Nokia 9 PureView Review
Nokia’s latest is a strikingly designed smartphone with 5 cameras
What is the Nokia 9 PureView?The Nokia 9 PureView is a strikingly designed smartphone from HMD Global, the company licensed to make phones under the beloved Nokia name. This phone takes the current trend for photography-oriented mobiles to a new level with five (yes, five!) rear cameras all made in conjunction with Zeiss, which crafted the lenses and the software.
HMD’s Nokia phones have almost no bloatware – practically all apps apart from the camera app are vanilla Android – which means that they can be updated to the latest software faster than anyone except Google’s own-brand Pixel phones.
Nokia’s branding system is straightforward: the lower the number, the more affordable the phone, with the same digits reused in successive models. The Nokia 6 was superseded by the Nokia 6.1, for instance. The Nokia 1 is an entry-level device and the top of the tree for quality and features was the Nokia 8, followed by the Nokia 8 Sirocco.
As you’ll have calculated, this, the first phone to use the number 9 as its title, is the company’s flagship.
DesignMany staff and executives at HMD Global previously worked for Nokia, including key design creatives, so the attention to detail, high build quality and classy look that you may remember from Nokia’s heyday continue now.
The Nokia 9 PureView is beautiful: shiny, smooth and glossy with perfectly machined edges and a subtly rounded back that means the phone fits well in the hand. Unlike some of the very latest flagships, the display is not edge-to-edge. There are bezels all round, slim at the sides, wider at the top and bottom. It still looks great, and there’s no notch at the top as the phone’s forehead is wide enough to accommodate the camera and earpiece. The chin is also biggish, but only fractionally wider than the top edge.
It comes in an attractive midnight blue finish here, or… no, that’s it, only one colour choice. Nokia has consistently had great taste when it comes to colour and this looks great.
There is a purity to the design here: the only buttons are a volume rocker and a power button on the right long edge. Otherwise, all parts of the phone are smooth and bump-free. That even continues when you turn the phone round. On the back, all five of the cameras sit perfectly flush inside the phone which contributes to the real slickness the phone offers. This is almost unheard of on phones these days, with camera bumps the norm. You can just feel the flash when you run your finger across it, but that’s it.
This is a slim handset
This is a slim handset, but Nokia has still managed to squeeze in a wireless charging coil in the back of the phone, so that you can charge your phone without plugging it in, just by plonking it on a Qi-compatible wireless pad. Nokia was one of the first companies to create wireless-chargeable phones, so no surprise that it can manage it here without compromising the design.
Take a look at the phone and you’ll see there’s no fingerprint sensor visible on the back or front of the phone, which adds to the sleek look. The phone can be unlocked by a PIN, password, face recognition or fingerprint, which here is buried under the display itself. Other phones have this, most notably the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and P30 Pro, the latest S10 series of Samsung Galaxy phones, and the most recent phones from OnePlus and Oppo. The list goes on but it’s still far from a universal way to unlock your handset.
Here, the sensor where you touch to unlock is a little further up the display than on some rivals, about two inches up from the bottom of the screen. Ah, yes, about that screen...
DisplayThe screen here is six inches, well, technically 5.99 inches. It’s an OLED screen, P-OLED to be specific, which is the technology that other smartphones have used with varying success.
Here, it looks great, the 2,880 x 1,440 pixels revealing that this is a 2:1 ratio screen. This is part of the reason that although it’s a six-inch screen, the phone fits easily into the hand because it’s longer and narrower than some.
It’s a high-resolution display, 538 pixels per inch (ppi), so beating the 458 ppi of the iPhone XS Max easily. This is a higher pixel density than almost every phone on the market, actually, with the 4K Sony Xperia 1 display being a notable exception: that manages 643ppi.
Still, this looks just great. It’s an HDR-compatible display, HDR10 to be specific, so far from every variant. HDR content really pops on this screen, vibrant, detailed and with rich detail in dark and bright areas together.
This is what Nokia calls a PureDisplay, only found on HDR-supporting Nokia handsets and designed to automatically upscale SDR content to HDR. It does everything itself, though there is a PureDisplay item in Settings so you can choose between Basic, Cinema, Vivid and Dynamic options. All speak for themselves, and all look good, apart from Dynamic which automatically adjusts not only colour and contrast but also brightness.
Nokia hasn’t made this an all-screen front
The shape of the display is great, thanks to the elegantly curved screen edges that match the shape of the phone chassis around them, for example.
The only real downside is the fact that Nokia hasn’t made this an all-screen front. There’s a chin and forehead on the Nokia 9 PureView which is bigger than most other flagships so it stands out a bit.
Still, as mentioned above, at least Nokia has gone for symmetry. Where every phone apart from the latest iPhones have a chin that’s much bigger than their foreheads, here the non-screen bits of the front are almost identical top and bottom (about 9mm at each end).
At least the blank space at the top is filled with the phone’s earpiece, front-facing camera and familiar Nokia logo, the last of which nestles neatly in the top right corner. And it means there’s no notch, which is better when you’re watching video, of course.
