Nokia, a brand owned by Finnish start-up HMD Global, recently refreshed its Nokia 5-series with a notch-based screen. In retrospective, this is the same series that marked the beginning of Nokia smartphone with Google Android operating system. This series has since then been upgraded thrice – from Nokia 5 to Nokia 5.1 and now Nokia 5.1 Plus. With every successive upgrade, the Nokia 5-branded smartphone has become better, and the new Nokia 5.1 Plus has turned out to be one of the most balanced smartphones in its segment.
The Nokia 5.1 Plus has a glass on the front and back and a thick glossy frame sandwiched in between them. The chassis is thick and has a curved profile that makes it easy to hold in hand. However, the glossy paint job and glass build attract fingerprints easily, therefore requires regular cleaning. At first impressions, the front of the phone, with the screen turned off, looks similar to the iPhone 7. It has a compact form factor, similar to smartphones with a screen size of 5.5-inch of conventional 16:9 aspect ratio. Thankfully, the phone is lightweight and feels nothing like metallic smartphones in the same segment.
On the back, the phone sports vertically aligned dual camera module and LED flash placed at the upper centre, followed by a circular fingerprint sensor. The camera module protrudes a little from the body, therefore makes the phone unstable on flat surfaces, making the module ring prone to easy scratches and damage. Overall, the Nokia 5.1 Plus has a no frill design with a premium glass body and a lightweight profile.
The Nokia 5.1 Plus sports a 5.8-inch screen of HD+ resolution, stretched in 19:9 aspect ratio due to a notch on top. The notch area is significantly bigger than the one seen in the Nokia 6.1 Plus or any other smartphone in the same segment. It is almost the size of notch we have seen in the iPhone X. However, the large notch area accommodates just the front camera, earpiece and sensors. At a time when other smartphone makers are trying to trim the notch as much as possible, the notch in the Nokia 5.1 Plus looks aged.
Moving from notch, the screen has big bezels around it and a thick chin at the bottom. Though the bezels are not thick, the curved glass profile above the screen makes them look reasonable. As for the lower chin, it helps in holding the phone and resting the thumb while reading a document, article or general news on the phone.
In terms of output, the display is bright and has good sunlight legibility. However, the colours look muted that hampers its use playing multimedia content such as videos on YouTube, Amazon Prime Videos, Netflix, etc. Due to limited screen area around the notch, apps notification also does not show icons on the top bar, and requires a swipe down to access all notifications.
The Nokia 5.1 Plus is powered by MediaTek Helio P60 system-on-chip (SoC), mated with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, expandable up to 400GB via microSD card. The phone boots Android Oreo out of the box with no bloatware installed. Being a member of Android One family, it also comes with guaranteed two years of Android upgrades and three years of monthly security updates.
The user interface looks clean and the phone feels swift in operations. The performance is smooth across user interface and the phone keeps up even when put through daunting tasks. However, the phone shows thermal inconsistencies at times, especially when the battery is low. The phone warms up a little, not to a point where it becomes unbearable to hold or operate. On call, the front also warms up that makes it feel uneasy to use for long duration calls. However, the thermal inconsistencies show up only some time, and most of the time it works just fine.
Being a budget smartphone, the Nokia 5.1 Plus has good processing power under the hood. However, the phone is incapable of handling graphic intensive games at high graphic settings. At best, games like PUBG and Asphalt 9 work with graphics set to low or minimum. Changing the graphics to medium or high hit frame rate and make the games graphic look jarred. However, the Nokia 5.1 Plus performance seems to be on-par compared to phones in the same segment, and even better in some cases.
Powering the phone is a 3,050 mAh battery, which supports fast charging using bundled 5V/2A wall charger. The power efficient processor and screen helps the phone sail through more than a day on single charge on a mixed usage, which includes video streaming, audio streaming, social media usage, calls, messages and camera usage. Thankfully, the Nokia 5.1 Plus boasts a USB type-C port for charging and data transfers. This is one feature that only a handful of budget smartphones have, therefore, works in favour of the Nokia 5.1 Plus.
The Nokia 5.1 Plus boasts dual camera module on the back, featuring a 13-megapixel primary sensor mated with 5MP depth-sensing lens. There is an 8MP camera on the front for selfies. The primary camera is tuned to take photos with cool colour temperature. The output shows tint of blue and the detailing is also limited. The dual camera module allows portrait shots and bokeh effects. However, the object and background segmentation is not up to the mark and the output shows unnatural blur, especially around the object edges.
The camera works fairly better in good light conditions. However, it struggles to keep up in low light. The camera interface is loaded with basic Nokia tools such as Bothie mode, which allows user to take shots from back and front camera simultaneously, auto HDR mode and beauty mode. There is a manual mode hidden inside camera menu, but the mode is limited to basic settings such as exposure, focal metric and white balance settings. Key granular controls such as ISO settings, shutter speed, focal length, etc. are missing in the manual mode, rendering it useless.
Interestingly, the camera supports live video sharing on Facebook and YouTube. As for video quality, the camera is capable to record 1080p videos at 30fps from primary camera and 720p videos at 30fps from selfie camera. The video recording footages show good amount of details. However, like still camera, the video camera also suffers in low light.
Priced at Rs 10,999, the Nokia 5.1 Plus is a balanced budget phone that has some strength in all areas. Imaging is the only weak area for this smartphone. However, considering the price segment, the camera performance is satisfactory, if not good. The phone manages to perform day to day operations with ease and the stock Android interface gives in an edge above the rest.