Review: Nokia 7 plus

Last year’s Nokia lineup announced at the MWC2017 was successful in many aspects, and accepted by Nokia fans, which was trigger for HMD to raise the stakes this year and launched four new smartphones, from midrange segment up. Ok, there was also Nokia 1, but that phone is a category for itself, since it runs Android GO. Among all the phones, Nokia 7 plus hit the sweet spot. It has been over 4 years since the last phablet with Nokia logo was launched, and here we have it in more favored size and screen resolution. Nokia 7 plus is the top mid-ranger that many have been waiting for, and I spent 10 days with it. Let me try to answer one question that most of you are probably asking, is this the phone that I’m going to be with for the next 2 years?

  • Official name: Nokia 7 plus
  • Screen: 6-inch IPS LCD, HD+ (2160 x 1080, 18:9 ratio)
  • Dimensions: 158.38 x 75.64 x 7.99 mm (9 mm with camera bump)
  • Mass: 183 grams
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, Octa core, (4×2.2 GHz Kryo 260 and 4×1.8 GHz Kryo 260)
  • GPU: Adreno 512
  • Memory: 4 GB, DDR4 cards
  • Internal memory: 64 GB, expandable up to 256GB over MicroSD
  • Main camera(s): 12 MP 1.4µm f/1.75 2PD with ZEISS optics, 13 MP 1.0µm f/2.6 with ZEISS optics, dual-tone flash, Samsung sensor
  • Front Facing Camera: 16 MP with ZEISS optics
  • Connectivity: LTE (SIM 1 for now), VoLTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, USB-C
  • Sensors: Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer, E-compass, Gyroscope, Fingerprint Sensor, Hall sensor
  • Battery: 3800 mAh, Quick charging
  • Colors: Black / Copper, White / Copper
  • OS: Android 8.1 Oreo
  • Price: €399
  • Official page: nokia.com

 

Pros:

  • Beautiful design
  • Great screen
  • Decent camera
  • Battery life
  • Snappy

 

Cons:

  • Camera software needs more polishing
  • Back printed letters warn off
  • Fingerprint magnet

 

Unboxing

HMD didn’t change the looks of the box too much compared to previous Nokia smartphones, but some things are different. The first you see on the front is a bit more pronounced Nokia logo covering the handshake framed by the 7 plus, and below is the name of the phone and form of Android it is using. The list of specs written on the back is narrowed down to “need to know basics”. The most important things about this device are Snapdragon 660, 6″ screen, dual camera with Zeiss optics and Bothie, according to HMD. The box contains manuals printed in many languages (differ between markets), a metal key for opening the SIM door, wall adapter that supports fast charging, 1-meter long USB/USB-C cord, good quality earphones and a silicon case. The case will be good for protecting your 7 plus, since it can be a bit slippery. It is transparent and made out of silicone, and it fits perfectly on the phone. It adds few mm to the body of 7plus, but it doesn’t make it bulky enough.

 

Here is the unboxing video, and below you can take a better look on contents of the box.

Design, build quality, ergonomics

I must say that 7 plus won me at first sight, because I like phones with a large display. The usual problem with these kinds of devices is their size, but that isn’t really the case with 7 plus. Bezels above and below the screen are noticeable, but not that big, so the phone is still elegant. The aluminum body is 8mm thick, what makes it feel rather slim. That slimness is lost a bit when you put the provided silicone cover. The body of the device is made out of aluminum, and that means no wireless charging, but it is light and sturdy.  The back of the device is covered by 6 layers of ceramic-like coating, which makes it warm under your fingers, unlike the aluminum body of the Nokia 6 that is rather cold. The matte finish is what makes it slippery and a fingerprint magnet (at least the black model that we got for a test), but it does look more premium and elegant. Even though the lines of the device are somewhat classic, I loved the duality of the body created with ceramic layer and contrasting color of the aluminum at its sides. Nokia 7 plus in black and copper does look hot and trust me many will notice it. This device is all about the contrasting details and that story runs on the front with a thin copper line around the screen, copper flat sides and beautifully done camera and fingerprint scanner rings and Nokia logo in copper color.

