It came after years of anticipation from fans of the Finnish company’s design prowess and camera expertise in the smartphone world. Those traits would theoretically have been put to much better use alongside the Android software package than they ever were back when Symbian was a thing, or when Microsoft was still investing in its Windows Phone experiment.
Nokia’s gotten this reputation of creating awesome devices that up until this point have been held back by their software, so when the OS isn’t the bottleneck anymore, what can the Finns actually accomplish?
Past the initial hype and a few months after our initial review full of benchmarks and tests, we’re ready to tell you what the Nokia 8 feels like when used as a daily driver for a longer period of time.
The Nokia 8 has most of the specs you’d expect from a real contender for ‘best smartphone of the moment’ title, but it has managed to miss out on some significant recent trends – think 18:9 displays and small bezels, water resistance, or wireless charging.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Nokia 8’s design, but there aren’t a lot of overly exciting traits to it either. In a smartphone world dominated by glass backs, the Nokia 8 proudly boasts an all-metal build, yet because of that, it sacrifices wireless charging.
With a Nokia 8, you won’t have the convenience of topping up without carrying your charger everywhere. On the other hand, it does have a USB-C port, which should become standard for non-Apple mobile devices in the near future, so at least you’re covered on that front.
That said, it’s refreshing to use a handset that doesn’t collect fingerprints on its back at all. Whether glass or metal actually feels more premium to the touch is a subjective assessment, but we can probably all agree that fingerprints and oils always on display on the back of a phone really detract from the experience of owning a multiple-hundred-euro product you use all day.
The Nokia 8 is thin enough and seems even thinner than it is because of the way the metal curves from the sides to the back. Since it has a pretty small screen by today’s standards, it’s also incredibly easy to use with one hand, and achieving a secure grip isn’t hard at all.
On the front the Nokia 8 has bezels. Big, in-your-face, not at all trendy bezels. You can obviously live with them – after all, we’d been doing that for ages before the whole bezel-killing trend appeared. The bottom bezel even has some practical use (unlike what we saw in Google’s original Pixels from 2016), since it houses the capacitive navigation buttons and the fingerprint sensor which also doubles as the Home button.
The Nokia 8 has an LCD panel, which is something that’s becoming less and less prevalent among similarly specced devices. It boasts QHD resolution, and at 5.3″ in size that results in a whopping 554 PPI density. We’ve tried very hard to see individual pixels on this display, but couldn’t. The amazing 700 nits of brightness it reached in our testing have translated accurately into real life use, as we never had any issues discerning the content on the screen, even outdoors in the sun on the sunniest of days. In fact, this phone’s sunlight contrast ratio is the best we’ve ever seen for an LCD and manages to beat even some AMOLEDs.
Black levels are very good for an LCD, but obviously no match to any panel using OLED technology, where the individual pixels simply switch off in order to display black. LCDs have backlights, and these need to remain on at all times, hence the difference. If you’re switching from a phone with an AMOLED screen, there will be an adjustment period of at least a few days, especially if you’re used to choosing black themes for your apps. You won’t ever get those inky, pitch blacks on an LCD, and the Nokia 8’s is no exception.
While it definitely manages to churn out decent looking pictures when there’s ample natural light, unfortunately, it’s not in the same league with the best of the smartphone world at the moment (like Pixels, iPhones, flagship Samsungs.).
This is easy to understand when you notice that the Nokia 8’s output doesn’t excel in any area: dynamic range could be better, details are so-and-so, noise is certainly there, while color accuracy is generally on point but not always. What’s worse, autofocus sometimes takes a while, and the whole experience of using the camera app can be laggy.
The low light performance of this camera reminds us of days gone by in the past when no smartphone shooter was able to rise above this level. The other flagship smartphones of today are capable of better results, and the Nokia 8 can’t compare.
Selfies come out good in great lighting, although even then you may find you’re out of focus for reasons we don’t really comprehend. Low light selfies with the Nokia 8 are a rather pointless endeavor unless you’re into camera noise.
Video stabilization is on all the time and can’t be disabled and it produces captures that look like they’re from smartphones a few years old, before optical image stabilization arrived on phones, and before electronic image stabilization got as good as Google’s.
Nokia 8 videos aren’t bad per se, but once again we find ourselves having to point out that competing devices have moved onto the better performance. On the other hand, the Nokia 8 has OZO microphones which really help when shooting concerts or things that are otherwise difficult for ‘normal’ smartphone mics to accurately capture.
Performance, along with its cameras’ output, is probably the most disappointing thing about the Nokia 8. Not that it isn’t fast – there’s a Snapdragon 835 in there after all. It’s just not very consistent, and comparing it to a Pixel (even from the first generation) in this respect doesn’t yield very positive results for Nokia’s first Android flagship.
Most of the things are fast most of the time, but there’s the odd hiccup here and there, which you will encounter multiple times a day. Small stutters and lag are noticeable to us, and not just as one-off exceptions. The best example for this is the choppy animation you see when you swipe up from any home screen to reveal the app drawer. This one is stuttery every single time, and if you’ve used a Pixel in the past few months the lack of ‘smoothness’ that the Nokia 8, unfortunately, suffers from will be very obvious to you.
The Nokia 8 has all it takes on the inside to be as smooth as a Pixel, and yet it isn’t, because although it nails the ‘big’ specs certain ‘small’ things just haven’t been properly taken care of. ‘Small’ but important for the overall feel of a device – things like touch latency, jittery animations, and once again stutters and lag now and then.
The Nokia 8 uses a launcher that looks and behaves very much like the Pixel Launcher, complete with the Google Feed when you swipe right from the leftmost home screen. SwipingThe only two Nokia apps that are preinstalled are Camera and Support. The former is a necessity because Google’s very impressive camera app is not part of Android itself but the company’s proprietary app suite that’s exclusive to its devices. The Support app (that’s confusingly labeled Nokia Mobile Care once you’re inside it) includes the phone’s user guide, a way to chat with a support rep, read through FAQs, find the nearest service center, and other related stuff – so we can’t say it counts as bloatware. Nokia’s also added a Files icon that takes you to the built-in file manager without needing to go through the Storage menu in Settings.
The Nokia 8 has already been updated to Android Oreo, though it’s the initial 8.0 release and not 8.1, which became available for Google’s handsets in December 2017. Up from a home screen brings up the app drawer too, and Google’s Wallpapers app is included.
The brick included in the box supports 18W fast charging, taking the phone’s battery from 0 to 48% in 30 minutes only, which means you’re able to quickly top it up during the day if you’re more of a power user. The phone over 6 hours of screen on time with 15% charge still left. Overall we’ve been happy with the performance of the 3,090 mAh battery, and it should easily last most people from the morning until late at night.