Last year, Nokia launched its flagship handset — the Nokia 8 (review). However, the handset met with a tepid response with most reviews criticising it for its poor camera performance and not living up to its high price tag. Six months later at MWC 2018, instead of unveiling the successor to Nokia 8, the HMD Global-owned company unveiled an upgraded version of the handset at the MWC 2018 expo: the Nokia 8 Sirocco.
While the Sirocco variant of the Nokia 8 features the same internals as the regular Nokia 8, it comes with an upgraded design, display, and camera which should overall make it a more attractive package. However, six months is a long time in the world of smartphones and 2018 flagships like the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus (review) are already out. So, is the Nokia 8 Sirocco good enough to take on them with its dated internals and upgraded design? Let’s find out in our review.
Nokia 8 Sirocco Review: Design, Build Quality
Like with any other flagship smartphone released in 2018, the Nokia 8 Sirocco features a 3D curved Gorilla Glass panel at its rear and front which sandwiches a stainless steel chassis. The use of glass along with a stainless steel chassis gives the Nokia 8 Sirocco a very premium look and feel. The steel chassis, in particular, makes the Sirocco feel more premium than the likes of the OnePlus 6 and even the Galaxy S8 as it feels solid and hefty.
Despite the glass back, the Nokia 8 Sirocco features plastic inserts in its chassis for antenna lines. Thankfully, Nokia does include Qi wireless charging support on the device. It is not fast wireless charging as seen on flagship Samsung Galaxy smartphones, but it is still better than not having wireless charging at all (we are looking at you, HTC U12+).
The top of the phone is devoid of any ports and only houses a microphone, while the USB-C port and mono speaker are located at the bottom. The speaker is below average in performance and sounds very harsh at high volumes. The single nanoSIM card slot is located on the bottom left edge of the handset. The lack of a dual-SIM card slot on the Nokia 8 Sirocco instantly makes it a deal breaker for many, and it is puzzling to see Nokia miss out on such a key feature from its flagship phone. The rear of the phone houses the vertically oriented dual-camera setup along with a fingerprint scanner. The Nokia and Android One logo can also be found at the back.
The Nokia 8 Sirocco features an IP67 certification which makes it dust and water-resistant. While Nokia has not made any compromises with the design and build quality of the Sirocco, it has removed the headphone jack from the handset. If you have already jumped on that bandwagon, it is not going to make much of a difference to you. But if you still prefer phones with a headphone jack, the Nokia 8 Sirocco is a no-go for you.
Nokia 8 Sirocco Review: Display
At the front, the handset sports a 5.5-inch curved P-OLED display with QHD resolution. The display is also protected by a 3D curved Gorilla Glass 5 panel. Unlike other handsets released this year, the Nokia 8 Sirocco continues to feature a 16:9 aspect ratio display, though its top and bezels are pretty small. If you are not a fan of 18:9 displays and yet want a phone with minimal bezels, the Nokia 8 Sirocco perfectly fits that bill. The curved display — akin to what we see on flagship Samsung’s Galaxy S series — ensures that the side bezels are not visible at all.
It also blends beautifully with the steel chassis. However, the steel chassis and the rounded corners are a bit too sharp and dig into the palm of your hands which can lead to an uncomfortable feeling when using the phone for long periods of time. The volume rocker and power button — located on the right edge — are somewhat tactile in nature with their being a clear room for improvement.
The Nokia 8 Sirocco is definitely a beautiful phone to look at, but the sharp edges mean it is not that pleasant to use in hand for a long time. On my unit, the SIM card slot did not flush with the steel chassis thereby leaving its sharp edges exposed.
Coming to the 5.5-inch P-OLED display, its a decent panel but with its own set of shortcomings. It is a bright and vivid panel and you are not going to have any qualms with its viewing angles. The auto brightness works just fine and it cranks the display to its very maximum when under direct sunlight to ensure the content on the screen is eligible.
However, the curved edges of the display is a deal breaker. There’s absolutely no palm or finger rejection on the Nokia 8 Sirocco which makes it a disaster to use. Almost always while typing or reaching the other end of the display, my palm touched the curved display which would inadvertently end up pressing some other UI element.
This is not an issue that can be downplayed since it rears its head almost every time you use the phone. Nokia should really consider improving the poor palm rejection issue on the Nokia 8 Sirocco on a priority basis.
Nokia 8 Sirocco Review: Software and Performance
Like other smartphones released by Nokia this year, the Nokia 8 Sirocco also carries the Android One branding. This means it runs a stock build of Android 8.1 Oreo, with the promise from HMD Global to receive regular monthly security updates and quick OS updates.
A stock build of Oreo means you get to get experience the purest form of Android on the handset — just the way Google intended. I am a fan of stock Android as I like the simple approach. However, if you are coming from a phone running MIUI or Emotion UI, you are going to miss the built-in option to record calls, listen to FM radio, and the plethora of customization options that these skin offer. Thankfully, most of these issues can be solved by simply downloading a third-party app from the Play Store.
For a 2018 flagship smartphone, the Nokia 8 Sirocco does have ‘outdated’ internals. It features Qualcomm’s flagship chipset from 2017, the Snapdragon 835 running at 2.35GHz. This is paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage space.
