The new Nokia 6 is the first device from Nokia Mobile that comes as a direct successor to a last year’s model, that carried the same name. The new Nokia 6, often referred to as Nokia 6 2018 or just recently Nokia 6.1, got some significant upgrades compared to its predecessor, with the main being a better processor. The new features introduced to the midrange model also come with a slight price hike. To know if it is worth it and could you spend two years with the device, continue reading our review of the new Nokia 6.
Nokia 6.1 comes in the same stylish box as all new Nokia devices. On the front, we have the picture of Nokia 6.1 and the iconic handshake. On the back of the box we have photos of the device from different sides and key specifications like Aluminium unibody, Snapdragon 630, camera with ZEISS optics, Dual-sight camera mode, and legal information alongside the Nokia, Qualcomm and ZEISS logos.
In the box, we can find the device itself, the wall adapter, USB Type C cable 100 cm long, the SIM door key, usual low-end WH-108 headphones and manuals on different language. The charger that comes with the 6.1 support Quick Charging out of the box.
A crucial thing that was preserved on the new Nokia 6 is the impressive build quality like on the first generation. An important aspect where the new Nokia phones had to show the Nokia legacy was the build quality, and all new announced Nokia devices share this feature with the old Nokia phones.
The 6.1 is molded out of a single block of aluminum (series 6000), but compared to the predecessor, it comes with accent colors that make the phone look more attractive. We got the white/iron version for review, but Nokia Mobile also offers black/copper and blue/gold color options. You cannot really mistake by choosing any of the three, but the blue/gold color will probably elevate the device the most from competition in terms of looks.
The housing of the device is 148.8mm in height, 75.8mm wide and 8.6mm thick, including the camera bump. With the same screen size of 5.5-inches as last year’s model, the 6.1 is smaller, but has the fingerprint sensor moved on the back and the capacitive navigation keys replace with on-screen keys. On the front above the screen, we have the standard set of sensors (proximity, light…), an 8MP front facing camera, speaker grill and the Nokia logo, that is a little brighter than the one of the old 6, thus can be more easily noticed.
On the left side of the device we have the volume up and down keys and the power button. With a double press of the power button, you can quick start the camera app on your Nokia 6.1. You can choose the turn off that gesture in settings. The keys are little elevated from the surface and are a bit wider with more distance between the volume down and power button than on the predecessor. The right side is, in the Nokia style, clear from any buttons and there is only a hole for the SIM door key and the hybrid SIM slot itself.
The top of the phone is reserved just for the 3.5mm headphone jack and an antenna line. On bottom we have the new USB Type-C port, that is a welcome addition, a single speaker and a microphone. The speaker is located right from the central USB Type C port, while the microphone sits left from it. The location is reversed compared to the old Nokia 6, probably to prevent hiding the speaker while holding the phone vertically in your right hand. For horizontal watching of videos or playing games the change of location makes the probability of covering the speaker even greater.
The backside of Nokia 6.1 also was slightly re-designed with a different camera housing with the ZEISS branding. The camera housing resembles the one from the Nokia 5 or Nokia 8, but without the second camera and IR sensor. A cool Iron accent color is wrapped around the camera housing making the camera stand out, especially when viewed under a good angle because the color tones of the wrap shift depending on the light and viewing angle. Below the camera and vertically put ZEISS logo, we have a dual tone LED flash, while a microphone is located above the camera. The fingerprint sensor is right below the camera setup and has a ring in the iron accent color, on our version, around it. The Nokia logo follows down below, with the Android One branding and legal information at the bottom of the back side.
I am not a big fan of fingerprint sensors on the back, primarily because when the device is on my table and I want to unlock, I can: a) Double tap the screen, swipe up and enter the PIN or pattern or b) raise the device, unlock it with the fingerprint sensor and put it back down. Compared to just pressing the front fingerprint sensor on the Nokia 6, this is more steps to do, but over the course of few days I got used to it. Classic unlock by pressing the power button wasn’t considered here.
Nokia 6.1 fits nicely in the hand, and you can instantly feel the robustness and quality of aluminum in your hand. The sides of the device are flat, with curved corners, so it’s not the most comfortable phone to hold, but the rounded corners help there. Compared to the old 6, it fits better in the hand because of smaller dimensions in height and width. Just like its predecessor, it is built like a tank and big kudos to HMD for making and preserving such build quality in the midrange price segment.
