These days affordable yet powerful is a very lucrative smartphone niche and all phone manufacturers are making the run for it. In 2018, budget phones have embraced flagship design and features, such as edge-to-edge notched displays with 19:9 aspect ratios, biometric sensors, dual camera setup and more. Following this trend, Nokia has added yet another smartphone to its affordable mid-range lineup — the Nokia 6.1 Plus — and that too with a pure stock Android.
This year, Nokia launched a range of smartphones with the Nokia's typical strong build quality, adequately powerful specifications coupled with stock Android and a strong focus on timely updates. And to keep up with the competition, the company has now adopted the modern notch trend, which every other phone maker is incorporating in the midrange segment. The smartphone features an all-glass body, a pretty powerful Snapdragon chipset and stock Android Oreo, amongst other things.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus, is an upgrade to the Nokia 6.1 launched earlier this year, saw a huge success in China and the device has now made to Indian shores. While the Nokia 6.1 Plus will largely face stiff competition from Xiaomi's Redmi Note 5 Pro, ASUS' ZenFone Max Pro M1, Honor 9N and Motorola's Moto G6, Nokia's new boy may also see some threat from the recently launched Xiaomi Mi A2.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus stands out from rest of Nokia's midrange stable — thanks to glass panels held together with a metal frame and an almost bezel-less screen with a trendy cutout for the earpiece and a selfie camera. The lightweight construction of the handset, premium aesthetics and its terrifically compact form factor help it stand out from most phones in this price category.
While the glass body surely grabs eyeballs, it does not provide the comfortable grip that metal chassis usually offer. Glass also makes the device very slippery and prone to fingerprints and smudges. Additionally, an all-glass chassis also makes for a more fragile device. Therefore, a case is recommended to keep it at arm's length from scratches, which is sadly not provided by Nokia as a bundled accessory.
The rear panel follows the typical Nokia design language — there's a vertically aligned dual camera module positioned centrally and dual-tone LED flash. Also the silver accents around the rear camera, fingerprint sensor and buttons make it look classier. Moving ahead, the 3.5mm headphone jack exists. There's also a USB Type-C alongside the microphone and speaker grille.
The new 5.8-inch 19:9 FHD+ screen makes up for most of the front, which also features a notched display. Unlike some phones, the notch here is relatively smaller, which is good as it does not intrude with the viewing experience as much as seen on a few other phones. However, despite the inclusion of a notch, the screen isn't borderless, and a larger chin is prominent.
The display renders vivid and punchy colours with good viewing angles. The brightness levels are good whilst indoors; however, sunlight legibility is poor. Also, the display noticeably has a slightly blue tint which is a little disturbing but isn't complain worthy. Nokia has opted for 2.5D curved glass and Gorilla Glass 3 protection, which is pretty resistant to scratches and helps keep the costs lower.
Moving ahead, the smartphone is powered by a Snapdragon 636 chipset and is aided by 4 gigs of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, which is further expandable up to 400GB. This is a similar chipset powering the Redmi Note 5 Pro and there is no denying that the SD636 chipset is an avid performer, especially with its custom Kryo cores, which is said to aid performance drastically over the SD630 chipset.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is a smooth runner in the real world — we didn't notice any lag or stutter while browsing or using regular social media apps whilst using it as a daily driver. With an Andreno 509 GPU, the phone is also powerful enough to play almost every game you throw at it. Games such as Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG run pretty smoothly, although while playing PUBG, the game by default is set to low graphics, which does not give much of a realistic appeal. In short, the device manages to keep up its promise for casual to moderate gaming performances. The device also maintains its temperature pretty well during gaming sessions and we didn't notice any undue heating, stuttering or frame drops with respective games.
The handset comes with a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, which is very snappy. Sadly, though there is a face recognition system here, it doesn't work as efficiently and is a tad slow, even under favourable lighting conditions. Hopefully, Nokia addresses this issue in a future update.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus, like its siblings, sticks to Android One, meaning pure Android experience, optimised software, two years of quick updates and more. So far, Nokia has not disappointed users with its Android One phones with regards to delivering the latest Android updates with a focus on clean and fluid software. The company has promised updates to Android Pie and Android Q, as and when they are officially released.
The smartphone runs on Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box and is up-to-date with the August security patch. The UI, as mentioned earlier, is fluid and we witnessed no lags or stutters while flicking between resource intensive apps. No third-party bloatware here, but just the basic essential Google apps, which is why the phone performs well at most times.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus features a dual rear camera setup, consisting of 16MP + 5MP sensors, with the former sporting a f/2.0 aperture, and assisted by a dual-tone flash module. As for selfies, there's a 16MP sensor with a f/2.0 aperture, but no flash.
Given below are a few shots were taken using the smartphone's rear camera.
In daylight, the rear camera manages to capture crisp and detailed shots with least amount of visible noise. The dynamic range is above average and we rarely needed to turn on HDR. However, a fair amount of oversaturation is clearly visible, where a few colours seem to be unnaturally bright. The camera is quick enough to lock the focus on the subject too.
In low light, it takes below average photos with less amount of detail and loss of colour saturation is evident. The camera struggles while capturing photos in low light and night as the shutter speed gets slower resulting in blurry photos. Nokia could probably fix this too in a future update.
As for the live Bokeh mode, photos captured are impressive with good level edge detection, sharpness, details while also fairly blurring the background of subjects. One can also change the metering of the background blur on a real-time basis as per the user's preference. Apart from Live Bokeh mode, other modes such as AR stickers, beauty, panorama, manual and dual-sight mode are also available.
With the selfie camera, the photos captured are decent, and have a fair amount of detail, but only in good lighting conditions. Move into shadow areas and the results are below average with noise setting in, and images seeming slightly softer. The selfie Bokeh mode uses software algorithms to manage the best shot, and though it works fine, it isn't that great. Adding in an LED flash could have helped big time.
A good battery life is one of the main requirements of every smartphone buyer and the Nokia 6.1 Plus seems to deliver it. The smartphone houses a decent 3060mAh battery and manages to deliver around a whole day's run time. With moderate app usage, we managed to pull off the entire day with 10 per cent remaining and still plenty to keep it going for an hour or two more. The phone supports fast charging that speed up the charging.
We are pretty impressed with the Nokia 6.1 Plus, especially with the design and above average performance. The smartphone offers a gorgeous glass body design, vibrant and compact 1080p display, a well-built exterior, smooth performance, clean and fluid software with the promise of timely updates and with an above-average battery life. Sadly, the camera takes a slight hit where competition brands have an edge above, and especially when it comes to low light photography. However, the rear cameras do deliver really great shots during broad daylight. Overall, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is a well-balanced smartphone and makes for a reliable Android choice. The handset retails at a price of Rs 15,999.