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Nokia 6 review: Beauty on a budget

A slow processor makes this attractive phone sometimes frustrating to use.

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Andrew Lanxon
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Andrew Lanxon

Lead Editor, CNET Advice, Europe; Lead Photographer, Europe

Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.

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4 min read

Of the three phones Nokia launched earlier this year (The Nokia 3, 5 and 6), the Nokia 6 is the star. But at only £220 (or $180 in the US, with Amazon's ads appearing on the lockscreen), it's still affordable.

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6.7

Nokia 6

The Good

The Nokia 6's slick metal jacket looks great, givin this affordable phone the lustre of a more premium handset.

The Bad

The underpowered processor makes the phone sometimes frustrating to use.

The Bottom Line

The sluggish performance of the Nokia 6 is a nuisance, but its low price and good looks go a long way to make up for it.

It uses premium metals to look slick and premium but keeps the price down with a low-end processor and a display with a ho-hum resolution. As such, performance can be laggy, but it's not a huge problem for everyday use.

Don't buy this phone if you're looking for the best example of what a smartphone can be. Instead, consider it if you want a great-looking Android phone that'll handle your life's essentials and won't drain your wallet.

The all-metal design is where this phone really stands out. It has an aesthetic that you wouldn't feel embarrassed to whip out in a posh cocktail bar. It's an incredibly smart-looking handset with machine-milled edges that give it a polished metal accent which looks great on the deep blue hue of my review model. It feels extremely premium to hold too, thanks to that solid body that has none of the flimsy feeling flex you find in many lower-end phones.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

My major annoyance about the design is that the edges are quite sharp, which can make the phone uncomfortable to hold. It's something that my colleague Rick Broida also found when he used the Nokia 6 for a week in place of his much more expensive iPhone 6S Plus.

I'm also disappointed it lacks USB-C charging, with the 6 opting for the older micro-USB standard. It's not a deal-breaker, particularly given the low price, but with most phones launching now sporting USB-C, it would have been good to see that here. There's no waterproofing, either -- though again, I can't really hold that against it at this cheap price. Just  be careful around the pool or when your clumsy friend is reaching for their drink.

The 5.5-inch display is large enough to do justice to vibrant mobile games and YouTube clips. Its full HD resolution (1,920x1,080-pixels) is lower than you'll find on premium phones like the Galaxy S8, but it's more than adequate for your everyday Twitter and Instagram needs and totally acceptable given the phone's much lower price. Sure, if you hold both phones side-by-side you might notice a touch less clarity on high-res photos on the Nokia, but this isn't a very likely scenario.

The octa-core processor is where the phone starts to fall down. Simply swiping around the Android interface is reasonably nippy, but opening the camera takes longer than I'd like and HDR photos take several seconds to save. Apps can be a bit sluggish to open, too, although I didn't find any performance problems when using the apps. I could quickly tweak photos in Snapseed, for example, and games like Sonic and NOVA: Legacy played perfectly well enough to keep you entertained on your commute.

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Nokia 6 outdoor camera test

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
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Nokia 6 camera test

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
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Nokia 6 front-facing camera test.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The rear 16-megapixel camera takes snaps that are fine for Facebook, but its skills don't extend much beyond that. Colours tend to look washed out and it's not great at balancing the exposure of bright skies and dark ground. The HDR mode helps with exposure, but its slow shooting speed can become frustrating. If you only want a camera for sending the odd snap to your family over Whatsapp, it'll suit fine. The front-facing 8-megapixel camera captures those grinning selfies with a decent exposure, although it's rather heavy-handed with the image processing, meaning that fine details are lost. They look fine on the phone's screen, but at fullscreen on a larger display the lack of detail is more noticeable.

The phone comes with 32GB of storage, which you can expand with microSD cards. The 3,000mAh battery didn't put up a great fight in our battery test, lasting around 9 hours 15 minutes. That's a big step below the similarly affordable Moto G5's 13 hours. You can get through most of a day of use if you're careful -- keep the screen brightness down, turn GPS off and save video streaming and gaming until you're back home near a plug. You'll certainly want to give it a full charge every night.

If you're after the absolute best smartphone technology then the Nokia 6 isn't for you, but if you want a great-looking, premium feeling smartphone that tackles all your essentials and won't empty your bank account, it's a great phone to consider.

Motorola's Moto G5 Plus is a super phone with a similar price tag. It's less sluggish to use than the Nokia 6, although the Nokia is arguably the more beautiful handset of the two. You'll have to decide what's more important to you in everyday use; swift navigation or sleek good looks.

Nokia 6 specs comparison chart


Nokia 6Alcatel Idol 5SMotorola Moto G5 PlusHuawei Honor 6X
Display size, resolution 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.2-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.2-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.5-inch, 1,920x1,080 pixels
Pixel density 403ppi424ppi424ppi403ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.06x2.98x0.33 in5.85x2.79x0.29 in5.9x2.9x0.3 in5.9x3x0.3 inches
Dimensions (Millimeters) 154x75.8x8.4 mm148.6x70.8x7.4 mm150.2x74x7.7 mm151x76x8.2 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.9 oz; 167g5.25 oz; 149g5.5 oz, 155g5.7 oz, 162g
Mobile software Android 7.1.1 NougatAndroid 7.1 NougatAndroid 7.0 NougatAndroid 7.0 Nougat
Camera 16-megapixel12-megapixel12-megapixel12-megapixel + 2-megapixel
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel8-megapixel5-megapixel8-megapixel
Video capture 1080p1,080p1080p1080p
Processor 1.4 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 4302GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 6252GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 6252.1GHz octa-core Huawei Kirin 655
Storage 32GB32GB32GB (UK & US), 64GB (US only)32GB
RAM 3GB3GB2GB on 32 GB (US model), 3GB on 32GB (UK model) or 4GB on 64GB (US model)3GB
Expandable storage Up to 128GBUp to 512GB128GB128GB
Battery 3,000mAh2,620mAh3,000mAh3,340 mAh
Fingerprint sensor Yes, below screenBack coverBelow screenBack cover
Connector Micro-USBUSB-CMicro-USBMicro-USB
Special features Dual SIMDual 3.6-watt speakersDual-SIM, splash-proofDual SIM
Price off-contract (USD) $180 (Amazon ad-supported)$280$229 (32GB); $299 (64GB)$250
Price (GBP) £220Converts to £212£249 (32GB)£225
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$290Converts to AU$350Converts to AU$300 (32GB) and AU$390 (64GB)Converts to AU$330
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6.7

Nokia 6

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 5Camera 6Battery 6