Nokia 2.1 Review: Android Go Done Right

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We check out Nokia’s Android Go Phablet offering!

Google’s Android Go has proven to be a great way for manufacturers and brands to deliver a smooth Android experience despite less than optimal hardware. It’s usually not the platform of choice for entertainment-focused devices, though don’t tell HMD Global that. Their Nokia 2.1 is one of the few phones running on Google’s stripped-down OS that aims to deliver more than just the basics which is a stark contrast on the offerings of their competitors.

With a large display, generous battery and stereo speakers, not to mention a solid build, the Nokia 2.1 stands out among its peers as a solid budget phablet priced at Php 5,995 running pure Android. But will this be enough to convince buyers?

It looks pretty big.

Yes it does. The Nokia 2.1’s hefty size and 5.5-inch 16:9 HD display reminds us of phablets from the early 2010s. HMD Global tries to give it a modern touch symmetrical top and bottom bezels. The company also traded the traditional capacitive buttons for software navigation keys, which allowed them to put dual front-firing speakers on the phone.

As far as  overall build quality is concerned, HMD Global stuck with Nokia’s legacy matte plastic build that has proven itself over the years to be tough and resilient to wear and tear.

Speaking of the display, HMD Global equipped the Nokia 2.1 with a better-than-average IPS panel. While it uses the older 16:9 aspect ratio, color reproduction is good, viewing angles are decent, and you can pump up the brightness without completely washing out the display.

Are those stereo speakers any good?

They are, and they can pump up the volume with minimal sound distortion. Aside from the aesthetically pleasing symmetrical layout, the Nokia 2.1’s stereo speakers compliment the huge display, making the budget phablet a budget entertainment device worth considering. While the 8GB onboard internal storage is limiting, you can easily add a MicroSD card (up to 128GB) so that you have all your favorite shows with the Nokia 2.1 while on the go.

Can it game?

It’s easy to dismiss the Nokia 2.1’s modest budget quad-core Snapdragon 425 processor when it comes to gaming, but the aging processor still has a bit of fight in it. It’s able to handle relatively newer games, as long as you understand that you’ll have to sacrifice graphical fidelity for decent frame rates.

This was very evident when we installed and ran PUBG Mobile Lite. Using the phone for several gaming sessions and measuring the stats using GameBench, the Nokia 2.1 performs very well. We averaged around 25FPS per gameplay, with an above 90% overall game stability. Getting Chicken Dinners are feasible with the Nokia 2.1 in despite its limited 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage.

Considering you only have 1GB RAM to deal with, the Nokia 2.1’s performance in PUBG Mobile Lite is unbelievable.

Software optimization with Android Go also allows the Nokia 2.1 to run PUBG Mobile Lite better than other entry-level phones that run the full version of Android and have more RAM on board. Android Go really manages the Nokia 2.1’s limited resources well.

How’s the Android Go experience?

It performs as advertised: being a lightweight version of Android, the overall user experience is fluid with barely any noticeable lags thanks to the optimized management of resources. Lightweight versions of staple Google apps such as YouTube Go lets users enjoy binge watching without worrying about using up all of their data. There’s also stripped down versions of Facebook, Messenger, and Twitter that gives you many of the same features as the full-fledged apps while cutting down on overall data used.

HMD Global also has a great track record when it comes to providing both security and software updates to their phones, and the Nokia 2.1 is no exception. We received two updates while the phone was in our possession.

What’s the catch?

There are some tradeoffs: since it is a budget phone, you don’t have a fingerprint scanner or face unlock with the Nokia 2.1, and you’ll have to settle with the traditional PIN, pattern or password security method instead. The design certainly looks dated compared to its contemporaries in the same price range as well.

Are the cameras any good?

Being a budget phablet, photography is not the Nokia 2.1’s forte. You get barebone features with its 8-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front camera, which include HDR and a very limited Manual mode. Here are some snaps we took:

front camera

If you plan to use the Nokia 2.1 for photos, you will need to manage your expectations: Highlights tend to blow out in daylight shooting conditions, and images are generally unusable when shooting in low light unless you use the LED flash.

How long does the battery last?

With its sizable 4000mAh paired with a power-efficient (though aging) processor, the Nokia 2.1 can definitely last more than a day. We got a score of almost 13 hours with PCMark’s battery test, making the Nokia 2.1 one of the most battery-efficient budget phones out there.

In real-life tests, we managed to use the Nokia 2.1 for two days on a full battery charge. Our use included social media browsing and a few games in between—not bad at all for a sub-Php 6k phone.

Juicing up the Nokia 2.1 is relatively fast thanks to its 10W charging. From empty, it takes a little under 2 hours to charge the Nokia 2.1’s battery to 100%.

Should you buy it?

While the Nokia 2.1 will face a tough market consisting of budget phones sporting regular Android and beefier internals, HMD Global has a fighting chance with their budget phablet. Bearing standout features like a big battery, stereo speakers, and a well-optimized OS, the Nokia 2.1 is one of the best budget phones we have reviewed for 2018.

The most surprising thing about the Nokia 2.1 is the fact that it can handle games with minimal to no hiccups, as long as you’re willing to drop graphical settings for a smoother experience. Lite versions of popular games like PUBG Mobile is no issue with this Android Go phone.

The Nokia 2.1 sets the benchmark for how Android Go phones should be: sporting a few unique features while running smoothly with modest internals.

Nokia 2.1 specs
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 quad-core processor
  • Adreno 308 GPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 5-inch HD display, anti-fingerprint coating, 1280 x 720 resolution
  • 8GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD
  • 8-megapixel f/2.0 rear camera with AF and flash
  • 5-megapixel f/2.4 front camera
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS
  • Android 8.0 Oreo (Android Go)
  • 4,000mAh Battery

(unbox.ph, https://bit.ly/2Dz9gZ0)

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