Nokia 8 Review: Is Nokia’s first Android flagship a true contender?

The Good

  • Pure Android
  • Smooth performance
  • Crisp, detailed screen

The Bad

  • Lacking killer USP
  • OnePlus 5 offers more for less

It’s hard to believe that the Nokia 8 is the brand’s first Android flagship phone, which makes us wonder: can new Nokia manufacturers HMD Global really rival the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and the OnePlus 5? Our full Nokia 8 review reveals what we think of the performance, camera tech and everyday experience, after using the device as our full-time handset.

Before 2017, Nokia seemed to be a name well and truly consigned to tech history, at least as far as smartphones are concerned. However, since the brand was snaffled by HMD Global we’ve seen four new Nokia blowers rocking Android OS hit the UK.

The first three handsets, dubbed simply the Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6, were all quite affordable mobiles. Ranging from £130 to £220, they offered quite basic specs and a pleasingly raw version of Google’s mobile OS, to compete with the likes of the Moto G5.

However, the most recent launch was the one we’d really been waiting for. The Nokia 8 is HMD’s first fully-fledged flagship model, packing premium specs and a dual-lens camera crafted in collaboration with Carl Zeiss. Sporting a €599 asking price in Europe, this handset is taking on the likes of the OnePlus 5, Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium, the iPhone 7 and other top-end smartphones.

For that cash you certainly seem to get plenty in return, at least on paper. Qualcomm’s super-powered Snapdragon 835 processor is in place, found on only the very best mobile devices, while the Quad HD screen offers sharp visuals for media lovers. Of course, the Nokia 8 also seems to lack a killer USP, as plenty of other flagships offer dual-lens camera tech and premium specs, while the likes of the OnePlus 5 and the Honor 9 significantly undercut the Nokia 8’s price tag.

So how does the Nokia 8 handle and is it worth a recommendation, or should only Nokia fans apply? Here’s my full review.

Check out the Nokia 8 hub for all you need to know about this handset, including our tips and tricks guide, comparisons with the best Androids out there and more focus features.

Nokia 8 Review: Design

Like the previous Nokia smartphones released in 2017, the Nokia 8 retains that classic brand styling that’s instantly recognisable and easy on the eye. Of course, as this is the flagship model you can also expect some refinements here and there. The result is quite an iconic design, especially in its polished copper flavour.

You get quite a rectangular finish, with almost pointed corners, although the screen does blend almost seamlessly with the aluminium frame before curving neatly around to the rear. The metal surfacing can be picked up in a matte or glossy finish, in a handful of colour choices. Our favourite has to be the copper model, which stands out from the crowd with its salmony pink hue. Definitely a ‘love it or hate it’ effort. The good news is that the Nokia 8 does a respectable job of fending off greasy prints and scuffs, even if you opt for the polished version.

That display is a mite smaller than many rival flagship smartphone screens, yet Nokia’s blower is just as big as the likes of the OnePlus 5 and HTC U11. The reason for this is those relatively chunky bezels surrounding the display, which add to the girth. Nothing severe, although we’d have preferred less bulk for a more comfortable grip. Unlike the OnePlus, there’s no form of one-handed help here either. You’re best off using two hands to operate the Nokia 8, if you don’t want to risk it taking a tumble.

Still, so far the Nokia 8 certainly seems hardy enough. I’ve been treating it rather roughly, to test out the ruggedness, and the only signs of wear and tear are a couple of very light scratches on the rear. You have to squint and look close to see them, too.

Sadly there’s no full water resistance, although the Nokia 8 is at least IP54-rated splash resistant. That means you can get the phone moist without stressing over it. Good news if you live in a wet country like the good ol’ UK.

Beneath the display you’ll find hard touch back, home and recent apps buttons. The back and recent apps buttons can be customised to light up on demand, while the home button doubles as an ever-so-slightly indented fingerprint sensor. This is perfectly responsive and unlocks the handset instantly, so you can crack on without delay.

What works?

Polished copper stands out nicely and that distinctive Nokia smartphone design is still alive

What doesn’t?

No full water resistance and quite chunky bezels

Nokia 8 Review: Screen and media

The new Nokia flagship boasts a 5.3-inch Quad HD IPS screen, which is just as strong as the panels on many other flagship Androids (and in some cases, better). For one, the crisp 2560×1440 pixel resolution means images are blessed with very fine detail. This handset produces sharper visuals than rivals such as the Pixel phone and Huawei’s P10, and so shines when you’re checking out high-res photos.

Although it’s not an AMOLED panel, you still get reasonably punchy colour reproduction too. You can expect quite realistic hues on par with the iPhone, rather than lush visuals like with Samsung’s Super AMOLED screens.

If you use your phone outdoors a lot, the Nokia 8’s super-bright display will definitely help to prevent any headaches. With a maximum brightness of 700 nits, this panel cuts through any kind of glare, so you can see exactly what you’re doing.

You can expand the generous 64GB of storage space quickly and easily, with a microSD memory card. This slips in place of a second SIM card on the pull-out tray and cards of up to 256GB are supported.

What works?

