Nokia 6.1 and 7 Plus First Take: Solid mid-market smartphone contenders

Nokia's updated 6.1 and 7 Plus handsets offer decent specs, competitive prices and the unmodified Android One operating system.
Written by Sandra Vogel, Contributing Writer

Nokia 6.1 (left) and Nokia 7 Plus (right)

Images: Nokia

The latest pair of Nokia handsets are the Nokia 7 Plus, which updates the Nokia 7 and costs £349 (inc. VAT), and the Nokia 6.1 -- a.k.a. the 'new Nokia 6' at Nokia's website. Whatever you want to call it, the latter handset updates last year's Nokia 6 and costs £229 (inc. VAT).

A key feature of both handsets is that they run Android One. This is based on Android 8, with absolutely no third-party extras, plus a guarantee of at least two years-worth of Android updates. Those who are concerned about future-proofing their handsets, or who simply don't like third-party software, will approve.

Nokia 6.1

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The Nokia 6.1 sits towards the upper end of Nokia's handset range in model number terms, although it has a decidedly budget price. It's a solid aluminium handset that doesn't bend or bow in the hands. The copper flourishes on my review handset stand out nicely against the primarily black body, and they certainly catch the light.

Charging is via USB-C and there's a 3.2mm audio jack on the top edge of the handset -- still my preferred location for a headset connector. The caddy for a single SIM and a MicroSD card is on the left. The fingerprint reader on the back is probably the smallest circular reader I've seen, but it worked efficiently enough. There's just 32GB of internal storage, and only a shade under 19GB of that is free, so the MicroSD slot is likely to come into play for many users.

The 5.5-inch IPS screen has FHD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio -- a somewhat dated spec, but perhaps to be expected at this price point. Still, it performed well enough.

The octa-core Snapdragon 630 processor with 4GB of RAM proved more than adequate too, although the handset did run a little warm during Geekbench benchmarking, where an average of three runs delivered a multi-core score of 3897 (for comparison, Samsung's Galaxy S9+ scores over 8600). The Nokia 6.1's 3,000mAh battery is a little on the small side, and it's likely that a daily charge will be needed. Serious media consumers might need to give the handset a mid-afternoon battery boost.

See: Personal digital assistants: The current lineup

The rear camera is a 16MP unit with an f/2 Zeiss lens, and it delivered reasonably good photos that are bright and sharp enough for sharing on social sites, for example. It's impressive that such a modestly priced handset supports 4k video.

The front camera offers just 8MP resolution, but is capable enough for selfies. Nokia's rather odd 'bothie' feature is built in -- if you're so inclined, you can take photos that include both front and rear camera views. Each view can either take up half the available frame, or one can be slotted in as a picture-in-picture effect. The main benefit here might be with video footage rather than stills, and it's even possible to livestream 'bothie' content.

Nokia 7 Plus

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

At £349 the Nokia 7 Plus is a significant step up from the Nokia 6.1 in both price and specifications. It offers double the storage at 64GB, although only 50.5GB was free on my review unit, and the processor is a more capable Snapdragon 660. Not surprisingly, its Geekbench multi-core score was higher at 5813.

The physical design relies on a black aluminium shell with shiny copper highlights, just as with the Nokia 6.1. However, there's a little more going on with the copper, which is a solid strip all around the edges of the phone as well as a frame for the screen, rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and cameras.

On both handsets, incidentally, the black aluminium back is soft-touch, grippy and fingerprint resistant. It's a good solution and superior to glass backs, which might look snazzy but can often be very slippery.

There's a 3.5mm headset jack on the top edge, while charging is via USB-C. The battery is larger than the Nokia 6.1's -- 3,800mAh versus 3,000mAh, and all-day life should be possible for many users. The battery does need to drive a bigger screen though -- a 6-inch IPS LCD with 2,160-by- 1,080 resolution. It's sharp and clear, and the 18:9 aspect ratio is bang on trend.

The Nokia 7 Plus has two rear cameras, a 12MP sensor with an f/1.4 Zeiss lens and a 13MP sensor with an f/2.6 lens, also from Zeiss. My short experience with this handset suggests the main camera system performs well in most situations, although it struggled a bit in low light. There's support for time lapse, 4k and slow-motion video.

The 16MP front camera is considerably more capable than the 8MP unit on the Nokia 6.1. The aforementioned 'bothie' feature, allowing front and rear cameras to snap, video and stream side-by-side or picture-in-picture is also supported.

Both the Nokia 6.1 and the Nokia 7 plus are capable handsets for their price points, but competition is tough in this mid-market segment -- just look at the Moto G6 Plus, which at £269 is an attractive alternative to both.

Key specifications

Nokia 6.1 Nokia 7 Plus
Size 148.8 x 75.8 x 8.15mm 158.38 x 75.64 x 7.99 mm
Weight 172g 183g
OS Android One (Android 8 Oreo) Android One (Android 8 Oreo)
Screen 5.5-inch IPS LCD, 1,920 x 1.080, 16:9 aspect ratio 6-inch IPS LCD, 2,160 x 1,080, 18:9 aspect ratio
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
Storage: total (free) 32GB (18.94) 64GB (50.63)
Camera(s) - back 16MP 12MP + 13MP
Camera - front 8MP 16MP
Battery 3,000mAh 3,800mAh


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