Nowadays, most smartphones are sequels to once successful headliners and, in an unsurprising turn of events, HMD opted to continue the Nokia 6 series. It was a no-brainer decision though as the 2017 model reportedly sold in more than 10 million units so HMD is wise to make the best of this opportunity.
The new Nokia 6.1, has its screen bezels trimmed and employs a modern and much more powerful Snapdragon 630 chip. The main camera benefits from a new Zeiss lens and it can now do 4K videos.
The upgrade list continues with high-quality audio recording, newer Bluetooth 5.0, and the latest Android 8.1 Oreo in its stock form as the phone is now part of the Android One program.
Nokia 6.1 (2018) Specs
- Body: Gorilla Glass 3 front, aluminum unibody
- Screen: 5.5-inch, 16:9, 1080p IPS LCD; Gorilla Glass 3
- Rear Camera: 16MP, f/2.0 Zeiss lens, PDAF; 2160p@30fps video recording; dual-tone LED
- Front Camera: 8MP, 1080p@30fps video recording;
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 630, octa-core Cortex-A53 @ 2.2GHz, Adreno 508 GPU
- Memory: 3/4GB RAM, 32/64GB, dedicated microSD slot for up to 256GB expansion
- OS: Android 8.1 Oreo
- Battery: 3,000mAh, Turbo Charge 18W
- Connectivity: Optional Dual SIM (4G), Bluetooth 5.0, GPS/GLONASS/BEIDOU, Dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, FM radio, USB Type-C port
- Misc: Fingerprint reader on the back
A few things were left untouched since the first Nokia 6.1 – the storage and RAM options, the 3,000 mAh battery and the camera sensors on both front and rear snappers. But the Nokia 6.1 (2018) has seen enough changes already and if done right – there is no reason why the new 6 shouldn’t surpass the old one in sales.
Unboxing the Nokia 6.1 (2018)
The Nokia 6.1 (2018) price might be hinting for basic bundled accessories, but that’s exactly what the bundle is not. Inside the paper box, we found an 18W wall plug for fast charging, a regular USB Type-C cable, and a pair of earbuds with an integrated mic. Granted, the headset is more basic than the one the Nokia 7 Plus gets, but at least, we have all bases covered with the included stuff. Okay, perhaps without a complimentary phone case, but we are really pushing it.
Some paperwork and a SIM ejection pin complete the Nokia 6.1 (2018) box contents.
There is nothing fancy about the Nokia 6.1 (2018) design. HMD kept it basic, comfortable, and user-friendly. But there is beauty in simplicity and the no-nonsense design arguably gives off a stylish vibe that’s nowhere to be found on the Redmis.
HMD also sneaked these cool paint accents around the frame and the camera glass that even in such small quantities make for a huge design booster.
So, the anodized aluminum body is back, almost flush at the back, and perfectly flat around the sides. The tiny chamfers are painted in copper on the black model, iron on the white, and gold on the blue version.
The Nokia 6.1 (2018) has the same 5.5″ 1080p screen of the old 6, but HMD has trimmed the bezels by moving the fingerprint scanner on the back and thus getting rid of the whole capacitive control deck. The new Nokia 6.1 spreads at 148.8 x 75.8 x 8.2 mm – that’s some impressive half a centimeter shorter.
The entire front is covered by a large piece of Gorilla Glass 3, 2.5D-finished as usual. The third edition might be a bit old, but it’s the one we usually prefer – more resilient to scratches at the expense of being relatively more susceptible to shattering when dropped (compared to GG5).
It takes some time to notice the antenna strips on the back, but they are there – running along the top and bottom edges.
The camera glass now has this big ZEISS logo, and the fingerprint sensor found a new home just below the camera (last year it was on the front). The scanner is always-on, accurate and reliable.
We are fans of the flat frame and its tiny chamfers – those boost the overall grip by a mile and the Nokia 6.1 is one of the few phones we’ve felt absolutely secure in hand.
While the Nokia 6.1 (2018) has kept all popular ports intact, including the analogue audio one, the earpiece is no longer doubling as a second speaker. HMD decided to use just one speaker for the new Nokia 6.1 – and it’s at the bottom behind a small grille.
We already mentioned the secure grip, but we also want to acknowledge the overall positive impressions from when handling the Nokia 6.1. It feels great in hand, and although it’s a tad bigger than we’d prefer for a 5.5-incher, we are still fond of the overall feeling of security and sturdiness. The black model is all matte, but it still attracts some smudges. The blue and white ones don’t have such issues, though.
