Nokia 7.1 review

A fine mid-range handset worthy of your consideration

Nokia 7.1

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While we've raised one or two concerns through the course of this review, the bottom line is we like the Nokia 7.1 a lot. As long as you're not going to get too ambitious with what you're trying to do with your phone and can accept adequate battery life, it's a handset that will serve you well.

That tall, bright, sharp screen really stands out for us, and it makes gaming or video watching a pleasure. You won't feel you're holding a device that costs significantly less than the flagships of today while you're looking at it.

And despite some minor missteps, the camera is a really good one too. It works quickly, applies HDR, and can get very usable results in the bright sunshine or in a darkened room. 

HMD Global hasn't exactly worked miracles with the Nokia 7.1, because there are some compromises you have to make with this handset, but as with every phone it all comes back to the price point. Do you walk away from the deal feeling that it's been money well spent? With the Nokia 7.1 the answer is a resounding yes.

Who's this for?

You can get more bang for buck in terms of power, but taken as a whole – performance, design, display, camera – the Nokia 7.1 is hard to beat for value for money.

When it comes to phones, some people want the best specs and design possible and will pay whatever it takes to get it. Others want to save a bit of money but get near the top end – think the OnePlus range or the new iPhone XR. There's a third group that want to pay as little as possible.

Then there are the mid-range buyers – the people the Nokia 7.1 is targeting. Those who don't want to spend a load of cash but do want specs and features that border on the respectable. And overall, this phone hits that mark, at least in the display and the camera, if not the raw performance or battery life.

If you need fast performance or lengthy battery life from your phone, or you're a serious gamer, look elsewhere. For a day-to-day decent phone, the Nokia 7.1 is worth a look.

Should you buy it?

Absolutely, if you want a reliable Android phone with an eye-catching screen at a price that won't need you to sell off any of your children or family jewelry. Of course there are compromises – a bit of lag at times, a mediocre battery – but we reckon a lot of people are going to find those trade-offs perfectly acceptable.

Just to repeat the point: the flagship Google Pixel 3 XL is almost three times the cost of the Nokia 7.1. Is it three times as good? Well, no, not really. Google's premium handset is better in some areas, and faster to use, but at the end of the day the Nokia 7.1 can do just about everything the Pixel 3 XL can.

The battery life is perhaps our biggest worry, with those so-so specs second. We'd recommend this mostly for people who occasionally pick up their phone in the day to use a handful of popular apps – and who want a camera they can count on when needed.

First reviewed: November 2018

After an alternative? Check out the following phones:

Honor Play

One of the areas where chipset speed really does make a difference is in gaming, and the Honor Play is potentially a better buy than the Nokia 7.1 if you do want to run a lot of games on your mobile phone.

There's a generous 6.3-inch screen, a powerful Kirin 970 chipset under the hood, and up to 6GB of RAM to make use of, even if the rest of the phone is less exciting – and the price is comparable to the Nokia 7.1, if it's on sale in your region.

Nokia 7 Plus

The Nokia 7 Plus is a little older but a little more expensive than the Nokia 7.1, and gives you a minor bump in specs and aesthetic appeal in return for that higher price.

If you like the look of the Nokia 7 Plus, it's worth considering – it should stay responsive for longer, and the battery gives you more life between charges, even if the camera quality isn't quite up to the Nokia 7.1 standard. This is another of Nokia's Android One devices, as well.

Moto G6 Plus

If the Nokia range has a serious rival in the sweet mid-range spot for Android phones, it's probably Motorola.

The Lenovo-owned company has been churning out decently-priced handsets for years now, and the Moto G6 Plus hits an appealing balance between price and performance – you get more RAM than the Nokia 7.1 offers, a design that's rather fetching, a decent camera, and a screen that impresses too.

It's also slightly cheaper than the Nokia 7.1, though you can't buy this phone directly in the US at the time of writing.

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.