HMD Global may have launched the most number of smartphones by a single brand this year. The company has released about a dozen smartphones which have taken their place in the budget to mid-range segments in India. Among all of these phones, there is nothing that we can call a true 2018 flagship. However, the Nokia 8.1 (Review) perhaps comes closest to fitting this bill. The phone was launched in India earlier this month, and it brings a premium design language as well as a near flagship-level chipset.
The Nokia 8.1 carries a price tag of Rs 26,999. This makes it a great, convenient premium affordable option for a lot of consumers. Yet for those willing to spend a little extra, there is also the OnePlus 6T (Review), which comes with an exciting design language along with flagship-grade hardware. The Nokia 8.1 and OnePlus 6T fall under different segments, but are currently the best that HMD and OnePlus have to offer. Here’s how the two phones fare against each other.
Nokia 8.1 vs OnePlus 6T: Design and display
It’s safe to say the the Nokia 8.1 and OnePlus 6T are some of the best-looking phones for their prices. Where the Nokia 8.1 offers a classy and elegant design, the OnePlus 6T is more modern and stylish. The Nokia 8.1 gets a 2.5D glass on the front and back. It’s also more compact compared to the OnePlus 6T as it gets a smaller display. The diamond-cut, chiseled frame is of a Series 6000 aluminium that gives it a solid yet polished design.
The OnePlus 6T is a taller device with a 3D curved Gorilla Glass 6 protection on the back, which makes it more durable than the Nokia 8.1. The curved glass design makes it more comfortable to hold in your hand. It may not be a classy-looking phone, but it is every bit as premium as they come.
Structurally speaking, the Nokia 8.1’s thick aluminum frame gives the device a more solid build than the OnePlus 6T. So while both the phones are equally susceptible to cracking on being dropped, the Nokia 8.1 should be able to withstand more pressure and is not likely to bend easily.
In terms of design, OnePlus has had to make a few sacrifices in order to offer a more immersive display and a bigger battery. The 6T does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack, and this is where the Nokia 8.1 may appeal consumers a little more as it comes with a jack and a pair of wired earphones with the box. The 6T also offers a slower and inconsistent in-display fingerprint sensor compared to the rear-mounted physical fingerprint sensor on the Nokia 8.1. However, Face Unlock on the 6T is still the fastest way to unlock the phone, and the Nokia 8.1’s facial recognition can’t match up in speed.
Now, the OnePlus 6T is the clear choice for consumers looking for an immersive display. The tiny water drop notch and thin chin bezel means the phone offers over 90 per cent screen-to-body ratio. It is also an FHD+ AMOLED display so you get some vivid and punchy colors that look stunning along with deep blacks and a good amount of saturation.
The Nokia 8.1 does not offer the same kind of immersive experience because of the wider notch on top and a thicker chin. But it has a great LCD panel that could easily trick you into believing it’s an AMOLED display. This is because the Nokia 8.1 employs a PureDisplay screen, which is HMD’s screen calibration tech that bumps up the contrast and sharpness of the display. PureDisplay also means the Nokia 8.1 supports HDR video playback and has the ability to upscale SDR content to HDR. All of this is to say the phone offers a terrific panel with bright and vivid colours, great sharpness especially while watching HDR content on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
Nokia 8.1 vs OnePlus 6T: Hardware, software and camera
On paper, the OnePlus 6T may look like a clear winner, but that’s not entirely true. While the Snapdragon 845 is a beast of a performer that helps the 6T run incredibly fast, smooth and consistent, the Snapdragon 710 chipset inside the Nokia 8.1 is pretty impressive as well. We put the Nokia 8.1 through pretty much the same intensive workload as any flagship, which includes running graphic intensive games, opening and loading a bunch of apps and generally multitasking, and the Nokia smartphone managed to keep up.
Considering that the Nokia 8.1 is almost Rs 10,000 cheaper, the chipset that you get with it is near flagship level. In real world performance, you will barely be able to tell the difference. The extra RAM inside the 6T does help the phone handle multitasking better and more consistently, but the Nokia 8.1’s optimised Android One software makes sure there’s no lag even with a fewer amount of RAM.
Whether you opt for the onePlus 6T or the Nokia 8.1, you are going to get a consistent level of performance that is dependable. It also helps that both the phones run on Android 9 Pie. The Nokia 8.1 runs a pure, stock version of Pie while the OnePlus phone offers a light layer of OxygenOS. But the companies are pretty evenly matched when it comes to delivering timely updates, so you can bet these are going to be some of the first phones to get Android Q next year.
The 6T feels more appealing as its speed is unmatched. Everything flies off the finger in a snap and that’s largely because of how well-optimised the software is. The animations while opening apps and browsing through the UI happens in a flash. It’s the kind of speed that the Nokia 8.1 just cannot achieve despite everything being optimised here as well.
Coming to the cameras, things aren’t quite as they seem here. On paper again, the OnePlus 6T looks strong with a 16MP + 20MP dual camera system with f/1.7 aperture, and a 16MP front-facing camera. The Nokia 8.1 gets a 12MP primary sensor with 1.4 micron pixel, f/1.8 aperture and a 13MP fixed-focus sensor. On the front, the Nokia 8.1 gets a bigger 20MP selfie camera. The reason I say things are not quite as they seem is because the numbers on paper don’t necessarily translate to real-world performance.
Both the Nokia 8.1 and 6T offer great daylight photography with sharp and detailed pictures and good dynamic range. The Zeiss lens does improve the Nokia 8.1’s ability to retain detail in high contrast areas, while the OIS in the 6T makes sure photos come out blur-free and crisp most of the times. In daylight settings, you will be pleased with what both the phones have to offer. I should add that the colours and vividness of the photos looked more flattering and appealing on the Nokia 8.1’s PureDisplay screen when the two phones were kept side-by-side.
Indoors, the Nokia 8.1 does better when it comes to offering punchy colours and details. Photos look lively and worth sharing on social media platforms as compared to the OnePlus 6T that offers washed out photos under artificial lighting. Selfies on the other hand look more natural and pleasing on the 6T, while colours look washed out and over-sharpened on the Nokia 8.1.
In low-light conditions, the 6T does better as it allows more light and better detail retention compared to the Nokia 8.1. That being said, the Nokia 8.1 does better in low-light compared to past Nokia phones and there is noticeable improvement to be seen here. For its price, the cameras on the Nokia 8.1 will keep you happy.
Nokia 8.1 vs OnePlus 6T: Which one should you buy
Whether you go for the Nokia 8.1 or the OnePlus 6T, one thing is certain that you will get a very premium and good-looking device. The question boils down to how much you’re willing to spend, really. If you are on a firm budget of under Rs 30,000, then the Nokia 8.1 is your best bet because it manages to bring together a classy design along with a near flagship-grade performance, a terrific PureDisplay screen and a consistently smooth user experience with stock Android Pie on board.
But if you can afford to spend a few thousand rupees extra, then the OnePlus 6T is one of the best affordable flagship phone out there right now. Not only does it get a premium and modern design with a gorgeous waterdrop display, but it also offers unparalleled speed thanks to a mighty Snapdragon 845 chipset and an optimised OxygenOS software based on Pie.
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