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Nokia 8 hands-on review: Nokia’s 2017 flagship phone ticks all the boxes

The first Nokia-branded flagship smartphone under its HMD Global overlords is the Nokia 8, a 5.3-inch premium handset packing pure Android and a dual-lens camera. Our first look Nokia 8 review takes a close look at the design, performance, features and specs, as well as that ‘Dual Sight’ snapper.

No one can accuse HMD Global of being layabouts, that’s for sure. In less than a year since they snapped up the right to use the Nokia name, we’ve seen the launch of several feature phones (including the nostalgia-packed 3310 reboot), plus three smartphones. Now you can add one more smartphone to that total, this time a flagship model known as the Nokia 8.

The Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 were unveiled at MWC 2017, all of them affordable value-packed handsets. We certainly liked the low asking prices, yet we all clamoured for the first Nokia flagship phone in yonks. A fresh new premium blower that could rival the likes of the OnePlus 5, Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and the LG G6. Now we have it.

The Nokia 8 has just launched here in Europe, to be released in September 2017. We had the chance to go hands-on for this first look review and so far we’re definitely seeing the potential, although whether it can beat off attention from rivals remains to be seen.

Check out our in-depth comparisons between HMD’s Nokia phones and the biggest competition:

Nokia 8 vs Nokia 6 vs Nokia 5 vs Nokia 3

Nokia 8 vs OnePlus 5

Nokia 8 vs Galaxy S8

Hands-on Nokia 8 review: Specs

Phone Nokia 8
Screen size 5.3-inches
Screen resolution 2560×1440
Fingerprint sensor? Yes
Water resistant? Splash resistant only (IP54)
OS Android 7.1.1
Processor Snapdragon 835
Memory 4GB
Storage 64GB
microSD? Yes
Battery 3080mAh
Rear camera 13MP dual-lens
Front camera 13MP

Hands-on Nokia 8 review: Design

We love how the new HMD handsets retain that classic Nokia look and feel, while updating just enough to keep them modern and stylish. The Nokia 8 is unmistakably a Nokia mobile from the moment you pick it up, even before you turn it on and hear that distinctive four-note tone.

Around the rear, a seamless aluminium backing offers a minimalist design that certainly looks sleek. The Nokia 8 is just 7.9mm at its thickest point (around the camera lens) and 7.3mm otherwise, with a curved edge for a more comfortable grip.

That said, you don’t quite get an edge-to-edge finish here; those bezels above, below and to the sides of the 5.3-inch screen are a little chunky, making this Nokia flagship a similar size to the OnePlus 5. The rectangular finish is definitely reminiscent of those glorious old Lumias, although skinnier and taller. There’s more than a hint of Sony Mobile about it too.

Beneath the display you’ll find hard back, home and recent apps buttons, built into the frame. That narrow home button doubles as a fingerprint sensor, which certainly seems responsive in our early tests.

You can pick the phone up in a matte or glossy finish, depending on your personal tastes. At launch the four choices are matte silver, matte blue, polished blue and the lovely polished copper finish. We definitely love the shiny models although they’re total fingerprint magnets. Sadly there’s no full waterproofing, only splash resistance with an IP54 rating.

Hands-on Nokia 8 review: Screen and media

So far, the 5.3-inch Quad HD display seems to be of true flagship quality. It’s certainly punchy, producing vibrant visuals that stand out from the screen. Thankfully images aren’t overly vibrant or saturated, so photos retain a degree of realism.

Brightness levels, viewing angles and other aspects of the panel are all solid, as you’d expect at this price point. And with its 2560×1440-pixel resolution, you can expect glorious detail levels and not a hint of a pixel in sight.

Got a massive media collection? The Nokia 8’s 64GB of built-in storage is mostly free for your personal use, with 15GB given over to the OS and pre-installed apps. Thankfully Nokia hasn’t laden the flagship phone with pointless additions, as you’ll see in the next part of this review. Also, you can easily expand when needed via the microSD memory card slot, which supports up to 256GB of extra storage.

Hands-on Nokia 8 review: OS and features

HMD is going for a ‘pure, secure and up to date’ version of Android OS here, as it did with the other Nokia Android phones from 2017. In other words, you can expect quite a vanilla Android experience, with no tinkering from the manufacturer.

That’s something seen on few Android phones these days, which often pack an overlay that changes the look and feel of Google’s OS while adding new features. Besides Google’s Pixel handsets, only Motorola mobiles tend to offer a similar ‘no frills’ interface.

Android 7.1.1 certainly runs smoothly on the Nokia 8, as you’d expect given the powerful specs on offer and pure OS. You get all of the usual features on tap, including split-screen multi-tasking and full resource management. Plus, an update to Android O is hopefully going to happen soon after launch.

Hands-on Nokia 8 review: Performance and battery life

Powering the Nokia 8 is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835, the chipset of choice for premium handsets. Not only is it more powerful than pretty much any other mobile platform right now, it’s also impressively energy efficient and packs all kinds of support for smartphone cameras, security and more besides.

In our hands-on Nokia 8 session, we certainly didn’t notice any kind of slowdown. Apps open instantly and browsing swiftly through the Android OS is a smooth experience. Stay tuned for our in-depth review, to find out how the handset handles everyday life and more demanding applications.

The Nokia 8 doesn’t seem to heat up either, thanks to the built-in ‘liquid cooling’ mechanism (reminiscent of the old Lumia 950 flagship handsets). Combined with a graphite shield that disperses the heat throughout the handset, you shouldn’t feel a hotspot even during heavy use.

You can charge the Nokia 8’s 3080mAh battery up via Type-C USB and there’s full support for Quick Charge 3.0. That should give you close to a full charge in roughly an hour. No wireless charging in sight, however.

Hands-on Nokia 8 review: Cameras

The camera experience is one of the features that HMD has closely considered. The Nokia 8 comes packing a 13-megapixel ‘Dual Sight’ mobile snapper, crafted in collaboration with optics expert Carl Zeiss (now a long-standing partnership). This dual lens juts only ever so slightly from the surface of the phone and offers some strong photography chops, continuing Nokia’s focus on strong mobile camera tech.

Check out our full Nokia 8 camera preview for what we think of the flagship’s shooter, as well as a closer look at the various features.

Hands-on Nokia 8 review: UK price and release date

You can expect the Nokia 8 to hit Europe in early September (no exact release date just yet, but stay tuned). The flagship phone costs 599 Euros SIM-free. We’re still waiting on the UK pricing, although we’re fairly confident you’ll be paying £549 for your own slice of Nokia pie.

The Nokia 8 will not be available in the US at the time of launch, although we’re expecting the phone to come to American markets early in 2018.

Stay tuned for our full Nokia 8 review and camera review, coming soon.

Nokia 8 hands-on review video

Here’s our full first look at the Nokia 8 in video form.

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