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Nokia 8 review: Hands on with Nokia’s top-tier flagship comeback

After a brief hiatus, Nokia has returned to the world of smartphones. So far, however, its planned resurgence hasn’t gone off with a bang so much as a faint whimper, and the phones we’ve been treated to – for lack of a better word – have failed to recapture the firm’s past glories. Now that the firm’s first proper flagship phone, the Nokia 8, has finally landed, the question is whether this is the handset that can turn the company’s fortunes around. Going by what I’ve seen so far, the answer may well be yes.

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Nokia 8 review: What you need to know

Nokia has already launched a handful of phones this year, but the Nokia 8 is its premium flagship handset. Equipped with a 5.3in, 2,560 x 1,440 display, 4GB of RAM and the latest Snapdragon 835 processor, this is a top-tier handset, with a suitably high price point. Expect Android Nougat right out of the box, with Android O making an appearance sometime in the near future.

Nokia 8 review: Price and competition

At £600, the Nokia 8’s price is very much what you’d expect from a flagship device. You might think it a little steep – especially considering that the Nokia 6, one step down, costs just £200. But don’t let that fool you: the Nokia 8 is a flagship in every respect, and you’re getting a top-tier phone with your hard-earned cash.

At this price, though, the Nokia 8 faces stiff competition. There’s the Samsung Galaxy S8 to contend with – which has just dropped below £600 – and the Google Pixel range starts at £600, too. If you’re willing to forgo Android, there’s also the iPhone 7 family to consider, which works its way up from a starting price of £600.

Nokia 8 review: Design and key features

The first thing you’ll spot is the 5.3in, 2,560 x 1,440 display on the front. That resolution amounts to a pixel-perfect density of 554ppi, and Nokia has wisely opted to protect it with a sheet of Gorilla Glass 5. It’s a tad disappointing to note that the Nokia 8 lacks the snazzy edge-to-edge displays of the Galaxy S8 and LG G6, but it’s a decent screen nonetheless. It’s bright and clear, and exactly what we’d expect to find on a flagship phone.

Nokia has really pushed the boat out when it comes to design, though. While its other handsets have failed to inspire, Nokia has drawn on the design cues of the iconic Lumia handsets to create something pretty special. The 8 is wonderfully slim, measuring a dainty 7.3mm thick, and as it’s crafted from just a single block of aluminium, it both looks and feels like an absolute stunner.

Everyone loves a nicely chamfered edge, and these are quite plainly some of the finest chamfers you’ll encounter on a smartphone. It doesn’t just look good, though: the curved sides ensure that the handset sits snugly in the hand, and make it easy to use the fingerprint reader without adjusting your grip or shuffling the phone about in your palm.

Nokia 8 review: Camera

It’s the camera which really sets the 8 apart from the crowd. Out back, you’ll find a Zeiss-branded dual-camera setup, with one being a monochrome f/2.0 13-megapixel sensor, and the other incorporating a 13-megapixel bog-standard RGB sensor. The two work in tandem, with the monochrome sensor capturing detail and the RGB sensor capturing colour. This is a technique used by several other recent flagships from rival manufacturers, but the end result is an image with oodles of detail and bright, punchy colours.

One particularly intriguing new feature is what Nokia is calling a “bothie”: the ability to take pictures with both the front and rear cameras simultaneously. Press the shutter button and both shots are squeezed into a single frame, with a snap of your reaction on one side, and the view you’re gawking at on the other. It’s a neat little addition, and a feature that is perfectly suited for Facebook and YouTube live streams.

Nokia 8 review: Performance and battery life

The Nokia 8 has the kind of horsepower you’d expect for a modern flagship. There’s Qualcomm’s latest octa-core processor on board – the Snapdragon 835 – and this is partnered with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (expandable up to 256GB via microSD). That’s a reliable recipe for high-end performance, no question about it.

Nokia also talked up the Nokia 8’s “advanced heat management solution” at its launch. In short, a liquid-cooled copper pipe runs across the length of the Nokia 8, with graphite shielding dispersing heat from the Snapdragon chipset throughout the metal shell. This all sounds very impressive, and Nokia says it’s the perfect way to keep heat levels to a minimum, and thus – potentially – extend battery life.

If the folks at Nokia are to be believed, battery life is another area where the Nokia 8 may be able to best its rivals. They gave a vague ballpark figure of around a day-and-a-half on a single charge of its 3,050mAh battery – we’ll just have to wait and see whether those promises match reality in our testing.

Nokia 8 review: Early verdict

It all looks highly promising, but the burning question is whether there’s still room for Nokia in 2017. Before now, I’d have argued not, and especially so given the firm’s recent track record with middling handsets like the Nokia 3. But it looks like the Nokia 8 may just put the Finnish firm back on course – there’s every chance that this smartphone will see Nokia grabbing headlines for all the right reasons come September time.

It certainly helps that Nokia has opted to build a more traditional flagship rather than pushing niche, high-end features – case in point, it isn’t asking for absurd amounts of cash like Asus with its £800 Zenfone AR. Granted, the Nokia 8 might not be as flamboyant as key rivals such as Samsung’s stunning Galaxy S8, but with bang up-to-date internals, promising dual rear cameras, and a design that befits its asking price, the Nokia 8 is a confident stride in the right direction.

Stay tuned for my full Nokia 8 review in the near future.

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