No matter which model you get – Black/Copper, White/Iron, or Blue/Gold – we’re sure you won’t be disappointed by the looks, grip or handling.
The new Nokia 6.1 (2018) has a screen identical in size and resolution to the previous model – it’s a 5.5″ IPS LCD panel with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (403ppi). There is no notch, no unusual screen aspect.
We captured similar black levels, brightness, and contrast to the ones by the screen on last year’s Nokia 6. The max brightness is alright for an LCD at 470 nits, but nothing extraordinary. The blacks are reasonably deep, and thus we calculated a great contrast ratio of 1278:1.
|Display test||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Contrast ratio|
|Nokia 6 (Global version)||0.364||484||1330|
|Nokia 6 (2018)||0.367||469||1278|
|Xiaomi Mi A1||0.351||551||1570|
|Sony Xperia XA2||0.401||532||1327|
|Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus||0.548||555||1013|
|HTC U11 Life||0.357||546||1529|
|Motorola Moto X4||0.297||431||1451|
|Huawei Mate 10 Lite||0.257||476||1852|
|Huawei P Smart||0.356||531||1492|
|Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)||0||413||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) max auto||0||559||∞|
One thing that received a massive boost since the previous version is the sunlight legibility. With a sunlight contrast ratio of 4.052, the LCD on Nokia 6.1 (2018) has one of the best scores we have measured so far, even beating most of the OLEDs!
Finally, the color accuracy won’t impress anyone. We measured an average DeltaE of 7.3 with a maximum of 13.8 for white – white is strongly shifted towards cyan. There are no display color options on the international Nokia 6.1, so you are stuck with this presentation only.
The Nokia 6.1 (2018) is powered by a 3,000 mAh battery – the same as on the previous model. The phone supports fast charging and the provided charger will fills up to 38% of the depleted battery in half an hour.
HMD chose a modern Snapdragon 630 SoC (14nm) for the second-gen Nokia 6.1 and we’ve already seen some pretty good scores on other Android One phones with the same chip – the HTC U11 Life and Moto X4. Well, the Nokia 6.1 didn’t disappoint – it posted good numbers on the standalone tests, and with a slightly above average standby consumption, the final endurance rating turned out 76 hours.
The one thing the new Nokia 6.1 lost in the upgrade process was the stereo speakers setup. While the first generation used the earpiece as a second speaker, the new (2018) model relies only on the bottom-firing loudspeaker.
The good news, however, is that the sound going out of that speaker on the Nokia 6.1 is much improved. It’s louder, with richer sound, and it earned a Very Good mark in our loudspeaker test – only 1dB short of Excellent.
|Speakerphone test||Voice, dB||Pink noise/ Music, dB||Ringing phone, dB||Overall score|
|Nokia 6 (Global version)||63.1||70.9||82.5||Good|
|Motorola Moto X4||67.2||71.1||80.7||Good|
|Huawei P Smart||65.9||70.8||85.8||Very Good|
|Huawei Mate 10 Lite||67.8||71.0||84.5||Very Good|
|Nokia 6 (2018)||67.1||74.0||85.3||Very Good|
|Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus||71.1||72.7||87.7||Excellent|
|HTC U11 Life||70.9||75.3||88.0||Excellent|
|Xiaomi Mi A1||74.0||73.9||90.4||Excellent|
Unfortunately, the Nokia 6.1 (2018) performance in the active external amplifier part of our test fell as short as that of its Nokia 7 Plus sibling. Its intermodulation distortion was too high and its signal-to-noise ratio was nowhere near what we’ve come to expect from modern smartphones. On the positive side, its volume was nicely high, but the overall results left a lot to be desired.
Good thing is the clarity with headphones was much better – the stereo crosstalk spike wasn’t too bad and the rest of the readings were excellent. Volume went from high to just above average, but the Nokia 6.1 (2018) still does solidly here.
