Nokia 6 2018 review: A solid and serious handset

Alex Kidman 14 May 2018 NEWS

Nokia has refined its Nokia 6 model for 2018 with pleasing results, although it faces an uphill battle in the busy mid-range smartphone market.

Quick Verdict
The Nokia 6 2018 improves on the flaws of its predecessor in most important aspects, making for a phone that's fun to use. The inclusion of Android One gives it expanded appeal as does its refined new design.

The good

  • Android One
  • Good battery life
  • Guaranteed security upgrades

The bad

  • Still a bulky phone
  • Only a single rear lens


When HMD Global announced its first run of Android-based Nokia smartphones, the Nokia 6 sat at the top of its affordable smartphone family, at least until the Nokia 8 came along.

The 2017 version of the Nokia 7 wasn't a bad phone, but it was one that was beset with some serious design issues, mediocre performance and a lack of real standout features.

The good news is that for the 2018 edition of the Nokia 6, HMD Global has gone back to the drawing board to alleviate those issues, making the Nokia 6 2018 a fine budget option.

Mind you, HMD Global can't seem to decide what its actual name is.

We've referred to it as the Nokia 6 2018 to differentiate it from the model that came out in 2017, but HMD Global seems to flick between calling it the "new" Nokia 6 or the Nokia 6.1 (as it was on our review packaging).

This is an important distinction because there are likely still some of the 2017 models out there, and that's not going to be the handset you want.

Nokia 6 2018: Design

The original Nokia 6 had a design that was very serious and also seriously uncomfortable to hold, thanks to a chunky design and stiff rear casing. That was a function of its creation, milled from a single block of aluminium.

That same design idea is still present in the Nokia 6 2018 variant, but with more of a concession to actual human hands.

A very slight rounded edge on the back of the Nokia 6 2018 makes it more comfortable to hold than its predecessor, although this is still a chunky handset.

Measuring in at 148.8x75.8x8.6mm and with a carrying weight of 172g, you'll still notice the Nokia 6 2018 in your hand any time you're using it.

Mind you, so will everyone else because Nokia has given the Nokia 6 2018 a serious facelift, starting with a solid band of colour that wraps around the bezel, a camera lens array and a fingerprint sensor. This gives the design a welcome splash of colour that makes it look and feel like a much more premium phone.

The Nokia 6 2018 as tested was the Black/Copper version, but having gone hands-on with the White/Iron and Blue/Gold finishes at MWC 2018, I can attest that they're all great looking handsets.

In Australia, the Nokia 6 2018 will be available in the Black/Copper and White/Iron finishes, so if you're keen on that shiny Blue/Gold model, you'll have to import one.

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Nokia 6 2018: Camera

The Nokia 6 model released in 2017 featured a 16MP f/2.0 rear camera, and for 2018, that's still what you get. You do now get a Zeiss lens, but this is still very much an average camera, which is very much expected at this price range.

In decent light, it will deliver decent shots, but if you push it in lower light, it can quickly degrade. I did end up wishing HMD Global had done more to make the Nokia 6 2018 stand out.

At the mid-range price the Nokia 6 2018 commands, we're seeing increasing numbers of phones with dual lenses, opening up your photographic possibilities.

It's not all bad news as the Nokia 6 2018 does get Nokia's snazzy camera app with quick access to pro controls for those who like adjusting exposures, ISO settings and apertures.

Nokia's approach to this is one of the easiest to access I've ever tested. A simple flick up of the shutter engages camera mode, while flicking it down changes back to full auto. Onscreen dials make changing parameters easier than on many premium smartphones.

With a little care, you can get quite good pictures from the Nokia 6 2018's camera. Here are some sample images direct from the camera to compare:

Nokia 6 2018 Sample Photos
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Nokia 6 2018: Performance

The 2017 version of the Nokia 6 featured a Snapdragon 430 processor, and for the 2018 iteration, HMD Global has bumped that up to the Snapdragon 630, giving it a solid performance boost out of the gate, although it's still sporting just 3GB of RAM. Like the Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 8 Sirocco, it runs as an Android One phone with stock Android 8.0 onboard.