Screen UnlockI’ve been using the Nokia 9 PureView for more than a month now, and the benefit of testing it exhaustively is you can get to see the issues clearly. And sometimes, they get solved for you.
That’s happened here. Some reviews of the phone have said that the fingerprint sensor is terrible and very unresponsive. Unlike those on the OnePlus 7 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S10+, for instance.
Well, that problem has been solved. What was a very uneven experience is now solid and reliable. Some have complained that it just didn’t work, or if it did, only on a third or fourth press and then only if you angled your thumb or finger just right.
Nokia has put out several software updates in the last few weeks (and if this is your kind of thing, I’ll tell you that I’m on build number 00WW_4_22C_SP01) and I’m happy to say that the sensor is now very fast and reliable, even if you poke at it from an almost horizontal angle.
It’s still true that you have to press firmly, way more than on the other phones with this technology, but I learnt quickly that a firm press is needed. As such, a feature which drove certain other reviewers crazy is now working so well that it’s something I find delightful, though it’s not quite as fast as some other phones with the same feature. Does it work 100 per cent of the time? No, but it’s not far off.
Face unlock is available, also courtesy of an earlier software update, and works well, better than on some rivals. But, for me, the fingerprint is the best way to open the phone. Plus, as Nokia points out, it’s more secure than Face Unlock.
CameraNokia broke new ground when it introduced the PureView moniker to its phone a few years back, on a chunky handset called the Nokia 808 PureView. It came with a 41MP sensor, at a time when most phones had 5MP cameras. Next was the Nokia Lumia 1020, a slim phone decked out in a gaudy yellow casing, released in 2013. It had the same sensor.
So, it could sound like quite the downgrade when I tell you the sensors on this phone are 12MP. But, remember, there are five of them. Here, the phone does all the hard work for you, unless you choose the advanced and versatile Pro option which has been a staple on Nokia phones for a while now.
When I first started using the phone’s camera, I was disappointed. It was slow, it took time to launch, to shoot and above all to process an image. It was frustrating because it meant you had to wait for what seemed like an age for the screen to resolve so you could frame your next shot.
Nearly all of these issues have now been fixed in a series of software updates. It’s not great that the phone was launched without these elements having been sorted, but they mostly are now (though image processing still takes a little too long).
Part of that is the innovative multi-lens system which means that all five cameras shoot together and combining the data is what takes the time. And it’s really only just the beginning. With the right settings, you can adjust the focus point of each shot almost infinitely and thus create impressive portrait shots with sharp subjects and blurred backgrounds. Where many cameraphones offer between two and 10 depth-of-field levels to switch between, here there are 1,200.
Sometimes, the results can be too sharply focused, so adjusting the blur levels is essential. Since all the five sensors sit behind lenses with the same focal length, there’s no equivalent-of-optical-zoom here. This means that zooming in can limit the beauty of the image.
At times, the photographic results can be jaw-droppingly goodAt times, the photographic results can be jaw-droppingly good, with detail and richness, though low light doesn’t help things.
The monochrome sensors mean you can take black-and-white photographs which are great for contrast and sharpness: some phones create black-and-white images by fading out the colour. Here, the monochrome sensors achieve something purer.
It doesn’t beat the very best phone cameras, such as the Huawei P30 Pro, for instance, but it comes reasonably close and is a more affordably priced phone, to boot.
PerformanceThis phone is a smooth, fast performer that runs quickly and doesn’t keep you waiting. There are phones with newer processors, but Nokia has managed to ensure this feels fast. It may partly be down to the pure Android software, where every single app is pure Google, apart from the bespoke camera app.
A word about haptic feedback: it’s great. Haptics, as you’ll know, are those cute little vibrations which confirm that the phone registered your touch. A few years ago, haptics could make your phone shake with a metallic vibration so violent the handset felt like a child’s toy. While this doesn’t have the soft caress of the iPhone XS Max’s haptics, it’s a subtle and appealing feel which is enjoyable to use.
The phone’s sound isn’t as strong as its visuals, and there are no stereo speakers. Mind you, audio always sounds better through headphones anyway.
BatteryBattery life is not exceptional but it’s certainly more than adequate. It’ll take you through a full day though, as usual, nightly charges are recommended. Recharging using wireless charging is not fast – though it will easily recharge in full while you sleep. Using a cable to recharge is much faster, of course, though not a match for the fastest out there.
- Striking design
- Innovative camera set-up
- Good battery life
- Camera slow to process pics
- Average audio
Nokia 9 PureView ReviewThis is one of the most attractive and elegant phones yet from Nokia, its slim profile with flush camera lenses and smooth edges making it a particularly good fit in the hand. Although it lacks the all-screen opulence of other flagships, it looks good and the display is bright, sharp and vibrant. Although the fingerprint sensor was iffy when the handset was first launched, updates have made it a reliable way to unlock the phone.
The five camera sensors look striking but while this phone can take very good, even remarkable, photos, it’s still not the very best cameraphone you’ll find.
But it’s a great performer, costs less than many other brands’ flagships and in almost every way, it delivers the goods.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £549.00
Call and Signal Quality9
Email, Browsing, Calandar, Contacts8
App support and functionality8
Value for Money9
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