Nokia 6: a correct Android smartphone, but without brilliance
We have long waited for the return of Nokia. We waited a long time for his first smartphone. We have expected a long time for the marketing of the smartphone. And now that he's finally here, we wonder if it was worth it.
Without a shadow of a doubt, there is a mutual affection vis-à-vis Nokia, the flagship of the European telephony with which we knew our first nomadic emotions (the Nokia N-Gage QD still has its place in the little treasure chest of your servant). We were disappointed to learn that Microsoft bought the brand because we knew the risk incurred by the firm of Redmond for both Lumia and Windows Phone: that of being the supplier of its competitors. And that did not miss. We were excited when we learned that the old teams at Nokia and Microsoft Mobile Oy were taking over the brand's license to make mobiles and smartphones.
Better late than never?
And then, early 2017, the first doubts appeared. First with the announcement of the Nokia 6, a mobile that is mid-range without having the full attributes. An announcement in China and not internationally. It was not until the Mobile World Congress to finally observe the phone closely. Then with repeated delays at the commercial launch due to issues of supply points. An even more penalizing delay in a market as dynamic and competitive as so-called "economic" telephony, encompassing market segments below 300 euros and in which the Nokia 6 is positioned, subject of our test.
When we finally received the smartphone, we appreciated the qualities of the mobile, on which we will extend throughout this test. But we have asked ourselves two questions which we will answer in conclusion of this article with as much frankness and objectivity as possible. First, does our affection for the brand obscure our judgment? And the second, is the wait worth the candle? In theory, no. Because the technical sheet of the mobile is microbalance. Here are the details:
- Dimensions: 154 x 75.8 x 7.9 mm
- Weight: 169 grams
- Screen ratio / size: 70.7%
- 5.5 inch Full HD IPS screen (403-pixel resolution per inch)
- Corning Gorilla 3 mineral glass
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 chipset with eight Cortex-A53 cores up to 1.4 GHz
- GPU Qualcomm Adreno 505
- 3 GB of RAM
- 32 GB of internal storage (expandable by microSDXC up to 128 GB extra on a hybrid SIM port)
- 3000 mAh battery (not removable)
- LTE compatible category 4, WiFi n, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS (Glonass), FM radio, NFC
- MicroUSB 2.0 port and 3.5 mm jack
- Dolby Atmos compatible TFA9891 audio amplifier
- Fingerprint reader on the front
- 16-megapixel photo sensor with LED flash, phase detection autofocus and lens opening at f / 2.0
- 8-megapixel webcam with wide-angle lens opening at f / 2.0 and standard autofocus
- Dual SIM
- Android 7.1.1 Nougat without overlay
So here is the detail with good surprises (photosensor, Full HD screen, Dolby compatible amplifier.) There is less good like connectivity that does not seem to have enjoyed the same attention to detail as some components. Is not only defined by its technical sheet, but also by the experience that it provides.We look at what it returns once the mobile in hand.
A design that reminds us of good memories …
The Nokia 6 is a phablet quite massive and square, despite rounded angles. Its 5.5-inch screen is surmounted by a fingerprint reader flanked by two touch zones where the navigation keys of Android are housed (it is possible to disable them in the settings menu). The area of the fingerprint reader is not a physical button, but a tactile surface. The removal of the mechanical elements at the front of the terminals, as at Apple, seems to be confirmed. This ensures a certain level of tightness (which we have not tested ...).
In the back, you find an ergonomics close to Nokia smartphones, including the latest smartphones before the Microsoft era. We think in particular Lumia 800 / 800C, Lumia 900 and Nokia N9, mobiles born under a different star and yet so close to each other ... Concretely, we find a photo block placed in the center of the upper part of the phone shell. This block, all in length, is positioned vertically. The flash is under the photosensor. Vertically engraved too, the mark's claw is in the extension of the photo block, under the latter, while the secondary microphone, for noise reduction, is at its opposite, above the photo block. There is obviously a search for an aesthetic balance (except with the legal mentions).
The chassis (back and slices) is metal. As proof, separations for the antennas are almost visible. They run along the lower and upper slices. On the slices, precisely, few things to note: the mechanical buttons for the start and the volume control are on the right; the drawer for the SIM and the memory card is on the left; the micro USB 2.0 port, the main mic, and the speaker are at the bottom; the 3.5mm jack is at the top. No risk taking here, even in the connectors.
The screen, which measures 5.5 inches, is Full HD and IPS. Or rather classic characteristics for a mid-range phablet. The display offered by this slab is of good quality, with relatively well-respected colorimetry (with some trends to go blue ...). The contrast is excellent, as well as the brightness (you will have to push a little backlight in full sun). The screen is protected by a 2.5D Gorilla mineral glass from Corning, ensuring good responsiveness and perfect glide under the fingers.
Android interface without cosmetics
As promised by HMD Global, all its Android devices are offered with the purest possible interface, without aesthetic or application additives. Which means that there is no overlayer, that there is no modification made to Nougat (since it is version 7.1.1 which is present here) and that there is no not (theoretically) additional applications, especially marketing. And it's true: we could almost believe us in a Nexus if there was not an intruder in this beautiful picture: "Support" (or Nokia Mobile Care). This is simplified access to Nokia technical support if you have access problems.
So we find a fairly standard interface, with a lightened home screen: Google engine, Clock widget, and some applications: Play Store, Duo, Photos, Camera, Chrome, Contact, Messenger, Phone. If you slide your finger up and down, you can access notifications and quick settings. If you slide from the bottom to the top, you open the application drawer (with the built-in search engine). The screen to the left of the home hosts a personalized newsfeed type "Google Now" with your alerts and news. Finally, novelty Nougat, if you long press an application, you open a shortcut menu type "3D Touch" Apple.