Detailed visuals and storage expansion will suit movie fans, while that 700 nits maximum brightness makes the display clearly legible in strong daylight.

What doesn’t?

No HDR support means the Nokia 8 isn’t as future-proof as some rivals.

Nokia 8 Review: Features and OS

Many smartphone manufacturers feel the need to completely redesign Google’s Android OS, tweaking the look and feel of the interface and bolting on loads of extra functionality. To their credit, this can often be a very good thing indeed. For instance, Sony has added the ability to stream PS4 games to its Xperia handsets, while Huawei and Honor have thrown in some great gesture controls and one-handed support.

That said, it’s always refreshing to see a more natural version of Android on a device that isn’t Google-branded. Motorola often obliges, as witnessed on this year’s Moto Z2 Play and other handsets. And now Nokia has stepped forwards and released a flagship that doesn’t mess with Google’s software, in any way except for a revamped camera app.

One of the benefits of this is a guaranteed quick update to the new version of the OS. Android O should be released later in 2017 and we’re expecting the Nokia 8 to be upgraded soon after the Pixel phones, as no tweaks are needed.

Of course, the flip side is that the Nokia 8 doesn’t boast any unique software features. You’ll see all this phone has to offer on every other Android Nougat blower, from the tap-to-pay functionality to the resource management and multi-tasking split-screen mode.

Check out our Nokia 8 tips and tricks guide for more on the software side.

What works?

A clean, untouched version of Android Nougat keeps things nice and simple and means quick updates to new versions.

What doesn’t?

Sadly the pure Android experience also means no unique features to set the Nokia 8 apart from competitors.

Nokia 8 Review: Performance and battery life

We expect every flagship handset these days to come packing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 platform (or equivalent) and HMD hasn’t disappointed there. The Nokia 8 combines the 835 with 4GB of memory and the result is a smooth experience, whatever you’re up to.

That vanilla version of Android of course runs perfectly, with nary a stutter as you nip from menu to menu or load up apps. Action games also play with a solid frame rate. We’re not expecting the Nokia 8 to show any signs of ageing for quite some time.

For any benchmark enthusiasts out there, the phone scored around the 170k mark on average with AnTuTu.

Battery life is respectable, if not commendable. The 3090mAh cell will keep you going through a full day of fairly heavy use, including lots of messaging, web browsing, media playback, camera use and the odd bit of gaming. You shouldn’t expect any more than that however, despite the Snapdragon 835’s energy efficiency.

Of course, if you do find yourself in a bind, the Android OS offers up a battery saver mode that shuts down non-essential functions to preserve the last strains of life. You can also check out which apps are the biggest battery hogs.

Plus, with full Quick Charge 3.0 support, the Nokia 8 recharges quickly. You’ll get close to a full charge with just over an hour at the plug.

What works?

Smooth performance no matter what you’re up to, makes for a satisfying user experience.

What doesn’t?

Battery life is simply fine.

Nokia 8 Review: Cameras

Nokia flagship devices from back in the day always put a strong emphasis on photography chops. The likes of the Lumia 1020 were pretty much cameras with bolted-on mobile phones, while a long-standing relationship with Carl Zeiss seemed to pay dividends.

For its first flagship Android phone, HMD Global has once again teamed up with Zeiss for the brand’s first dual-lens mobile camera. The ‘Dual Sight’ camera offers a 13-megapixel monochrome as well as a 13-megapixel colour lens, which unite to produce sharp and satisfying results. That colour lens also offers built-in Optical Image Stabilisation, to help prevent blurring from hand shake.

You get quite a lot of bonus camera functionality too. Like the OnePlus 5, Honor 9 and other dual-lens shooters, that secondary lens means you get some nice depth-of-field effects with the Live Bokeh mode. You can also enjoy full manual controls and snap photos using the front and rear cameras at the same time, something which HMD has termed a ‘bothie’. Ahem.

Around the front of the Nokia 8 you’ll find yet another 13-megapixel lens. Like the rear efforts, you can shoot up to 4K Ultra HD resolution video using that selfie snapper, which is pretty special; most handsets max out at Full HD.

So, are these snappers actually any good at capturing your everyday existence? Check out our full Nokia 8 camera review for photo and video samples and in-depth analysis.

Nokia 8 Review: Verdict

Overall, the Nokia 8 is a solid flagship device. Some smart hardware and a bit of vanilla Android marry together for a pleasing enough everyday user experience. And while the dual-lens camera isn’t the best out there, it’s perfectly good for capturing treasured memories (although a software update or two wouldn’t go amiss).

Unfortunately, the Nokia 8 really does suffer from its lack of a killer USP. Other flagship handsets offer HDR-ready screens, game streaming support, gesture control and unique features that help them to stand out from the crowd. Even the Honor 9 sports some funky software additions, despite its much lower asking price.

Still, it’s clear that HMD is committed to keeping the Nokia brand alive and the Nokia 8 certainly shows great promise. While it’s not my favourite Android flagship right now, I’d be happy using it as my full-time device. Here’s hoping the Nokia 9 (or whatever the next model is called) can build on these strong foundations.