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
|Nokia 6 (2018)||+0.10, -0.20||-37.5||80.4||0.0018||4.735||-93.3|
|Nokia 6 (2018) (headphones)||+0.05, -0.03||-94.3||90.2||0.0027||0.019||-58.6|
|Nokia 7 Plus||+0.02, -0.31||-38.8||81.7||0.0013||4.690||-95.9|
|Nokia 7 Plus (headphones)||+0.25, -0.23||-93.3||90.4||0.0045||0.227||-53.9|
|Honor View 10||+0.02, -0.01||-92.6||92.6||0.0021||0.012||-94.4|
|Honor View 10 (headphones)||+0.17, -0.03||-92.0||92.1||0.0023||0.092||-52.8|
|Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018)||+0.01, -0.03||-92.1||92.2||0.0038||0.0085||-90.0|
|Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) (headphones)||+0.30, -0.07||-91.7||91.8||0.022||0.206||-72.4|
|Oppo R11s||+0.02, -0.02||-93.4||93.2||0.0025||0.012||-90.8|
|Oppo R11s (headphones)||+0.20, -0.37||-93.4||93.0||0.015||0.320||-55.7|
|OnePlus 5T||+0.01, -0.03||-94.0||94.0||0.0018||0.011||-93.7|
Clean Android Oreo
The Nokia 6.1 (2018) is part of the Android One program – meaning it gets pure Android as seen on the Pixels but on the cheap. Indeed, the OS updates are timely and the unit we got for review is running Oreo 8.1 with the most recent April security patch.
Android as Google intended shows up when you wake up the phone – clock, notification cards, two shortcuts on the bottom. Ambient display will show you a clock and notifications when you pick up the phone even without waking it up but be sure to enable this feature first.
Fingerprint enrollment uses the standard Oreo interface. Unlocking works as advertised and is quick and reliable.
Past that is the standard Android 8 homescreen with a pull-up app drawer.
The quick toggles and notifications shade changes color depending on the wallpaper – white for lighter ones, black for darker ones. The task switcher is the usual rolodex, and wouldn’t it be great if Google put the ‘clear all’ button on the bottom instead of up top? Anyway, multi-window is supported natively since Nougat.
There are several gestures like double pressing the power button to launch the camera and a swiping across the fingerprint scanner to bring down the notifications.
As for multimedia, it’s all in the hands of Google’s default apps. Photos is in charge of gallery-related tasks and video playback, while Google Play Music is the audio player. There’s a file manager with batch actions and Google Drive sync, and Google’s Calendar is Nokia‘s calendar of choice.
Benchmarks and performance
The Nokia 6.1 (2018) employs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 630 chipset – the new rising star in the mid-range midst. It’s a worthy upgrade over the previously widespread Snapdragon 625 with a more powerful CPU and a great graphics boost, but also a massive performance jump over the Snapdragon 430 chip powering the first Nokia 6.
The Snapdragon 630 chip offers a classic octa-core Cortex-A53 processor clocked at 2.2GHz. The GPU in charge of graphics is Adreno 508 and noticeably improves on the average gaming performance of its predecessor.
Just like the original Nokia 6, the 6.1 comes with either 3 or 4 gigs of RAM depending on the model you get – with 32 or 64 GB storage.
GeekBench is the best place for CPU prowess comparison. Here, the Nokia 6.1 (2018) scored the same as the rest of the S630 gang – the Xperia XA2, U11 Life and Moto X4. The Redmi 5 Pro and Galaxy A8 (2018) do better in the single-core tests as those two pack much more powerful Kryo 260 and Cortex-A73 cores.
The Nokia 6.1 (2018) earned some excellent marks for the class on the benchmark tests. In real life it will never disappoint – the cle,an Android runs flawlessly, while even demanding games are handled smoothly.
The metal body of the Nokia 6.1 (2018) gets warm under pressure, but not unpleasantly hot. We observed no throttling or stuttering, though.
The same 16MP camera
The Nokia 6.1 (2018) comes with the same camera specs as on the first Nokia 6. It’s a 16MP sensor with 1.0µm pixels sitting behind a 27mm-equivalent lens with an f/2.0 aperture – so nothing extraordinary here. Focusing is handled by phase detection, and there’s a dual LED dual-tone flash to help in the dark.
The interface is simple – shutter release at the bottom, a switch to video mode next to it and a shortcut to the gallery on the other side. A tiny mode selector next to the shutter release gives you the option to choose Regular photo, Panorama, or ‘Touch up’ mode (another word for ‘Beautification’).
On the opposite end of the viewfinder there are switches for beautification, picture-in-picture, flash (on/off/auto), HDR (on/off/auto), self-timer (off/3s/10s), and front/rear camera toggle. There’s a hamburger button too, for access to settings and additional modes (panorama and pro).
The 16MP samples we shot in broad daylight with the Nokia 6.1 (2018) turned out rich in detail, contrasty, with accurate colors and white balance. The only letdown was the grass presentation, which is mostly smudgy.
