After having a decent run during its first year, HMD Global is stepping up the game this year by expanding product lineup and the latest one to launch in India is the Nokia 6.1 Plus. As the name itself suggests, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is an upgraded version of the Nokia 6.1, and it sports a faster processor, different design and more importantly, it offers dual rear cameras. The 6.1 Plus is also the first Nokia smartphone under Rs 20,000 to provide two cameras on the back. Similar to other Nokia devices, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is also an Android One smartphone with a promise of two major iterative upgrades and three years of monthly security updates. This new smartphone from HMD Global is placed between the Nokia 6.1 and the Nokia 7 Plus, both in terms of hardware and price.
To recall, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is the same Nokia X6 smartphone launched back in China a few months ago. But the Indian version comes with stock Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, unlike the customised skin the China version has. On paper, the Nokia 6.1 Plus looks like a complete package, but it faces competition from the recently launched Xiaomi Mi A2, which is also an Android One device with guaranteed software updates for three years. Well, I have been using the Nokia 6.1 Plus as my primary device for exactly a week and here are my thoughts on how the device fared during the period.
Before we get started, let's take a look at the specifications of the Nokia 6.1 Plus.
- Display: 5.8-inch Full HD+ IPS LCD panel with 19:9 aspect ratio, 2.5D curved glass on the front and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection
- Dimensions: 147.2 x 70.98 x 7.99mm and 151 grams
- Hardware: Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 SoC, 4GB RAM, 64GB Internal Storage, Hybrid SIM slot (Dual nano-SIM or nano SIM+microSD card)
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS/AGPS+GLONASS
- Network: LTE Cat. 4 - 150 Mbps Downlink/50 Mbps Uplink
- Software: Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, upgradeable to Android P
- Cameras: 16MP f/2.0 aperture, 1.0um+ 5MP f/2.4, 1.12um on the rear
16MP front-facing camera with f/2.0 aperture and 1.0um
- Sensors: Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer (G-sensor), E-compass, Gyroscope, Fingerprint Sensor (on the back)
- Battery: 3060mAh, non-removable, USB Type-C port with fast charging support
Nokia 6.1 Plus Review: Design and Display
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is a good-looking smartphone, to say the least. It sports glass back, which is fragile and attracts fingerprint smudges, but at the same time, it gives a premium feel to the handset. Both the front and rear glass panels are protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. A metal frame runs around the device sandwiching both the glass panels. Placements wise, we have the usual stuff here- power button & volume rockers on the right side, SIM card tray on the left, USB Type-C port & single speaker grille on the bottom and the 3.5mm headphone jack in placed on the top.
Talking about the in-hand feel, the Nokia 6.1 Plus feels compact when taken into hands which is mainly due to the smaller 5.84-inch display on the front that is accompanied by the notch. I really can't stress how compact the device feels when taken into hands. Before setting up the Nokia 6.1 Plus, I was using the Honor Play smartphone, which again has a notched display, but it sports a bigger 6.3-inch screen. The phone sure is slippery, but the compactness of the device turns everything into positive. Also, do make a note that HMD is not bundling any case inside the retail box, so don't mess up the phone with keys inside your jeans pocket.
The display on the 6.1 Plus is an IPS LCD one, which gets bright enough to view the text in bright lighting conditions. As the case with many other devices, the panel attracts smudges, which in return affects the viewing experience.
Nokia 6.1 Plus Review: Hardware, Performance, Software and Battery
Nokia has added decent hardware inside the 6.1 Plus. It's the third smartphone in India to offer the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 SoC after the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro and Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1. And it's also the pricier Snapdragon 636 SoC smartphone in India. The chipset works in tandem with 4GB of RAM and HMD has added 64GB onboard storage to the handset.
On top of the hardware, the phone runs the stockish version of Android 8.1 Oreo, much like other Nokia smartphones because all of them are part of Google's Android One program. The Nokia 6.1 Plus didn't break a sweat in day-to-day tasks because the chipset is capable of handling them. When I first took the device, my major concern was the hardware-to-software optimisation. In the past, I have used the Nokia 6 (2017), Nokia 8 with Snapdragon 835 SoC and the Nokia 7 Plus. The Nokia 6 (2017) came with the Snapdragon 430 chipset, and of course, I did not expect smooth performance from it. Then came the Nokia 8 and Nokia 7 Plus, which performed alright, but the software optimisation was not on point, which I even mentioned in my review of the Nokia 7 Plus.
