Nokia 6.1 (2018) review

The budget beauty is back with better hardware

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The Android One that you want

  • Stock Android 8.1 Oreo
  • Guaranteed Android updates
  • Some minor crashes

The Nokia 6.1 is part of the Android One program, which basically means it includes stock Android and timely updates. 

It’s a bit confusing, because when Android One was launched back in ‘14, it was for low-end phones in the developing world, and so some people still think of it as ‘Android Lite.’

However, the Nokia 6 (2018) comes with fully-fledged Android 8.1 Oreo, as well as a guarantee that it’ll receive regular security patches and two years’ worth of OS updates.

That adds an element of reassurance that the phone should receive Android P, as well as giving the Nokia an edge over devices with manufacturer overlays like Huawei’s on the similarly-priced Honor 7X.

The software experience on the Nokia 6.1, then, is exactly as you’d imagine: pure, unspoilt Android.

Of course, you’re also relying on the hardware to deliver a good all-round experience, and in our testing, we did run into some crashes and hangs on the Nokia 6 (2018). However, it was fairly rare, and to be fair we did really put the phone through its paces with multitasking and switching.

We ran the Geekbench 4 benchmarking app on the Nokia 6 (2018) and it averaged a multi-core score of 4,177, which is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor’s score of 2,736.

That’s the Snapdragon 630 in effect and puts the 6.1 on a favorable footing with competitors like the Moto G5 (2,377) and Honor 7X (3,579). It’s not going to touch the flagships (the iPhone X scored over 10k), but in its price bracket and especially compared with the last Nokia 6, it’s looking pretty good.

Looks good, sounds okay

  • Large, lovely HD screen
  • Single speaker is a little weak
  • Solid gaming performance

Audio on the Nokia 6 (2018) is somewhat disappointing. The solo downward-facing speaker on the left bottom edge of the handset is okay, but sound gets thin at higher volumes, and holding it in your hand without cutting off the sound is tricky. Definitely not one for parties.

The earphones in the box are also cheap and flimsy, and should ideally only be used as backups if you forgot your main ‘phones and are on a train with a child nearby.

However, you do at least have a proper 3.5mm headphone jack on the top right, which means it’s easy to plug in your existing headphones without faffing about with dongles. It also means you can charge and listen to things at the same time, unlike on many recent USB-C phones.

You get 32GB of storage built into the Nokia 6.1, which is realistically about the minimum even a budget phone can offer these days (please no more 16GB phones). However, Nokia has included a microSD slot that can take up to a 256GB card if you need more.

The 5.5-inch full HD display might not be part of the current trend for 18:9 screens (or notches, if that’s your jam), but nonetheless it displays media well. 

At 403 pixels per inch, it offers a wide range of brightness settings, with color and clarity plenty good enough for enjoying your photos and marathoning Netflix.

It can’t hold a candle to the higher-end displays on this year’s flagships of course, but realistically you won’t notice unless they’re side by side.

Gaming is a similar story: the octa-core Snapdragon 630 chipset (clocked at 2.2GHz) and 3GB of RAM will fulfil most people’s gaming needs perfectly, but it’s not going to stand up to a higher-end smartphone designed with players in mind.

In our testing, we only had a couple of crash and lag issues with particularly intensive titles - other than that, the Nokia 6 (2018) delivers a smooth, enjoyable gaming experience.