Nokia’s latest affordable smartphone is suffering from an identity crisis. HMD Global – the Finnish folks behind Nokia – can’t seem to decide what to call its refreshed low-cost phone. It’s either the New Nokia 6, the Nokia 6.1 (which is printed on the box) or, alternatively, the Nokia 6 2018 (thanks, Carphone Warehouse). I really don’t know what to call it.
Nokia has another problem, too. Yet again the firm has launched a long, laundry list of phones all at the same time, which cover the full gamut of the smartphone spectrum. The New Nokia 6 floats somewhere at the bottom of this scale: above this year’s token nostalgia phone, the Nokia 8110 4G, and well below the flashy Nokia 8 Sirocco flagship model.
New Nokia 6 review: What you need to know
The New Nokia 6 sets its sights on lighter wallets. Equipped with a 5.5in, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution display, 3GB of RAM and a 2.2GHz Snapdragon 830 processor, it’s the very definition of a budget handset.
It’s also the first Nokia phone to run on Android One (based on Android 8 Oreo) straight out-the-box, a joint hardware and software standard that limits manufacturer customisation and guarantees security and software updates for at least two years.
New Nokia 6 review: Price and competition
Nokia’s latest affordable smartphone is only £230. That’s half the price of the firm’s newest flagship, the Nokia 8 Sirocco, and you can buy a total of three 6’s for the price of a single iPhone X.
This super-low price puts Nokia’s refreshed handset up against the very best budget handsets. Motorola’s £220 Moto G6 is its main rival but the Honor 9 Lite is a decent alternative if you want to save even more money. It costs £170.
New Nokia 6 review: Design
As with many of Nokia’s recent phones, the New Nokia 6 is crafted from a single block of aluminium and finished in two-tone anodised paint, with either a copper or silver trim around the sides and surrounding the rear camera module. It looks very swish indeed and, although there is a limit to how different you can make what is essentially a slab of screen and circuit boards, it does stand out from the crowd.
Fortunately, the rest of the design is pretty standard stuff and it’s all solidly built and well put-together. The volume rocker and power button are sensibly placed on the right edge, with the USB Type-C port on the bottom. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top right of the phone (well done, Nokia) and a microSD and SIM slot on the left edge.
Finally, the phone’s small circular fingerprint reader is on the back, just below the vertically-aligned camera module on the rear. This falls comfortably under the tip of your index finger – no awkward acts of contortion required.
So far, so good. What you don’t get here is any kind of IP-rated water resistance or water-resistant treatment. On that front, the Motorola Moto G6 steps ahead.
New Nokia 6 review: Display
The New Nokia 6 also lacks the snazzy edge-to-edge display of the Moto, or the similarly-priced Honor 9 Lite for that matter. Instead, you get a slightly smaller 5.5in 1,920 x 1,080 IPS screen, which Nokia has wisely opted to protect with a sheet of Gorilla Glass 3.
That’s a touch disappointing but, quality-wise, there’s nothing to complain about at all. A contrast ratio of 1,242:1 ensures the onscreen image is punchy and its maximum brightness of 454cd/m2 ensures readability in all but the brightest of ambient light.
Its sRGB colour gamut coverage of 93.9%, as measured by our X-Rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter, rivals some of 2018’s best smartphone displays and an average Delta E of 2.17 (a measure of colour accuracy) is pretty good for a phone this cheap, too. Overall, a solid performance: it’s naturally not as good as the screen on a Samsung Galaxy S9 but you won’t get much better for the price.
New Nokia 6 review: Performance and battery life
While an improvement on last year’s Nokia 6 – which featured Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 430 – the New 6’s technical specifications aren’t revolutionary. The New Nokia 6 is powered by an octa-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor, complete with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, expandable via microSD card by up to 256GB. For the price, the New Nokia 6 does little its rivals can’t.
Running Geekbench 4, Nokia’s latest handset reached 883 in the single-core test, and 4,213 in the multi-core test. Stack the results up against 2018’s other budget big-hitters, and the New Nokia 6 returned near-identical scores to Motorola’s Moto G6, the Honor 9 Lite and the Honor 7X.
Gaming performance is decent. In the demanding on-screen GFXBench Manhattan 3 test, the New Nokia 6 returned an average frame rate of 15fps – about the same as the Samsung Galaxy A5 and slightly ahead of the Moto G6. That means you’ll not be playing games on full detail but most titles will be playable.
It’s a similar story with battery life. The New Nokia 6 reached a total of 12hrs and 14mins on a single charge during our continuous video playback test with the screen set to our standard 170cd/m2 brightness. That’s a good ten hours behind the Samsung Galaxy A5, but this isn’t a terrible result and it’s better than the Moto G6.
New Nokia 6 review: Camera
The first thing to note about the camera is that there’s no dual-lens arrangement on the back. Instead, the New Nokia 6 settles for a single Zeiss-branded 16-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/2.0. It does have phase-detect autofocus and a dual-LED flash, though, so it’s not entirely bad.
And it’s a very competent camera for the money. Outdoors, and in good light, the Nokia 6’s rear snapper is capable of capturing images with plenty of detail, accurate colours and with well-balanced exposures. It isn’t as good as the 12-megapixel camera on the Moto G6, though; the HDR mode doesn’t work as effectively and images in low-light are much grainier and lack finer details.
A UHD-sized feather in the Nokia 6’s metaphorical cap is its ability to record video at 4K resolution at 30fps, a feature missing from the Moto G6’s camera. The footage doesn’t look too bad, either, and there are no problems with the frame rate of the like we experienced when we tested the Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact.
On the front of the phone is a 5-megapixel selfie snapper, which lags behind its rivals in terms of resolution, but does come with Nokia’s reprised “Bothie” feature. First seen in last year’s Nokia phones, this allows you to capture front and rear photos and video footage simultaneously and even broadcast the streams from both cameras live, and simultaneously, to Facebook and YouTube.
New Nokia 6 review: Verdict
After a while in the wilderness Nokia is desperate to make up for lost time – if the number of phones it has launched since HMD took the reins is anything to go by. But that’s clearly no bad thing, as the New Nokia 6 proves.
It’s sensibly priced, attractive and solidly made, and its all-round performance is absolutely fine. Overall, it’s a superb phone for the money.
The thing is, the Moto G6 is better, especially when it comes to the camera and that’s why I’m not giving the Nokia the full five stars.