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Nokia XR20 Review: Near Perfect Rugged Phone With A Feature-Rich Camera
Rugged phones aren't quite popular in the mainstream market but their demand for industrial applications is huge. The limited targeted audience of rugged phones/tablets mostly comprises professionals that need ultra-durable devices with a focus on design reliability and hardware practicality rather than delivering a rich software experience and good display, camera performance. Some notable examples include names such as Panasonic Toughbook series, CAT S61, Doogee S68 Pro/S95 Pro, etc.
- Military-Grade Toughness With IP68 Rating
- Smooth Software Experience
- Stock Android With Three-Year Update Promise
- Big & Bright Display
- Versatile Camera Features (H-Log, Cinematic Mode, Video Pro mode)
- Wireless Charging
- Mid-Range Specs At High Price
- Bulky & Not A Good One-Hand Fit
- Camera Hardware Could Have Been Better
What if you can get the best of both worlds? How about a mainstream phone that doesn't compromise much on other features and still manages to deliver on ruggedness. Such a device could be a good purchase for anyone who's clumsy or has a bit of rough usage. If you can relate, the Nokia XR20 is worth considering. Read on to find out more about the handset in our review.
Nokia XR20 Specifications
Before we talk about the durability aspects of the Nokia XR20, let's get down to the hardware and specifications of the handset. The smartphone flaunts a 6.67-inch Full HD+ (1080 x 2400) LCD panel with a 20:9 aspect ratio and 550 nits peak brightness. The screen gets a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, the toughest glass for mobile screen protection. The phone is powered by an 8nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 5G chipset paired with 6GB RAM and 128GB internal storage.
4,630mAh Battery, MicroSD Card Support, Ten 5G Bands
These specs aren't in line with the current market standards but should do well for basic phone tasks. The internal memory can be expanded to up to 512GB via a microSD card slot. The XR20 has a non-removable 4,630mAh battery cell that supports 18W wired charging and 15W wireless charging with compatible Qi wireless chargers. For connectivity, the XR20 has Bluetooth 5.1, 3.5mm audio jack, USB Type-C port, NFC, Wi-Fi dual-band (2.4GHz + 5.0GHz) and support for ten 5G bands.
Stock Android 11, Physical Fingerprint Scanner & 48MP + 13MP Camera
The XR20 runs on stock Android 11 and comes with a promise of three years of upgrades. It comes equipped with a side-mounted physical fingerprint scanner. For cameras, the handset boasts a dual-lens rear camera featuring a 48MP f/1.79 main camera accompanied by a 13MP ultrawide f/2.4 lens with 123°FoV. The XR20 has an 8MP f/2.0 selfie camera.
Moving on, the phone also has a tiny loop at the bottom left corner to extend practical use cases of field job professionals. It can be used to tie a thread to hook the device with a keychain or to any other item of daily use.
How Tough Is Nokia XR20?
When the non-rugged Nokia phones offer higher material strength and durability than the competition, you can imagine how far a dedicated ultra-durable rugged Nokia smartphone can go. Made out of a hard polymer composite material with a mix of aluminium around the sides, the XR20 is indeed designed for the long run. The smartphone is MIL-STD-810H military standard certified for scratch-resistance, drop-resistance, temperature resistance and water resistance (IP68 rated).
No Need Of 3rd Party Case
It handled multiple drops on hard concrete without gathering any visible scratches and dents for that matter. Long story short, you won't need a third-party case for this handset even if your daily routine involves rough handling of your most personal electronic device. The phone's body is itself an ultra-solid case that can withstand a great deal of torture, be it water damage, dust and mud damage and hard drops on tough surfaces.
But What About The Display?
The toughened polymer casing extends a millimetre beyond the display to prevent the screen from any possible damage that can be caused by a hard impact. And even if anything solid falls on the display, the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus effectively absorbs the impact. It's the toughest treated glass yet for smartphones/tablets and is usually found on premium flagship smartphones from top smartphone brands.
It’s Big, It’s Bulky, It’s A Rugged Phone Afterall
The XR20 isn't an ideal device for one-hand use. The hard casing and the large display makes the XR20 a big and bulky smartphone (171.64 x 81.50 x 10.64), which is difficult to carry around (248 g) and operate with one hand. But that's something given for a big phablet that is made to last at least half a decade even with rigorous use.
I don't mind the hard shell and bulkiness but the screen size could have been a beet smaller to offer better ergonomics. Many might disagree as big screens are generally preferable for media consumption.
Big Screen Offers Good Real-Estate For Multimedia
One positive thing about the large display is the big screen real-estate on offer. It allows for immersive media playback, comfortable multitasking and good enough space for reading and browsing web pages. The IPS LCD screen doesn't match the color vibrancy and smoothness of 90/120Hz refresh rate AMOLED panels on offer at the same pricing; however, it doesn't disappoint with its brightness and touch response. I could read the text and watch videos outdoors without any visibility issues.
Nokia XR20 Ports & Buttons
The XR20 gets the basics right. It offers a 3.5mm audio jack, Type-C USB charging port, and a hybrid dual-SIM slot with microSD support (Up to 512GB). The volume rockers and a physical power button/fingerprint scanner rest on an aluminium edge on the right whereas a dedicated Google Assistant button (Non-configurable) is placed on the left edge.
