When we are choosing our smartphone companion for the next two years, besides its hardware characteristics, its look is something we take into consideration. There are numerous mobile phones that look great, but just a few of them are extraordinarily good looking. Nokia 8 Sirocco is definitely one of those phones that will make many heads turn around. Nokia Mobile, or should I say HMD Global, showed us that smartphones don’t always need to be designed to accommodate the latest hardware trend, but can also be beautiful and powerful in the same time. Here are the basic specifications of the phone. The more detailed info you can find on official Nokia pages.
Sensors: Fingerprint sensor, ALS/PS, G-sensor, E-compass, Gyro, Hall sensor, Barometer
Water resistance: IP67
Battery: 3260 mAh, Qi Wireless Charging
OS: Android 8.1 Oreo
The screen has good sunlight visibility
Water resistant (IP67)
Fast & fluent
The screen is curved too much
Blue hue on the screen edges
Hard to control curved part of the screen
Buttons could be more pronounced
SIM door not fixed when closed
At first look, the packaging looks the same as every other packaging of Nokia Mobile smartphones. The now iconic handshake framed by the device is there, the translucent Nokia logo is hovering above it, and the name of the device is now printed on top, in case you don’t recognize it. The only difference is that you are opening it as the box of chocolate since the treat lies below the lid. Sirocco is the first thing you see, and it is placed in the hard paper cradle. Below it is the box with a bit smaller SIM door key attached on it. The provided silicone cover is inside the box together with the user manuals printed in many languages. Next to the device is the box with wall quick charger, 1-meter long USB/USB-C cable, USB-C/3.5mm jack adapter for your classic headphones, and good quality Nokia earphones. The charging cable is a bit thicker than the standard one, so it will stand out among other cables you are using. You can also recognize it easily by touch, which is good especially if you need to charge another phone that uses older, thinner USB/micro USB cable.
Design, build quality, ergonomics
When you first see the device, all shiny, covered by glass on both sides, you’ll think it is a fragile piece of hardware. But, when you take it in your hands, you’ll be astounded by its firmness despite its delicate curved lines on the edges where metal meets the glass. In the end, the sheer mass of the device tells you that Sirocco is not fragile, but rather sturdily built device. I could say that Nokia 8 Sirocco is the Nokia Mobile’s way to interpret the beauty and the beast fairy tale, but with the main characters tied together in the body of the device.
The back of the device is borrowed a bit from Nokia 7, very popular China exclusive phone, and the front came from the trend Samsung started with its Galaxy flagships. Overall, Sirocco is a beautifully designed phone with a frame just 2 mm thick on its sides. I like the way the screen curves out at the sides, and how itis discretely framed by steel. The same story goes on the back of the device. Sirocco looks sleek, elegant and sassy at the same time. Well, this kind of body lines are expected for the top models, and Sirocco is a bit of design show off.
The build quality is high, even though there are some things that could be improved. The SIM doors, for example, don’t fit precisely into the frame. You definitely don’t expect to see that kind of issues at the Sirocco’s price range, but we have to say that the press receives the early models, so that could be fixed on newer hardware revisions. The combination of a steel frame and glass is not the happiest one since glass easily breaks when leaned against the steel. Sirocco doesn’t have a plastic ring around the front and back glass panel that would separate those two materials and save the glass from breaking. There is a slight gap between those two materials, that could save you from replacing the glass panels at the light touch of the device with the hard surface. To avoid damage, Nokia Mobile shipped the device with a silicone cover, but I would also recommend buying some nicely designed polycarbonate covers, like MOZO’s fabric/skin covers.
If you have dry skin on your hands, the Sirocco will be slippery, and you should definitely use the provided silicone cover. Sirocco fits the hand perfectly, and it is nice to hold it. Since it is not so large device, with smaller bezels, you can control it with one hand. Definitely, you should enable the swipe fingerprint for notification gesture that will help you reach all the necessary controls in the drop-down menu, and you’ll be able to check the notification more easily that way.
Many nagged about the sharpness of the metal frame, but I actually like it. It improves the grip on the phone and helps you hold it tighter without the cover on. The device is nicely balanced, and its weight gives you the better feel when taking photos.
