Nokia 8.3 5G review
Quick verdict: The Nokia 8.3 5G has been long delayed in Australia, but the wait was (mostly) worth it.
- Exceptional battery life
- Clean Android UI with guaranteed updates
- 5G ready
- Cameras could be better
- Side fingerprint sensor isn't great
- Side Google Assistant button is awful
- No water resistance or wireless charging
64MP + 12MP + 2MP + 2MP
Finder rated as Excellent vs similar phones
Power, storage and battery
|Launch price (RRP)||$0|
HMD Global, the folks behind all the current Nokia phones, should have had an early 5G hit on its hands with the Nokia 8.3 5G, thanks in part to its design and feature set as well as its tie-in status to the still-to-be-released James Bond film No Time To Die.
Then along came coronavirus, and everyone's plans changed. In the intervening period, we've seen a number of 5G-capable phones built around the Snapdragon 765G processor, but Nokia's core design ideas still allow the Nokia 8.3 5G to stand out from the crowd, especially if you were left wanting a little more out of the Google Pixel 5.
- 6.81-inch FHD screen
- Single colour choice
- Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
- Side-mounted Google Assistant button is annoying
Any phone with a 6.81-inch display is, by its very nature, going to be rather large in the hand. That's certainly true for the Nokia 8.3 5G, which measures a hefty 171.90x78.56x8.99mm. It's a lot of phone to take in at once, with a relatively discrete front hole-punch camera and a slightly larger bottom bezel than many other "full screen" phones. I'm still not sure if that's simply present so that HMD Global had somewhere to place the Nokia logo.
High mid-range phones are often available in multiple colours, but the Nokia 8.3 5G exists in just one, a shifting metallic blue finish that HMD Global calls "Polar Night". It's certainly eye-catching, especially as there's a slightly lighter blue tone around the ring-shaped camera bump on the rear of the phone.
Unlike many of its competitors, Nokia hasn't abandoned a full headphone jack for its premium flagship phone, although it is rather oddly placed at the bottom right-hand corner of the phone. The right-hand side includes a combination SIM card and microSD tray, volume controls and a side-mounted, very thin fingerprint sensor.
That sensor is one of the weak points of the Nokia 8.3 5G's design, largely because it will often fire up at the smallest touch, which quite often meant that even when I wanted to unlock the phone, it would declare I'd already tried too many times. As a result, I ended up using a PIN far too often for my tastes.
Even less appealing is the button on the direct opposite side of the fingerprint sensor. It's a quick action button to invoke Google Assistant, and unless you disable it, you're going to tap it a lot every time you pick the Nokia 8.3 5G up.
Google Assistant doesn't care about screen locking, so very often when I was trying to hold the Nokia 8.3 5G and biometrically unlock it, I'd instead be greeted by a Google Assistant I didn't want, simply because the phone registered the press on the other side. Placing it higher up the phone body would have totally eliminated this problem, but to make matters worse, all you can do is disable the button completely. You can't even remap it to some other function if you wanted to.
One feature we have seen on some of the 765G-packing phone crowd is water resistance, but it's sadly not a feature of the Nokia 8.3 5G. It should be workable for very light splashes of water, but full immersion would be a very bad idea.
- Quad-lens camera, but less flexible than you'd think
- Decent video shooting modes
You really can't miss the Nokia 8.3 5G's rear cameras, which sit in a circular array at the rear of the phone, giving it a pretty significant camera bump. Nokia refers to this as a "quad-lens" camera array, and while they're not exactly fibbing about there being four lenses, there's really only three that you will shoot with – and one that you're more likely to take most of your shots with anyway.
That's the primary 64MP sensor, which is joined by a 12MP ultra-wide and 2MP macro sensor for actual capturing duty, alongside a 2MP depth sensor. It's a sign of just how far mid-range camera technology has progressed that this can't help but feel a little ordinary. In prior years, you'd struggle to find that kind of set-up even on premium-priced flagship phones.
Rather predictably, the 2MP macro lens isn't great at capturing lots of detail or light without a tripod handy, although the ultra-wide sensor fares a little better. Checking out portrait modes to force the depth sensor to fire up revealed shots that actually felt a lot more computational than they should, with some displaying some rather odd focus areas.
