writing this review, I had used the smartphone for five days and haven’t felt any noticeable difference.
Nokia 7.1 Connectivity

In terms of connectivity, the Nokia 7.1 is equipped with features like dual-band Wi-Fi, dual 4G/VoLTE, Bluetooth 5.0, and popular positioning tech. In terms of cellular connectivity, the smartphone is fairly reliable and while HMD does not advertise LTE-A (4G+), the speed is on par with devices such Poco F1 and Samsung Galaxy A9 with come the feature.

In terms of Wi-Fi, however, I have come to face difficulties while connecting back to the same Wi-Fi after moving out and then coming back into a zone. I expect HMD to address this with a future software update since this is something that has been troubled me during my usage.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

In terms of USB connectivity, the smartphone gets OTG capabilities through the USB-C port which also works with USB-C headsets. So, if you want to be future-ready you may choose to use USB-C headsets despite the presence of the headphone jack. You might also choose the Pixel earbuds, which have handy Google Assistant controls.

Furthermore, you also get NFC on the Nokia 7.1 which infers that you will be able to use it for Google Pay if tap-to-pay is supported in your country. Alternatively, it comes handy while connecting your Bluetooth headset or speaker system via NFC just by brushing it with the phone’s back once.
Nokia 7.1 Security

As Nokia 7.1 users, you’ll be dependent on the fingerprint for security as there’s no face unlock or any other alternative. Of course, you will use a PIN, pattern, or password to back the fingerprint’s protection, but that’s about it. Further, since Nokia 7.1 imitates Pixel smartphones in terms of software, you don’t get the feature to protect apps using the fingerprint (except Google Pay) but you can download a third-party app to enable that.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

It would really be of use if face unlocking is added using future updates, just like the OnePlus 3 and 3T did last year. Until then, you will be relying on the fingerprint scanner, which is fast but the unlocking animations make it appear slow.
Nokia 7.1 Pros and Cons

With its imperfections, the Nokia 7.1 can still be a very appealing device if you’re looking for the latest version of Android, a no-nonsense interface, a great and dependable camera, and some more. Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

So here are some deal-makers and deal-breakers of the Nokia 7.1:
Pros

    Gorgeous and sturdy build
    HDR10-compliant display for rich contrast and brightness
    Generous speaker
    Hi-res audio via aptX
    HD Playback on Netflix and other video apps
    Great camera
    Headphone jack
    NFC

Cons

    Average performance
    Wi-Fi connectivity bug
    Poor battery and long charging time
    No notification LED
    No face unlock

Nokia 7.1: Ultimate Media Experience in the Mid-Range

The Nokia 7.1 comes as a great device if your primary usage is binging on Netflix shows, listening to quality music, and taking a lot of pictures. Its glass-and-aluminum back extends a posh feeling when you’re holding and using the smartphone and the crisp display makes almost all forms of engagement really enjoyable.

The smartphone packs in a great camera setup powered by Zeiss lens, and the pictures turn out fairly impressive both – outdoors and indoors. A slight bit of noise creeps in in artificial lighting but that is admissible looking at the price of the smartphone. In my brief comparison, I found the Nokia 7.1 being neck-to-neck with the Poco F1, which also has a great camera powered by AI.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

While in terms of performance, Nokia 7.1 performs decently, it bites the dust when it comes to high-end gaming, primarily because the Snapdragon 636 cannot live up to the expectations in this price range. However, should you feel satisfied with casual gaming on lighter titles, you will be able to embrace Nokia 7.1 without any complaints.

    Anyone demanding some serious gaming from the smartphone will feel foiled by the Snapdragon 636

Looking at its prime competitors in a price-wise comparison, you have the Honor Play (starts at Rs. 19,999) and the Poco F1 (starts at Rs 20,990). While both of these devices are performance-centric, the camera and multimedia performance of the Nokia 7.1 seems unbeatable. So, in the end, it becomes a matter of preference.

Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance

    If you want a durable metal design which can take a tough beating, Honor Play is the way to go, but you’ll be limited to the EMUI interface with no real option of using custom ROMs.
    If performance is unquestionably your biggest criterio, the Poco is easily better and because of the pro-developer stance, you get a variety of custom ROMs and some popular kernels to choose from.
    However, if you simply want the best media experience and stunning cameras, you should definitely choose the Nokia 7.1.

Lastly, if you’re budget is elastic, I’ll suggest you wait for Nokia 8.1’s release next week. However, considering its international pricing, you’ll have to shell anywhere between Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 and we’ll only be able to tell exactly how much when the phone launches in India.
Nokia 7.1 Review Nokia 7.1 specification Nokia 7.1 camera Nokia 7.1 performance
Nokia 8.1

So, that’s our review of the Nokia 7.1. Tell us in the comments below if you want us to investigate it from another angle or want us to take a look at some feature we might have skipped.
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