You also get a programmable button positioned on the top edge for emergency situations. It can be used to alert contacts in case of any emergency or can be configured to perform other important shortcuts such as change of sound profile, turn on/off hotspot, flight mode, screen recorder, sound recorder, torch, calculator, etc.
Nokia XR20 Performance- Mid-Range Hardware At A Premium Cost
The XR20 runs smoothly for day-to-day tasks without any performance issues. Thanks to stock Android software and ample RAM, the handset easily handles light to heavy tasks. You can run multiple apps, shoot 1080p 60fps videos, use Google chrome with multiple pages open at a time, and can even play some demanding games at lower settings without any major performance drops. The budget phone-like hardware is no slouch as long as it is not forced to compete with competition handsets in the sub-45K price-point.
Nokia XR20 Vs Competition
For instance, if you compare the XR20's hardware (display, CPU & RAM) and its performance to any of the value flagship smartphones from OnePlus, Xiaomi or Realme, you will feel disappointed. These handsets offer the best possible chipsets, fluid 120Hz displays and better cameras at the same pricing. What they lack is the Military-grade rugged design and practicality of the XR20 that makes a strong case for the rugged handset.
4,630mAh Battery & 18W Wired-Charging
As far as the battery life is concerned, the 4,630mAh battery cell lasts mostly a day with heavy usage. With moderate use, the battery can go as long as one and a half days. Nokia could have added a 5,000mAh battery cell but then it would have made the device even bulkier. The bundled 18W charger takes around 2.5 hours to refuel the battery from flat to 100%. The handset also supports 15W wireless charging with Qi-compatible wireless chargers.
Stock Android With Assured Updates
Like Nokia's budget handsets, the XR20 also runs on stock Android skin (Android 11) and does not throw unnecessary notifications and advertisements. There's no bloatware and you only get the most important and widely used apps such as Google ecosystem apps, Netflix and Spotify. Nokia has added some useful customization features in display settings and the camera app. As far as the software upgrade cycle is concerned, Nokia has promised three years of software updates for the handset.
Average Camera Hardware With A Rich Camera App
Similar to its underlying hardware, the cameras on the XR20 are best described as slightly above average. There's a 48MP primary sensor capable of taking 48MP full-res. shots with good clarity and decent dynamic range. The 12MP pixel-binned shots only come out crisp and vivid when the lighting conditions are favourable. The low-light shots aren't satisfactory and probably look as average as pictures shot from a sub-15K handset.
The camera's autofocus mechanism is quick and there's no lag in processing pictures, something we have experienced on budget Nokia handsets.
Cinematic Mode- Record Videos In H-Log & 24fps
On the other hand, the video taking capabilities and the add-ons provided are quite impressive. You can record 1080p 60fps videos that look crisp and vivid and show a good dynamic range. The camera has software-based stabilization (EIS) but sadly it's not much of a help. Nokia should have at least given OIS on the primary camera to add more value to the add-on features discussed below.
- The cinematic mode brings a host of features to help you record better videos. You can record videos in H-Log format to have better control over the raw footage for fine-tuning and adding color tones in post-processing.
- The H-log video files have better contrast and dynamic range. Notably, you can only shoot H-log videos in a 21:9 aspect ratio in 24fps for that cinematic look.
- You can also enable 'Wind noise reduction to cut some unwanted noise while recording videos outdoors.
Edit Videos On-The-Go
- Cinema Editor- Built-in video editor with some nifty features. You can add ZEISS anamorphic or blue flares for that professional look. Different LUTs can also be added to the H-Log videos.
- Video Pro Mode- The mode lets you adjust white balance, ISO, shutter speed and exposure in real-time while recording videos. It works within the cinematic mode.
- You can also apply some nice filters in real-time while recording videos in cinematic mode.
Decent Portraits With ZEISS’ Filters
The XR20 lacks a dedicated depth sensor but you can still take some good looking portraits, thanks to a portrait mode backed by a range of ZEISS filters. These include- ZEISS Modern, Swirl, Smooth, Classic, Star and Heart. Each of these modes alters the background blur effect and is best worked with some artificial lights in the background.
As far as the portraits are concerned, pictures with human subjects show natural skin tones and decent edge detection. Some shots with non-human subjects came out even better showing impressive bokeh, vibrant colors and good clarity. Moving on, the 13MP wide-angle shots are very average and fail to impress. Nokia should have provided a better sensor or could have tuned this one better.
Overall, I am quite impressed with the Nokia XR20's camera features. With better hardware, the XR20 could have made for an amazing camera smartphone.
The XR20 is a one-of-its-kind value flagship smartphone with a clear focus on delivering a rugged phone user experience without compromising much on a mainstream smartphone appeal. Even though it lacks the latest hardware and the subsequent performance aspects, the phone's unparalleled durability factor compensates for the losses. If you are in the market for a rugged phone, there's no better option than the XR20.
The handset comes from the trusted brand of Nokia and brings with it the goodness of stock Android software with a solid software upgrade cycle. The camera hardware isn't cutting edge but the camera app and the add-on features make it pretty exciting. The same goes for the underlying hardware and the display on offer. If you can compromise on such features for the durability factor, the XR20 is the rugged handset to go for. The handset is priced at Rs. 46,999 in the Indian market.