Nokia 8 Sirocco Review
Believe it or not, the Nokia 8 Sirocco is at the top of the company's lineup at the moment, complete with a high-res display, a fast chipset, a dual camera, and plenty of storage. It is, however, also the company's most expensive phone, and a lot of water went under the bridge since its unveiling, so are the fine specs and fast Android One chops enough to justify the pricing? Read on to find out...
In the box:
- Protective case
- In-ear headphones
- 2.5A wall charger
- USB-C cable
- USB-C audio jack adapter
- Warranty and information leaflets
Glassy heft, retro aspect ratio
To sum the Nokia 8 Sirocco in one sentence, it is a phone that is more pleasant to look at than it is to actually use on a daily basis. It looks striking in glossy black, and the thin, contrasting metal rim helps to exude a premium feeling. The device has a solid, reassuring heft to it, and the curves on the sides of the display further add to its coolness factor. Plus, the phone is IP67 water-resistant.
But using the Nokia 8 Sirocco even for a short while is enough for one to realize that things haven't been quite thought through. First off, while the phone is fairly compact for one with a 5.5-inch display, it feels a bit wide since it sticks to the orthodox, 16:9 screen ratio. Many modern phones have made the switch to narrower, taller displays in order to fit more screen space in an easier-to-grasp body. Also, the thin sides feel sharp against the palm, and the flush, shallow power and volume buttons are downright uncomfortable to use. And while the fingerprint reader at the back is fast, the ring that surrounds it should have been more pronounced to be felt better.
There's a plastic protective case that comes with the Nokia 8 Sirocco, and slipping it on makes the phone a bit less of an annoyance to use. On the other hand, it feels wrong to cover such a classy device with something that gets scuffed after just several days of use.
The Nokia 8 Sirocco lands a high-res, 1440x2560 Quad HD AMOLED display. The best thing about it is that it looks nice and sharp thanks to its high pixel density, and during our testing, we've never had issues with outdoor visibility. On the downside, the screen is much “colder” than it should be, appearing downright blueish when it's supposed to display white, especially towards the curved sides. Thus, cold colors like green and blue appear especially jumbled and over-pronounced compared to the reference sRGB gamut. No extra display color settings are provided, so what you see is what you get.
One thing we weren't expecting to find here is the so-called “jello effect”. It is noticeable when scrolling up and down – the content appears to slightly stretch and compress as you swipe. It's presence is not a big deal, but it is a tiny flaw nonetheless.
About the display's curved sides, they do look cool, but serve no other purpose but an aesthetic one. While watching full-screen video – most of which successfully fills the entire screen's traditional proportions – there will always be these two slim bars at the top and bottom where colors are a bit off. This proves more problematic when gaming, as it is common for buttons and health bars to occupy that area of the screen.
Interface and functionality
Screeching fast Android updates, clean interface, thoughtful gestures
If you've seen one Nokia interface, you've seen them all, as the company was one of the first to jump on the Android One bandwagon that provides clean, bloat-free UI (Android 8.1 Oreo in this case), spearheading version and security updates. For example, Nokia phones get the Android P betas concurrently with Google's Pixels now, and ditto for the latest security updates.
Nokia does throw in a few thoughtful touches to the plain Android look and functionality, though. You can set a double-tap gesture to wake the phone up. The phone also has something called Glance Screen (similar to Samsung's Always-on Display), that can light up the AMOLED panel when you pick up the phone, showing time/date, battery stats and notifications in monochrome. You can choose from different clock styles and notification displays, too!
Also, you may not have the ability to swipe on an empty screen area to unfurl the notification shade, but you can do it with a swiping gesture on the fingerprint scanner at the back. Double-pressing the lock key quickly takes you to the camera app from a locked state, rounding up the good coverage of most basic useful gestures and shortcuts on the Nokia 8 Sirocco.
Processor and memory
Not furious, but pretty fast, and with plenty to memorize in
At the price that Nokia was asking at launch for the Sirocco, one might expect a Snapdragon 845 inside, but will have to make do with the 835 version. It's still a 10nm chipset, though, and the clutter-free Android Oreo on the Sirocco simply flies. The smooth operation is undoubtedly also aided by a large 6GB DDR4 RAM package, while storage is taken care of with a generous 128GB flash memory module from the get-go. Gaming, on the other hand, isn't a perfectly smooth experience. Casual, less-demanding titles run well, but we did notice choppiness in more graphically intensive titles like Riptide GP Renegade.
