Nokia G21 Review: Buy It for a Clean Android Experience

Better than all the budget devices that Nokia has launched in 2021.

Nokia G21 is the first phone from the house of HMD Global in 2022. Rather than focusing on specs, the company tries to provide users with a clean software experience through its latest smartphone. One thing we like about Nokia is that it is upfront about the software experience of the device. The company has promised two years of Android updates and three years of security updates for its budget phone.

Nokia’s position has been faltering in the Indian smartphone market lately, so it would be interesting to see if the company has learnt from its past mistakes or not. We have been using the Nokia G21 for two weeks now, and so far, our opinions have been mixed. So, what are they, you ask? Read on to find out.

Nokia G21 Review: Design and Build

Despite being made of plastic, the Nokia G21 is well-built and yields a premium feel in hand. The crimped pattern on the back makes it easy to hold. The camera and LED flash are placed inside a shiny vertical module. The device weighs 190 grams and is 8.5mm thick, which is neither heavy nor light. It just feels slightly hefty on hands.

You have the volume rockers and a power button that works as a fingerprint sensor on the right side. There is a SIM tray slot and a dedicated Google Assistant button on the left. You get a Type-C port, a speaker grille on the bottom, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top.

The Nokia G21 is available in two colours – Nordic Blue and Dusk. We have the Nordic Blue, and it looks better. To summarise this up, the Nokia G21 has a solid build quality and a neat design but lacks any IP rating.

Nokia G21 Review: Display and Audio Performance

The Nokia G21 sports a 6.5-inch IPS LCD display with an HD+ screen resolution. This is a big downgrade in this price range if you ask us. But that has been the case with Nokia in recent times in India. We don’t remember when the last time Nokia launched a mid-budget phone with a Full HD+ display. That said, the display lacks vibrancy, and the colour seems to be dull. You can tweak the white balance of the display from the settings. The 90Hz screen makes content on the screen smooth. I stepped out on a peak Delhi summer afternoon, and I struggled to read and watch content on the device. The display is hardly visible outdoors.

At the front, it has a water drop notch and thin bezels on the sides, but the chin is very thick. The device has a speaker on the bottom, which is neither loud enough nor clear. You might want to plug in your earphones while playing games or watching movies. The Nokia G21 is okayish for media consumption.

Nokia G21 Review: Battery Life

The Nokia G21 packs a beefy 5,000mAh battery which can last up to two days on regular usage. It gave us more than eight hours of screen time, which is excellent for a budget phone. Our use included all-day social media scrolling, an hour of playing Youtube videos and browsing on the internet. The brightness was set to 50%, and the screen was set on an adaptive refresh rate.

However, the device comes with a 10W charger out of the box, which takes more than 150 minutes to charge the battery from 0 to 100%, which is a lot. The device supports 18W charging support, but the experience could have been better if the company had provided the 18W charger out of the box. Despite being charged for a long time, the phone didn’t get hot.

Nokia G21 Review: Performance and Software

The Nokia G21 gets powered by a Unisoc T606 SoC, which is less efficient than the Snapdragon 680 or Mediatek Helio G96 that we get on the other phones in this price range. The device comes in two variants, our unit has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage which costs Rs 2,000 more than the base variant. If you want, you can add a microSD card and expand its external memory by up to 512GB.

The Unisoc T606 is decent for all day-to-day usage, such as scrolling on social media, web browsing, or watching videos but tends to struggle in multitasking or gaming. We played Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI), Asphalt 9, and Call of Duty: Mobile on the Nokia G21. All three games were struggling a lot, and there was a drop in frame rates. BGMI maximum graphics settings are High+HD which becomes unplayable. The COD: Mobile and Asphalt 9 can be played in low settings. You can still play games like Dr Driving, Temple Run 2, etc., smoothly on this device.

Coming to the benchmark performance, the handset scored 305 on single-core and 1222 on multi-core in Geekbench. These numbers are lower than what we get on the Snapdragon 680 chipset. For some reason, we were not able to install AnTuTu on the device.

The Nokia G21 runs on Android 11 out of the box and has March 2022 security patch. We received one security update during the review period that updated the security patch to April 2022. That’s great. We expect Nokia to be regular with the security updates, as the company has promised three years of security updates and two years of Android updates for the G21. This means that the device will also receive the Android 12 and 13 updates. It would have been better if the device had booted Android 12 out of the box.

Coming to the user experience, it has a very plain interface because of stock Android. There is no bloatware, and you do not have to deal with spam notifications.

The device can be unlocked via face unlock or fingerprint, and both work well.

Nokia G21 Review: Camera

The Nokia has a 50MP primary camera on the back, which is accompanied by a 2MP macro and a 2MP depth sensor. However, we would have preferred an ultrawide lens instead of the two 2MP sensors. The device uses an 8MP camera on the front for selfies and video calls.

The phone captures good pictures with better details and natural colours in daylight. You need to keep the device stable as it takes time to focus. Otherwise, you will end up clicking blurry photos. That was the case with about 30% of our photos.

The macro mode keeps the focus on, but the colour of the subject seems to be more on the cooler side. The shadows and highlights are nicely captured.

The low-light or night photos come better without the night mode. Once you turn on the night mode, the camera tries to bump up the brightness, which results in overexposing the images, and they miss out on most of the highlights.

Selfies were disappointing on the Nokia G21. The selfies taken indoors were good, but the skin tone was unnatural. Even without the beauty mode, the AI tends to put light on your face to make it better but messes up badly. We took some selfies outdoors, and almost all of them have unnatural colour tones. The HDR mode captures the background very well in harsh sunlight but badly messes up the colour tones. All that said, have a look at the photos below, and you will get to know them better. The company will have to work on better processing.

Videos can be shot at 1080p at 30fps in front and back cameras. Unfortunately, the video quality is not so impressive as there is a lot of noise in the frame, and it takes a lot of time to focus. The company says that the device supports OZO audio to capture surround sound for a better experience.

Nokia G21: Verdict

The Nokia G21 makes many compromises to provide a clean software experience and regular software updates. Unfortunately, some of the major drawbacks like slow charging, average speaker, HD+ display, average cameras, etc., are the deal breakers for us. But, if you are looking for a device that can provide you with a near-stock experience, smooth display, basic gaming and solid build quality, then this might be the right pick for you. The Nokia G21 is a good upgrade over its predecessor, G20, but the competition offers better features.

If you are looking for an all-rounder phone in the sub-Rs 15,000 segment, then you can check out the Redmi Note 11, Realme 9i, and Poco M4 Pro 4G. 

Nokia G21

12,999
7.1

Design and Build

8.5/10

Performance

6.5/10

Display

8.5/10

Camera

6.0/10

Software

9.0/10

Battery

8.5/10

Audio

4.0/10

Day-to-Day Usage

7.0/10

Value for Money

6.0/10

What Is Good?

  • Clean software
  • Solid build quality
  • Good battery life
  • 90Hz Refresh rate

What Is Bad?

  • 720p display
  • Disappointing selfies
  • Not for gaming
  • Low visibility in outdoors
  • 10W charger in the box

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