Another thing people were dissatisfied with the Sirocco, or any new Nokia smartphone, is the transfer of the fingerprint scanner to the back of the device. Well, that could pose a problem when you are trying to unlock the phone lying on the table with a fingerprint. But hey, there are three ways to unlock your Sirocco, click on the power button, use fingerprint scanner and double tap the screen to unlock it. The latter one solves the problem of unlocking the device when rested on the flat surface.
The only problem I encountered with the curved screen is when you are using the car mount with side hands, you won’t be able to touch the part of the screen where the phone is held. You can bypass that problem by using the silicone or any other case, or by using some other kind of car mount.
The front of the device is dominated by the black glass surface. The screen in it is hardly visible thanks to the polarization filter. It becomes visible after you double tap it to unlock it, and then you notice that the bezels on the sides of the screen are thin and are significantly reduced at the top and bottom of the device. On the top bezel, you’ll find the pretty wide, centrally positioned, speaker with the proximity and ambient light sensors to its left, and the 5 MP front-facing camera to its right.
The steel frame is not centered on the sides but is moved a bit more to the back, so you wouldn’t touch the screen too much with your fingers, even though that is inevitable. The frame of the device is just 2 mm wide at its thinnest, and Nokia Mobile again applied the essence of the Fabula design and removed all the unnecessary elements. Unfortunately, the popular 3.5 mm port is off, but the USB-C/3.5mm jack adapter is there for you to still keep using your trusty classic headphones. On the right side of the device, you’ll find the volume rocker and power button. The buttons are slightly elevated, and it will take you some time to get used to their position, especially one the power button position.
The left side of the device only has the SIM doors which could cling better. Maybe this is the problem with the review model which are usually the first to come from the production line. Keep in mind that you should be installing the nano-SIM with the back of the device facing you. Otherwise, it will be trickier to hold the nano-SIM steady in the cradle while inserting it back.
Nokia 8 Sirocco has four dark plastic antenna stripes, two of them on the ends of the right side, and one on the top left and bottom left side. Antenna stripes are not so pronounced.
On the bottom, you’ll also find the first microphone, USB-C port, and single speaker grill. The only perforation on the upper part of the steel frame is for the second microphone.
The back of the device is dominated by the camera module hump which holds one regular and one telephoto camera, and ZEISS logo in between them. Left form the camera module is the third microphone, and on the right is the dual color LED flash. Below it is the fast and super sensitive fingerprint sensor. The Nokia logo of the Sirocco won’t fall off since it is placed under the glass panel. Below it is the wireless charger coil, and also the NFC antenna.
Below the Nokia logo, there is android one logo together with the unnecessarily long text that tells you who designed the phone, its FCC code, where is it made (on 3 languages), and the CE sign. But, the grayish color of the text makes it look cool, and it is not sticking out so much, even though I’d like to see it gone.
Nokia Mobile chose LG’s pOLED display for Sirocco and it chose well. The 5.5-inch QHD display is great, the best there is in the current Nokia lineup. It has great visibility in the direct sunlight, the viewing angles are high, the colors are classically vivid, and thanks to the 534 pixels per inch the screen is super sharp. Also, it is protected by the latest Gorilla 5 glass, so it won’t get scratched that easily (haven’t noticed any scratches in three weeks). But, it is curved too much which causes the visible bluish hue at its sides, which is seen the best at white background. If you are using the darker background you won’t be seeing that huge flaw. Also, because the display is curved, the flat viewing surface is reduced, and much of the content is distorted at the ends of the screen. Some of the text you are reading will be distorted, pictures also, and I wouldn’t recommend watching movies on it. While every Samsung Galaxy phone with the curved screen suffers from the similar issues, the screen of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, for example, doesn’t have the bluish hue problem (at least not that noticeable) since the curvature is smaller.
Anyway, after a few weeks, you’ll get used to it, but you better don’t own another phone with a flat screen, because it will remind you how much better the flat screens are.
Glance screen, or Glance View as it is called now, has been improved with the arrival of Sirocco. It is still activated when you raise the phone, or when you receive a new notification. Also, it is constantly active while charging, which can be annoying during the night, but is also great since you can use the device as a night clock. You can choose between two styles of the Glance view, Legacy where only the notification icons are shown, and Stylish where you get a bit of text shown also. The watch face can be set to analog and digital.