One area where the Nokia 8.3 5G does pitch above the competition is in video shooting, with a dedicated cinema mode that supports up to 4K/24fps and an inbuilt editor that can add some interesting effects to your video compositions. As always with this kind of technology, there's a big question of shot choices and taste at play as to whether these features are useful to you, but among the mid-range 5G crowd, video is a highlight of the Nokia 8.3 5G camera experience.
- Snapdragon 765G offers good performance – as expected
- Only 128GB of onboard storage, but it's expandable
- Android One gives you peace of mind for upgrades
- 5G capable
- Basically a big Pixel phone
The core recipe of the Nokia 8.3 5G was quite a new one back when HMD Global unveiled the phone earlier in the year, but by now, we've seen quite a few phones built around the Snapdragon 765G platform with 8GB of RAM.
So it's no surprise at all that the Nokia 8.3 5G benchmarks at a nearly identical rate to all of them. The outlier in this case is Samsung's Galaxy S20 FE, but that's a phone where the 5G component is built around a more expensive Snapdragon 865 – and is more costly as a result.
Here's how the Nokia 8.3 5G compares using Geekbench's CPU test:
Here's how the Nokia 8.3 5G compares using 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme and Wild Life tests:
The larger screen of the Nokia 8.3 5G does add some appeal to using it over other 5G-capable devices, but the fact that, like other Nokia phones of late, it's part of the Android One program is what gives it a real edge. Android One phones are guaranteed at least two years of full Android updates and three years of security updates, managed by Google.
The Nokia 8.3 5G is an Android 10 phone, so it'll see at least Android 11 and Android 12 down the track, and like other Android One phones, it's not cluttered up with launchers or additional apps to speak of. I couldn't help but compare it against the Google Pixel 5 and Google Pixel 4a 5G. Those are great phones in their own right, but they're rather plain, which is not an accusation you could throw at the Nokia 8.3 5G.
As the suffix suggests, the Nokia 8.3 5G is fully 5G capable as well. Your access to 5G will vary by location, and here in Australia, we're still only sitting on sub-6 style networks. In my own testing with a Telstra 5G SIM, I was able to hit near 400Mbps down in suburban Sydney in one test, only to get a sub-50Mbps score just a few minutes later nearby. However, that's totally the nature of mobile networks, and I'd expect we'll see more variance as more 5G phones actually start being used.
- 4,500mAh battery that lives up to Nokia's battery claims
- No wireless charging
A big screen plus 5G is usually a recipe for mediocre battery life, and I've been down that track with prior Nokia phones that have promised "up to" two days battery life too many times to entirely trust HMD Global when those claims are made.
The shocking thing with the Nokia 8.3 5G is that, for once, HMD Global was entirely on the money. Despite that huge, bright display, the Nokia 8.3 5G is an utter battery powerhouse, both in benchmarks and day-to-day usage.
Our standard battery test involves looping a 1080p video at full screen with full brightness and moderate volume for an hour with a fully charged handset. What we typically look for is for a phone that can hit at least 90% remaining after that hour because that's typically a sign of a phone that will last at least for a day's moderate usage.
Comparing it against the other mid-range 5G Android phones available right now, here's how the Nokia 8.3 5G compared:
The Nokia 8.3 5G truly is in a class of its own in this respect, and that's not just a figure that exists in theoretical benchmark terms. Using the Nokia 8.3 5G over a number of days of anecdotal testing, I could very easily and very comfortably stretch into a second day without having to go anywhere near a charger.
The one detail you won't find in the Nokia 8.3 5G is Qi wireless charging. When the time finally does come to give the shiny blue behemoth some volts, you'll have to do so via USB-C cabled charging.
Should you buy the Nokia 8.3 5G?
- Buy it if you want a more refined Pixel phone with great battery life.
- Don't buy it if you need better cameras, a smaller device or water resistance.
HMD Global was early to announce the Nokia 8.3 5G, but it's taken its time to hit the local market. Just like every other Snapdragon 765G phone we've tested recently, delivering it at a sub-$1,000 price point has involved a share of compromises; for the Nokia 8.3 5G, it's in the camera and lack of water resistance and wireless charging.
The counterpoint to that is the very welcome inclusion of Android One, which rather makes this like a very fancy Google Pixel phone, and a very interesting competitor to devices like the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G. It's cheaper than the Pixel 5 but more pricey at full retail price than the Pixel 4a 5G – but with a much nicer design, if you ignore that annoying Google Assistant button.
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Images: Alex Kidman