Packing exactly the same 5.5-inch FullHD screen, but in a smaller body, comes as no surprise, considering that Nokia 6 2017 came with hefty bezels. The new 6 features a 73.2% screen to body ratio, compared to 70.7% on old Nokia 6, but there is still space for improvement. The screen fits seamlessly into the black front giving an illusion that the whole front size is the screen – a design principle from Lumia days that I highly like. Sculpted Gorilla Glass 2.5D (3rd generation) protects the screen.
The display comes in already mentioned FullHD (1080p) resolution with 403 pixels per inch, which in general can be characterized as high pixel density, but it isn’t high enough for enjoying VR content using VR Glasses like ZEISS VR One Plus. The viewing angles are decent, with fairly precise color reproduction. The brightness is declared at 450nits, which is enough for viewing content under direct sunlight. Compared to the Nokia 6 (2017), the screen looks brighter, even though they both have the same declared brightness.
The 6.1 doesn’t feature capacitive navigation buttons, but instead has on screen navigation buttons. The buttons hide automatically in some segments of some apps, like when viewing photos or watching videos. There is no option to manually swipe down the navigation bar. The Chinese versions of Nokia 6.1 and 7 plus have the option to use gestures on the fingerprint sensor for navigation (swiping right for going back, left for open apps, etc.) and such gestures would be a nice addition to the global models as well. The mentioned on-screen navigation buttons reduce the screen size to 5.2-inches, which is unfortunate. Double tapping the right “open apps” button cycles through two recently open apps, while long-pressing the circular home button activates Google Assistant.
Hardware, performance and connectivity
The most significant upgrade Nokia Mobile made on the new Nokia 6 is below the hood. Instead of the lower-end Snapdragon 430 featured on the last year’s Nokia 6, this year’s Nokia 6 comes with Snapdragon 630. The choice of processor was the most criticized segment of Nokia 6 2017, and I am glad HMD opted for a better Snapdragon platform this year.
Snapdragon 630 consists of 8 ARM Cortex A53 cores clocked up to 2.2GHz. The biggest improvement from Snapdragon 430 is the fact that 630 is made in the 14nm process, compared to the 28nm process on 430. This basically means more power and efficiency on the side of Snapdragon 630. Other features include support for Bluetooth 5.0 and support for 4K video recording.
Coupled with the Snapdragon 630 come 3GB of RAM, but a version of 4GB of RAM for the international market is coming as well. The built-in storage is set to 32GB, with about 19.7GB available to the user.
HMD claims that the new 6 is 60% faster than the old one, and even though I cannot precisely and reliably measure it, the new 6 feels noticeably faster than the old 6. We can, in the boring way, compare the benchmark results, but I trust more the everyday use scenario and after nearly a year with the old Nokia 6, I noticed the speed increase. The 630 handles everyday tasks like champ, with decent RAM management. Few stutters I noticed mainly happened using Facebook, with some slowdowns in the new camera app.
Gaming performance is pretty good on the new Nokia 6, and you won’t have problems playing popular games on it. Heavier games do need time to load, but in terms of performance, it runs very well. Usual games I tested are Subway Surfers, Clash of Clans, Angry Birds, Asphalt 8 and TES: Legends. The temperature of the device is constant if you play for a short period of time, but the phone does get warmer if you extend the playtime. Playing games while charging isn’t recommended, especially if you’re using the included fast charger.
The second most important upgrade, in my opinion, from the previous model is the inclusion of USB Type C connector. USB Type C (USB 2.0) solves the problem of plugging the charger on the wrong side, because both sides are same. Apart from that, Type C allows faster data transfer and fast charging. Transferring a file size of 1GB took about 40 seconds with the 6.1. Nokia 6.1 supports fast charging from 0 to 50% in 30 minutes. I tested it and it charged from 0 to 50 in 33 minutes, which is in line with what HMD advertises. The phone tends to warm up a bit while chagrining, especially in the first 30 minutes while fast charging is on. Apps that show the battery temperature reveal an increase of about 10 degrees Celsius during the first 30 minutes of charging – from around 30 degrees to 40 degrees. The temperature then gradually decreases during the following 50% of charging.
From connectivity, Nokia 6.1 supports the already mentioned BT5.0, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, LTE Cat 4 speed (150/50), and NFC. From sensors, there are ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, accelerometer, e-compass, gyroscope, fingerprint sensor and hall sensor.
