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Nokia G21 Review: Budget 4G Smartphone With Clean Software & Long-Lasting Battery
HMD Global-backed Nokia has some good sub-15K 4G handsets under its belt in India. While the Nokia smartphones don't always match the specs and features of their Chinese competitors, they excel at the basics of budget smartphones. The newly launched G21 shares the same DNA. Advertised as an endurance master with a three-day battery life promise, the G21 comes equipped with a hefty 5,050mAh battery cell and runs on the stock Android 11.
- Sturdy Design & Premium Looks
- Clean Software
- Fluid 90Hz Display
- Long-Lasting Battery Life
- Good Connectivity Features
- Not For Power Users
- Average Cameras
- 720P Resolution Display
- Dated Android 11
It's a 4G-only smartphone in the 5G era, but that shouldn't worry you since 5G is still a way off for mass consumers in India. We used the Nokia G21 for over a week as our daily driver and compared its usability with Realme and Redmi's budget handsets. Here's what we found.
Nokia G21 Design & Looks
The Nokia G21 stands out for its simplicity. It isn't trying to be something else by adding color gradients or bold slogans on its back panel. It maintains a very simple yet attractive design language, which makes it more elegant than the competition. We're testing the 'Dusk' color variant, which is rather unique and much better than what competitors are offering. You can also buy the G21 in the 'Nordic Blue' color option.
Nokia G21 Build Quality & Ergonomics
Like most Nokia devices, the G21 is also made from plastic/polycarbonate, but it feels solid and durable. Weighing 190g and measuring 8.5mm thick, the Nokia G21 is neither handy nor bulky. It is borderline ergonomic. Even with a 5,050mAh battery, the device does not feel overly heavy due to its well-managed weight; however, the 6.56" display makes the handset a bit larger.
The one-hand usage might be a bit of an issue for users with smaller hands. The textured back and flat edges come to the rescue by ensuring a good grip for one-hand use.
Dedicated microSD Card Slot
Moving on, the G21 has a Type-C charging port, and a 3.5mm audio jack and comes with a triple-slot SIM card tray that takes in two nano-SIM cards and a microSD card at the same time. The hardware buttons also offer good tactile feedback. The left side of the device has a dedicated Google Assistant button, which isn't customizable. You can't remap it to trigger any other shortcut or action, a lost opportunity.
Overall, the Nokia G21 aces both looks and practicality with its sturdy and ergonomic design. It ends up looking better than most Realme and Redmi devices selling under Rs. 15,000 price category.
Nokia G21 Display
Nokia is trying to catch up with the competition by scaling the specs to improve the user experience. The G21 is the first budget Nokia handset to flaunt a 90Hz refresh rate screen, which would show its benefits to consumers making a shift from the standard 60Hz refresh rate panels. As a result, the UI navigation and scrolling are buttery smooth and match the user experience of mid-range handsets in 2022.
720p LCD, 400nits Peak Brightness & 270 PPI
The other display specs such as resolution, pixel density, and color vibrancy, and the corresponding performance aspects are average at their best. Nokia has offered an LCD with 720p resolution (acceptable 270ppi pixel density) and a peak brightness of 400nits. The display isn't very bright and is mostly good for indoor usage when it comes to video playback and casual gaming. The color vibrancy and contrast are good for the price and the videos look decent on the LCD panel. Sadly, there's no support for HDR video playback.
Nokia G21 Camera Specifications
Similar to the display, the camera also gets one highlight feature in the form of a 50MP main camera capable of taking crisp pictures in daylight. The primary camera is supported by two 2MP sensors, a depth sensor, and a macro sensor. Surprisingly, there's no wide-angle sensor on the Nokia G21, which is fairly common on budget and mid-range devices. For selfies, the Nokia G21 comes equipped with an 8MP fixed-focus camera with an f/1.8 aperture.
Nokia G21 Camera Performance- Mostly Average
- It is the 50MP main camera that does all the talking. Nokia has used a Samsung JN1 1/2.76" CMOS sensor with a 5P lens. The big sensor applies pixel-binning to deliver 12.5MP pictures.
- The pictures taken in broad daylight look decent as long as you are not getting into the details. You will find various inconsistencies upon a closer look.
- For starters, the images show excess sharpness and colors mostly look inaccurate. Even the 50MP high-resolution pictures offer very little value to the pixel-binned shots.
- Portraits turn out pretty decent as the dedicated 2MP sensor comes in handy.
- Macro shots from the dedicated 2MP sensor look below average.
- Surprisingly, the low-light pictures turn out decent for the price.
Nokia G21 Hardware & Software
The G21 is powered by the entry-level Unisoc T606 SoC. Fabricated on a dated 12nm process; the octa-core chipset ensures smooth performance as long as you are not performing any strenuous tasks.
The handset starts to lag as soon as you fire up heavy apps and perform complicated tasks. If you like to multitask, go for the 6GB RAM variant of the handset to experience fewer memory issues on the budget device. The phone's audio performance is also very average and the device is best used with earphones.
Stock Android User-Experience
The G21's strength is its clean software, which ensures a smooth and clutter-free user experience. The number of pre-installed apps or bloatware has been kept to the bare minimum, which is surprising for a budget handset. I also didn't come across any unwanted or forced advertisements in the form of notifications.
Sadly, the phone ships with Android 11, which in 2022 seems dated. Considering Nokia has committed to two major OS upgrades, we can expect the budget device to get Android 13 in the future.
Nokia G21 Battery Life
The Nokia G21 can easily last a day with heavy usage involving long video and music playback, web browsing, social media apps and general usage. The device can even clock two-day usage with moderate usage. The handset's advertised battery life of three days can only be achieved under perfect conditions; however, we can vouch for the handset's long standby time.
Nokia bundles a 10W charger in the box, which takes almost three hours to refuel the hefty battery cell from zero to 100%. But the handset supports up to 18W fast-charging speeds, which should reduce the charging time to a good extent.
Nokia G21 Connectivity
The Nokia G21 supports Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS/AGPS, Wi-Fi (2.4/5G dual-band), and a microSD card for storage expansion.
A phone like the Nokia G21 is most suited to elders in the family who need a reliable handset with long battery life and easy-to-use software. This is not an ideal phone for millennials or youngsters who like to multitask or play games on their smartphones. It's high time now that Nokia should start offering 1080p displays and more powerful chipsets to enhance the overall user experience.