Nokia 8.3 5G Review: Worthy Of Being In James Bond's Pocket

Nokia 8 3 HR Featured
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Nokia 8.3 5G is the 5G smartphone you should buy in 2020.

Nokia 8.3 5G
$699
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • Premium build quality
  • Large beautiful display
  • Worldwide 5G band support
  • Clean Android One software
  • 2-year OS upgrades
  • Dedicated Google Assistant button
  • Camera is fast with good daylight performance
  • Zeiss cinematic effects can be useful
Cons
  • No high refresh rate screen
  • No HDR support for Netflix
  • Lack of wireless charging
  • No official IP rating
  • Button placement could be better
  • Lowlight camera performance is lackluster
  • One handed use isn't ideal

Nokia provided Android Headlines with a review unit of the Nokia 8.3 5G. Our review unit was the 8GB RAM / 128GB storage version which is the only version to be sold by Nokia in USA. This review was written after using the device for more than 7 days. The phone is running Android 10 and September 1, 2020 security patch.

 

Nokia 8.3 5G is finally available after being teased what seems like an eternity in the year that has been 2020. Despite the long wait, Nokia is hoping that its partnership with the new Bond movie, No Time To Die, will make people consider the Nokia 8.3 5G as their smartphone of choice.

It's officially 'Techtober' and there is a lot of action in the $699 price range with 5G onboard. These include the excellent Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, Google Pixel 5, and OnePlus 8T which costs $50 more. Even the latest offering from that fruit stand in Cupertino starts at $699.

Our Blue or Polar Night Nokia 8.3 5G review unit looks like something the new double-o agent Nomi (played by Lashana Lynch) would pair with her blue bulletproof blazer! Nokia calls it "The only gadget you'll ever need".  Let's check it out and see how it performs in real life and if it has earned its license to be 00's new smartphone.

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Built like that T-55 tank in Golden Eye

Nokia 8 3 HR Design1

Well, there is no getting around the fact that this phone is big. And by big, I mean it is huge. I can definitely see Godzilla rocking this phone as a daily driver.

On that note, this phone weighs just about half a pound! But Nokia has done a stellar job with the overall design and weight distribution. As a result, the handset doesn't feel as heavy as the spec sheet suggests. The curved glass back also helps the phone fit in one hand but just barely.

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Of the many glass back phones out there the Nokia probably is easily one of the most eye-catching. Its Polar Night back is an eclectic mix of emerald blue and green. When you look at it from different angles the patterns do remind us of the Northern Lights. The rest of the back is clean with a single vertical Nokia logo and the circular camera array.

Speaking of the circular camera array, it reminds me of the Huawei Mate 30 series from 2019. That phone had great hardware design. It also is a reminder of the Nokia Lumia 950 from 5 years ago which looked quite handsome as well. All in all, it has a great unique look from the rear. But that camera bump is definitely pronounced and expect a decent amount of wobble on a flat surface. This combined with the all-glass construction means the phone is very slippery and a huge fingerprint magnet. Expect it to slide off easily from surfaces. A vinyl skin or a case is likely your best bet to prevent all the issues noted above.

The front of the device is similar to a lot of smartphones in 2020. Nokia has ditched their typical center teardrop in favor of a punch hole in the top left corner for the selfie camera. The large 2.5D curved glass has hides the thin side bezels and a slightly larger top bezel. One thing Nokia for some weird reason did not change is that large bottom bezel with a prominent Nokia logo on it. C'mon Nokia, this is 2020 and a clean front is now available from most other manufacturers even in the sub $200 device category.

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Power and volume buttons are on the right-hand side along with the dual-SIM tray slot. The fingerprint scanner is built into the power button – seems to be a trend these days. Dedicated Google Assistant button is on the left-hand side in the middle. This button needs to be a bit higher up since I had multiple accidental presses while trying to wake the phone up via the power button. All three buttons provide good tactile feedback. The bottom houses the USB-C port, speaker grille, cutout for the phone microphone, and a (gasp) 3.5mm headphone jack.

Overall construction quality is great, with no obvious creaks or gaps. Phone feels solid and due to impeccable weight distribution, it feels lighter than you would expect. The big hardware downside is no official IP rating so 007 better not take it anywhere near water!

That movie poster billboard-sized display

If you’re someone who does a lot of media consumption on a smartphone you are going to love the size of this huge display. The Nokia 8.3 5G has a 6.81 inch 2400 x 1080 Full HD+ PureDisplay panel. Display ratio is 20:9 which is inline for most smartphones in 2020. You will have plenty of room for watching videos or playing games or even scrolling through social media apps.