A segment which HMD downgraded on the new Nokia 6.1 is the built-in speaker. The last year’s Nokia 6 probably came with one of the best stereo speakers on the market with support of Dolby Atmos. I was blown away by the sound on my Nokia 6 TA-1000 with Dolby Atmos, and since I bought it, I ditched my external speaker because the built-in speaker(s) on the 6 rocked. So, I was disappointed to see the single speaker and no Dolby Atmos on Nokia 6.1.
Knowing that not everything is in the spec sheet, I gave the 6.1’s loudspeaker a fair chance to show what it can do. The loudspeaker is good, if not better than the one(s) on the old Nokia 6, but things change when you compare the speaker on 6.1 with the speakers on the old 6 with Dolby Atmos turned on. This may be the biggest con of the new Nokia 6, but I can understand if this was a calculated decision by HMD to cut costs and focus resources in other segments. People use external BT speakers and headphones, so it’s not necessary to have high quality amplifier(s) with Dolby Atmos on a midrange device. It’s still an unwise decision from the perspective of a customer to see the successor of a device be downgraded in any segment.
The speaker on the Nokia 6.1 is really loud, with good clearness during calls. I didn’t get any complains about how I sound to the people at the end of the line (even in noisy environments), and I hear them all very well with the 6.1. In fact, I decreased the volume in calls because the speaker grill is too loud for my taste, but the extra decibels come in handy if you’re taking calls in noisy places.
More about the camera hardware and battery will be said in their respective categories.
Nokia 6.1 is a member of the Android One family of devices, which means two years of software updates and three years of security updates. On top of that, there is free unlimited cloud storage for photos.
Using Pure Android, or in other words – Android without customizations from manufacturer, is a double-edged sword. It’s clear, easy to use and because of lack of features by manufacturers, performs very well. Some don’t like it because solutions from Android makers that have a custom UI, like Samsung’s Experience UI, Huawei’s EMUI etc. offer more features, of which a lot can be characterized as gimmicks, but a number of them are more than useful.
The new Nokia 6 runs on Android 8.1.0 Oreo and, at the time of writing this review, April security patch. The biggest visual change with Android 8.1 is the new settings menu, that Google made easier to navigate through. The battery section is nicely designed with features like the “Background activity manager” that allows you the blacklist apps from working in the background. You can also set the battery percentage in status bar, and change some settings related to the screen like sleep time or set Ambient display for showing notifications on the locked screen.
Under the section Display, I would like to point out features like “Night Light” that changes the tone/color of the display to be easier (for eyes) to use at night. There is also the “(Double)Tap to wake” option that allows you to wake up the display by double tapping on it.
Under Settings->Gestures there are some useful gestures you can set up on your phone. For example, “Swipe fingerprint for notifications” is a nice feature, even though I stopped using it because I was pressing it accidentally all the time. Other great feature is “Lift to check phone” that activates the Glance screen (actually, the Ambient display) when you lift your phone, and it works well when you pull your phone out of the pocket to check the time or notifications. Other gestures are “Mute on pickup”, double-pressing the power button to “Jump to camera” and the ancient “Turn over to reject call” option.
From custom apps, with the Nokia 6.1 only two come preloaded – Nokia Camera app and Google Play link for the Nokia Support app. The Camera app for the new line of Nokia smartphones with ZEISS optics has been redesigned and includes the Pro camera UI. More about that will be said in the camera part of the review. The Support app is pretty handy, offering the user guide, chatting with support, locating the nearest care center, checking some stats under “Device monitor” and more.
HMD doesn’t have its custom system applications, that some manufacturers pre-load, but uses the already available Android system apps like “Photos” for photo gallery, Play Music for music player and so on. In total, 24 apps come pre-loaded with the device of which two (camera and support) are from HMD.
I personally like the way Android runs on Nokia devices, but wouldn’t mind if HMD decided to integrate more features in the setting or if they offer some custom apps available via the Play Store. In fact, if stock Android doesn’t have a feature you want, you will probably be able to get it via an 3rd party app in the Play Store, but 1st party solutions from the manufacturer are most of the time better than 3rd party solutions.