Before you dismiss the Nokia 8 for its slightly dated chipset, you should remember that it runs on a stock build of Oreo. And that makes a lot of difference. I used the Nokia 8 heavily during a recent trip to Mumbai and the phone performed like a champ. At one instance, I had multiple Word and Excel documents open along with a couple of PDF files, an email thread in Gmail, Google Maps, and Uber with no issues whatsoever. The phone never showed any signs of lags and coming from a Pixel 2 XL, I could not notice any dip in performance as well.
Even with a bunch of apps running in the background, the Nokia 8 was always quick to open the camera app, something which even my Pixel 2 XL struggles with. An important point to note here is that the phone did get hot when pushed hard during my testing. It was not so hot to be uncomfortable to hold but it was definitely more than any other Snapdragon 835 phone that I have used in the past. The heating issue did not have any impact on performance though.
Nokia 8 Sirocco Review: Cameras
The Nokia 8 Sirocco features a dual-camera setup at its rear. The primary sensor is a 12MP shooter with a f/1.7 aperture and large 1.4um pixel. It is paired with a secondary 13MP f/2.6 telephoto sensor and a dual-tone flash. The telephoto sensor allows the handset to offer 2x optical zoom and capture portrait photos.
When there’s plenty of light around, you are not going to have any issues with the photos taken by the Nokia 8 Sirocco. The color reproduction, details, and dynamic range are all on point in such scenarios. The colors are boosted a bit so as to make the photos look more pleasing to the eye but its nowhere near as bad as some other smartphones.
However, the 12MP camera starts struggling as the amount of light available reduces. The amount of details captured by the camera in low-light scenes takes a hit, with photos of moving objects turning out to be blurry which can be attributed to the lack of OIS. As for the secondary 13MP telephoto sensor, it is best to use it in daylight. Under such conditions, it can capture usable photos, though there’s obviously a huge difference in the quality of the photos captured from it and the primary 12MP sensor.
Like the Nokia 7 Plus, the Nokia 8 Sirocco also features OZO audio. This allows the handset to capture high-quality audio thanks to its 3 microphone array. This does help make up for the fact that the handset only features EIS while recording Full HD videos, with 4K videos lacking any kind of stabilization.
Nokia highlights the Pro Camera mode in the camera app of the Nokia 8 Sirocco in its market materials. While the method to switch to the pro mode — by pulling the shutter button towards the center of the screen — is definitely unique, the overall camera app is not up to par. The method to switch to the Live Bokeh mode is cumbersome and takes a step too many. Secondly, the option to quickly change the video recording resolution is buried deep inside the settings menu which should not be the case. Finally, the camera app does not offer an option to record videos in Full HD resolution at 60fps.
While the rear cameras on the Nokia 8 Sirocco are decent, the front snapper is a disappointment in terms of resolution. For some reason, Nokia actually went with a lower resolution 5MP selfie shooter on the Sirocco variant of the Nokia 8 — the original Nokia 8 features a 13MP selfie shooter. The 5MP sensor does come with large 1.4um pixels that help it capture detailed selfies. HMD Global was also smart enough to use the 5.5-inch pOLED display as a flash which ensures the Nokia 8 Sirocco captures usable and detailed selfies even in pitch black conditions.
Overall, the selfie camera does its job and captures natural and detailed selfies, though its natural processing might not be to everyone’s liking.
Nokia 8 Sirocco Review: Battery Life
With a 3260mAh battery and a. 5.5-inch display, it is not surprising that the Nokia 8 Sirocco is a champion in the battery life department. The handset can easily last more than a day of heavy use. Apart from the strong performance, the excellent battery life of the Nokia 8 Sirocco is one of its highlights. In this department, it fares much better than the Galaxy S9 — Samsung’s 2018 flagship handset.
What’s even better is that the Sirocco features Qi wireless charging and Quick Charge 3.0 support. The latter ensures that your phone will be charged to 50 percent in just 30 minutes which is going to be good enough to last you for almost half a day of heavy use. However, you will have to ensure that you use a Quick Charge 3.0 compatible charger for this. With Qi wireless charging, you can also easily top off the handset’s battery while you are working and the phone is lying idle on your desk.
Nokia 8 Sirocco Review: Conclusion
There’s a lot to like about the Nokia 8 Sirocco. Its design, build quality, performance and battery life are definitely among its strengths. And if you love the stock Android experience, this phone has that as well. However, the phone makes some serious compromises as well. The lack of dual-SIM connectivity and headphone jack are going to a bummer for many.
The low resolution of the selfie camera is also going to bother selfie lovers out there. The dual-camera setup is also not as good as that of the Pixel 2 or the Galaxy S9. It is good, but not as good as them. This is why it is hard to justify the price of Rs 49,999 that HMD Global is charging for the Nokia 8 Sirocco. A few thousand more and you can get the Galaxy S9 with a much better camera, a bigger and beautiful display and dual-SIM connectivity.
Similarly, if you don’t care much about the camera, you can save a few thousand bucks by buying the OnePlus 6 for Rs 34,999. It offers largely the same experience as the Nokia 8 Sirocco despite missing out on an IP certification, wireless charging, and a less premium build quality.