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Why this rugged Android 13 phone reminds me of the good old Nokia days

The new Blackview N6000 is a modern ruggedized smartphone with the look and feel of the old Nokia 5210.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Blackview N6000
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Remember the Nokia 3310 from way back in 2000? This super-tough, bombproof handset is now the stuff of legend (well, memes). Drop that handset on the ground, and you worried about the concrete, not your screen.

Along with the durability, I loved the candy bar form factor of that old mobile device. It felt like the right shape for a phone, fitting well into both the hand and pocket. 

And then the iPhone landed, and every phone had to look the same -- and be a fragile slab of glass.

Review: Nothing Phone 2: If 'being extra' was an Android phone

Well, if you like the shape and the durability of the Nokia 3310, Blackview -- a name synonymous with rugged smartphones -- has a handset you might want to consider.

The moment I set eyes on the N6000, I was taken back to those heady days at the turn of the millennium. This here is a modern take on a classic style. 

View at AliExpress

Blackview N6000 tech specs

  • CPU: MTK Helio G99, Octa core, featuring 2 x Cortex-A76 @ 2.2GHz and 6 x Cortex-A55 @ 2.0GHz
  • GPU: Arm Mali-G57 CM2
  • OS: DokeOS based on Android 13
  • Screen: 4.3-inch, 540 x 1200, 306 pixels-per-inch, with Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • Storage: 8GB RAM with 256GB of storage
  • Cameras: 48MP rear, 16MP front
  • Battery: 3380mAh, 18 days standby, charge in 90 minutes
  • SIM: Dual SIM
  • Navigation support: GPS, Glonass, Beidou, Galileo
  • Other features: OTG, FM, NFC, Google Play
  • Ratings: MIL-STD 810H, IP68/IP69K
  • Size: 133 x 65.25 x 18.4mm
  • Weight: 208g

Let's start with the size and shape -- the form factor, if you prefer. The N600 takes on the candy bar shape from days when phones had small screens and keypads. Sure, it's small -- a lot smaller than most modern smartphones -- but the 83% screen-to-body ratio packs a lot of display into a small space. 

Also: How tough is the Apple Watch Ultra? I stress-tested it for 9 months

Why is using this smartphone such a joy? Because I can hold it in my hand and reach every part of the screen with my thumb, something that I've not been able to do on a smartphone for years.

The Blackview is dwarfed by other handsets, such as this other Blackview handset, the BV8900.

The Blackview is dwarfed by other handsets, such as this other Blackview handset, the BV8900.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The handset features all the buttons you'd expect on an Android handset; and again, everything is easily accessible without having to change your grip on the phone or use the other hand. 

All the buttons you'd expect on an Android phone.

All the buttons you'd expect on an Android phone.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Performance-wise, this handset delivers what I expect from these sorts of "not really budget, but also not mid-range" smartphones running a Helio G99 processor with 16GB of RAM. Overall, the N6000 is snappy and responsive; while you might feel the odd stumble under heavy loading, in general, it's a smooth experience.

The same goes for the cameras -- they're adequate for most people's needs, just don't expect the vibrance, detail, and pop that you get from a high-end smartphone. But the output from this handset is more than good enough for all but the most discerning photographer.

Also: What is a rugged phone and which are the best?

Battery life is also good, with the 3880 mAh solid-state cells -- which are designed to cope with temperature extremes from -40 °C to 70 °C -- offering 18 days of standby, 22 hours of call time, 6 hours gaming, 10 hours of web browsing, or 7 hours of video playback. 

As far as durability is concerned, this handset is a beast, shrugging off water, drops, bangs, and scrapes. It's designed to withstand immersion down to 20 meters for 30 minutes, two-meter drops, 45-meter throws, temperatures from -30 °C to 60 °C, and being crushed by 65 kgs.

It's one tough smartphone.

The usual rubber plug covers the charge port.

The usual rubber plug covers the charge port.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Something that worried me about such a small handset was cooling: An octa-core processor generates a lot of heat, and the smaller the case, the less surface area there is to dissipate that heat. 

Also: This is the most rugged Android phone I've tested, and it can last 2,350 hours

Thankfully, Blackview has planned for this and implemented a fourfold integrated cooling system that uses copper foil, graphite, graphite copper, and silicon layers to transfer the heat away from the processor. Based on my testing, this is an effective solution. The handset never became uncomfortably hot to the touch.

The N6000 may be small, but it's no less rugged than other handsets Blackview has on offer.

The N6000 may be small, but it's no less rugged than other handsets Blackview has on offer.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Overall, for $250, the Blackview N6000 is an interesting handset and one that's definitely priced to attract attention. That throwback design has a lot of advantages over the more modern smartphone design. It's easy to hold and operate, even with gloves. The N6000 is also a tough handset; again, a throwback to the old Nokia, but adds the power and performance to run all the modern apps that you count on. 

To sweeten the deal, if you buy an N6000 between July 24th and July 28th, the price will drop to $159.99 at the official store, and the first 300 orders will see the price further reduced to only $149.99.

If you hate the bulk of modern smartphones, the N6000 could be the handset for you.

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