There’s a reason why Samsung and Apple add a number to the end of their flagship phones every year, and the current confusion of the Nokia lineup explains why. Last year, the Finnish manufacturer unveiled a Nokia released models simply called 3, 5 and 6. Now that they’ve refreshed the Nokia 6 for 2018, what do they call it? The new Nokia 6? The Nokia 6 2018 as The Carphone Warehouse has decided to go with? The box calls it the Nokia 6.1, making it sound like a recently patched work in progress rather than the finished article.
Whatever you decide to call it, the New Nokia 6.1 2018 (if you can’t beat them, join ALL of them, I say), is a very good effort from the Finnish outfit. It’s just unfortunate that the Moto G6 has it beaten.
2018 Nokia 6 review: Design
In a world of very-similar looking handsets, the 2018 remix of the Nokia 6 does just enough to stand out and it certainly looks very handsome for a phone that comes in at under £250. It’s crafted from a single block of aluminium, and comes with a rugged looking matte black paint, trimmed in gleaming copper or silver trim. It’s a looker in an appealingly understated way.
And, while it sticks to the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio display, rather than chasing the 18:9 fashion, Nokia has reassuringly maintained important staples of phones gone by: it has both a 3.5mm headphone jack and expandable storage to top-up the integrated 32GB by up by 256GB should you wish.
A small, round fingerprint reader is on the back just below the camera. I’d personally favour this on the front, given the display doesn’t cover the entire front of the phone but I’m happy to accept that’s down to personal preference.
You don’t get any kind of water resistance but all in, this is a nicely put together handset, where no obvious corners have been cut in the race to sell at under £250.
2018 Nokia 6 review: Screen
As mentioned above, the new Nokia 6 doesn’t come with an edge-to-edge 18:9 display like the Moto G6 or the Honor 9 Lite. Instead, this is an old school 16:9 affair. It’s 5.5in in size, uses good old IPS technology and the resolution is 1,920 x 1,080, which gives you around 403 pixels per inch.
Some will see that as disappointing but for a phone of this price, the screen is nothing short of brilliant. The display covers 93.9% of the sRGB colour gamut and its colour accuracy is very good indeed.
Elsewhere, a contrast ratio of 1,242:1 keeps everything looking solid and with a maximum brightness of 454cd/m2, you shouldn’t have any problems reading it unless you’re stood in abnormally bright light – in which case stop reading your phone and enjoy the sun!
Good performance all round, then. No, you’re not getting the near perfection of the Samsung Galaxy S9 but then you could buy three Nokia 6s for the price of one S9, so it’s hard to be ultra-critical.
2018 Nokia 6 review: Performance
Powering the new Nokia 6 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor – a step up from last year’s version but hardly a cutting-edge chip. Backed by 3GB RAM and 32GB of onboard storage, the Nokia 6 isn’t the most exciting handset but it still manages to narrowly beat its near rivals in terms of raw performance:
The emphasis there should be on “narrowly”. This is a scrappy win that most people would never notice even if they used both handsets at the same time. Still, a win is a win, and it’s important to note that it does better than the Moto G6, Honor 7X, Honor 9 Lite and 2017 version of the Samsung Galaxy A5.
Where it’s a little more convincing is in graphical performance, although it’s still not going to be replacing your games console any time soon.
That’s around twice the framerate of the Honor 7X and near identical performance to the A5. But again, we’re still looking at a peak of 15 frames per second. The GFXBench test we use is intensive but, even so, you won’t be playing the latest games on full-detail here.
The new Nokia 6’s 3,000mAh battery provides okay battery life, but it’s nothing to write home about (even if you are the kind of person to write letters about smartphone stamina). In our looped video test with the screen brightness kept at 170cd/m2 it lasted 12hrs 14mins before shutting down. It’s better than most of its rivals and should comfortably last a day of moderate use.
If battery life is all important, look to Samsung or the Lenovo P2, if you can find one.
2018 Nokia 6 review: Camera
As you may have noticed from the photos dotted throughout this review, the new Nokia 6 has just a single lens on the back: a Zeiss-branded 16-megapixel shooter with an aperture of f/2.0, phase-detect autofocus and a dual-LED flash.
Considering the phone retails for £230 you’re looking at a very competent camera here. Outside, in well-lit conditions, it’s capable of capturing images with oodles of detail, accurate colours and with well-balanced exposure.
Unfortunately, it just isn’t as good as the camera on the Moto G6. Its low-light performance – ever the Achilles’ Heel of low-end smartphones – is a grainy letdown, while HDR performance is also noticeably weaker.
There are positives, however, especially if you like to catch motion rather than just stills. The new Nokia 6 can capture 4K video at 30fps – something the Moto G6, and most other handsets in this price bracket, can’t. The frame rate seems solid too, which is extra impressive when you consider the problems we encountered with juddery 4K on Sony’s flagship XZ2 phones recently.
The front-facing camera also has a trick up its metaphorical sleeve: Nokia’s “bothie” feature. This lets you record footage from both the 5-megapixel front-facing and rear camera at the same time. If you’re wondering why you’d ever need to do this, it’s probably not aimed at you but it’s handy if you daydream about making a fortune off YouTube reaction videos.
2018 Nokia 6 review: Verdict
The Nokia 6 is, on balance, a very fine phone for the money. It looks stylish, performs at a similar rate to its rivals and gives you an exceptionally good screen for your cash.
The problem is the Moto G6 manages to upstage it in key areas: it looks better, has an 18:9 edge-to-edge display and a superior camera. It also comes in £10 cheaper. Never mind that the screen is weaker, the battery less efficient and performance a tiny bit slower – for most people, the Moto G6 is simply the better choice.