Nokia 8.3 5G full review

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The Nokia 8.3 5G was originally unveiled as Nokia’s first 5G smartphone back in March 2020, but it has taken the smartphone giant months to actually get the smartphone to market. It was exciting back in March, but since then we’ve seen the likes of the OnePlus Nord, Pixel 4A and iPhone SE all revealed, so does the Nokia 8.3 5G still offer enough to tempt mid-range consumers?

With a large display, Zeiss-engineered cameras and all-day battery life, there’s certainly a lot to like about the Nokia 8.3 5G, but it’s not the perfect smartphone experience.

Design – Eye-catching Nordic design

The Nokia 8.3 5G isn’t radically different in design to other Nokias we’ve seen in recent years, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sporting what Nokia refers to as Nordic design, the Nokia 8.3 5G is simplistic but provides more of a premium feel than some of Nokia’s budget-focused options.

It’s the rear of the smartphone that’ll get your attention first. It sports a glass back protected by Corning’s 3D Gorilla Glass, which adds to the premium feel, but it’s the light refraction that’s most exciting.

Drawing from Nokia’s Nordic origins, the company has tried to recreate the effect of the Northern Lights on the rear of the smartphone. It’s not quite as stunning as seeing the Aurora Borealis in person, but the unique light refraction is certainly eye-catching, producing a slightly different effect every time you move the phone in a well-lit area. Suddenly the ‘Polar Night’ colour option branding makes more sense.

Shimmer aside, the rear is cleaner than others in the Nokia collection thanks to the removal of the rear-facing fingerprint scanner, but you’ll still find a protruding circular camera unit. It’s arguably better-looking than some camera units, complete with flashes of blue to complement the shimmering finish of the glass rear, but it’s still a pretty big camera array.  

Elsewhere, the Nokia 8.3 5G sports a USB-C port for charging, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a side-mounted power button with embedded fingerprint scanner and the inclusion of a Google Assistant button too.

With so many ways to activate Google Assistant in Android 10, I’m not sure we needed another way to summon it, especially when the hardware key isn’t remappable – I’d have much preferred a dedicated camera button, for example. You’ve also got the problem of Google Assistant being activated when in your pocket or in a bag, something I experienced first-hand.

Display – it’s a big one

If you can tear yourself away from the mesmerising rear and flip the phone over, you’ll see another key feature of the Nokia 8.3 5G: the display. Here’s the thing, it’s big at a whopping 6.81in, making it larger than Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max, which many already consider to be too big. The 20:9 aspect ratio of the display does make it a little easier to wield one-handed, but there’s no escaping the fact that it’s a big ol’ display that a lot of people will need two hands to use properly.

It’s a frankly gorgeous near-bezel-less display though, sporting a FHD+ resolution (1080 x 2400) and Nokia’s PureDisplay tech. It’s bright, vibrant and detailed with accurate colour reproduction, and the tone can even be tweaked via the Settings app, but it’s not as smooth as competing smartphones with a higher refresh rate. That was once tech exclusive to flagship smartphones, but we’ve seen it appear in increasingly cheaper smartphones, which makes it all the more disappointing that it isn’t featured in what should be considered Nokia’s 2020 flagship.

But while most people can overlook the 60Hz refresh rate, there is one drawback: the palm rejection tech on offer, and that’s crucial with such a large smartphone. It’s more of a problem on smartphones with curved displays, but it’s also a problem with larger phones when used one-handed.

This meant trying to reach the opposite edge of the display with my thumb would often cause mispresses, quickly becoming an irksome experience, so much so that I had to adjust my grip to better suit the 8.3 5G’s unwieldy display.

Performance – It’s surprisingly capable

Beneath the surface, the Nokia 8.3 5G sports Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G alongside either 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage depending on the variant you opt for, although it’s worth noting that storage is expandable via the built-in microSD card reader.

That’s not the flagship Snapdragon 865 or 865+ seen on some high-end flagships, but as we’ve seen from the likes of the Motorola Edge and OnePlus Nord, the 765G is a snappy mid-range processor that’ll get the job done. And it also provides 5G connectivity with compatibility with NSA/SA and DSS 5G technology.

