Nokia 8 Sirocco review: Nokia’s best flagship lacks standout features

Alex Kidman 8 May 2018 NEWS

The Nokia 8 Sirocco is a fine flagship phone, but it lacks that killer feature that would make it stand out from the pack.

Quick Verdict
Nokia's updated Nokia 8 Sirocco is a fine phone, but its lack of standout features make it hard to recommend in the premium space.

The good

  • Smart curved design
  • Good 3D performance
  • Android One onboard

The bad

  • No 18:9 display
  • Last year's processor onboard
  • No headphone jack
  • No expandable storage
  • P-OLED screen subject to blue tint


HMD Global, the company that currently produces Nokia-branded handsets has largely sold itself on providing solid value phones that challenge what's possible at mid-range and budget price points.

However, last year's Nokia 8 was an exception to this rule as it was HMD's take on a "flagship" phone, right down to pricing. The Nokia 8 Sirocco is the updated take on that idea, sitting well above the rest of HMD's 2018 phone crop in price and specification terms.


Nokia 8 Sirocco: Design

The Nokia 8's design was fine for a smartphone, but it lacked any kind of distinguishing design that made it stand out. HMD has clearly gone back to the drawing board with the Nokia 8 Sirocco, although I'm not entirely convinced that it has gone back to its own drawing board.

The standout visual feature of the Nokia 8 Sirocco compared to its predecessor is the use of a curved edge display, giving it the feel of Samsung's Galaxy "Edge" handsets, such as the Galaxy S7 Edge. There's no actual swipable software edge for extra app access, with the curve only serving as a point of distinction. I'm entirely fine with that since it's the very first feature I disable on Samsung phones, but your tastes may vary.

Nokia proudly points out how the Nokia 8 Sirocco is produced from a single piece of milled stainless steel to give it greater long-term durability. Nokia wanted its phone back, so I didn't test that to the point of destruction, but it's certainly a plus, and one that you're likely to need, given the slippery back of the handset. That's not a unique complaint among 2018's flagships, where the desire for smooth surfaces that look good has led to many slippery handsets.

Measuring in at 140.9x73x7.5mm, the Nokia 8 Sirocco also stands out by the simple dint of using a 16:9 aspect ratio where many of its competitors have shifted up to 18:9 displays. This does mean that the 5.5 inch display of the Nokia 8 Sirocco sits just as wide in your hand as a competing handset (I tested with a Samsung Galaxy S9+), but with much less screen height.

The Nokia 8 Sirocco uses a P-OLED display, and like similar phones such as the Pixel 2 XL or LG's own V30+, that raises concerns about the level of colour clarity when the phone is viewed at an off-angle. Straight on, it's fine and has a bright white display, but tilt the Nokia 8 Sirocco and that telltale blue shift happens quite rapidly. Your tolerance for this may vary, and it's only particularly noticeable on bright white pages... which include a lot of web pages, such as this one.

The Nokia 8 Sirocco's controls sit on the right hand side with slightly sharp buttons sitting on the metal banded frame. The single SIM card slot sits low on the left hand side, but there's no microSD expansion capability on the Nokia 8 Sirocco. Around the back, you'll find the dual lenses, sitting on a prominent camera bump just above the circular fingerprint sensor.

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Nokia 8 Sirocco: Camera

Nokia's premium phones have traded on its tie-up with premium camera maker Leica with generally solid results. For the Nokia 8 Sirocco, you're looking at twin dual 12MP sensors at the rear, with an f/1.4 aperture on the primary sensor, alongside an f/2.6 2x optical zoom sensor. That jump in aperture will be immediately apparent the first time you zoom in under less than ideal lighting conditions as the noise is all too apparent, all too quickly. That's certainly not a unique situation for this type of camera, but then dual lenses with a 2x optical zoom isn't, by itself, a unique selling proposition.

Like its predecessor, the Nokia 8 Sirocco does allow you to combine the rear lens with the front facing 13MP sensor for what it calls "bothies", offering a hybrid of your own face and whatever it is you're staring at. That is a unique proposition, albeit one that's hardly set the world on fire just yet. Bothies work as well on the Nokia 8 Sirocco as they ever have, so there's perhaps some appeal here for narcissists who also like to share their view.

Nokia doesn't do a lot of software optimisation on the Nokia 8 Sirocco (more on that in a second), but the one area where it does offer a point of difference is in the camera application itself. Nokia's camera easily switches between automatic and pro modes with an easy-to-adjust slider to modify your photo results. If you're the snap-and-forget type, this won't matter to you, but those wanting more fine control over their snaps will appreciate how easy Nokia has made this on the Nokia 8 Sirocco. It's not as though other phone manufacturers don't offer pro modes, but making them so easy to access and modify is a huge plus. On other phones, they're often several swipes or, in some cases, menu selections away.

