Nokia 8 Sirocco review

It has the looks, but does it have the tech to match?

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Interface and reliability

  • Stock version of Android Oreo
  • Smooth general performance and no bloat

The Nokia 8 Sirocco runs a vanilla version of Android 8.0, much closer to Google’s own design than even the software used by the Moto G series. It’s Pixel-like.

This is because Nokia’s current phones are part of the Android One project. This is a Google love-in, a manufacturer accepting a much closer relationship, a compliance, than is the standard. However, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Android One means there’s no bloat in the Nokia 8 Sirocco. It just has one Nokia app, Nokia Mobile Care. This acts as a phone manual, and lets you talk to Nokia’s online help team if an issue arises.

The phone otherwise just has Google’s own app suite, letting you use the rest of the gigantic 128GB of storage for your own apps, games and photos. This is masses of storage, twice the amount the LG G7 ThinQ offers at a similar price.

General performance is great too. While some other Nokia phones have demonstrated using vanilla Android is no guarantee of this, the Nokia 8 Sirocco is smooth and quick.

We are at a point where some of you may actually prefer a custom interface to the default Android look, though. Manufacturer UIs are almost universally far more customizable, allowing themes, along with the altering of app grid layouts and lock screens.

The Nokia 8 Sirocco’s white paper-style apps menu also looks a little stiff and serious next to what you get with a Huawei or Samsung phone. Why so serious, Google?

However, the look here is clean, consistent and will not offend anyone’s tastes.

Movies and games

  • Can handle games well and has lots of storage space
  • Disappointing speaker and no headphone port

As it has a powerful chipset and masses of internal storage, the Nokia 8 Sirocco has a clear advantage over most phones as a media and gaming machine. It plays high-end games like PUBG and Asphalt 8 extremely well, and you can fit just about every recent high-profile game into the Sirocco without running out of space.

The vivid, high-contrast OLED screen also makes their visuals look great, and punchy as anything. For games that have mostly light colors, you may notice the color shift blue tint in the display’s curves, but to be honest we promptly forget about it after just a few seconds while playing.

After using several 18:9 phones recently, switching to this one does highlight the benefits of the now-standard ultra-wide (or long) display. When playing a console-like game with virtual gamepad controls, it feels a little like your thumbs encroach on the Nokia 8 Sirocco's play area, where 18:9 has so much more lateral space this is just not an issue.

The Nokia 8 Sirocco’s speaker is also a disappointment. While fairly loud, it’s surprisingly thin and harsh, and quite hard on the ear at high volumes.

Samsung didn’t make a big fuss about the speakers on its Galaxy S9, but they are far chunkier-sounding and a much more pleasant listen.

There’s also no headphone jack here, which is always an annoyance. This means you have to either use the bundled USB-C headphones, a wireless pair or buy a USB-C to 3.5mm adaptor.

The Nokia 8 Sirocco is a good gaming phone, like every high-end model. But it is not nearly the best you can get for this sort of money.

Video-watching is a little different, because the display is actually the same shape as quite a lot of streamed content. If a show was made for TV, it’ll likely fit the Nokia 8 Sirocco's screen pixel-for-pixel. Watching a movie that was shown in cinemas? Ratios like 2.35:1 Anamorphic will still benefit from the longer or wider display other phones have.

And, again, brighter-looking scenes will also be affected by the color shift issue of the P-OLED panel.

Performance and benchmarks

  • Older Snapdragon 835 chipset
  • Solid Geekbench scores, but lower than rivals

While the Nokia 8 Sirocco has a hefty 6GB of RAM, in certain other areas the phone has just slightly problematic, or slightly dated, technology. This is true of the chipset. It has a Snapdragon 835, which is 2017's Qualcomm flagship phone chipset.

Several phones at this price, including the OnePlus 6 and LG G7 ThinQ, use the newer Snapdragon 845 instead. What’s the difference?

The Snapdragon 845 has newer Kryo cores, a faster integrated 4G modem and a much more powerful Adreno 630 GPU. We don’t get any of these in the Nokia 8 Sirocco.

The Snapdragon 835 is still very powerful, earning 6,286 points in Geekbench 4. However, that a recently released phone at such a high price uses an unmistakably old chipset is disappointing. Phones with the Snapdragon 845 tend to score 8,800-9,000 in Geekbench 4.

Add this to the 16:9 screen and the Nokia 8 Sirocco starts to seem like a phone that was actually meant to be released six months earlier, at least.

Andrew Williams

Andrew is a freelance journalist and has been writing and editing for some of the UK's top tech and lifestyle publications including TrustedReviews, Stuff, T3, TechRadar, Lifehacker and others.