Nokia 7.1 review

A fine mid-range handset worthy of your consideration

Nokia 7.1

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Interface and reliability

  • Enjoy the pure Android experience
  • Years of software updates guaranteed

As we mentioned earlier in this review, the Nokia 7.1 is an Android One phone, like several of its Nokia siblings.

That means pure, undiluted Android just as Google intended it, and it's refreshing to switch on an Android phone that doesn't have a dozen pre-installed apps that we don't really want.

Actually there is one app provided by Nokia – Nokia Mobile Care, which gives you tech support options and device diagnostics. It's not particularly offensive, but note that you can't uninstall it.

The clean and fresh look of stock Android 8 Oreo

The clean and fresh look of stock Android 8 Oreo

At least you know where you are with stock Android, and the features you can expect to see, from Google's latest Digital Wellness tools (which should now be available in the device's Android 9 Pie update) to raise-to-wake functionality.

Now that Android 9 pie has hit, you should be able to take advantage of Android's new gesture controls, but for our review the old familiar back and overview buttons were still in place.

Most apps make good use of the phone's extended display, and one of the other features found in Android 9 Pie is official notch support. That should include the option to disable the notch look if you really don't like it, though the option wasn't available at the time of our review.

Movies, music and gaming

  • HDR10 and SD video upscaling
  • Not for keen gamers

As noted earlier, the Nokia 7.1 supports HDR10, which means better blacks and contrast in your videos and photos, though you can toggle it off if you want – we tried this out with Netflix and found it did improve the viewing experience most of the time, making for richer, clearer scenes.

That said, it can vary scene by scene, and film by film, and even by the kind of lighting conditions you're watching in. It's not necessarily a huge deal that would make you pick this phone over another, though it's handy to have – as is the phone's built-in ability to upscale SD videos to HD for you.

As for audio, you have just one integrated speaker, but it just about does the job as far as spoken audio and music goes – just don't expect too much. It does mean you have to be careful not to cover up the solitary speaker with your hand when you're watching movies or shows in landscape mode, however.

You can rely on the Nokia 7.1 for music, movies, and undemanding games

You can rely on the Nokia 7.1 for music, movies, and undemanding games

If you're still rocking your favorite pair of wired headphones, you'll be pleased to know the Nokia 7.1 keeps the traditional 3.5mm audio jack, so that's still an option here if you don't want to go down the Bluetooth or USB-C route.

All of Google's default apps are here for your music and video playing needs, plus of course everything you can grab from the Play Store. Play Movies & TV, Play Music and YouTube come pre-installed on the phone.

We tried Subway Surfers and Asphalt 8 on the phone – both reasonably demanding games – and got decent results. There was occasional stuttering, but by and large the frame rates held up without any noticeable phone heating. That said, serious gamers are one group that might find the Nokia 7.1 not enough for their needs.

Performance and benchmarks

  • Mid-range specs show through
  • Fine for day-to-day tasks

In our time with the Nokia 7.1 we found Android reasonably smooth and responsive, though we didn't seriously load up the handset with apps and games. There are a few milliseconds extra delay in app loading and switching compared with the fastest handsets of the moment, but not enough to significantly spoil the user experience.

With a Snapdragon 636 and in some cases as little as 3GB of RAM, the phone really is getting close to scraping the barrel in terms of what's acceptable to run full-fat Android properly. Perhaps with that in mind, Files Go is installed – Google's file manager app that was originally designed for entry-level devices.

The Nokia 7.1 will cope easily with most of the tasks you give it

The Nokia 7.1 will cope easily with most of the tasks you give it

With apps covering social media, file viewing and so on, the Nokia 7.1 proves its mid-range specs are enough to cope with everyday tasks capably, bar one or two stutters – we didn't notice any crashes or hangs, just the occasional blip. Be advised that not everything will happen instantly though.

How well the performance will hold up over time, we can't say, but stock Android (and regular updates) should help with that.

As you would expect, the GeekBench 4 multi-core score of 4,751 is hardly record-breaking but by no means a disaster – for comparison, the Google Pixel 3 scores 8,336.

Closer to this price point, the Moto G6 Plus manages 4,167 and the gaming-focused Honor Play hits 6,602, so the Nokia 7.1 just about holds its own in its own particular niche of the market.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.