Overall, Nokia 6.1 will be up to date with the latest version of Android for the next two years. HMD already confirmed that the device will receive Android P when Google makes it available, and as part of the Android One program it will receive security updates for 3 years. If software updates are up on your list of requirements for a phone to have, Nokia 6.1 got you covered.
Nokia 6.1 comes with a 16MP shooter on the rear side that features ZEISS optics. The aperture is f/2 with 1.0-micron pixel size. The sensor is made by Samsung with a size of 1/3.1 inches. The camera is coupled with a dual LED flash.
The best thing about the camera on Nokia 6.1 are all the new features HMD made available. The 6.1 by default records OZO Audio, allows you to livestream to Facebook or YouTube directly from the camera app, features Bothie (taking picture with the front and back camera at the same time), Dual-sight recording (recording video from the front and back camera at the same time), 4K video recording and the new Nokia Pro camera mode with manual controls.
It comes as a disappointed that for “point and shot”, Nokia 6.1’s camera is an average performer. In conditions with plenty of light the photos are good – sharp, in focus with mostly accurate color reproduction, though the photos sometime do lack a bit contrast and do feel washed out. Indoors, the camera has trouble focusing the picture and overall the photo gets degraded, with less detail, more noise and inaccurate color reproduction. The same applies to night shots (low light shots), too. The front 8MP camera, surprisingly, comes with fixed focus, which is a bit strange in 2018, but compared to the front camera on Nokia 6 (2017), there were no major differences in photo quality.
The already mentioned Nokia Pro camera mode saves the day, or better to say Nokia 6.1’s camera. By manually adjusting focus, ISO, shutter speed and other parameters, one can get really good photos in most conditions. The ISO values range from 100 to 3200, shutter speed from 1/500s to 4s. You call the Pro mode in camera by either swiping from the shutter or pressing the menu icon and then selecting “Pro”.
The Pro mode interface resembles the on from Lumia devices. Manual settings are arranged in wheels that are simple to use. This UI, as a concept, is probably the most intuitive manual mode UI on the market, but there is room for further improvement in terms of animations and I personally would like to see red indicators on values that are set too off to notify the user the adjust them before taking the shot.
Down below you can find comparison of photos taken in auto mode and the same photo with pro mode, or in other words manually adjusted settings. We downsized the photos to 1440p or 1080p for the sake of server space, but you can find them in full resolution on our Flickr profile.
Long exposure/low light comparison auto vs. pro mode
Compared to the last year’s Nokia 6, the Nokia 6.1 with Zeiss produces better photos. The difference isn’t huge, but photos look sharper, with more contrast. Most of the times you won’t tell difference, unless you analyze every picture on both devices, but the real advantage the camera on 6.1 has over the 6 (2017) is the new camera app and added camera features.
Video recording is a positive aspect of the 6.1’s camera, primarily thanks to OZO Audio sound recording. That is “High-fidelity spatial audio recording”, explains Nokia, using two microphones. The OZO VR camera had 8 microphones, while the Nokia 8, for example, has 3 microphones for recording OZO Audio. Contrary to the 8 that has the option to further personalize OZO Audio, by setting on which area (front, back or surround) the tech should focus, Nokia 6.1 doesn’t have that option and records every audio (on a video) using Nokia’s OZO Audio technology. To demonstrate the difference between regular sound recording on Nokia 6 (2017) and OZO Audio on 6.1, check the video down below.
The quality of videos taken in FullHD (1080p) resolution is decent, with OK color accuracy and a bit slow refocusing from subject to subject. As I mentioned before, the quality of sound overshadows the quality of video itself, which is a little above average. A good things is that some kind of video stabilization is present on the Nokia 6.1 while recording in FullHD. The option to record 4K videos is welcomed and compared to 1080p, the colors on 4K video seemed more precise, but the video is shakier and that leads to conclusion that no stabilization is present while 4K recording. In general, I don’t think that recording in 4K is worth the three time more memory consumption.
There are no manual settings in video mode and the Nokia 6.1 cannot permanently focus on a subject in video which makes recording certain subjects much harder, because instead of taping the screen to focus, you have to move the camera if you want a permanent focus on a subject. I think that’s some kind of a bug, because focus locking isn’t possible while taking pictures, too. You can tap on the screen, and it focuses for a few seconds and then goes away. All Nokia phones we have (1, 3, 5, 6, 6.1 and 7 plus) cannot lock focus. On the new Nokia devices, Pro mode saves the situation in photos, but in videos, at least on the Nokia 6.1, there is no Pro mode.
