Nokia 5.1 Plus review: A premium, powerful, yet an affordable smartphone

    HMD Global, the home-brand of Nokia have been launching a lot of new smartphones lately, and the Nokia 5.1 Plus is the latest addition to the family. The Nokia 5.1 Plus, just like every other Nokia smartphones launched in 2018, the Nokia 5.1 Plus comes under Android One program, which enables faster software updates with timely security patches.

    In the realm of Rs 10,000 to Rs 13,000 price point, there are a lot of smartphones, which offer fierce competition to the Nokia 5.1 Plus. How does the Nokia 5.1 Plus stack up against the competition? Here is our complete review of the Nokia 5.1 Plus, the most affordable notch-phone from HMD Global.

    Specifications

    • 5.8-inch IPS LCD screen with HD+ resolution with a notch cut-out, protected by 2.5D curved glass
    • Dimensions 149.51 x 71.98 x 8.096 mm
    • MediaTek Helio P60 (4 x A73 1.8GHz + 4 x A53 1.8GHz)
    • 3 GB LPDDR4x RAM and 32 GB internal storage
    • Hybrid SIM slot (dual LTE/VoLTE) 
    • Two nano-SIM cards or a SIM and a micro SD card
    • Android 8.1 Oreo with stock Android UI (Android One)
    • 13 MP RGB sensor with an f/2.0 aperture and a 5 MP depth sensor
    • 8 MP selfie camera with an f/2.2 aperture
    • Fingerprint sensor
    • LTE Cat 4
    • WiFi a/b/g/n/ac
    • Bluetooth 4.2
    • USB Type-C port
    • 3060 mAh Li-ion battery with normal charging

    Design

    There are a few smartphones with a premium build quality, and are priced that cost less than Rs 20,000. However, the Nokia 5.1 Plus is an exception. The Nokia 5.1 Plus is hands down the best-looking smartphone under Rs 15,000 price tag.

    The phone has a glass sandwich design with 2.5D curved tempered glass on both sides with a high-quality polycarbonate mid-frame. Upon holding in hand, the phone feels solid, sturdy, and premium. However, like every other smartphone with a glass back, the Nokia 5.1 Plus is a fingerprint and dust magnet, and in our usage time, we always cleaned the surface of phone multiple times a day, which is a price that one has to pay for a smartphone with an all-glass design.

    At the bottom, the phone has a hole for the speaker, USB type C connector and on the top portion, the device houses the 3.5 mm headphone jack. The only minor issue that we faced with the design of the Nokia 5.1 Plus is the position of the fingerprint sensor. We did not encounter any problem with the actual fingerprint sensor (which is quite fast to read the fingerprint), but, the fingerprint sensor is not recessed much compared to the body of the phone, so one might accidentally tap on the back instead of tapping on the fingerprint sensor.

    There is a bit of a camera bump, so the device does wobble if you keep it on a flat surface. These nitpicking features can be overcome by using a protective case, which will again hide the sheer beauty of the Nokia 5.1 Plus.

    The Nokia 5.1 Plus has a premium build quality with all-glass design, and probably one of the best-looking smartphones at this price range. However, as applicable to every glass design smartphone, the chances of cracking the Nokia 5.1 Plus is double that of the other smartphones with polycarbonate or metal build smartphones.

    Display

    The Nokia 5.1 Plus has a 5.8-inch IPS LCD screen with a notch design. The display is not the highlight of the smartphone, especially, if you are coming from a phone with an FHD or FHD+ screen. The phone has an HD+ IPS panel with a pixel density of 286ppi, which is less than the retina standard (326 PPI). The display on the Nokia 5.1 Plus does look pixelated, and the same is visible even while multi-media consumption.

    The IPS LCD screen on the 5.1 Plus does have great viewing angles, albeit, the colors do look dull and washed out. In the indoor condition, we did not face any issue concerning screen visibility. However, due to the low-brightness panel, the display is not visible under direct (harsh) sunlight.

    The notch on the top of the display does help the smartphone to achieve higher screen to body ratio. However, not every app can utilize the space alongside the notch. The phone comes with the taller 19:9 aspect ratio along with the 5.8-inch screen, which makes the Nokia 5.1 Plus, one of the handy smartphones available in India. So, if you have tiny hands or you love to use a phone with a smaller form factor, then the Nokia 5.1 Plus will not disappoint you.

    Once again, the display seems to be the major let down on the Nokia 5.1 Plus. However, has the screen on the 5.1 Plus is a 720p panel, the phone uses less data compared to the other smartphones with FHD or higher resolution screen devices while streaming online.

    It all boils down to the notch (Nokia 5.1 Plus has a pretty prominent notch). If you are ok with the notch and the slightly lower-resolution panel (which helps the smartphone to conserve battery and data), then the Nokia 5.1 Plus does have a screen that you will low.

    Sound

    The Nokia 5.1 Plus has a mono speaker on the bottom portion of the device, which is not the loudest that we have seen around this price point. However, that does not mean that the speaker on the Nokia 5.1 Plus is a slouch either. The single speaker on the 5.1 Plus gets adequately loud, and you will not face any issue while using it in an indoor condition. The retail package also ships with a pair of wired earphones, which is an added benefit, considering the price of the phone.

    The sound through the headphone jack is on-point and will not disappoint especially if you have high-quality in ear-earphones. The smartphone does work well with wireless speakers and Bluetooth earphones as well.

    Camera

    The Nokia 5.1 Plus is again, the most affordable smartphone from Nokia with a dual camera setup. The smartphone has a 13 MP RGB sensor with an f/2.0 aperture and a 5 MP depth sensor. The Primary camera can record 1080p videos @ 30fps portrait mode, Panorama and other camera features. The Phone has an 8 MP front-facing fixed focus camera on the front with similar camera capability.