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Nokia 8 3 HR Display1

Despite being an LCD panel it has good color accuracy, color temperature, and white balance. The Pixelworks visual processor that allows always-on HDR (this can be toggled on or off in the PureDisplay settings menu) provides high contrast and vibrant colors. While this feature does make the colors pop a bit more and the blacks look a little bit deeper you will not get HDR support on Netflix despite having Widvine L1 compatibility. And before I forget, the display is still a 60Hz refresh rate so if you have used a 120Hz display you will notice a difference in smoothness when scrolling.

Nokia 8 3 HR Display2

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The screen is 500 nits of brightness and I did not encounter any issues with visibility outdoors in broad daylight. I left the Auto brightness setting toggled on and it worked just fine for me. However, at full brightness setting outdoors the screen is visible but not as bright as OLED panels from some other manufacturers.

In summary, the display is big, bright, and beautiful and even includes low blue light support. But it's a bummer that HDR support on Netflix and a 90/120 Hz high refresh rate are missing on a flagship device.

Nokia 8.3 performance matches others in this class

Just like other devices in this price range, the Nokia 5.3 sports the Snapdragon 765 chipset with band support for most global carriers. Paired with 8GB LPDDR4x RAM the review unit did not experience any lag with the various apps and games. There is 128GB UFS 2.1 storage and that can be expanded via SD card up to 512GB.

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Benchmark scores compared to other smartphones running the SD765 chipset. In my case, I got a 604 single-core score and 1850 multi-core score.  The OpenCL Score came in at 1258.

In day-to-day use, the phone feels quite snappy and responsive. One area where I expected a slight slowdown was image processing. But to my surprise, I did not experience any serious lag in image processing at least in the time I spent with the camera.

Expect the performance to be on par with other devices with 8GB RAM when paired with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 chip.

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Since the 765 series chipset from Qualcomm is a step down from their top-shelf processors, games such as will not play at high frame rates. At the same time, it can play many games quite well, without any issues whatsoever. Just don't expect it to offer up some incredible graphics performance, as it does have a lower-end GPU included.

Bottom line, for regular everyday use with light to moderate gaming, there should be no issues using the Nokia 8.3 5G.

Battery life on the Nokia 8.3 is dependent on 5G usage

Testing battery life on the Nokia 8.3 5G was a challenge since 5G signal or for that matter, even LTE signal at my house is terrible on T-Mobile. One thing I did notice right away is the steady battery drain on idle was quite a bit higher when compared to my Pixel 4XL and my S20 FE. The main culprit seems to be the camera app that continues running in the background even when the phone is idle.

Due to the poor network quality in my area, there was quite a bit of signal hunting going on when I was out for a walk or a jog. This probably impacted battery life negatively as well. Having said that I managed to get between 4 and 6 hours of screen-on-time (SOT). This included Slack, Tapatalk, Gmail, YouTube, Netflix, Spotify, and a bit of gaming here and there. Oh, and of course I took a bunch of photos while testing the camera capabilities of this phone.

My sense is that with a relatively faster drain especially with 5G this might be a one-day phone that requires topping up at night. On Wi-Fi alone, the battery life is absolutely stellar as just watching YouTube videos or streaming Netflix at the max 1080p resolution for over 2+ hours only drained 14%. Of course, your individual experience may be different than mine based on your usage pattern.

Nokia 8 3 HR Battery1

Since the charging brick in the box was a Euro version I decided to use my Pixel 4XL charging brick with a similar 18W output. The 4500 mAh battery took almost two hours to charge from zero to 100% which is a bit on the high side.

Lack of wireless charging is another missing feature on this device which ordinarily wouldn't bother me. But when taken into consideration with other competitive devices it's a glaring omission.

In the end, I think that the battery life is going to fluctuate widely based on each person's use case especially with how much 5G bandwidth they use.

Audio options aren't top-shelf but hey there's a headphone jack!

Nokia 8 3 HR Audio1

I have an audio playlist that I cycle through with wired and wireless headphones for any smartphone review. For in-ear listening I use, Samsung AKG and MEE Audio IEMs (In-Ear Monitor) to test audio output from the headphone jack. Nokia 8.3 5g supports Bluetooth 5.1 and I paired my Enacfire E60 and Anker Soundcore Q20 headphones to test BT audio.

Wired audio output was decent on either in-ear headphones. I kept the volume level a tad bit above 50% to clearly make out the various sounds. Bluetooth audio quality was superb and actually bested the output from the headphone jack in my opinion.

For videos and games, there is only one bottom-firing speaker on the left-hand corner. The single speaker gets plenty loud but for better quality audio I suggest using headphones – wired or Bluetooth is your choice.

The top earpiece speaker is only for phone calls and doesn't do double duty to create stereo sound for multimedia which is a letdown for a phone in this category. However, calls sounded crisp and clear while using the phone in handset mode and audio coming from the earpiece speaker.