With its 183 grams, Nokia 7 plus is not the heaviest device in its class. Even though the phone seems like it is made of polycarbonate, because of the soft matte ceramic-like coating on the back, it is a sturdy and solid piece of Nokia’s industrial design that HMD continued to cherish. Weight is balanced nicely, and it is helpful with keeping the device steady when taking photos.

Flat sides are also an advantage when taking photos since you will have a better grip on the device. Another thing that at first seemed like a flaw, but later on I saw it is not, is a bit sharper transitions from flat sides to gentle ceramic back or front. It helps to hold the device more securely and flat aluminum sides improve the grip. Nokia 7 plus fits nicely in the palm, also thanks to rounded edges. The phone fits in all your jeans pockets, but you will have to get it out of the pocket when sitting down because it might cause you discomfort. Luckily, the phone is comfortable to hold in your hand or when using it for calls. Since its display diagonal is 6 inch, you won’t be able to control it completely by your thumb. Nice thing is that you can scroll down the notification by swiping your finger over the fingerprint scanner, which is by the way easily reachable at the back.

 

The position of the scanner is a problem for many since now you need to raise the phone to unlock it (or wake up the screen). But, that is actually a good thing since that is the quickest way to unlock it when you are holding your phone, and when it is leaned on the table, you have double tap to unlock that works perfectly. You can always press the power button. So, you have three ways to wake up the screen of your device which is nice.

The front of the device is classic black covered by Gorilla Glass 3. Don’t be discouraged by the fact that you have the third generation of the Gorilla glass protection. It is more durable than the fourth generation, and the fifth generation would raise the price of the device.  Since the screen is polarized it is hardly seen on the front panel. The only thing that breaks the black front face is the cut for the speaker and front facing camera. Of course, there is also the copper frame that is surrounding the front glass and acts as a buffer that should keep the screen protected if it hits the ground. Anyway, there is some 3mm of the body that will disperse the kinetic energy of the unwanted fall and keep the screen unshattered. I didn’t test that, and you shouldn’t also, but if it falls on the solid concrete, you could end up with marks on the aluminum body. I am not sure how will ceramic coating at the back react to the mechanical damage, but it should be durable.

Sides of the device are flat and not covered by ceramic layers. Bare copper colored aluminum makes a stripe around the device even though the whole body is made from single piece of it. The left side of the device is classically left clean with just SIM and microSD doors on the upper part of it. The SIM door opens with the special key that is provided in the box, but if you lose it, you can use a paperclip to open them.

On the right side there are just easily reachable power button and above it volume buttons. Buttons are elevated nicely and are not loose. They respond good and are neither too soft nor tight to press. Both, the left and right side are dashed with plastic lines of the antenna, but lines are not so intrusive and in color of the frame, so they look ok.

The top holds the opening for the 3.5 mm headphones jack, while the bottom features, starting from the left: antenna line, microphone, USB-C port, a single loudspeaker and another plastic antenna line. The transition from the flat sides to the flat back is gently curved and dominated by soft ceramic coating This is just one tinny detail that I didn’t like about this phone, and some won’t be happy about it also. The HMD story, or the address of the maker usually engraved or printed on the bottom part of the devices back, is just partially visible, mostly washed out. At our test device, only O’s and D’s could be seen. Android One logo, on the other hand, is nicely printed and those letters are there to stay. On the upper part of the back the fingerprint scanner and camera module and placed. The dual camera setup with ZEISS lens is the only thing sticking out at the back. Cameras are protected by Gorilla Glass 3, and below it, the sliver ZEISS logo is printed. The camera hump is nicely surrounded by a copper metal ring that gives that duality look of the device. The hump doesn’t make Nokia 7 plus wobbly when leaned on the flat surfaces. Above the camera, there is the back microphone, and on the right side is the dual tone LED flash which is pretty strong. Funny thing is that cameras together with LED form a surprised smiley face. Below it is easily reachable fingerprint scanner again decorated with a copper metal ring. The middle of the back is dominated by gorgeous Nokia logo in copper color.