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that the Nokia 8.3 5G runs smoothly no matter the task at hand, be it recording 4K video or playing a quick game of Call of Duty Mobile on your lunch break, although you might not get the same high performance with graphics settings maxed out on AAA mobile games. In fact, Nokia is so confident of its capabilities that it includes a Zeiss-powered Cinema Capture and Editor to capture and edit 4K footage on-the-fly, and it performs well too.

That’s largely backed up by our benchmarks too – it’s not quite flagship level, but it’s certainly enough for the average joe to use on a daily basis and not have to worry about stuttering or slow performance.

Battery life is an area where Nokia excels in general, and that’s no different with the Nokia 8.3 5G, sporting a decent-sized 4,500mAh battery that’ll comfortably get you through a full day’s use with battery left to spare. It doesn’t quite have the power to last a full two days without a charge, but that’s still plenty of power for everyday consumers – it certainly lasts longer than the similarly-priced iPhone SE, anyway.

When it does come to time to charge, the 8.3 5G’s 18W fast charging support should get you untethered quickly - in theory, anyway. It managed 34% in half an hour of charging using the supplied charger in our tests, which is miles behind the likes of the OnePlus Nord and other similarly-priced phones mentioned in our benchmarks.

There isn’t any wireless charging available either, but that’s not a surprise at this point – practically only the iPhone SE offers wireless charging at a sub-£500/$500 price point.

When it comes to connectivity, you’ll get 5G cellular connectivity alongside Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and NFC for payment apps like Google Pay.

Photography – Snap happy

The Nokia 8.3 5G is a great looking phone with a detailed display, but the real focus here is on the camera setup. The star of the show is a Zeiss Optics 64Mp snapper, complete with f/1.89 aperture. It’s not the first time Nokia has partnered with Zeiss on smartphone cameras, but this is a noticeable upgrade on the lens featured on the likes of the Nokia 7.2.

The photos taken by the main camera are vivid and accurate with even exposure, and there’s even noticeable detail in shaded areas. It’s fast enough for a point-and-shoot experience, although the HDR does take a split-second to process, and that may result in ghosting if you’re taking a photo of a fast-moving subject. Still, when used appropriately, the HDR on offer significantly improves the dynamic range of the photo, capturing detail in both light and dark areas.

It’s a similar story with the secondary 12Mp 120-degree ultra-wide camera. Though it’s not quite as capable as the main shooter, the wide-angle effect is stunning, and there’s no noticeable distortion unlike some competitors at this price point. Photos are just as vivid, and there’s still a great level of definition despite the wide angle.

You’ll also find a 2Mp macro lens for taking close-up images 4cm away and a 2Mp depth sensor to help improve the accuracy of photos taken in Portrait mode. While the latter has an arguable benefit, the 2Mp macro – like those on just about every mid-ranger with a macro lens – plays an insignificant role in the camera setup, with a noticeable downgrade in overall quality compared to the main cameras. 

There’s low-light photography on offer too, thanks to large 2.8μm pixels in the main sensor, and it does a surprisingly decent job. It’s not quite at the same level as you’ll find in the likes of the Pixel 5 and iPhone 11 Pro Max, but it captures dimly-lit environments pretty well – you’ve just got to make sure you stay still for a few seconds.

Flip the phone over and you’ll find a single hole-punch camera embedded within the display. It’s a 24Mp Zeiss-engineered lens, and it’s certainly detailed enough for selfie-taking and even vlogging, offering [email protected] video recording capabilities – a resolution not offered by the lenses on the rear, oddly enough.

Video - Pro-level video capabilities

With such high-quality main cameras on offer, it’s no surprise that Nokia invested in the video offering of the 8.3 5G. Alongside the standard video modes available – shooting at up to [email protected] – Nokia included Zeiss’ Cinema Capture and Editor software.

The cinema camera mode allows you to capture 21:9 video using the main or ultra-wide lenses, just like the Hollywood movies, and you’ve even got the option of recording in H-Log format to capture a wider dynamic range. It works well, looking to me (and Tech Advisor’s video editor) like it’s capturing noticeably more detail in darker areas compared to a non-H-log clip, but the benefits to bright areas are minimal.

The editor allows you to edit the colours of the video, as well as adding anamorphic effects and movie-style blue light flares, to help add a professional look to videos shot on the phone, but advanced brightness and contrast tweaks will have to be done via desktop video editing software.