Nokia 8 3 HR Audio2

The single speaker performs well, calls are clear in either handset or speakerphone mode, the audio output is good via the headphone jack, and excellent on Bluetooth. Everything works as intended but those looking for equalizer options or stereo sound will be disappointed. Unlike other manufacturers, Nokia does include a set of in-ear headphones in the box which is a nice touch.

Cameras are a hit in daylight and a miss in lowlight

Nokia 8 3 HR Camera1

The Nokia 8.3 5T boasts a quad-camera array on the back and one selfie camera on the front. On paper, the 64MP f/1.89 main camera seems a serious contender with ZEISS Optics and PureView branding. The ultrawide camera is a ZEISS Optics 12MP sensor with f/2.2, 120° field of view. Rounding out the rear camera array are a 2 MP depth sensor and 2 MP sensor with macro lens. The Dual LED flash module is just left of the circular camera array. On the front, the selfie camera is a ZEISS Optics 24MP f/2.0 unit.

Nokia’s camera app is fully featured and will look similar to apps from other high-end smartphone manufacturers. Nokia is also offering Pro mode for both photos and videos. Specifically, for video, there are a lot of options to choose from with built-in ZEISS cinematic effects. The 24fps cinema mode with options to add anamorphic and blue flares is a trend these days. And I am glad to see Nokia offering it on this phone. Image stabilization in video mode is available and Nokia calls it Action Cam mode.

I have had excellent luck with the Lumia series from 2013 to 2016 and was really pumped about testing the capabilities of the Nokia 8.3 5G quad-camera array.

Daylight performance with main and ultrawide cameras is excellent

Easily the best part about this phone is the daylight HDR performance. Photos are crisp with a good amount of brightness and detail. Pictures and snapped and processed in an instant. Outdoor photos come out great from sunrise to sundown. Take a look at some pictures shot at various times in the day in the gallery below including a sample via Night mode.

 

Portrait mode works well in relatively decent lighting. There were, however, quite a few errors, especially with inanimate objects. Having said that, the background blur on portraits when it works is almost DSLR level. One other thing I noticed is that portrait shots take perhaps a second longer to process than regular pictures.

Ultrawide camera pictures in daylight are actually quite crisp. The main camera produces 4:3 resolution pictures while the ultrawide camera produces 16:9 aspect ratio photos. Here are a few samples from main and ultrawide cameras taken back to back.

Lowlight performance is lackluster. But as long as there is some light the main camera with its massive sensor is able to produce good shots in the Night mode setting. Night mode setting also improves results in low ambient lighting. I took the first photo indoors in regular ambient light. The second photo is taken using Night mode right after. A few hours later, the third photo is taken using Night mode at night with little light trickling in from the other room. See the results and judge them for yourself.

In really dark conditions the results with or without Night mode are pretty much the same and produce really dark, blurry, and grainy pictures. The Nokia 8.3 5G is a big letdown in this area when compared to results from Google, Samsung, and OnePlus in this price segment.

Last but not least let's talk about the macro 2MP lens. There isn't really much to talk about. And in pretty much every case it is actually better to use either the main camera or the ultrawide and crop in versus using the macro lens. Take a look at the three photos below taken by the macro, main, and ultrawide camera and decide for yourself.

Selfie camera performance could be better

Just like the two main cameras in the rear, the front 24MP Zeiss Optics camera takes some great daylight pictures. And Portrait mode is a lot more consistent for selfies compared to the results from the rear camera.  The lowlight story is again the same as the rear cameras though. Nighttime selfies are barely passable when compared to the Pixel 4a or even the S20 FE.

Video impressions

I took the Nokia 8.3 5G for a video recording trip to a local park. Both the main and ultrawide cameras have recording capability from FHD 1080P/30fps to 4K/30fps. Selfie videos are restricted maximum to 2k/60fps.

Before you begin though you need to make up your mind on which lens are you going to shoot the video with because switching lenses while recording is not possible. The color reproduction on the primary lens is actually quite good.  OZO audio records sound quite well but if it is windy outside it will pick up a lot of wind noise even with the wind filter turned on. Image stabilization in daylight is good on the primary lens.

Low light videos are quite soft and image stabilization doesn't do anything at night. Nokia's unique version of recording front and rear video feature – Bothie – is well and alive on this device. So if that may be useful in certain situations where you may want to add commentary to your videos.

But the best feature is recording videos in Cinema mode. Granted that will lower the videos down to 24fps. But the post-processing of the videos using the built in Cinema editor provides a lot of options. And for certain outdoor videos, the post-processing produces some really nice looking footage. One feature, I can definitely see people using.

In summary, both the front and two main rear cameras are great in daylight for photos and to a reasonable extent videos. Lowlight performance was disappointing for both photos and videos regardless of the camera. Image stabilization in daylight is good and OZO audio works well when wind noise is at a minimum. Cinema editor for post-processing was a pleasant surprise. If the lowlight performance was better this phone would be a serious competitor to phones from other manufacturers in this price segment.