 

Screen

Once again, we have a 6-inch screen installed on Nokia smartphone. The first one was in Nokia Lumia 1520, and like in that iconic model, Nokia 7 plus has highly visible under bright sunlight, polarized (ex clear black layer), IPS LCD screen. This does mean that Glance screen is not available here because of the screen technology, but Android offered the closest thing to it, Ambient screen. There you can have a glance on time and received notifications. The Ambient screen turns on every time you get an email or WhatsApp message, or when you raise the phone. The other thing I didn’t like much about this device is that the screen corners are too much rounded for my taste. The screen is nicely embedded in the body, and it takes 77% of its surface. It would be nice if future Nokia phones could reduce the bezels even more, but these on Nokia 7 plus are not so intrusive and the phone has a nice shape. A good thing about bezels is that you won’t be accidentally touching screen while watching video or movie, which is quite comfortable. Everybody screamed about 18:9 screen ratio and 7 plus brought it to the Nokia fans. The phone doesn’t look elongated because of that, and it is quite nice to use apps in split screen option. The screen can be divided now into thirds, which is useful with 6-inch diagonal.

I didn’t have any problem viewing the screen content in bright sunlight and I must say that viewability is good as in old Nokia Lumia range of top smartphones.

LCD maybe isn’t the best option for phones whose strong point is a camera, but reproduction of colors on the screen was correct. Also, I thought that battery will be drained faster by the display, but that wasn’t the case.

 

Connectivity, performance and OS

Nokia 7 plus is a versatile smartphone. The test model is a Dual SIM version, but the SIM slot is a hybrid one, which means that if you want to use another SIM card, then you won’t be able to install microSD card. But, with 64 GB of internal memory, that shouldn’t be much of a problem. Additionally, Google Photos is offering unlimited space for your photos, so you don’t have to worry about storing them every now and then. HMD continued delivering great sound when doing phone calls and there is a dedicated microphone to cancel all the background noise. There are many ways how you can be connected with the world over your device. Besides the obvious LTE connectivity (currently available only for the primary SIM), 7 plus is, of course, WiFi-enabled device and its dedicated antenna catch signal perfectly. Is great to hear that this device, like all the rest in the newest lineup, has Bluetooth 5.0 which is going to save up your battery when connected to your (Nokia Steel?) tracker or BT speaker, and give crystal sound while transmitting music to your car radio for example. I had no trouble listening to music through Deezer in my car or over my Nokia JBL, PlayUp NFC enabled speaker. I had some difficulties connecting with the speaker over NFC but it could be due to differences in age, even though I noticed the same problem with my Nokia 6 (2017) and Nokia 3. It just doesn’t want to switch on the speaker, but when I do it manually, a quick connection over NFC is working like a charm.

The sound quality of the call speaker is great, and loudspeaker can really offer nice handsfree call experience since its sound reproduction is also great.  If you want to listen to music over it, you’ll notice that the mid tones are pronounced a bit, but there is also a fair share of deep tones. Well, this is perfect for calls, but you will be able to enjoy your favorite tune from time to time.

Something that my Nokia 6 (2017) should have, but 7 plus has is the USB-C connector at the bottom. Finally, it is so easy to plug the device into a charger when you are tired and just want to quickly fall to sleep. Even though USB is 2.0, the transfer of photos and videos on your computer is quick. There is also a USB-On-The-Go option available, but I didn’t test it since I don’t have proper adapters for my flash drives.

