Nokia 7 Plus review: I would buy this phone in a heartbeat

Rating: 8.1/10

Yay:

  • Great build quality and appealing design
  • Stock Android for life
  • Pretty powerful and great for gaming
  • Dependable battery performance

Nay:

  • Ceramic coating chips easily
  • Audio performance could’ve been better

When Google shuttered the Nexus range for its own line of Pixel smartphones, a legion of loyalists mourned its demise. The Nexus range of phones was the perfect platform for Google to show off its Android operating system. The major advantage of the Nexus platform was its accessibility: all Nexus phones were mostly mid-range devices with a fairly affordable price tag. Unfortunately — or fortunately depending on how you look at it — with the Pixel range, Google has decided to make premium phones to directly take on the Apple iPhone.

Thankfully, with the Android One program Google is once again channeling the ethos of the Nexus series. And with Nokia committing to Android One with all its heart, we’ve already seen some great phones launched by the HMD Global brand this year. One of which is the Nokia 7 Plus.

Also read: OPPO F7 review: shockingly good performance, predictably great selfies

This phone has a modern aesthetic with the same old tried-and-tested Nokia reliability. I’ve used it for a couple of weeks as my daily driver replacing the other ‘7 Plus’ in my life made by Apple. And, I think that Nokia has really hit it out of the park with this phone.

Nokia 7 Plus design: classy is an understatement

Every single time I look at the Nokia 7 Plus, I can’t stop gawking at the all-metal precision engineering. It looks and feels like a meticulously-researched and passionately-made product. The attention to detail in the design is a feat worth a Red Dot design award. For example, everyone makes black-coloured candy bar phones but Nokia tries to introduce some sort of distinction with copper accents. These accents include the: 2.4mm copper strip running along the railing, copper outline on the raised camera module, copper ring around the fingerprint scanner, and copper buttons. Even the white colour variant has copper accents, and it looks stunning too.

The phone is also made using Series 6000 aluminium. Now, Series 6000 aluminium doesn’t necessarily have a good reputation. Remember the iPhone 6 and the bendgate fiasco? But trust me, the Nokia 7 Plus does not flex and it feels extremely structurally rigid. Although, its not all hunky dory. During my review period, I dropped the phone once. It caused a few chips and a small dent too. While one can’t question the structural integrity of the Nokia 7 Plus, let it be known that the phone definitely chips easily. For what it is worth, Nokia provides a TPU case in the box. I’d advice not using a case with the Nokia 7 Plus because it definitely kills the look of the phone. Just don’t drop it, and use it safely if you want to protect it from chips and small dents.

Also read: Vivo V9 review: now you can afford an iPhone X

Let’s not forget the fact that the Nokia 7 Plus is a also big phone. It has a 5.99-inch display and the bezels on the sides are bigger than most phones with an 18:9 aspect ratio display. But trust me, that’s okay. Primarily because you get a wider phone which feels a lot like a phone with a regular 16:9 display in the hand. This, along with the ceramic coating and the gently curved edges on the rear, the phone gets stuck to your hand and doesn’t drop easily. Moreover, the corners are rounded off nicely so they don’t dig into your palm when you are using the phone. Even the 183g weight of the phone is evenly distributed across the entire length and breath of the body. You will definitely not feel the weight when using it.

The power button and the volume rocker – both placed on the right edge of the phone – are pretty tactile. The fingerprint scanner on the rear is placed at a sweet spot and is extremely responsive. It is probably one of my favourite fingerprint scanners, by far. Nokia has also included a Type-C port at the bottom and a headphone jack on the top — praise the lord! The speakers are at the bottom edge too. There are plastic inserts all across the railing for receiving antenna signals. You get a hybrid SIM card tray, in which you will have to forego one Nano SIM card for a micro-SD card. I’d have ideally liked dedicated slots but it is what it is now.

Overall, the only word I can think of to describe the Nokia 7 Plus’ design is “classy.” The Nokia 7 Plus, in more ways than one, reminds of something Blackberry would make for its business users.