Connectivity, performance, and OS
Nokia 8 Sirocco is a proper top class phone, even though some well-known features are missing. Yes, the 3.5 mm port is gone, but hey, you have a better water resistance (IP 67). You can’t extend the internal memory with the microSD cards, but you got 128 GB of it (minus 14GB needed for the OS). Also, you have free, unlimited high-quality photos storage with Google Photos, so 128 GB will last long, even if you shoot 4K videos.
The BT 5.0 radio is used inside Sirocco, and it is mostly working well with the sound and voice transmission. I experienced some issues with when I moved more than 3 meters from my Nokia JBL PlayUP BT speaker. I don’t know if the problem was with the older BT speaker or software controlling the BT radio.
The network signal quality is great, no matter how you hold the device. I didn’t experience the problem with the WiFi signal when moving around the house, or while holding the phone horizontally.
Kudos go to the super-fast and sometimes too sensitive fingerprint scanner. It recognizes your finger too damn well, and the phone will get unlocked even when you accidentally touch it with your index finger when trying to put the phone back into your pocket.
GPS is quite accurate, and fast in finding your location. I must say I haven’t tested it outside the city where the position is easily found by the network or WiFi signal.
Proximity and ambient light sensors are working well, but sometimes it would take a few seconds for Sirocco to adjust the screen brightness when moving to well-lit space.
One of the best things that the latest top model phones brought is USB-C jack. The jack will now last longer since you don’t have to force your cable in the phone when going to bed late, all tired and barely can keep your eyes open.
The quality of the calls is great on the Sirocco. The noise cancellation mic is working well, and the person on the other side could hear me nicely and clearly.
The loudspeaker isn’t as powerful as with the Nokia 6 (2017), but you’ll be able to hear calls in the crowded area. The speaker isn’t suitable for listening to the music in the open, and you will anyway probably be using some good quality BT speaker for that purpose. By the way, listening to the music that way is not cool at all :).
One of the main objections of the Sirocco was the use of last year Snapdragon 835 processor. I must say that the device is blazing fast, and the Geekbench results confirm that. The installation of the games, apps or taking pictures is so fast and fluent you won’t notice that Sirocco is using a bit older processor. Sirocco seems to be faster than the Nokia 8, and its 6 GB of DDR4 RAM is probably helping it a lot.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 with its 8 cores (4 x 2.36 GHz Kryo™ + 4 x 1.9 GHz) is also battery efficient. Together with the Adreno 540 GPU, Sirocco can run the difficult games with ease, and it won’t get hot when playing some simpler ones like Subway Surfers or Fruit Ninja. Also, pure Android helps a lot with the speediness of the device. Nokia 8 Sirocco joined to the Android One club, so it is coming with the latest Android OS version, 8.1. HMD Global is pushing monthly security patches, so your phone will always be secure and up to date (at least for the next three years). The only preinstalled HMD apps that Sirocco came with were the link for Nokia Support app and Camera Pro app. The UI of the Pure Android is quite simple. There is the possibility to change the shape of the icons (squircle), which then look like the icons from MeeGo. Everything you’ll be needing from the UI is either on the front panel or in the app list that you activate by swiping the screen up. There is a lot of swiping gestures inserted in the UI. If you swipe right from the home screen you’ll be opening the Google’s feed that you can turn off or customize to your needs. To turn it off, just press the free space on the main screen and click home settings. There you can also change the shape of the icons.
The camera of the Sirocco is probably the best there is on the current Nokia lineup. It slightly differs from the Nokia 7 Plus camera, mostly in the aperture size and wider lens angle. Sirocco has the dual camera setup. The main camera has 12 MP sensor with the pixel size of 1.4 um. The aperture is pretty wide (f/1.7) which makes Sirocco capable of taking good low light photos. The second camera, just below the 12 MP one is 13 MP tele camera with smaller pixels (1.0um), and also smaller aperture (f/2.6). The dual-tone flash can light up the pretty big space when shooting during the night.
With the Pro Camera mode, you can take control of every image you take, manually adjust ISO, focus, white balance, shutter speed, and exposure compensation. You can activate it by moving the shooter button left to the center of the screen and exit the mode by pulling the same button right to the end of the screen. It is nice to see the Pro mode back to the Nokia devices since it can drastically improve the quality of the photos. Some options are still lacking. The ISO can be set only to 3200 (which is ok), and the exposure value scale is not as fine as it was in the Nokia Lumia phones. Also, if you change the shutter speed, you can’t play with the exposure value.
