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Nokia 5.1 Review: After 6 Months of Daily Use


I bought the Nokia 5.1 back in February and since then I’ve used the device as my daily driver – all the time. So, this is not just a review from someone who has used the device in a few days or weeks. I’m already 6 months in or so, meaning a full review awaits you.

Although I cannot recommend buying the device as per now since there are better devices that go for a similar price at the moment compared to Nokia 5.1 price at that time.

Hardware and Design

The body is sturdy and compact. The device feels light and easy to carry around – suitable for use in any place. It feels comfortable in the pocket. To be honest, since I started using this device, I’m often surprised by how chunky some of the new smartphones really are. With the black color, fingerprints are a major problem.

Often, I have to wipe out the smudges on the back and the front panel – like all the time. The rear camera is well placed alongside the LED flash. The fingerprint sensor is placed under the photography hardware and works just well for a less than Ksh.20,000 device of that time.

Although more brittle materials like glass are nowadays regarded as premium or top-midrange smartphones, Nokia 5.1 body is crafted out of aluminium – a perfect fit for the budget. Externally, Nokia 5.1 looks greater than its price.

The display is 5.5 inches – less than what can satisfy my needs, but for those who would like smaller devices then it is a perfect size. You can comfortably operate this device with one hand thanks to the 18:9 ratio.

Despite the small display size, the front panel is an IPS LCD display with 1080 x 2160 pixels and comes with an 18:9 aspect ratio having an impressive 439 ppi density. In fact, the display is sharper than what Xiaomi’s RedMi Note 7 and Oppo F11 display offers. Apart from the unsatisfying small size to me, the display offers a good experience when streaming HD videos with its vibrant but realistic touch.

The device packs 2GB of RAM paired with 16GB of internal storage and also has a dedicated microSD card storage (up to 128GB). If you want to go for the device, I suggest the 3/32GB variant instead. Sadly, out of the box, nearly half of the internal storage is usable while the rest has been reserved for the system – a bummer, you can say.

With the phone running on Google’s stock Android, 16GB is just not enough – to say the least. Apps often receive updates on a regular basis and in no time, most of the storage will already be chopped.

With just installing apps that I use on a daily basis, I barely remain with 4GB of internal storage to play with. Within no time, I will be fighting back on retaining at least 2GB which has been a recurring problem with Nokia 5.1. You remain with literally no space to store your personal files.

Battery

The device is powered by a 2970mAh battery which lasts for around 9 hours under normal usage. And by normal usage I mean browsing, listening to music, social media usage here and there. To me, that is not the way I carry along with the day. With that, I will be avoiding playing any games – no matter how less intense and still dodge my VPN service as a plague.

Although there is no quick charge support, as you would expect, the device takes roughly two hours to fill up, thanks to the MOXOM charger I bought separately. The time taken to fill up the juice may sound fast but remember is a nearly 3000mAh battery – no surprises.

Camera

The camera is definitely one area that receives compromises in budget smartphones. With a tiny budget like Ksh 16,000 for a smartphone, Nokia 5.1 performs well for that budget.

The single 16MP main camera does not provide great photography but the camera maintains realism and tries to get the perfect shot. To get the perfect shot, however, you need some crazy skills that many people may have not been acquited with, sadly.sample-1

With HDR mode available, it fights to cut much of the daylight brightness to deliver nice shots. For a single-camera setup, night photography should not be anywhere near your ambitions for this device.

Regarding the quality of pictures, I’ll let some of the photos taken do the talking.

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Software

Nokia 5.1 comes with Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box but I already upgraded to Pie as soon as the update came out. So, I’ve been running on Pie since then – I’ve never looked back.

Security patches are always pushed in time – just before the end of the month. The software experience is amazing; an expectation of Android One, no bloat software, and all apps are regularly updated directly from Google’s Playstore.

Performance

  • MediaTek Helio P19 chipset
  • Octa-core CPU (4×2.0 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4×1.2 GHz Cortex-A53)
  • Mali-T860MP2 GPU

For basic usage, I’ve had problems with the device killing background apps. Even though the “Don’t keep activities” option has not been checked and the “Background Process limit” is checked to standard, Nokia 5.1 still kills background apps other than music streaming apps.

This might sound like a personal problem but there have been similar complains in Nokia’s official forums on the same. However, the company stated recently they removed their EvilWell battery-saving feature that was reportedly the root of the problems. Currently, all is well. I can attest to that.

That’s not to say my experience of using Nokia 5.1 is all doom and gloom. Basic performance is great for someone who has not perfected the art of multitasking like me. Although you will still experience slight delays on opening and closing apps. In-app, the performance feels smooth(not that much) – I hardly experience any lags.

On gaming, this device is not optimized for that. As a gamer, you should be redirected elsewhere – the budget segment is not meant for this (in most cases).

Games like Gunship battle, Warship Battle and Forge of Empires play well, although the device catches some heat as you continue. Gaming for more than half an hour, the device gets hot and you would experience impromptu shutdowns for obvious reasons, although that is very rare.

Connectivity

Nokia 5.1 has Dual nano-SIM slots with a dedicated microSD card slot. The device is also among the Nokia devices that support VoLTE. Both sim cards support 4G but not at the same time. Other connectivity options included are Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, GPS & NFC. Plus, well, FM Radio for those who still prefer that but only requires you to plug-in your wired headphones/earphones.

Wrap-up

Budget phones are getting better each and every day thanks to Chinese manufactures. Although this review was not meant to usher anyone to go for the Nokia 5.1 which was launched mid-2018, this was to give you an idea of what it is like to use the device.

PROS

  • Clean software experience(no bloatware)
  • Affordable
  • Excellent display
  • Appealing design
  • VoLTE support

CONS

  • Low internal storage
  • Low amount of RAM
  • Poor camera
  • Big bezels and a large chin

Looking for recommendations for your next phone purchase? Don’t forget to check out our list of best smartphones under Ksh 20,000. Heavy smartphones user? Then check out the phones with massive juice available in Kenya.

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Alvin Wanjala

Alvin is a freelance tech journalist. Talk to me via email at alvinwanjala[at]pm[dot]me

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