Nokia 7 Plus display: an LCD that behaves like an AMOLED

The Nokia 7 Plus has a 5.99-inch IPS LCD full-HD+ (1080x2160p) display. This is the first LCD I’ve used in a long time to exhibit the characteristics of an AMOLED panel. You get a vivid, punchy display, with slightly oversaturated colours. In fact, even the blacks are pretty deep, which is definitely weird for an LCD display.

I like the fact that – like the Google Pixel 2XL – the display glass has rounded off edges which looks smooth and polished. The screen does not get too bright and therefore sunlight legibility takes a hit. However, I had absolutely no problem with the viewing angles. Also, the quality of the capacitive touch substrate is next level. The touch response is actually impeccable, and scrolling through apps and text is such a treat.

Nokia 7 Plus software: stock, pure, and dependable

As I mentioned earlier, the Nokia 7 Plus comes with pure stock Android 8.1 with support for Project Treble as well. Which means that – if Nokia is willing – you will get near instant Android updates as soon as Google issues it. In fact. Nokia is probably the only company right now which has been living up to that commitment. However, power users would like to know that the bootloader is not unlocked and you will void your warranty.

Well, what do I say about stock Android Oreo 8.1 that hasn’t been said already? It is a clean installation of Android that has a minimalistic interface with a few new upgrades that are pretty cool. For example, I like the new pane that opens up when you press the power button; it is such a clean UI design. You also get split screen by default. Moreover, you get picture-in-picture (PIP) view for apps. For example, Swiggy uses the PIP mode to show the location of the delivery agent on the map. It is a very handy feature in my opinion.

Also read: Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro review: how the hell is it priced so low?

Also, you get gestures like double-tap to wake the screen, press the power button twice to open the camera app, and swipe down on the fingerprint scanner to slide down the notifications shade. These are pretty useful. Weirdly though, Nokia has decided to omit the ‘twist twice’ to open the selfie camera option.

The advantage of using a custom skin is that brands like OPPO, Xiaomi, OnePlus, and Vivo have already included gestures on their newest smartphones. Gestures are probably the most intuitive way to navigate any operating system – mobile or otherwise.

Also, stock Android has a few minor design issues that annoy me:

  1. Why on earth would Google move the ‘clear all’ option to the top of the multitasking carousel?
  2. Moreover, just like Pixel phones, Nokia has decided to use rounded icons. Therefore, some square icons sit inside a white circle, which looks unappealing in my opinion. Also, there is such a disparity in design because some square icons continue to be square-shaped.

Obviously, everyone doesn’t have an OCD like me and can look past these niggles with ease. And all said and done, stock Android is still by far the best mobile operating system on the planet right now. Period.

Nokia 7 Plus camera: minor niggles but good overall

Nokia uses a dual camera setup on the rear with two 12MP cameras. On the front you get a 16MP camera. All the cameras are attached to Carl Zeiss lenses, which should ideally result in clean images. In fact, thanks to the large 1.4um pixel size of the primary sensor, you get some crisp and detailed daylight shots. You can check my extensive camera comparison of the Nokia 7 Plus camera with the OPPO F7 and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro to get an idea of how these cameras stack up against each other. In fact, the comparison has a lot more camera samples for you to view as well.

The Nokia 7 Plus’ camera app suffers from a white balance issue. More often the not, I ended up with really warm images. On the flipside, you get details across the length and breath of the image with very few soft areas. The algorithm doesn’t rely on software-based smoothening or sharpening to enhance the images, and I really like that. But note this – the camera is slightly slow to focus and if you are trying to capture action shots you are going to end up with blurred images. I like the Pro mode on the Nokia 7 Plus, it is easy to use and offers you a lot of control. Unfortunately though, you cannot shoot RAW images despite the presence of a Pro mode.