The main cameras have a ZEISS lens which probably adds to the quality of the photos produced. I am not sure if the front facing 5MP camera has the ZEISS lenses, but it also creates good quality photos.
The daylight photo quality is great, especially if taken with the main 12 MP camera. The color representation is quite real, the dynamic range rather good, but in the artificially lit spaces, photos can look smudged. Night shots are decent, not so noisy, but you’ll need a steady hand (definitely not shaky like mine). It is a shame that OIS is not built in here to help you make better sharper night shots. Photos taken by telephoto camera are not so good. They are sharpened in the post-processing what makes the borders of the focused object unclear. Usually, the end result is not the best, especially if you are using the telephoto camera during the night. I experienced the same problem with the Nokia 7 Plus telephoto camera.
While Sirocco can make great daylight shots, especially if you play a little bit with the PRO mode, it seems to me that camera software can be, and needs to be improved, but substantially.
The front facing camera has the only 5MP sensor, but the pixels are 1.4 um large which will make the photos bright and surprisingly sharp. The camera will suit you well for taking the Bothie shots, and great (group) selfies. I would love if it could come with the ability to manually focus the objects.
Nokia 8 Sirocco can create great video content thanks to the dual camera setup which is digitally stabilized using the gyroscope. You will definitely notice it while shooting, and the result is moderately steady video. I have incredibly shaky hands and the videos below will show you how well the EIS did its job. But, EIS is the best if you are walking while filming, even though I would still recommend using some stabilizer for making that kind of video. Also, it seems that the EIS is not available when filming in the 4K, so that leaves a big question mark there.
You can also film the slow-motion video (not certain at how many frames per second, but in Full HD), time lapse, or video in Bothie mode, which is great for photography enthusiasts to full around.
The best part of the video you take is the Nokia OZO audio sound recording software that Nokia Mobile is licensing from Nokia. OZO Audio records the crystal clear directional sound, and it can be used to record the loudest concerts or festivals. Check the videos from Ultra Split electronic dance music festival below.
Sirocco is not the biggest phone out there, so the battery capacity couldn’t be crazy large. The 3260 mAh will give you enough juice for one day of moderate usage, and you can always quickly recharge up to 50% in 30 minutes. It seems to me that quick charge works only if the battery is well drained. I tested the quick charge when the battery was at 35%, and it took the device 54 minute to charge it up to 87% which is roughly 1.03% per minute. Charging usually slows down when the battery is nearly full, so it wouldn’t overheat.
One great option that we got used to during the Nokia Lumia era has finally returned. Since Sirocco has just a stainless steel frame, and not the whole housing, Qi wireless charging is now supported. It is not the quickest way to charge the phone’s battery, but it is nice to see this option available, and it looks cool on the charging pad. I believe that many Lumia users eying this phone have a wireless charging pad of some kind at home, and will be happy to use it once again.
Sirocco is an interesting phone that you could easily fall in love with. HMD showed us that high-end phones can be both beautiful and powerful. I think that with the Sirocco, more attention was given to the looks, than the functionality, which can be noticed when using the devices main asset, the screen.
If we judge the phone by its design, this is the best phone of 2018. But, if we combine its looks with the ergonomics, hardware, and software, Nokia Mobile needs to push R&D a bit more.
Nokia 8 Sirocco isn’t the best that Nokia Mobile can offer, but it is rather a design experiment that turned out well. Many might not like the design focused phone and will rather spend their money on the functionality centered smartphone, or maybe even go for the flat screen smartphone. Anyway, don’t think less of the Sirocco, it is versatile, fast, powerful and with some software improvements, can become a great camera phone. Its owners will be satisfied with it, especially those in the business world where good looking phones can attribute to the overall business elegance of the user.
To make it last longer, you should use a silicone cover, but to preserve the elegance of the device, rather go for the MOZO dual fabric cover. Or, don’t use the cover at all, since it will hide the design efforts of the device.
In the end, bear in mind that the recommended price of the Sirocco is 749€. I would suggest you visit the nearest store, take it into your hand, and if it is a love at first touch and money isn’t a concern, go for it. If you want more value for your money, the 7 plus could be a better choice.