Nokia X20 Smartphone REVIEW
Nokia’s latest is nicely designed and decently priced and even boasts 5G but PAT PILCHER has a few quibbles.
Nokia has launched a bunch of phones in New Zealand, with most being mid-range or budget devices. This time they’re back with the Nokia X20, which has a distinctly premium whiff to it. With an attractive design, solid battery life, a decent sticker price and three years of Android OS upgrades, there’s a lot to like. But is it any good?
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Nokia smartphones circa 2021 all seem to speak a very similar design language. Anyone hoping the Nokia X20 is a change from the affordable designs of earlier Nokia devices will be disappointed. Why Nokia offers a premium Tupperware device when others offer glass chassis, curved displays and other bells and whistles at a similar price to the X20 is a mystery.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with the X20’s look and feel. Its shimmering metallic finish looks good, and it also feels comfy in the hand. Perhaps the best upside to its plastic finish is that it isn’t a fingerprint magnet. It is a wee chonker though. It has a 9.1mm waist and weighs in at a hefty 220g.
There are little hints that the X20 isn’t a cheapie. There’s a metal band, and it comes in a bronze (Midnight Sun) or blue (Nordic Blue) finish. That, plus the Zeiss-branded circular camera bump lend it a premium look and feel. I just wish that Nokia had opted for a glass chassis instead of plastic.
Spinning the X20 around reveals a decent 6.67-inch display. On its right-hand side are volume controls and a power button. There’s a SIM slot and a Google Assistant button (which is a lost opportunity as it cannot be remapped to execute other functions). I kept hitting it by accident and firing up the Google Assistant. This was, to be honest, bloody annoying.
Grizzles about the Google Assistant button aside, the X20’s display is generous. At 6.67-inches, it isn’t small. It is an IPS LCD beastie, offering up a Full HD+ (2400 x 1080) resolution (which also translates into 319ppi). In use, the display was both vivid and detailed. I was especially impressed with its brightness levels (it maxed out at 523 nits, which was more than adequate for outdoor use in direct sunlight). As a premium offering, I found its bezels and noticeable Nokia-branded chin a bit of a surprise. The display refresh rate is 60Hz when 90 or 120Hz displays are increasingly commonplace at this price point (which, along with the non-remappable Google Assistant button, is another missed opportunity).
The one area where Nokia does have it over most of its competitors is software. Close ties to Google mean Nokia offers several compelling benefits. First and foremost is the Nokia X20’s user interface. Where most other brands slather Android in tacky, annoying, and clunky skins, with Nokia you’re getting the stock Android interface as Google meant it to be. It’s an attractive and intuitive interface that is not bogged down with un-needed visual cruft.
The other benefit is that Nokia offers multi-year security and OS updates. This means that the X20 is a phone you can buy knowing it’ll still have the latest features in three years, something which virtually no other phone at its price point can match.
The beating heart of the Nokia X20 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 CPU which comes with a generous 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which is expandable via a microSD card. While the Snapdragon 480 gives the X20 5G connectivity, it is a tad underpowered. In practice, this means that while the X20 is fine as a daily driver for social media, email, the web (and even making phone calls), demanding game titles and apps will struggle. This is driven by the fact that the occasional stutter when firing up apps was noticeable.
On the connectivity front, the X20 acquits itself well. There’s 5G, Bluetooth 5.0, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, NFC, USB-C, and even that modern-day rarity, a 3.5mm headphone jack. The only thing missing when it comes to connectivity is a kitchen sink.
Tucked away under its hood, the Nokia X20 comes with a 4,470mAh battery. It’s a generously sized battery that delivers thanks to its pairing with a relatively low powered (but energy-efficient) CPU. In practice, this translated into just over a full day and a half of typical use. With light use, two days is probably possible. Nokia says that the X20 has fast charging capabilities. I went from zero to 40% in 30 minutes. It took around 90 minutes for the X20 to hit a 100% charge. Nokia is following Apple and Samsung by not including a power adaptor in the box. Their logic is that most buyers will already have one from a previous phone.
One of the more noticeable features of the X20 is the circular camera bump on the rear. It’s a quad-camera set up with a 64Mp shooter, a 5Mp ultrawide sensor and two 2Mp depth and macro sensors. The 64Mp shooter uses pixel binning to create 16Mp images, which makes a lot of sense given how fast 64Mp photos would gobble up available storage. That said, you can switch back to 64Mp shooting modes.
Photos taken in outdoor daylight conditions were detailed and vibrant. As with most phone shooters, image quality declined as light levels dipped. Pixel noise was noticeable. Detail levels took a hit too. That said, there is a night mode. If there’s enough ambient light, decent low-light images are possible. The depth sensor, when combined with the 64Mp sensor, took good portrait mode photos. If that’s the good, the not-so-good is that the 5Mp ultrawide and the 2Mp macro shooters produced soft washed-out looking images. On the video front, the X20 shoots FHD.
Nokia promises three years of security and software upgrades. Still, I can’t help but wonder if upgrades and a stock Android UI are enough. The X20 doesn’t match the specs and features of other similarly priced or more affordable models from competing brands. That said, the X20 isn’t a bad phone. It’s an inexpensive and well-designed device that packs a decent camera and lots of storage, not to mention 5G. That said, it could do with a faster CPU and a few simple feature tweaks to make it a winner.