Side preinstalled applications, there is almost everything that can offer Google on the Play Store: Duo, Drive, Keyboard, Gmail, Calendar, Camera, Photos, Play, YouTube, Messenger, Maps, Keep, Chrome, etc. Not to mention the "Pay" apps: Play Store, Play Music, Play Newsstand, Play Books, Play Videos, Play Games, etc. If that's not advertising for Google, what is it? It is not possible to uninstall them to save space (if you never use Google Duo for example), but it is possible to disable them. This has the effect of cutting the network access to the application and hide it completely. Of course, the opposite is also proposed.
Google Assistant preinstalled!
Also note that the Nokia 6, Android 7.1.1 requires, hosts Google Assistant. The virtual assistant of Google is proposed in French with many possible interactions. Most of you will need to discover them, even if the application offers you, at the first activation, to learn the main voice commands. To access Google Assistant, simply press and hold the Home key (like Google Now on Tap with Lollipop).
Despite the lack of overlay and additional applications, the version of Android here is quite significant. Its footprint on the system is about 1.5 GB of RAM (about 3 GB), and 9.8 GB space monopolized on the 32 GB provided by Nokia. It is apparently not so much the number of gigabytes that counts, but the percentage of the volume present and the volume used. There is worse, of course, especially on the side of Korea, but there is also better.
With a battery of 3000 mAh (which is rather generous for a mobile of this range), the autonomy is very correct: more than 8 hours of continuous use (or even 9 hours depending on conditions and settings). Here too, there is better, like Motorola or Honor (for an equivalent price). The element that consumes the most is the screen, unsurprisingly. The operating system, especially the elements in the background, is far behind.
Let's move on to the performance of the platform. Recall the three essential elements here: Snapdragon 430 chipset, 3 GB of RAM and Full HD screen. We would have preferred a Snapdragon 435, so be clear, especially with a full HD screen. And even if we had to stay with the Snapdragon 430, we would have preferred 4 GB of RAM, at least to avoid some slowdowns (with Google Assistant, for example). Also, we present here the best results achieved during our handling. The Nokia 6 gets 47075 points with AnTuTu v6, 684 points with Geekbench (single-core) and 9461 points with 3DMark (IceStorm Unlimited).
With these three tests, we already have a basis for comparison, but do not hesitate to consult the other screenshots here to get a better idea. First observation: the Snapdragon 430 offers performance quite close to the Exynos 7870 Galaxy J5 (2017) and the Galaxy A3 (2017). It is above Snapdragon 615 and 616, as well as MediaTek's MT6753 and MT6752 octa-core. It remains below the Exynos 7870 Galaxy J7 (2017) and the MT6755 MediaTek.
Second observation: it is usually his third gig that saves it when compared to Samsung models. Which means it would be below J5 (2017) without this one. The third observation confirms it: the Nokia 6 is better than the direct competition in the graphics tests (3DMark) thanks to its Adreno and less good in the tests (Geekbench for example). Last remark: Basemark OS II failed to perform some tests (the rendering of web pages), which significantly lowered its overall score. We have communicated this result for the sake of completeness, but we do not take it into account.
Not quite a multimedia platform
This little concern for balance (overweight the GPU of Snapdragon 430) is felt from the launch of Dead Trigger 2: the game is positioned itself on the lowest graphics quality. Forcing the passage on the highest quality, the game is playable, but at the cost of some slowdowns when loading (when the Cortex-A53 are the most requested) and a slight overheating that you feel especially with the left hand, at the level of the lateral edges and the hull. It does not matter, but it shows that the battery is very busy and that the autonomy will suffer.
Video side, there is no problem of slowing down. The screen offers good visibility and wide viewing angles. However, since Nokia does not offer additional applications, the video file rendering engine is that of Android, which continues to evolve, but at its own pace. It is now compatible with more file formats (and new audio codecs). But he is still not able to manage the subtitles (which are here completely absent). Note that in the absence of Gallery, video access is supported by Google Photos.
Good surprise in the photo
Let's finish with the photo. In this area, the Nokia 6 is a great surprise, although do not be afraid to repeat the same shot several times to get a very good result. Recall in passing the equipment of the Nokia 6: 16-megapixel sensor, f / 2.0 aperture and phase detection autofocus. Equipment theoretically quite classic, especially regarding brightness: the vast majority of mid-range terminals have a goal that opens at f / 2.0.
Only the Nokia 6 manages to stand out remarkably. You can see, with the snapshot below that the Nokia 6 offers a balanced scene without overexposure in the sky or underexposure in the street below. This is a beautiful picture where the autofocus and the white balance are very well done. If you zoom in, you keep some detail, and the grain does not appear too fast. There is no aberration in the angles. Note that we did not arrive at this result the first time. Other shots are much worse. Also, the light conditions were good. Which facilitates (a little) the task.
A good mobile arrived a little late
In conclusion, the Nokia 6 is a phone with serious assets, but also some flaws. On the side of assets, we find unquestionably the design, functional and straightforward, without fault of taste, but also sought in the positioning of individual elements. We also find the screen, a good quality, the interface, also very simple (sometimes frugal sometimes), and of course the photo, a good surprise.
On the other hand, on the negative side, there is the platform, a bit chick. The Snapdragon 430 would have at least deserved a fourth gigabyte of memory to fluidify the whole, because of the full HD screen mainly. And the second real negative is its price. At 260 euros, new and more ambitious mobiles arrived this year. At Huawei / Honor, Motorola or Meizu, for example. On the mid-range, the war is fierce. And despite its good qualities, not to mention the affection we carry for the brand, the Nokia 6 may have arrived a little late. It will, therefore, be faster in the future!