The Nokia 8 comes with a Zeiss-branded dual camera setup that combines a 12MP shooter sporting large, 1.4-micron pixels and wide, f/1.7 lens with a 13MP telephoto secondary camera for 2x magnification. We also appreciate the Pro mode that's available for manually adjusting white balance, focusing, ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation. A Live Bokeh mode that blurs portrait backgrounds and slow-motion video round up a nice set of camera extras. Unfortunately, we found the camera app to be acting up a few times, not registering our shutter taps at all so we had to close and reopen.
When given favorable conditions, the Nokia 8 Sirocco can take good-looking, very likeable photos with its main camera. Details are sufficient, and colors are given a slight boost to make them pop, although noise filtering could use some improvement. Unfortunately, the camera is a bit fiddly when it comes to setting the exposure with a tap on the screen, and this can lead to shots that are under- or overexposed. Low-light photos are definitely usable, but noisier and less detailed compared to what we've seen from other high-ends. The Auto HDR feature (turned off by default) does help in trickier lighting situations, but slows down the picture-taking process noticeably.
As for the secondary 2x zoom camera, its performance puts it in the “hit or miss” category. Proper, optical zoom is nice having as it brings the subject closer to the photographer with minor losses in quality, but in the case of the Nokia 8 Sirocco, motion blur can easily spoil the image. Also, the camera performs poorly in low light, so we'd advise you to be conservative with its use.
Selfies and Live Bokeh
The front-facing camera is a run-of-the-mill, 5MP affair. In tricky dynamic range situations, like shooting against a clear sky, it aims for the face which is understandable, but results in overexposed selfie backgrounds. Distortion near corners is easily noticeable with this one.
The Live Bokeh mode can be used to add a more professional, more artistic look to your portraits. The results aren't perfect when it comes to how accurately the blur has been applied, but the shots are still worth sharing on social media.
The Nokia 8 Sirocco is capable of shooting 4K video that is detailed, with nice, saturated colors, but the darker-than-reality exposure algorithms sometimes rear their ugly heads in video capture as well. The 1080p footage is stabilized for a smoother recording, while continuous autofocus works great in all modes, refocusing between objects near and far nearly instantaneously.
Sound recording was stellar, too, with the three noise-canceling mics around the phone, which kept ambient noise to a minimum while we talked, and etched our voice loud and clear in the footage. Nokia touts 24-bit audio plus the ability to record at up to 132 decibels, and we can attest that the handset is indeed a very capable audio-grabber.
Sound and call quality
The long mesh of the earpiece grill lets out very good voice quality to our discerning ears, with no audible distortions, even at higher volume. The Nokia 8's trio of noise-canceling mics, strategically scattered around the phone, behaved commendably, too, by weeding out the ambient fluff, and relaying our timbres loud and clear to the receiving end.
The single built-in speaker is positioned at the bottom of the phone. It sounds loud and clear even at high volumes, but don't expect getting much bass out of it. Since the Nokia 8 Sirocco lacks a headphone jack, a pair of USB-C in-ear headphones are included in the set. The sound quality is decent for a pair of in-the-box headphones. A USB-C to 3.5mm adapted is also bundled with the phone.
Just shy of excellent, battery life is as good as it gets with QHD resolution and 3200 mAh pack
The Nokia 8 Sirocco – paired with a 3260mAh battery, the Android One experience, and its OLED display – did well on our battery test, enduring nearly 8 hours of continuous use. Our real-life experience with the phone confirms that it can easily last through a day of normal usage, and we were close to reaching the 2-day mark last weekend.
The phone ships with a 2.5A wall charger that tops off the battery for a bit less than two hours from discharged state, and also offers a Qi wireless charging coil inside for those long days behind a desk.
There's a lot to like about the Nokia 8 Sirocco. The solid glass-and-metal design feels premium, and the specs offer plenty of processing power and storage. When you add the clean Android One software that is fast and free of bloat, one can't help but wonder what might be the catch.
Well, the catch is that Nokia somehow decided to price the Sirocco at the whopping 749 EUR at launch. The price has fallen a bit, but this bracket still puts the Nokia 8 Sirocco against formidable direct competition. For this kind of dough, you can get almost any Android flagship out there, including the Galaxy S9 or the LG G7 ThinQ, and these come with faster chips and better cameras.
Still, if it falls down in price, the Sirocco will be a great option for those Android purists who like their interface fast and clean or their displays in a more traditional aspect ratio. Until then, the price tag may chase away many potential buyers, irregardless of the nostalgia whiff that Nokia's Sirocco models may send down their spines.