REVIEW: Nokia 8.3 5G
HMD Global's foray into the high-speed connectivity race starts off with a pocket-friendly offering
For some reason, there seems to be some real sentimentality when it comes to Nokia. So, just like before, welcome, Nokia.
And while it took a quite a while, it's finally here: Nokia, the revered mobile brand, has formally joined the high-speed, high-stakes 5G race.
The Nokia 8.3 5G is finally here. And while it's just in time to close out the year that saw a parade of 5G devices flood the market, it'll also be there for you on the big screen when 007's latest flick, No Time to Die, hits theatres next year (that's in April...wonder if another Nokia 5G will be out by then).
Nokia maker HMD Global first introduced the 8.3 5G in March. Not a few were left wondering why it took six months before sales began (the coronavirus pandemic had to do something with it), but it doesn't matter: HMD hyped this gizmo, saying it's future-proof and compatible with all existing 5G bands.
This mid-range device (yes, it is a mid-ranger) doesn't have a direct predecessor - there are only three other Nokia devices with the '.3' tag in HMD's stable, and all of them are in the lower tiers (1.3, 2.3 and 5.3). So let's go at it solo.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Alright, it's no secret that HMD Global has always kept value-for-money and affordability as a key pillar, and that entails using a number of components that aren't the highest end. But don't fret, because these specs hold up pretty well.
For instance, the Snapdragon 765G is technically a mid-tier chip, but it's been dubbed a 'super mid-tier' - and which is also being used in the Google Pixel 5.
The 8.3 5G has a 6.81-inch screen, with bezels that would be just right for some, (still) too thick for others, with a chin that's really noticeable. You have a punch-hole selfie camera on the upper-left corner so you are assured of a full-screen and bright experience.
Stuff is scattered all over: On the left is the Google Assistant/Search key (may not work in all regions, though - and you can't assign it to another function), while on the right are the card tray and volume and power keys, the last of which is also home to the fingerprint scanner. Below are the USB-C and 3.5mm audio ports.
And aside from the obvious glass you got up front, its rear is also adorned in glass, which gives it a nice glossy finish. That contributes to its overall weight, which, at about 220g, is almost as heavy as the iPhone 11 Pro Max and above the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra. However, its 20:9 ratio makes it easy to handle, as with any other new-generation slim phone will make you feel.
The overall design of the device is a solid one, with its colour (only one variant, though) executed well and minimalistic style complementing well. If this had thinner bezels, this would've been an even cooler look.
The 8.3 5G runs on the latest Android 10 OS and, as with other Nokia devices, also on Android One, which is a pure version of Android with no bloatware and which guarantees not just the latest security updates once they're released, but also at least two years of upgrade compatibility. Meaning, this device will be A-OK until Android 12 (or whatever its name will be).
And that's exactly the beauty of the Android One experience: It's simple to use and requires no extensive explanations so you can go at it immediately. Though it can be divisive for Android users: Those who loathe bloatware-filled versions will find this a relief, while those who are used to devices with some extra yet useful apps would find it lacking. This is totally a user-preference judgment.
We do have to also throw in the fact that it has a 60Hz refresh rate; not saying that this is bad, but with 120Hz slowly creeping into mobile consciousness... you get what we mean. But in any case, we didn't find any significant lag issues with it, and the experience is seamless as you go from screen to screen.
We won't have a camera block on the Nokia 8.3 5G; instead, we have a camera ring, boasting four lenses boosted by Nokia's PureView tech and Zeiss optics expertise, led a by 64MP snapper.
The camera app is feature-rich, and Nokia promises a whole lotta effects and detail when you doodle around with it, anywhere from macro shots to zooms.
Though while the colours remain consistent, you get this impression that results seem to be a tad underexposed. It's as if that, okay, they're natural-looking, but they don't exactly pop up off the screen.
At night, meanwhile, there's a pretty interesting dynamic.
The first shot was taken with regular mode, while the other used night mode. Clearly, the device performs better if you activate the latter; we were actually expecting more solid detail when you take snaps with the former, but, unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case. Anyway, the golden rule therefore is that make sure to always switch to night mode when you're in that situation.
Details are considerably sharper and glares are reduced with night mode. The moon in the first snap looks like some random light if you didn't know what it was.
Not to forget, indoor shots taken in not-so-bright situations are also lit up pretty well.
Overall, the camera holds up nicely. If you're not too particular with the nerdiness of that underexposed observation we had, then this is more than enough for you.
The selfie camera, meanwhile, also produces natural-looking shots without those unnecessary fixins to your face. It's not as underexposed compared to the main camera, giving off a more natural look.
HMD promises that the 8.3 5G will run with you for up to two days. Since this is a 5G phone with a huge screen, in theory it's going to be a power-guzzler.
But lo and behold, it's one bad-boy battery. With heavy use, we were left with about 20 per cent by nightfall (this was the day we were testing it out, going gung-ho with the camera). In a typical off-day when you're just at home kicking back and relaxing with just the occasional e-mail peek and intermittent gaming, a healthy near-50 per cent was still showing up the following morning; that means, with that kind of use, it does indeed last for two full days.
Charging, meanwhile, is, well... just get ready for a slog.
To be fair, it wasn't explicitly advertised that this device would fill up in blinding (or semi-blinding) speed. But still, this is a bit too much to wait for a full charge; even at the one-hour mark, it didn't even reach 50 per cent, while it barely beat the three-quarters mark in two hours. So this is definitely a red flag.
Not bad for a first 5G device at the mid-range level. The Nokia 8.3 5G is a good phone for first-time 5G users who want it to last in terms of compatibility on both OS and network levels. Do bear in mind that this isn't a flagship, so there will be some specs that may not go to your liking. Storage, for instance, could be an issue in the long term though, given the fact that its max offering is 128GB (there are users who are timid in using microSD cards).
Despite the camera issues we've encountered, the positives still outweigh the negatives. It's an affordable, spec-heavy device that doesn't lack in ability, all true to HMD Global's continued philosophy of tech for all. A few tweaks to the next iteration will do - and is wholly expected.
GOODIES: Sleek build, huge and non-straining display, good battery life
GOOFIES: Day shots seem underexposed, iffy results when not using night mode, slow charging time
EDITOR RATING: This is Nokia's first-gen 5G; you know they'll be coming up with a better one. 4.0/5
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