    Both cameras can take good-looking pictures in daylight and well-lit condition but do struggle a bit when it comes to low-light photography. If you are a person who posts a lot of pictures on social media platforms, then the photos taken on the Nokia 5.1 Plus will not disappoint you.

    Click here for Nokia 5.1 Plus camera samples

    Primary camera

    Photos taken on the primary camera, especially on natural lighting condition has a lot of details with accurate color reproduction. The primary camera can take good pictures with a lot of clarity and detail. However, the same cannot be said about the low-light performance, photos taken in low-light performance does look washed out and lacks detail. Additionally, the low-light images do come with a lot of noise. The phone lacks any sort of stabilization (no OIS or EIS) so, if you do not have sturdy hands, then the video footage shot on the Nokia 5.1 Plus looks a bit shaky.

    Selfie camera

    The 8 MP front-facing camera on the Nokia 5.1 Plus can take portrait pictures with a single lens. The selfie camera on the Nokia 5.1 Plus can out-perform many smartphones at this budget, especially in natural lighting. The bokeh effect is hit, or miss and the blurring algorithm still needs some work.

    Performance

    The Nokia 5.1 Plus is one of the best performing devices under Rs 12,000 price mark. The phone is powered by the MediaTek Helio P60 SoC, albeit, a lower clock speed chip, compared to other devices like the Realme 1. However, as the phone has a 720p display, you will not notice any difference.

    On raw-benchmarking platforms like AnTuTu and Geekbench, the device beats the competition. On AnTuTu the Nokia 5.1 Plus scores 118319 points with 56773 points on CPU and 22927 points on GPU. For some strange reason, the Geekbench app failed to run on our review unit even after resetting the device.

    Coming to the day to day usage, we were quite skeptical about the performance of the smartphone, as it just has 3 GB of RAM. However, the Nokia 5.1 Plus proved us wrong. With the goodness of stock Android with the powerful yet power efficient MediaTek Helio P60 SoC, the device did perform well even while heavy multi-tasking and running graphics intensive games like PUBG. In fact, even in games like PUBG Mobile, we did not face any significant lag or frame drops, which is excellent for a smartphone that cost just Rs 10,999.

    To conclude, the Nokia 5.1 Plus is a stellar performer with exceptional memory management for a smartphone with just 3 GB of RAM.

    Software

    The Nokia 5.1 Plus scores cent-percentage when it comes to software experience. The Nokia 5.1 Plus runs on Android 8.1 Oreo with the stock user interface. The company has also promised to update the Nokia 5.1 Plus to Android 9 Pie, and the device is likely to receive the next major Android update as well.

    With the stock Android UI, the smartphone feels intuitive and very responsive, be it the multitasking or RAM management the device does not break a sweat. If you are coming from other smartphones with stock Android, you will be entirely familiar with the overall UI of the phone.

    The Nokia 5.1 Plus does support Widevine L1 certification, which enables HD streaming on platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu. This is the one feature, which is not even present in the high-end smartphones and having support for Widevine L1 makes the Nokia 5.1 Plus an exceptional smartphone. Albeit only can only stream up to 720 (HD) as the phone has a display with 720p resolution.

    Nokia has not made any changes to stock Android, which is a great thing and users can always install custom ROMs to change the look and feel of the overall UI. The phone does come with the latest security patch from Google, and the device will receive two major software updates up to 2 years and monthly security patches up to 3 years.

    Battery

    The Nokia 5.1 Plus has a 3060 mAh Li-ion battery with 10W fast charging. Did we mention that the Nokia 5.1 Plus has a USB type C port, if not, then the Nokia 5.1 Plus is the one of the most affordable smartphone with a USB type C port? The battery does take around 2 hours to charge from 0 to 100% using the stock charger. We did try to check the support for fast charging using a third-party fast charger, but we did notice any change in the time required for charging.

    Concerning battery backup, the Nokia 5.1 Plus can last up to a complete day for heavy users. For regular users, the device can last up to 1.5 days on a single charge. The phone can easily offer up to 5 to 6 hours of screen-on-time on a single charge on the mobile network. Using the Nokia 5.1 Plus entirely on a Wi-Fi network can further improve the battery life by an hour to 90 minutes.

    Connectivity and calling

    The Nokia 5.1 Plus does support dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz) with Bluetooth 4.2. Additionally, the smartphone also supports dual LTE or VoLTE, where a user can use two 4G LTE/VoLTE SIM cards at the same time.

    We did not notice any issue with respect to signal reception even in indoor condition. We were able to hear clearly on both voice and video calls on both regular voice calls and VoIP calls. As a phone, the Nokia 5.1 Plus does not have any issues what so ever.

    What's missing?

    Overall, the Nokia 5.1 Plus is a great device, especially for the price tag at which the device is being offered. However, like every other smartphone, the Nokia 5.1 Plus does have some shortcomings as well.

     

    • No dedicated micro SD card slot
    • Low-resolution 720p display
    • Big notch

     

    Verdict

    The Nokia 5.1 Plus is for those who are in the market for a smartphone under Rs 12,000 price tag with a premium design and up to date Android OS with battery life that can last an entire day.

    The Nokia 5.1 Plus does offer exceptional build quality, which makes it stand out from the crowd. The device does have decent cameras on both front and back, which are capable of capturing instagrammable pictures (which can be used on social media).

    The Nokia 5.1 Plus does resemble the build-quality and design that we all associate with Nokia. At the beginning of Nokia-android smartphone era, the offerings from HMD Global were a bit overpriced. With the launch of the Nokia 5.1 Plus, Nokia has stood firm against the competition from Xiaomi, Honor, and Motorola, making a bold statement that the good-looking smartphones with stock Android OS (no bloatware) can be affordable as well.

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