Other features of the camera include slow motion recording, but in 480p. Already mentioned options to go live on YT and Facebook work fine after a setup. If you never streamed on YouTube before, you will have to wait for up to 24h for Google to confirm this feature for your YouTube account. You can also do dual-sight video recording with both, the front and back camera, but this mode further degrades the quality of the captured video.
I also experienced a few performance issues with the camera. Nothing major, but occasionally the UI froze for a second while taking pictures or switching to pro mode or video. I feel like the new camera app is pretty power-hungry, which isn’t surprising considering the added features. Hopefully the app will see some performance optimizations, and auto mode quality improvements as well, in the near future. The camera hardware, at least on the back, seems good, considering that you can get nice photos using the Pro Mode, but auto mode really needs more work, especially in the segment of focusing.
All in all, Nokia 6.1 comes with an average shooter, but the included Pro camera and bunch of features do allow you to improve the content you’re going to create with it. If you’re photos will mainly end up on Instagram and other social media, then the camera on the 6.1 will do just fine. However, if you want better photos, without using manual controls, the Nokia 6.1 and maybe the 300 euro price point might be not right for you.
The same 3000mAh battery used in last year’s 6 is present on the new Nokia 6, and coupled with the more efficient Snapdragon 630, Nokia 6.1 is capable of lasting a whole day on a single charge. On a really busy day on my phone (diary of usage follows down below), the 6.1 survives from 9 to 5 with 20% battery left. In other words, the phone should last a whole day, and based how you use it, you can end up from 15 to 35% battery left an 8 hour shift.
8.30 – 100% (2 mailboxes on auto sync, mobile data, WiFi and BT always on, Brightness 50% (auto))
8.40 – 97% (10min of surfing, checking social media, email)
9.10 – 94% (few emails, Whatsapp messages, quick glance at social media)
9.40 – 92%
10.00 – 88% (2 min call)
11.00 – 73% (an hour of music via BT and snapping 150 photos)
11.30 – 65% (few minutes video recording, checking social media for few minutes)
12.00 – 60% (running benchmark apps)
13.00 – 50%
14.00 – 46% (3 min 4K video recording, 3 min file transfer to PC, 10 min surfing the web)
14.15 – 40% (15 min on TES: Legends)
14.35 – 36%
15.40 – 25% (few Whatsapp and Facebook messenger conversations)
16.42 – 20%
The Nokia 6.1 comes as a direct successor to the last year’s Nokia 6, and is improved in almost all aspect from the last generation. The improvement in power, efficiency, connectivity and features is followed by a 50 euro increase in price.
Positive sides of the 6.1 are excellent design and build quality, that go beyond the declared price tag of €279 before taxes. The Snapdragon 630 is the right choice for this category and I’m so happy to see USB Type C as well. The decision to downgrade the stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos on the old 6 to a single speaker on Nokia 6.1 is something I don’t like, but inclusion of Bluetooth 5.0 that consumes less energy while used than previous generations is a good thing that partially compensates the lack of better speaker(s) in my eyes.
The ZEISS-branded camera on the 6.1, even though packed with a lot of features, doesn’t excess in quality as someone would expect from a ZEISS-branded Nokia device. It’s OK for its price tag, and you can push for more details and artistic shots using the welcomed Pro camera mode. The battery should last a day, and depending how you use the device you may end up with a third of it left by the end of the day. The phone chargers from 0 to 50% in 30 minutes, so quick morning recharges before leaving for work could be enough if you forget to charge it before sleep. The call quality and loudness of the speaker are as expected from a Nokia device, with a note that the call speaker is really loud.
Overall, the Nokia 6.1 is a solid device for its price tag, especially if you appreciate build quality, design, clean and up to date Android and solid hardware that also includes USB Type C. It provides better value for money than the last generation, that I’m a happy user of, and in some markets, like in Croatia for example, the price is almost identical or just a little higher than the initial price of first generation, which makes it a good deal. It comes with some compromises, though. I expected better “point-and-shoot” camera performance, so if camera is an important thing to you, the 6.1 might not satisfy your needs.
Nokia 6.1 is a solid device that will stay up-to-date and perform well for the next 2 years. Considering how my (old) 6 performs and how HMD takes care of it with software updates, I’m sure the 6.1 won’t disappoint.