Even though it was announced in January 2017 for the Chinese market, and February 2017 for the global, people outside China are still waiting for the official sales start of HMD’s most powerful device in the lineup, the Nokia 6. Tired of waiting, I got myself a Nokia 6 unit for Chinese market, whose unboxing you can check in this article here (,but be careful if you want to do the same). I noted there that we will wait a little bit before publishing the whole review, because we hope that the global review unit will come soon. That way we can give a more precise review of the 6, because the global and Chinese variant differ in many aspects. In the meantime, we decided to make a review in progress article that is more based on the subjective experience while using the device, rather on hard data, that we will leave for the full review.
One of the first feelings after unboxing the device and taking it in the hands, is that the device is really well built. The Aluminum 6000 series unibody is usually a characteristic of higher end phones or competitive Chinese mid-rangers, but you will quickly see that the 6 is not a “generic” device with the Nokia logo, but a very thoughtfully designed device. HMD’s Head of Design calls the design “Simple. Pure. Scandinavian.”, with basic principle of leaving only the essential design elements of the device, and that is the fundament of Nokia’s rewarded “Fabula” design was based on.
The initial set-up went pretty quickly, mainly thanks to the almost stock experience. The only apps that were installed on the initial set-up are system applications and Google Apps like the Play Store, Gmail or Chrome. As a ex – Windows 10 Mobile user, I was quite surprised that there were no restarts required to change the phone language. That feature is allegedly there since Android 5.
First few days of any device (or almost all devices) are characterized by intensive app installations and higher battery consumption that is followed by higher charging intervals. For example, first few days I had to charge the 6 more than one time per day, and these first days the device could get a little warmer than usual. After, maybe 5 days, the device endures the whole day on a single charge, sometimes ending the day with 15% left. Approximately 1-2% of battery life is spent over the night, depending of connectives left on or if you use two SIM cards.
Two aspects of Nokia 6 that I find the biggest positive surprises, apart from the already discussed build quality, are the screen and the dual speakers. The screen is IPS LCD with a 5.5-inch diagonal and 1080p (FullHD) resolution. Something that sets this screen apart from other FullHD screens in the price segment is the way it’s layered and the polarized filter on the top. The screen is made in the Hybrid In-cell technology, basically meaning that digitizer and the display are put closer, and that’s usually the case on higher end phones. We wrote something about this technology here. The addition of polarization filters, known as ClearBlack on Lumia and older Nokia devices, are responsible for outstanding sunlight readability and good reproduction of the black color. The 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass screen is a good addition as well.
The dual-speakers are quite a shocker on the 6, at least for me. The speakers are set at the bottom of the device, on the right side of the Micro USB 2.0 port, while on the other we have a microphone. The phone supports stereo sound, but the real magic kicks in when the Dolby Atmos technology is enabled. The loudness with Dolby Atmos is maybe twice as much as without (excluding max. volume), and when the “theater” mode is activated, the sound seems like it’s spreading in 360 degrees. I highly recommend turning Dolby Atmos on while listening to music or watching movies, and it works through headphones or external speakers as well. I also recommend turning it off in other occasions, because on the lowest setting it tends to be too laud and in some unsupported apps like YouTube, games or sometimes system notifications distortion is present. A short demo of Atmos can be found here.
Overall performance of the device is quite good, and in 2 weeks of usage I didn’t experience any freezing and sudden restarts. Sometimes the device skips few frames while animating the opening or closing of some apps, but that’s far from lagging. Games tend to open a little longer, and depending of the intensity and duration, the device can get hot while playing, especially if you charge it in the same time. Positive thing is that it cools down quickly and there is no better feeling for me personally than to lift up that cold aluminum Nokia 6 every morning, especially on hot days that we have a lot here on Croatia’s coast line.
The underachieving segment of Nokia 6, considering it’s a Nokia after all, is the camera. The camera overall has problems with focusing, which is not too bad considering that you can manually focus and the pictures on daylight turn out pretty good, if not great. More of a problem are photos in low-light conditions, that aren’t doing well. Of course, you can always turn on the LED flash to save the day (or night), but sometimes LED is not the best option in low light.cThe positive things are some niche setting in the camera app and the speed. The camera is not all bad, maybe it’s average in its price segment, but camera expectations from a Nokia are always high. Almost all day-light pictures look good, especially viewing it on the 6’s screen, and will look great in fact on social media sites where the picture is compressed and put through filters. When you zoom in you can notice the focusing problems and lack of sharpness in some cases.
We think HMD will address above mentioned problems with firmware updates, and the global version of Nokia 6 when available could come with updated algorithms, especially for focusing and low-light photography. That’s why we want to wait for the official review unit to give a judgement of the camera.
Overall, I’m quite satisfied with the Nokia 6, and as I person that values design and build quality of phones, I find an enjoyment in holding the device in hands. I also like good pictures, and hope HMD will via firmware updates stand out from the price segment, just like they did with the screen, speakers or built quality. People with different priorities could automatically turn down the 6 as a no-go, because of the average battery life (1 day) or the low-light photos. HMD also prioritized some features in their first device, mainly the design and build quality, because they want and need to prove that these devices really stand for everything the Nokia logo historically stood for. The recent remarks HMD’s CEO gave about camera in general on Nokia devices, leave us with hope for that aspect of the devices as well.
For a final in-depth review that is backed up with more objectively interpreted data and not subjective feelings and opinions, we have to wait for the global review unit, because it is a fair thing to do.