The Little Mid-Range Smartphone That Could

Witchdoctor Rating
  • 8/10
    - 8/10
8/10

Summary

The Nokia 7 Plus

$552

PAT PILCHER takes a detour from the flagship smartphone market to test out a mid-range smartphone – the Nokia 7 Plus.

Reading most tech media, you’d be forgiven for thinking that competition for a share of your wallet or purse was concentrated solely in the flagship smartphone market. The reality is that competition is just as intense in the mid-range smartphone market too.

Nokia’s latest, the 7 Plus, is a mid-range phone whose design spec makes it a serious contender.

It sports a gorgeous design, runs like a dream and has a clean and uncluttered UI. Best of all, it runs Android ONE which means it comes with a guaranteed Android version upgrade and security updates for two years.

This is definitely a peeper-pleasing piece of gear. It’s hewn out of a single piece aluminium and has a matt ceramic coating on its back. It comes with copper-accents, adding a hint of sophistication.

From a design perspective, HMD (Nokia’s brand owner) has put a considerable amount of effort into subtle details. One of the least noticeable is the antenna band. Instead of an ugly plastic strip running across its back, the 7 Plus’s antenna has been built into the edge of its screen.

The screen also sports diamond cut edges. These merge with the chamfered chassis almost seamlessly. As with the 6.1, the sides of the 7 Plus are flat with sharp edges. This can lead to some discomfort with extended use. The flipside of this is that the 7 Plus offers excellent grip. The alloy body also helps ensure it isn’t a slippery customer like its more upmarket counterparts with glass-chassis.

Specs-wise there’s also plenty on offer. Its 6-inch LCD display has the on-trend 18:9 aspect ratio and sports a 2,160 x 1,080 HD resolution. As a mid-range phone, its sides have chunky bezels. All told, its screen is both bright and well saturated. Where the display is so often an afterthought on mid-range phones, it’s a pleasant surprise with the 7 Plus.

The rear looks very much like that of a now standard Nokia design. At the top of the 7 Plus is a dual-lens camera sitting vertically. Below it is a fingerprint sensor. Critics may say it looks plain, but you could also say it’s both understated and tasteful.

Nokia has carved out a name for themselves with their excellent camera implementations and the 7 Plus is no exception. Its dual-lens camera is made up of a 12-megapixel sensor, a f/1.7 aperture lens plus a second 13-megapixel sensor, with a f/2.6 aperture lens. The optics are made by Zeiss. Around the front, there is a surprisingly decent 16-megapixel selfie camera, sporting Zeiss optics.

The camera offers both a bokeh functionality and what Nokia calls a ‘Bothie’ mode. Bokeh mode blurs out the background around a subject. while the bothie mode provides the means of capturing a scene with you in it thanks to both the front and rear cameras being used. Its uses may be limited, but in use it proved surprisingly handy for capturing reactions in both still images and video/live streams.

The camera app is reasonably capable. For shutterbugs, there’s a Pro mode and selection of simple editing tools. Video can be shot at up to 4K. Optical image stabilisation is MIA, but electronic image stabilisation is available which helps when zoomed in and shooting 4K video.

By embracing Android One, Nokia has cleverly increased the desirability of the 7 Plus without bumping up its features and sticker price. With it, you get an almost stock version of Android. There is no bloatware, no duplicated apps and everything runs smoothly. The big win comes in the form of a commitment to both security and platform upgrades for two years.

Perhaps because its user interface isn’t caked in third-party skins and widgets, the 7 Plus runs super smooth. Having all of Google’s apps as the defaults is also a pleasant surprise.

Under the hood sits a Snapdragon 660 processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage space (plus MicroSD card support). I found games were playable on the 7 Plus, even it meant that battery life took hit.

The 7 Plus’s battery is a 3,800mAh beastie. This sounds substantial but it didn’t quite reach the two-day life quoted by Nokia. That said, it was getting heavy use and was paired with numerous Bluetooth peripherals. This saw battery life dwindle after a day and a bit. On the charging front, wireless charging isn’t supported, but Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 has been baked in.

Nokia’s 7 Plus is a quality mid-range offering that has an upmarket feel despite its palatable sticker price. A decent spec combines with a surprisingly good screen and one of the better implementations of Android to date. In short, there’s plenty to like.

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