Actual photo quality with the Nokia 8 Sirocco is solid without being absolutely exceptional in any way. That's a pity for a phone in the premium space because while the Nokia 8 Sirocco can take decent pictures, photo quality is a key comparison battleground for any premium handset. You're not likely to be all that disappointed in the way the Nokia 8 Sirocco takes photos, but at this point, it arguably needed more to really stand out. Here's a selection of photos taken with the Nokia 8 Sirocco for comparison:

Nokia 8 Sirocco Sample Photos
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Nokia 8 Sirocco: Performance

The Nokia 8 Sirocco is a 2018 flagship, but you wouldn't know that by checking out its specifications, which are very much rooted in what was top-tier in 2017. Nokia has opted to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 for the Nokia 8 Sirocco, just as it did for the Nokia 8. There's nothing ostensibly wrong with the 835, which is a proven workhorse of a processor, but it does mean that the Nokia 8 Sirocco has to compete with 2018's flagships, many of which are sporting the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 845.

Nokia's hidden weapon here may well be the fact that all of its 2018 phones, except the Nokia 1 are Android One devices. Android One devices may as well be Pixel-lite devices since the whole concept is that their software is maintained by Google, rather than manufacturers. This means light operation and the promise of rapid software updates rather than the usual tangled mess we see from other brands.

The Nokia 8 Sirocco isn't the first Android One phone to reach our shores, with HTC taking that particular crown via the HTC U11 Life. However, it is the first premium handset to hit Australia with Android One, and that gave me some solid hopes for its performance, even though it's not quite cutting edge under the display.

Here's how the Nokia 8 Sirocco compares using Geekbench 4's CPU test:

And here's how it compared for 3D graphics performance, using 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme:

The Nokia 8 Sirocco performs well in benchmarks, if not exceptionally, but it's the Android One side of the equation where it shows more value. Like the Pixel 2/Pixel 2 XL, Google's software optimisations really make the most of the processing power open to the Nokia 8 Sirocco, with smooth overall performance and snappy switching between applications. As we see more Snapdragon 845 phones hit the market, and as Android P emerges, that speed advantage may drop off over time, but for now, it's a pleasantly quick phone.

You also get the advantage of a very uncluttered phone. Aside from Nokia's own camera app, this is a very clean Google experience, which means that you can customise it to fit your own needs. Android One also means it's guaranteed to see two years' worth of upgrades, which should see it through Android P and Q as well as security upgrades in its serviceable life.

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Nokia 8 Sirocco: Battery life

The Nokia 8 Sirocco is equipped with a sealed 3260mAh battery, relatively large for a phone of this size. It supports both Qualcomm's fast charging and the Qi standard for wireless charging, so there's plenty of scope to quickly boost its charge during the work day.

In straight line battery testing terms, the Nokia 8 Sirocco sat firmly in the middle of the pack when we tested it using Geekbench 4's Battery test to full exhaustion with screen dimming enabled:

Geekbench's test is quite linear with a repeated workload. In more anecdotal testing, the Nokia 8 Sirocco managed a day's moderate usage with power to spare, but two days would be beyond it unless you were a very light user indeed. If you were, the Nokia 8 Sirocco is perhaps wasted on you.

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Nokia 8 Sirocco: Verdict

The Nokia 8 Sirocco is a fine handset for the most part, and easily the best handset that HMD Global/Nokia has produced to date.

The problem is that this is all it is, and that's as enthusiastic as I find myself getting about it. Have no doubt, if you like Nokia's design style and you wanted more than the Nokia 8 could muster, you'll be very happy with it. It's just that for every plus point this phone could muster, I could find issues not present in other phones, without finding anything that I could truly call a standout feature.

The Nokia 8 Sirocco is sold as a premium handset. In 2018, you can get all the phone power you want (or need) out of mid-range models, and that means anything commanding a premium price has to stand out. The Nokia 8 Sirocco is a good phone, but it's not a great phone, and that's what it needed to be.

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Nokia 8 Sirocco: Pricing and availability

The Nokia 8 Sirocco will go on sale in Australia through JB Hi-Fi for $1,199 outright. There are no announced carrier plans at this time, so if you want one, you'll have to buy one outright and match it to a SIM-only plan.

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Nokia 8 Sirocco: Alternatives

The Nokia 8 Sirocco's $1,199 price point gives you a lot of room to play with in terms of comparable devices, especially if buying outright. We've seen Samsung's Galaxy S9+ offered around that price through direct resellers with its exceptional camera. If clean Google is your jam, consider the Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL.

LG's G7 ThinQ will launch locally in June, most likely at a similar price point, and that means it's also possible to score decent discounts on the LG V30+, which has a similar P-OLED screen.

Huawei's P20 Pro is earning plaudits for its display screen, and while we're waiting on confirmation of its local pricing, it's already popped up with a few direct sellers around this price point.Back to top

Nokia 8 Sirocco: What the other reviewers say

Site Comment Score
TechRadar "The Nokia 8 Sirocco is a beautiful phone that's fast to operate and has great battery life. Where it mostly lets you down is in the camera department." 3.5/5
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Specifications

Product Name
Nokia 8 Sirocco
Display Size
5.5 inches
Resolution
2560 x 1440 pixels
PPI
534 ppi
Processor
Snapdragon 835
RAM
6GB
Storage
128GB
Operating System
Android 8.0
Front camera
5MP
Rear camera
Dual 12MP
Battery
3260 mAh
Dimensions
140.9 x 73 x 7.5 mm
Weight
TBC
Price
$1,199
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