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The Nokia 7.1 Review: The Best One Yet?

Nokia 7.1 battery

The Nokia 7.1 is one of HMD Global’s mid-range smartphones available in the country for around Ksh 30,000. At this price, as a customer, you are expecting a good and reliable smartphone that should do what you expect it to. This phone has been available in Kenya since November last year and I have had a unit to review for over a month.

Design and Build

The Nokia 7.1 looks and feels premium. HMD Global has put in the time to make this phone and that will be clear from the very first time you see this phone. It looks different from other smartphones we have on the market and specifically the ones it is competing with. This is one area where HMD Global continues to impress me with their smartphones, you do get smartphones that look different from what we have from other manufacturers.

Nokia 7.1

The phone has glass on both the front and back with aluminum used on the side panel. This is a premium combination and makes the phone look more expensive than it actually is. Compared with devices such as the OPPO F9, Infinix Zero 6 Pro and others it is competing with, the Nokia 7.1 takes the crown for the best design and build quality. It feels way better than the Nokia 7 Plus that I used last year and you can read about it here.

With the glass on the back and front, the Nokia 7.1 feels fragile and given the fact that we only get Gorilla glass protection for the front display only, I am just glad I did not drop mine.

The power and volume buttons are on the right with the SIM and microSD tray on the left. The headphone jack is at the top with the USB Type-C Port and speaker grille at the bottom. At the back we do get the two cameras and the fingerprint scanner.

Nokia 7.1 review

The overall desig and build quality of the Nokia 7.1 is exceptional. It looks and feels well built and HMD has not taken any shortcuts and you can tell this the moment you interact with this phone.


When the Nokia 7.1 was unveiled, it brought a new display technology that HMD is calling the PureDisplay. This display is just amazing and probably one of the best you can get for this price. Color reproduction is accurate and it gets bright enough for use indoors and outdoors. I have used other smartphones from Nokia but the display on the 7.1 is just the best.

On the Nokia 7.1, we do get a 5.84-inch display with an HD+ resolution and is HDR10-compliant. Besides this, the Nokia 7.1 can scale up Standard Definition (SD) videos to HDR 10 for a much better viewing experience. With this, watching movies and videos on the Nokia 7.1 is a pleasant experience, hard to match with any other smartphone within the same price range.

Nokia 7.1 display

A 5.84-inch display is not that huge and this is one of the reasons why I love the Nokia 7.1. The size is perfect for most people as it is easy and comfortable to carry around and when using it, you do not have to struggle to reach all corners of the phone. The few people who have had a chance to play around with this phone as I was reviewing it loved the size. In a world filled with very huge smartphones, having one this size is refreshing.

There is a notch at the top as expected for a smartphone from 2018 but the good thing is that it can be disabled if you do not like it. I did not disable mine as I rarely find any issues with the notch in any of the smartphones that I use. The notch cutout is home to the 8MP selfie camera and the earpiece.

The display has Gorilla Glass protection so it should be ok from scratches. I did not try thus but that is what Gorilla Glass promises and we cannot expect anything less.

Software and Performance

Powering the Nokia 7.1 is the Snapdragon 636 processor paired with 3 or 4 GB of RAM and Adreno 509 GPU. The phone handles day to day tasks without any problems and I even managed to play a couple of games without any issues. There are the occasional lags that you may experience from time to time but there was nothing major that will prevent me from recommending this phone.

The Nokia 7.1 is running on Android 9.0 Pie and if you do not get this version out of the box, you will still be able to upgrade to it once you set up your phone. You are getting all the key Android Pie features including Digital Wellbeing which I found to be a very useful feature for those who spend a lot of time on their phone and want to know what they spend time doing and hopefully change that.

Nokia 7.1 kenya

For security, we do have both Face unlock and a fingerprint scanner. Both are easy to set up and are fast when it comes to unlocking the phone. Face unlock is not the best method to unlock the phone when the lighting is not so good. Speaking of locking and unlocking the phone, the Nokia 7.1 has what the company is calling ambient display that shows you some of your notifications on the display even without unlocking the phone.

Overall, the performance of the Nokia 7.1 is consistent for its class and did what I expected it to at all times. I could run heavy gaming applications with ease even though this is not what the phone was made for.

Nokia 7.1 review kenya

The Nokia 7.1 is an Android One phone and is scheduled to get on time updates for the next couple of years. This is a plus with these new Nokia smartphones as the same cannot be said with most other smartphones it is competing with.

The Camera

At the back, the Nokia 7.1 has a dual setup of 12 MP and 5 MP with Zeiss optics, The 12 MP sensor is the main one and the 5 MP one is for depth information and helps when taking portrait photos with the blurred background. The main camera is really good with the results having vibrant colors and even exposure. Compared with the previous models, the quality of photos and the camera app have been improved. The camera app is a bit faster than before.

Nokia 7.1 camera

Portrait mode on the Nokia 7.1 is really good and works well in different conditions. When taking photos in low light conditions, do not expect impressive results as the photos appear grainy in some cases. The camera really struggles here and I believe it could have been better. You can still take photos worth sharing but this will not be the case all the time.

The front facing camera is an 8 MP one that is also good.

The Battery

We use our phones a lot but we still want them to last longer. No one wants to be the one charging their phone after every few hours. With the Nokia 7.1, we do get a 3,060 mAh battery that I had no problem using for an entire workday. Even with heavy usage, I could get this battery to last for over 6 hours of screen on time and this is good for me. In most cases, I could go to be with more than 20% of battery left even after using this phone throughout the day.

Nokia 7.1 battery

When the battery is very low, there are red strips at teh top and bottom of the display to let you know that battery saver mode has been activated and this is a pretty cool feature. This acts as a notification letting you know that you are in the red with your battery and your phone may run out of it if you do not charge it immediatedly.

The Nokia 7.1 supports quick charging and could get 45% of battery after charging it for a half an hour.


Nokia 7.1 conclusion

The Nokia 7.1 is one of the best smartphones I have used this year. The phone just works, it does what I want it to do without any issues. The camera could have been improved to take better shots in low light conditions though. This is not a problem for most people but will be for some out there. I would recommend this phone for anyone looking for a smartphone in the Ksh 30,000 price range.

Now Read: Infinix Hot 7 Review

About author

Editor at TechArena. I cover all things technology and review new gadgets as I get them. You can reach me on email:
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