That’d be good enough without the impressive EIS on offer from the Nokia 8.3 5G. Though not optically stabilised, the phone does an impressive job at stabilising video using onboard smarts, giving you a smoother shot whether you’re shooting a music video in the Cinema Capture mode or simply using the smartphone as an action cam when out cycling. It’s not completely judder-free, with the occasional shudder when filming while walking, but it’s certainly smooth and stable for the most part.  

If you’re interested in photography or videography but can’t afford the high-end Sony Xperia 1 II with its pro photo and video modes, the Nokia 8.3 5G is a capable budget-friendly alternative.

Software – A clean Android experience

Nokia prides itself on offering the Android One experience, a version of Android free of any bloatware and very few UI tweaks. It’s essentially stock Android, albeit Android 10 in place of the newer Android 11, although Nokia guarantees two years of OS upgrades and three years of monthly security updates, which is a welcome commitment in a world where Androids tend to get a single OS upgrade, if that.

The software is clean and aside from the necessary tweaks to the Camera UI for the Cinema shooting mode, you’d struggle to tell the differences between it and a Google Pixel. It’s a refreshing change from the drastic UI changes you find in the likes of EMUI, OxygenOS and other Android skins, and the lack of bloatware is always welcome.

There are a few bugs at present, including a glitch that turns the display on when the phone is to your ear during a call, resulting in mispresses, but I’m confident that’ll be ironed out by the time is released.

Price – Half the price of a flagship

The Nokia 8.3 5G is set to go up for pre-order today, 22 September, with release in the UK scheduled for 8 October 2020, and despite the phone being available in two flavours - 6/64GB and 8/128GB - only the former is being sold in the UK. 

The 6/64GB Nokia 8.3 5G will set you back an attractive £499 in the UK. Though it’s a budget-friendly price for a great bit of hardware, there’s a lot of competition in the mid-range in 2020, with the Nokia 8.3 5G coming in at more than the likes of the impressive OnePlus Nord with its 120Hz AMOLED display or the iPhone SE and its waterproofing and wireless charging technology.   

If you’re interested, you can pre-order the Nokia 8.3 5G from Nokia and Amazon, with the phone coming to carriers like O2 and other retailers by launch.

If you're looking for more inspiration, take a look at Tech Advisor's selection of the best mid-range phones right now

Verdict

Though it’s not got the best display tech or latest flagship processor, the Nokia 8.3 5G is an extremely appealing mid-range smartphone – especially those with a flair for photography and videography in particular. It looks great, with a mesmerising rear, a large 6.81in FHD+ display and a clean version of Android 10, but it’s the Zeiss cameras that really steal the show here.

The main 64Mp Zeiss-engineered snapper is a big improvement on other recent Zeiss implementations within the Nokia range, producing detailed, well-balanced photos, and the 12Mp ultra-wide’s 120-degree FOV offers a dramatic angle perfect for arty shots and group photos.

If that’s not enough, the 8.3 5G offers a dedicated Cinema video mode allowing you to shoot in up to [email protected] in 21:9 with optional H-Log capabilities and other visual effects to help improve the overall quality of videos taken. There’s no OIS sadly, but the EIS is among the most stable I’ve seen on a mid-range smartphone.

Couple that with two years of Android OS updates and all-day battery life and you’ve got a great 5G-enabled mid-range smartphone.   

Specs

Nokia 8.3 5G: Specs

  • 6.81in FHD+ (1080 x 2400) LCD display
  • Gorilla Glass 3D-protected
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
  • 6/8GB RAM
  • 64/128GB storage expandable via microSD
  • Rear cameras: Zeiss Optics 64Mp f/1.89, Ultra-wide 120-degree 12Mp f.2.2, 2Mp macro lens, 2Mp depth sensor
  • Front-facing camera: Zeiss Optics 24Mp f/2.0
  • Cinema video shooting mode, up to [email protected] with 21:9 aspect ratio and H-Log recording
  • 4,500mAh battery
  • 18W fast charging
  • Android 10 with 2 OS upgrades & 3 years of security updates guaranteed
  • 5G connectivity
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • NFC
  • GPS/AGPS+GLONASS+Beidou
  • 171.90 x 78.56 x 8.99mm
  • 220g