The dynamic range is average, but there is Auto HDR setting and we suggest keeping it on – the Nokia 6.1 recognizes successfully most of the HDR-needy occasions and triggers it.
Using the manual HDR mode will fully restore the blown highlights, especially the skies, while keep the shadows almost intact. The contrast gets a small boost – probably to keep the HDR images look as natural as possible.
The low-light images are nothing much to talk about – blurry, dark, and with lots of noise.
The camera app has a dedicated Pro mode, which allows for shutter speed as long as 4 seconds. We snapped two 4sec photos, and while those have plenty of detail and could have been great, the luminance noise gets in the way of, well, everything.
The Nokia (2018) captures some great panoramic shots with a vertical resolution around 3,100px. Stitching is flawless, and there are no issues with varying exposure. The dynamic range is decent, while the resolved detail is quite impressive for the class.
Feel free to pixel peep in our Photo compare tool – we’ve pre-selected a couple of phones we found relevant, but those can easily be replaced in the drop-down menus.
The Nokia 6.1 (2018) has an 8MP selfie camera with fixed focus.There is no LED flash but we didn’t expect one.
The selfies turned out excellent – sharp, with lots of detail, good colors and great contrast.
One notable upgrade over the first Nokia 6 is the addition of 4K video capturing. The Nokia 6.1 (2018) can record 4K and Full HD clips at 30 fps. The 4K footage is captured at 42.2 Mbps bitrate, while 1080p is about half that – 20 Mbps. Audio is always recorded stereo at 256 Kbps.
The video quality on both 2160p and 1080p clips is great – the image is detailed and sharp, even the foliage looks nice, and the noise levels are kept low. The dynamic range is decent, colors are spot on, and the contrast is great.
As usual, we’ve provided unedited samples straight out of the camera for you to download – 2160p@30fps (9s, 50MB), and 1080@30fps (9s, 24MB).
You can also head over to our Video compare tool and see how the Nokia 6.1 (2018) stacks up against the competition.
The Nokia 6.1 (2018) ticks many checkboxes, but the competition has some tricks left in the bag, too. While HMD has a broader market reach, the second-gen Nokia 6.1 will be a tough sell next to a recent Xiaomi.
The Mi A1, for example, is also part of the Android One program and as such is available in lots of markets. The A1 has a slightly inferior chipset, but its dual-camera on the back offers telephoto snaps and portraits with bokeh – some of the trendiest features lately.
The Redmi 5 Plus, also known as Redmi Note 5, is pretty much the Mi A1 on steroids – it comes with a taller 6″ display, a larger 4,000 mAh battery, but it has just one camera on the back and runs on MIUI, for better or worse. Both Xiaomi phones are about €80 cheaper than the Nokia 6.1, so they are worth a consideration.
The Moto X4 costs as much as the Nokia 6.1, and it’s also a part of the Android One program in some markets. It even runs on the same Snapdragon 630 chip. The X4 has a smaller screen but makes up for that with a beautiful glass body and a very capable dual-camera on the back. Oh, and it’s water-tight!
HTC U11 Life is another Snapdragon 630 device that’s part of Android One. It has a 5.2″ 1080p display and packs a similar 16MP camera on the back but it has two notable features the Nokia 6.1 lacks – water resistance and Edge Sense (squeezable frame and various gestures). The U11 Life price equals Nokia 6‘s, so it’s up to the brand loyalty we guess. If it were up to us, well, we’d choose water resistance any time.
Finally, we want to mention the all-metal Huawei Mate 10 Lite, also priced around the €260 that the Nokia goes for. The chipset is inferior, yes, but its tall 5.9″ screen and four cameras (two at the back, two at the front) are quite tempting, especially if you fancy those bokeh shots.
The Nokia 6.1 (2018) is a worthy improvement over its predecessor with a much better chipset and smaller body. Its 5.5″ screen turned out great, and so did the performance. The camera is not much of an upgrade but at least the selfie shooter saves face (even literally) with its good image quality.
Being part of the Android One initiative guarantees a lightweight Android OS, the latest edition at that, with on-time updates for the next 24 months.
- Stylish all metal design
- Modern and snappy Snapdragon 630 chipset
- Latest Android OS with on-time updates thanks to Android One
- Very good 16MP snaps in daylight, impressive 4K videos
- The front camera produces some great selfies
- No waterproofing
- No dual-camera on the back
- Launch price is not that competitive