Nokia 2, First Take: Lack of performance is a compromise too far

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The return of the Nokia brand is now fully up to speed, with a good range of handsets available. Last year's entry-level Nokia 3 is now undercut by the even more affordable Nokia 2, offering an Android 7 experience to those with just £100 to spend on a SIM-free phone. Obviously trade-offs have been made to achieve this price point. The question is, can you live with these compromises?

The Nokia 2's industrial design doesn't shout 'low end'. There's an aluminium chassis, which means the phone is pretty tough -- I couldn't bend it out of shape in my hands, for example. The black case of my review sample with its rounded corners looks fine (the handset also comes in white), although the phone is on the thick side at 9.3mm. The somewhat flimsy plastic back is removable, giving access to the SIM and MicroSD card slots. The battery can't be swapped out, though.

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The £100 Nokia 2 has a 5-inch 720-by-1,280-pixel LCD screen, but only 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The Nokia 2 measures 143mm tall by 71.3mm wide and could accommodate a larger screen than the five-inch panel that's fitted (although the price would rise). The upshot is relatively large top and bottom bezels that make this handset look a little dated.

Manufacturing costs have been cut by keeping the screen's resolution to 720 by 1,280 pixels (294ppi), and by using an LCD panel rather than AMOLED. Still, the display is bright and sharp enough for everyday use.

More disappointing is that my review handset arrived with a fairly deep scratch on the Gorilla Glass 3 screen. I've no idea how it got there, but this might not bode well for the handset's durability. Nokia has chosen to use MicroUSB for charging the battery rather than USB-C. That may not be an issue for most users, many of whom will also welcome the 3.5mm headset jack.

The quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 chipset with just 1GB of RAM is this handset's key failing, as it's noticeably sluggish. I watched webpages render before my very eyes, waited for apps to pop-up when I selected them, and generally felt I was waiting for the phone to respond to taps. It's a real shame that Nokia didn't add another gigabyte of RAM, which would almost certainly help the phone feel more responsive.

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Internal storage is also limited, with just 3.54GB of the 8GB total free for users after Android 7.1.1 (Nougat) has taken its 4.46GB. That's really not enough, especially as there's no bloatware that can be deleted to free up more space.

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The backplate removes to give access to the SIM and MicroSD card slots, but the 4,100mAh battery is not swappable.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

As you'd expect the cameras are nothing special: an eight-megapixel main camera and five-megapixel front camera. HDR is present, but the main camera tended to produce rather dull shots with poor colour definition. The camera app took a while to load, and to take shots. You'll need a steady hand to avoid blurred images, and there's very little point in trying to take a photo of anything that's moving (I got lots of blurry cat pictures).

The Nokia 2's best feature is its battery life, which Nokia says should extend to two days. During testing, we found that the 4,100mAh battery did indeed power the Nokia 2 for a couple of days on a single charge. However, I did switch back to my main phone for streaming and other demanding activities when the Nokia 2's performance limitations became too much to bear.

Overall, the Nokia 2 does the brand no favours. The processor/RAM combination delivers disappointing performance, while 8GB of internal storage means that many users will have to buy a MicroSD card, adding to the outlay. If your budget for a smartphone is around £100, you'd do well to shop around: at the time of writing, I found the superior Nokia 3 on a well-known auction site for less than that, for example.

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