However, that's not the case with the Nokia 6.1 Plus as the optimisation was on point. The Nokia 7 Plus on Android 8.1 Oreo is still struggling with optimisation issues, but I did not face any on Android Pie Beta. The Nokia 6.1 Plus doesn't have any such issues- well done, HMD Global. Also, the phone is expected to receive Android 9 Pie stable update in the next few weeks, going by HMD's track record.
Coming to battery life, I was left bit disappointed. The phone has a mere 3060mAh battery, and even with the power-efficient Snapdragon 636 chipset, the 6.1 Plus was not able to deliver a complete day's worth of battery life on 4G network. On a Wi-Fi connection, the 6.1 Plus managed to sneak in through the next day. During my usage, the Nokia 6.1 Plus regularly delivered over four hours of screen-on-time (SOT), but it never reached over five hours of SOT and more, which left me disappointed. The other two Snapdragon 636 SoC devices- Redmi Note 5 Pro and Zenfone Max Pro M1 easily offered me over six hours of SOT, but again, they pack larger batteries.
Another area where the Nokia 6.1 Plus shines is in the loudspeaker department. The phone, despite sporting a single bottom-firing speaker delivers loud sound, much better than the Honor Play, which I was using earlier.
Nokia 6.1 Plus Review: Network Features
The Nokia 6.1 Plus comes with Dual 4G support, out of the box. It even has support for 5GHz Wi-Fi networks, another bonus addition from HMD. I always used the Nokia 6.1 Plus with my OnePlus Bullets Wireless Earphones and it worked fine with the Bluetooth 5.0. Speaking of call quality, I used the device with Airtel 4G SIM card installed in the SIM 1 slot in Hyderabad city. In my area, Airtel doesn't even have proper 4G coverage, and most of the devices failed to latch onto the network on Airtel. However, that's not the case with the Nokia 6.1 Plus as it was able to latch onto the 2G/3G network and the call quality was decent too.
Nokia 6.1 Plus Review: Cameras
HMD Global has finally launched a Nokia smartphone with dual rear cameras under Rs 20,000 and it's none other than the Nokia 6.1 Plus. The device sports a 16MP primary shooter on the rear, which works in tandem with a 5MP depth sensor. Up front, there's a 16MP front-facing camera as well. HMD Global has integrated its own Camera application into the smartphone to take full advantage of the dual rear cameras.
The camera app comes with a slew of features including the ones offered for live streaming as well. Yes, you can live stream onto YouTube and Facebook right from the camera app itself. We then have the usual Bothie stuff, Picture-in-Picture mode and the front camera even has the ability to deploy animated masks/stickers and filters directly from the camera app. Both the front and rear cameras offer an HDR mode for detailed pictures.
Moving onto the real-life performance of the rear camera in daylight conditions, the phone rendered accurate colours and the detail levels were on point too. The HDR mode helps in capturing better details and shadows in the images. But the disappointing aspect is the low-light performance. Don't get me wrong, the Nokia 6.1 Plus still captures better low-light images than the Honor Play, but it doesn't match the level of the Xiaomi Mi A2, which again is understandable as the A2 pack far superior hardware than the 6.1 Plus. Low-light images came out with a noticeable amount of noise, but again, they can be posted on social media platforms.
The front-facing camera is one of the best we have seen in this price range. It rendered images with excellent detail levels and even in low-light conditions, the selfie camera performed very well. The rear camera is capable of recording videos in 4K resolution, while the front camera's video recording is limited to 1080p. The rear camera also offers a Portrait mode and the camera app allows users to manually adjust the blur level. The portrait mode performance is decent, again, not the best in the business. The front-facing camera lacks a portrait mode though.
On the whole, the Nokia 6.1 Plus has capable cameras, but the low-light performance is on the disappointing side.
Nokia 6.1 Plus Review: Conclusion
Overall, HMD Global managed to deliver yet another solid mid-range offering like the Nokia 7 Plus. The 6.1 Plus is a compact & good-looking smartphone, sports decent display, performs exceptionally well, comes with the promise of regular software updates and the rear camera is capable of shooting good images in daylight conditions. But it has some drawbacks too- the low-light camera performance is disappointing and the battery life could have been better.
Being an online-only device, HMD has managed to price the Nokia 6.1 Plus aggressively at Rs 15,999. And at that price, it's a no-brainer deal because the phone has premium build quality, the promise of faster software updates and capable cameras in daylight conditions. The Nokia 6.1 Plus can be picked up from Flipkart and Nokia Online Store in India starting August 30. Pre-orders for the device will go live on both the portals on August 21.