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Nokia 8 review: This comeback kid could have been even more

The Nokia 8 is fine. And that’s its biggest problem.

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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

The Nokia 8 isn't disappointing because it's a bad phone. Actually, it's reliable, powerful and has a sharp, beautiful screen. What makes it disappointing is that as the first high-end Nokia phone to ever run Android -- something Nokia phones have only done since the Nokia 6 and its ilk were announced this past March -- it fails to match the serious Android handsets of the day.

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7.6

Nokia 8

The Good

The Nokia 8 has two rear cameras and is packed with power. Its screen is bright and sharp.

The Bad

It lacks some cutting-edge features for a high-end phone in 2017, like waterproofing and a slim, standout design.

The Bottom Line

A decent all-rounder, the dual-camera Nokia 8 gets the job done, but it doesn’t come close to today’s true Android stars.

The Nokia 8 is "good," but it doesn't beat the curved-screen, water-resistant Galaxy S8 on design and specs, and it can't beat the steady OnePlus 5 on value. Nor does it have the LG G6 or V30's whisper-slim bezels and full-face screen. It does include two cameras on the back, which take decent shots in monochrome and color, but photos don't surpass other dual-camera phones in quality. That leaves the Nokia 8 as a middle-of-the road Android device with a mismatched price tag that's too high for what you really get.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This phone is fine, but forgettable. And that's an enormous let-down for a once-loved brand trying to make a comeback. What the Nokia 8 needed was to dazzle.

Also read: Nokia 3310 review, the revamped classic that made you go bananas

Physically, the Nokia 8 looks dated, not an elite 2017 model that'll hold its appeal for the next year or more. The matte metal back feels nice to hold but it's instantly forgettable. It won't turn heads when you whip it out on the train. It looks identical to the much cheaper Nokia 5, and that's a problem.

There's a highly polished blue or copper version, either of which I vastly prefer to the matte version and recommend finding, if you can -- currently none of the UK phone networks are offering the polished versions. The Nokia 8 is splashproof but not waterproof (something that's common on high-end phones such as the S8 and iPhones), removing yet another compelling reason to spend your money. While you're probably safe taking a quick call in light rain, a spilled drink will likely spell disaster for the Nokia 8.

I'd be more forgiving if Nokia was fiercely undercutting its rivals on price. But at £499 in the UK it's actually only marginally cheaper than the Galaxy S8, one of the most luxurious, high-performance phones on the market. (That UK price converts to $675 or AU$840. Official US and Australian availability is yet to be announced, though we have seen it sold via a third party on Amazon.com for $699.) 

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

In the power stakes, this phone can hold its own against the big boys. At its core is a top-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of RAM -- in our benchmark tests it easily matched the S8, HTC U11 and OnePlus 5. You'll find buttery-smooth navigation and apps that load quickly. It handled every game I threw its way.

The display's 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution makes text and images look pin sharp. Battery life is solid as well, achieving around 17 hours on our video rundown test. That puts it alongside the S8 and OnePlus 5 and far above the HTC U11, which only managed 13 hours. I comfortably got a day of use, though if you're a heavy user you'll still want to give it a full charge each night.

It runs Android Nougat, rather than the new Android Oreo. No phone has launched with this yet, although HMD, the manufacturer that leases the Nokia name, has said that all its Android phones will receive the Oreo update "in the coming months". The Nokia 8 uses a totally plain (some would say "pure") version of Android that's mercifully free of rubbish and bloatware. You're left instead with a neat interface that's nippy and easy to use.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There are two cameras on the back. One shoots in colour, the other only in black and white, much like the dual-camera setup of Huawei's P10. Shots in colour are good, although it can struggle to maintain an even exposure when there's a bright sky over a more shadowy foreground.

The dedicated black and white mode is fun to use and delivers rich shots that are similar to the black and white photos you'll get from the P10. That said, if you're not into artsy monochrome shots then this feature is wasted on you. You'll probably have more fun experimenting with the super-wide-angle lens on the LG V30.

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Nokia 8 outdoor camera test.

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Nokia 8 camera test, HDR enabled.

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"Bothie" test.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There's a bokeh mode, which artificially blurs the background around your subject. It works well enough for the odd snap and a panorama mode, which produced good results. The front-facing 13-megapixel camera takes well exposed shots that'll show off your grinning face perfectly well for Facebook.

One neat camera trick it will do is combine simultaneously taken shots from both the front and back cameras into a single image that Nokia calls a "bothie". Yes, like "both". You can livestream a video bothie to Facebook or YouTube. Vloggers who love to show their own smiling faces and their lovely surroundings will no doubt love this feature.

If you really don't want to stretch to the Galaxy S8, rest assured that the Nokia 8 is still a decent all-round phone that'll easily chew through your everyday needs. But it won't be the phone that'll excite you when you pick it up, and that's a shame for the once-cell phone king, a brand that's been trying its damnedest to stand out.

Nokia 8 specs comparison chart


Nokia 8Samsung Galaxy S8OnePlus 5LG V30
Display size, resolution 5.3-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels5.8-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels6-inch; 2,880x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 554ppi570ppi401ppi538 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.96x2.90x0.31 in5.86 x 2.68 x 0.32 in6.1x2.92x0.29 in5.96x2.96x0.29 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 151.5x73.7x7.9 mm148.9x68.1x8 mm154.2x74.1x7.3 mm151.7x75.4x7.3 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.64 oz; 160g5.5 oz; 155g5.4 oz; 153 g5.57 oz; 158g
Mobile software Android 7.0 NougatAndroid 7.0 NougatAndroid 7.1.1 NougatAndroid 7.1.2 Nougat
Camera Dual 13-megapixel12-megapixel16-megapixel standard, 20-megapixel telephoto16-megapixel (standard), 13-megapixel (wide)
Front-facing camera 13-megapixel8-megapixel16-megapixel5-megapixel
Video capture 4K4K4K4K
Processor Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35GHz+1.9GHz) or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 (2.35GHz+1.7GHz)2.45GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Storage 64GB64GB64GB, 128GB64GB, 128GB
RAM 4GB4GB6GB, 8GB4GB
Expandable storage Up to 256GBUp to 2TBNoneUp to 2TB
Battery 3,090mAh3,000mAh3,300mAh3,300mAh
Fingerprint sensor Beneath screenBackHome buttonBack cover
Connector USB-CUSB-CUSB-CUSB-C
Special features Livestream video using front and rear cameras simultaneouslyWater-resistant (IP68), wireless charging, Gigabit LTE-readyPortrait mode, notifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash ChargingWater resistant (IP68), wireless charging, wide-angle camera, Floating Bar tab
Price off-contract (USD) Converts to $675AT&T: $750; Verizon: $720; T-Mobile: $750; Sprint: $750; US Cellular: $675$479 (64GB), $539 (128GB)TBA
Price (GBP) £499£689£449 (64GB), £499 (128GB)TBA
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$840AU$1,19AU$599 (64GB), AU$699 (128GB) TBA
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7.6

Nokia 8

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 9Camera 7Battery 9
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