Nokia 7 Plus

The low light performance of the Nokia 7 Plus’ rear camera is surprisingly good too. Thanks to the f/1.75 aperture of the camera, you can capture a good amount of light as well. While there is a little bit of noise, it is manageable and the resulting image more often that not offers a good dynamic range. As for video recording, the 7 Plus can shoot 4K footage. However, only the 1080p footage is electronically stabilised with the support of the gyroscope. And boy, the stabilisation is so darn good! It is as good as any optically stabilised footage, and that is saying something. Even the quality is good across the board with great control over colours and exposure.

Nokia 7 Plus

The 16MP front camera is really good too. It takes great selfies in any lighting conditions, and is almost as good as phones from OPPO and Vivo. You can also use the dual mode to capture an image using both the front and rear camera at once.

Nokia 7 Plus

Nokia 7 Plus performance: very, very powerful and dependable

The Nokia 7 Plus is the first phone in India to come with a Snapdragon 660 SoC. It is supported by 4 gigs of RAM and 64GB of internal storage space, with the ability to expand further using a microSD card. I benchmarked the Snapdragon 660 and it is way more powerful than the Helio P60 on the OPPO F7. As far as super mid-range processors go, the SD 660 is definitely the most powerful SoC out there. I ran AnTuTu and got a score of 1,38,214 and in GFXbench’s T-Rex test the 7 Plus threw up a score of 47fps. These are honestly flagship-grade numbers and it is mostly because the 660 uses Kryo cores.

This processor coupled with pure Android OS, you get a blazing fast phone that never gives up. From multitasking to heavy gaming, the Nokia 7 Plus is a very powerful phone. You will never be disappointed. I absolutely loved devouring hours of PUBG on max settings on the Nokia 7 Plus. All this power does cause the phone to warm up slightly when playing games for a long duration.

Moving on to the audio performance, the bottom-firing speakers can get adequately loud. But, the sound quality through headphones is average at best. While the bundled in-ear earphones are made of metal and feel sturdy, they don’t sound very good. But I am glad Nokia at least decided to bundle a pair of earphones in the first place. I tried my preference earphones and the Nokia 7 Plus couldn’t drive it properly. It didn’t sound as good as it normally does with other sources. As far as the quality of sound from the earpiece goes, it is fine and could’ve been cleaner in my opinion. I still prefer Motorola, Samsung, and Huawei for the earpiece quality. I was on an Airtel network and had no problem connecting to 4G all the time.

Coming to the massive 3,800mAh battery inside the Nokia 7 Plus, it lasts very long. If you are not a heavy user, you can easily squeeze a day and half worth of usage from this battery. I got an average screen-on-time of at least five hours and that is with me playing PUBG for about an hour, one and a half hour on social media, two hours of calls, two hours of music playback, running a few benchmark tests, and more. Oh, and let’s not forget, the Nokia 7 Plus supports QC 3.0 fast charging and the bundled charger can charge it from zero to 100 in around an hour and 45 minutes, which is pretty fast for a battery of this size. Do note that the phone does heat up while charging and I’d advice against using it when connected to a charger.

Should you buy the Nokia 7 Plus?

A lot of people have the perception that the Nokia 7 Plus is expensive at Rs 25,999. And, I’d vehemently disagree. If anything, the phone is a steal for the price. It is the perfect amalgamation of kickass hardware and dependable bug-free software. It is a polished experience that very few phones can provide in the same price range barring the Nokia 8, which has dropped in price substantially since launch. You can get one for as low as Rs 28,000 and you get a much superior Snapdragon 835 SoC on the phone, with the latest version of Android as well. However, you don’t get an 18:9 display and I think the Nokia 7 Plus has a much more attractive design. This infighting is good for Nokia anyway.

If you are looking for a phone with a better screen-to-body ratio and a good selfie camera, the OPPO F7 is a viable alternative too. The Helio P60 inside the F7 is almost as powerful as the Snapdragon 660 SoC inside the Nokia 7 Plus. Also, if for some odd reason, you fancy a notched display then the F7 could once again be a good option.

But, I’ll tell you guys this – I’d buy the Nokia 7 Plus in a heartbeat.

Ershad Kaleebullah

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?