Here's how the Nokia 6 2018 compared against a range of mid-range and budget phones using Geekbench 4's CPU test:

It wasn't quite as impressive a story with 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme test, although we haven't tested all that many mid-range handsets to date to provide full comparative context:

Processor improvements and the inclusion of Android One give the Nokia 6 plenty of room for performance that's right up there as long as you remember that while it may have premium looks, this is still a budget handset.

Essentially, it's a testimony to how far mobile processors have come because it's not that long ago that you would pay premium money for this kind of performance.

Aside from the camera app, you're not presented with heaps of clutterware pre-installed on the Nokia 6 2018 because it's an Android One phone. That has the added benefit of guaranteed security and feature upgrades for a couple of years, which means the Nokia 6 2018 should see Android P and Android Q relatively rapidly when they come rolling out from Google.

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Nokia 6 2018: Battery life

HMD Global packs a 3,000mah battery into the Nokia 6 2018, with USB C charging but no wireless charging onboard.

For a phone this thick, it might have been nice to get even more battery power, but its onboard battery still gives it more than enough juice to get through the average work day.

Here's how the Nokia 6 2018 compared using Geekbench 4's battery test to full exhaustion with screen dimming enabled:

Geekbench 4's battery test is quite linear, but in day-to-day testing, I haven't found any issues with keeping the Nokia 6 2018 going through a full day. At this price point, that's all you should expect.

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Nokia 6 2018: Verdict

The original Nokia 6 was an ambitious phone for HMD Global to launch as its effective "flagship".

It was also a phone that felt very much like a prototype, with mediocre performance, annoying sharp corners and little to make it stand out.

The Nokia 6 2018 shows just how much HMD Global has learned in 12 short months. It's a substantially better device in most important aspects.

It's still a bit hefty in the hand, so it would be wise to size one up in real life before laying down your cash. In a market full of glitzy but cheaply built mid-range phones, it's a real standout.

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Nokia 6 2018: Pricing and availability

The Nokia 6 2018 is available in Australia through selected resellers at an outright price of $399 in the Black/Copper or White/Iron finishes only. If you want the Blue/Gold variant, you'll need to look to a direct importer.

Nokia 6 2018: Alternatives

You could of course opt for the 2017 model of the Nokia 6, but that would only make sense if you could get hold of it for under $250. Any higher than that, and you may as well get this year's model. It's also vital if you're keen on the Nokia 6 2018 to ensure that you're actually getting one and not overpaying for the older handset.

If you wanted to keep within the Nokia 2018 family, a little more cash will score you the Nokia 7 Plus, while a lot more would get you the Nokia 8 Sirocco.

If Android One is what excites you about the Nokia 6 2018, also consider the HTC U11 Life, the first Android One handset to land on our shores.

In the general mid-range space, phones from manufacturers such as Motorola and Oppo are worth considering, although we're still waiting for the Oppo R15 and Motorola's Moto G6 Plus to formally arrive for testing.

Nokia 6 2018: What the other reviewers say

SiteCommentScore
GSM Arena"The Nokia 6 (2018) is a worthy improvement over its predecessor with a much better chipset and smaller body."3.5/5
TechRadar"The budget beauty is back with better hardware."4.5/5
Stuff"This refreshed bargain blower builds on last year's model in all the right places."4/5
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Specifications

Product Name
Nokia 6 2018
Display Size
5.5 inches
Resolution
1920x1080
PPI
403
Processor
Snapdragon 630
RAM
3GB
Storage
32GB
Operating System
Android 8
Front camera
8MP f/2.0
Rear camera
16MP f/2.0
Battery
3000mAh
Dimensions
148.8x75.8x8.6mm
Weight
172g
Price
$399
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