I really loved using it since I prefer large screens. Browsing internet is much easier, as is reading or answering emails. I am not so into games, but I tried the basic ones and 7 plus runs them smoothly. It has Snapdragon 660 hearth inside, equipped with 8 cores (4×2.2 GHz Kryo 260 and 4×1.8 GHz Kryo 260), backed up with Adreno 512 GPU which enables smooth usability of the phone. It is rather snappy and quick to install games or even process shots over Snapseed which is the result of 4GB of DDR4 RAM. I know that Snapdragon 845 is even snappier, but you’ll love 7 plus. I used it also for watching movies (Popcorn) and the screen is big enough to even add subtitles below and watch your prefered show with ease.

 

The 7 plus is equipped with various sensors, but barometer isn’t there (use great Physics Tool app from Play store). Only Nokia 8 has is, and probably Nokia 8 Sirocco, but you’ll live without it. Another thing that is missing is LED notification light but trust me that is partially compensated with Ambiance Display if you are someone that always keeps your phone near and keeps one eye on it at all the time. I am not sure why, but Nokia 7 plus currently doesn’t support Trusted Face option to unlock the screen in the Smart Lock. Hopefully, that option will be enabled later on even though I don’t find it particularly useful besides fingerprint or pattern unlocking options.

HMD Global said many times that their goal is to have pure and secure Android, the most popular OS platform for smartphones, at that is what you get. Nokia 7 plus runs latest Android 8.1, or the Oreo, but our test model came with 8.0 and the upgrade was already available over the air. Future Android updates will be available for the next two years together with monthly security patches, so you will always have up to date phone. The only thing I don’t understand about this pure Android is its size.

Pure Android maybe isn’t the best option for everyone, but there are many launchers that can transform your home screen in a second. You can even try abandoned Z Launcher that is still alive at Play store. The only app you will be getting with your Nokia 7 plus is camera app. Support app is also preinstalled, actually its link to the Play store. Everything else you’ll have to download, but pure Android still has a calculator, calendar, alarm, stopwatch, even file manager. Speaking of the ladder, if you download some apk file, you probably won’t be able to launch it over download folder, but instead, you’ll have to go through settings and then storage, and their folders and finally find download folder and install your apk file.

 

 

Camera

When the Nokia 8 was released, everybody started talking about the camera on Nokia devices again. Nokia 7 plus and Nokia 8 Sirocco fired up that chatter to the next level. And for a good reason. While Nokia 8’s camera can deliver great photos, the camera hardware of 7 plus is much improved. Even though its camera(s) lack optical stabilization (it is stabilized digitally with help of gyroscope), it has a wider aperture (Samsung 12 MP sensor, F/1.75) and larger pixels (1.4µm) for greater light absorbance. This means that Nokia 7 plus should take better night shots and that is true. With this device, you can also take 2X zoomed photos since its second 13 MP (Samsung sensor) camera has different lenses, but the aperture is smaller, like pixels (f/2.6, 1.0µm). To gain better shots and videos, the camera is equipped with ZEISS lenses, but German lens manufacturer is also responsible for delivering the great picture to the device’s screen. Photos taken with this camera are crisp at daylight, but you must focus before you snap it. For some reasons, photos turn out better if you didn’t just take the phone out of your pocket and took the shot. Daylight shots won’t disappoint you. Nokia 7 plus can get nice portraits, shots of objects, animals, nature… everything you want.

Low light shots are suffering from the same problem, but when focused, a photo is decent even though there is room for improvement. There is a bit of noise and lack of structure and sharpness, but that kind of imperfection can be fixed with Snapseed app or further algorithm and camera app improvements.

A proper camera app is something that many people have been waiting for. This app finally got the Pro mode, or the ability to manually set ISO, focus, shutter, exposure compensation and white balance. The same mode can be used for front facing camera but without manual focusing. Pro mode can help you additionally improve your photography skill but there is plenty space for improvements. ISO only goes up to 3200, exposure till 2+/- and by increasing the shutter time, the camera doesn’t adjust in real time to changes.