Software is a bright spot

Nokia ships the phone with Android 10 and it will receive two years of Android upgrades. Looks-wise AndroidOne reminds me of my Pixel 4XL but there are small subtle differences. Mainly all the little special touches that the Mountain View company reserves for its Pixel line are all missing.

So the multiple options in Display settings or Themes that are present on Pixel software are missing here. Some icons are also slightly different the main one being the one for Gmail. One giant difference is of course the Nokia camera app. Other than that I wasn't able to find any big differences between the Nokia 8.3 5G and my Pixel 4XL.

 

Right upon bootup there was an almost 2GB software update available. Once the update installed and I started the setup process I noticed something interesting. There is now an option available to set up the Nokia 8.3 5G wirelessly instead of using a USB-C cable with an OTG adapter.

Nokia 8 3 HR Software1

Outside of the standard Google suite of apps, only three other apps were installed during the setup process. These include Netflix, Amazon Shopping, and Nokia's My phone app. You can uninstall Netflix and Amazon app if you wish. You cannot uninstall the My Phone app but it seems to be a useful app for after-sales support and diagnostics among other things.

One annoyance that I found with this phone was that if you want to use the real estate space a bit more efficiently in terms of more than 5 icons per row or more than 5 rows on the screen then your option is to go to a third-party launcher. Another small issue is that it is impossible to remap the dedicated Google Assistant button to any other action.

A small bonus is that Nokia is bundling in Google One 100GB cloud storage option for 6 months with the 8.3 5G. After the initial 6 months, you can either opt-out or pay $1.99/month for the extra cloud storage.

The final result is a bloat-free software experience right out of the box. My review unit is running Android 10 with the September 1, 2020 security patch. The phone also updated the Play system to September 1, 2020 version after the initial setup which had the March 1, 2020 version.

Nokia's policy of 2 years of Android OS upgrades means this phone will definitely see Android 12 at a minimum. And 3 years of monthly security updates means this phone will be relevant at least till the Fall of 2023.

Connectivity is on par with other flagship devices

Nokia 8 3 HR Connectivity1

Smartphone manufacturers and cellular service providers are peddling 5G like crazy right now. In 2020 it is difficult to escape the hype that surrounds 5G. The Snapdragon 765 modular platform modem on this device boasts support for 13 5G bands and 18 LTE bands. That should enable the Nokia 8.3 5G to connect pretty much with any GSM carrier worldwide.

However, at this time I don't think you should buy this phone solely because of the worldwide 5G support. 5G isn't fully ready yet and there are differences in 5G implementation in USA and likely to be more around the globe as well. Just look at 5G on Verizon which uses mmWave on Verizon and T-Mobile which opted for the Sub-6 methodology. There's still some time before there is uniform standardization and more 5G coverage available everywhere.

The Nokia 8.3 5G showed a 5G logo the instant I popped in my T-Mobile nano-SIM card. Take a look at download speeds on the Nokia 8.3 5G versus the LTE only on Pixel 4XL. You can see that the data speeds are quite low 5G or LTE so do keep this in mind as you consider your connectivity options.

Moving on to regular things such as VoLTE or Wi-Fi calling, both are supported out of the box on T-Mobile which is a good sign.  Phone call quality on VoLTE or VoWiFi was excellent in both handset and speakerphone modes. No issues or fiddling around with APN settings meant MMS and SMS and RCS all worked fine. Streaming music via Spotify or watching YouTube videos while waiting for food pickup did not encounter any problems.

Dual-SIM support is available on the phone but if you decide to use an SD card for additional storage then you will give up the second SIM slot so prioritize your choices accordingly.

Nokia 8 3 HR Connectivity2

Both my Bluetooth headphones – Soundcore Q20 and Enacfire E60 paired seamlessly via Bluetooth 5.0. Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac support meant consistently getting maximum download and upload speeds supported by my internet service provider. And finally, NFC is present on the Nokia 8.3 5G and I was able to make contactless payments using the Google Pay app.

From a connectivity standpoint, the Nokia 8.3 5G behaves like how a true flagship should.

Final verdict

Nokia 8 3 HR Conclusion1

I’m torn about not wanting to end this review on a down note. The Nokia 8.3 5G is an absolute stunner of a device. And I enjoyed it quite a bit during my time with it before penning this review.

However, the lack of features such as wireless charging, IP rating, and lackluster lowlight camera performance need to be balanced against the beautiful design, large screen, and clean software experience. Additionally, I don't think 5G is that big of a deal yet since networks aren't fully built out yet.

We are almost 8 months into this global pandemic and it's hard to suggest that people spend more money than absolutely necessary. The great thing is that there are lots of really good smartphones available at the $699 price point. So the real question is will you choose the Nokia 8.3 5G as a daily driver like 007?