Optical zoom camera can give pretty impressive shots, but daylight ones are much better. Sometimes you can see the lack of sharpness, but you won’t be noticing that.

 

You can take dual shots with Nokia 7 plus, or popularly known as Bothie, and you can also take a picture in picture shot. Live Bokeh option is also present and you can play nicely with it, even though the portrait mode is still missing.

Check out full resolution photos taken with Nokia 7 plus on our Flickr profile.

Videos are beautiful. Nokia 7 plus can take 4K video and the picture is crisp, colors represented well, dynamic range not the best but great. Video is stabilized digitally but shakiness of the hand is noticeable. Only problem I noticed, and it is present in Nokia 6.1 also, is that focus doesn’t last long after you set it on some object. This can probably be fixed with future updates of the Camera app. The best part of the video is sound recording. Nokia’s own OZO audio is doing wonders. You can even direct the sound recording to back, or front thanks to the 3 microphones and of course algorithms that are coming from Nokia Technologies. You can do Bothie mode while filming video, also record a slow-motion video in Full HD without limits and do live video feed to YouTube and Facebook. Pro mode is not available here.

Nokia 7 plus Daylight video – Check out demo of optical zooming and automatic focusing.

Nokia 7 plus – night video

 

 

Front facing camera will finally enable good quality video calls and also selfies that can be used for social media photos. This is because it has 16MP sensor below and ZEISS optics like the back cameras. HMD used technology closest to Pureview to get good shots. Camera software is binding 4 pixels into one to get clearer photos, an you’ll notice that. The screen does provide great light when using it as flash during the night. In the pro mode, front facing camera doesn’t have the option to manually focus the object. It can film a 1080p video which is electronically stabilized (even better than video filmed with main cameras) and great sound thanks to directed OZO Audio. Slow motion on the front camera is not enabled but Time Laps is.

 

Battery

One of the biggest advantages of this phone is a relatively large battery with the capacity of 3800 mAh. If you are a moderate user that doesn’t take many photos, surfs a bit on the net, spends few hours scrolling 9Gag, reads and replies to dozens of emails, do a dozen phone calls per day and play few rounds of Angry Birds, Subway Surfers or some other light games, then you could finish your day at approximately 40% to 50% of battery capacity. I managed to squeeze two full days on a single charge, and when I plugged it into the charger before sleep, 7 plus was at 9% of battery. I know that there are many other smartphones with a bigger battery, or longer lasting one (Xiaomi Mi Max, or Nokia 2), this really a commendable trait of this phone. If you are a heavy user, the battery will last for one entire day. The remarkable thing about the battery is that you can charge it up to 50% in about 30 minutes.

 

Final thoughts

At the beginning of the review, I said I’ll be trying to answer an important question for everyone thinking of buying a Nokia 7 plus, or any other smartphone –  Is it good enough to be with me for the next 2 years?

The answer is yes, and here is why. Nokia 7 plus is a great combination of solid, good quality hardware and great design. If you compare its specs, you can always find a phone with better components, but with 7 plus you definitely get most for the price. Nokia 7 plus is a head turner, snappy phone thanks to the Snapdragon 660 processor and 4 GB of DDR4 RAM, has great camera combined with a good and capable app together with some OZO magc, and has a solid battery life of over a day which is not something you see that often nowadays. This phone isn’t the perfect one, and there is always a room for improvements, for example in the camera app and picture processing algorithms, software improvements and the addition of some popular options like portrait mode and better Pro mode.

If you don’t like phones with large screens, maybe you could search for something else, but Nokia 7 plus is just millimeters higher than the old Nokia 6 and is refreshingly faster than the faithful tank.

Nokia 7 plus is already becoming available globally and you can get it from €320 to just a little bit over €400, depending on your market.

 

Video review coming up shortly…