There’s really no reason to overlook the Nokia 8.3 5G as your next smartphone, even though they're not available through mobile networks. Combine its Android One software experience with a solid design and a capable camera and you’ve got an enjoyable device that’ll last a good few years.
On a daily basis, our feeds are flooded with the shiniest, fastest, best new smartphones on the market. Most of them land in SA with a price tag that could easily go upwards of R20k, so we know they’ve got cash to spare for that advertising budget. But you know what? Sometimes you have to dig deeper to find more valuable gems, and that’s what we found in the new Nokia 8.3 5G.
Of course, Nokia brings back good memories of a simpler time, when smartphones had hideous little jackets and old men bought those ugly belts that have sleeves for a knife and a Nokia 3310. But we’ve been reviewing Nokia’s newer variants for years, and it’s never really lost its value for money factor.
The Nokia 8.3 is the company’s first commercial 5G-capable device, which not-so-surprisingly makes it one of the most affordable 5G devices in South Africa at the moment. But, considering 5G has been excessively overhyped, that’s not the reason you’ll want to strap this one into your belt… or not.
It’s good enough for Bond…
The only real marketing around this device was Nokia’s partnership with the new James Bond film titled ‘No time to die’. And we’re inclined to say that, if it’s good enough for Bond, it’s good enough for us.
Face-up, you won’t be able to differentiate it from any other black slab currently on the market. Look closely, however, and you’ll see Nokia’s insignia proudly placed on the bottom chin. It makes the chin bulkier than we’d like, but for this price, we’ll proudly bare the Nokia logo up front.
Even more, it’s fitted with a large 6.8in IPS LCD display (with just an 82% screen-to-body ratio). Considering this is a mid-ranger, we found that we could easily live with the LCD, but an OLED would’ve been ideal. You can clearly see some bleeding on the edged of the bezels, and around the left-placed camera cutout — something LCDs are notorious for.
Flip it on its back and you’re greeted with a deep turquoise back panel that catches light beautifully and a round camera module in the middle up top. Sadly, you won’t get much time to enjoy that shimmery back panel after you’ve slapped that included cover on it. But do it anyway, for the sake of the longevity of your smartphone.
Along the sides, you’ll find the fingerprint sensor (yes, it’s not in-screen or mounted on the back) that doubles as the power/unlock button s well as a volume rocker and a dedicated Google Assistant button on the left.
The South African Pixel
Because Google’s great hardware doesn’t ship to South Africa, Nokia’s smartphones are the closest you’ll get to Google’s vanilla Android experience without owning a Pixel. It forms part of the Android One family, which means you get Android updates ultra-fast and rely heavily on Google mobile services.
Which isn’t a bad thing… unless you’re not keen on being heavily integrated with the Google ecosystem. Nokia devices make use of Google’s apps as standard, and don’t even host its own service apps for messaging, email and gallery. With this comes a strong focus on Google Assistant’s capability to help you navigate basic daily tasks.
This means that everything runs beautifully. Even though the Nokia 8.3 5G’s not sporting top-of-the-range specs, Google’s software tweaks make for a smooth and enjoyable experience when booting up apps and running basic processes. It’s powered by the surprisingly capable Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G mobile platform, and our review unit boasts 8GB RAM and 128GB storage.
One of our favourite features on this device (and all the other Nokia buggers) is its dual-SIM capability. You could easily run your main network SIM along with a Rain SIM for data without the need for a mobile router, and that’s just fantastic.
Not so spec-ops
Nokia’s been partnered with Zeiss for a long time — and Zeiss is known for its great lens quality. But remember, this is a mid-ranger, so you’re not getting the cream of the crop in terms of camera flex.
In that aforementioned round camera module, you’ll find four camera sensors at the ready. Firstly, there’s the large 64 MP f/1.9 wide sensor, then the 12 MP, ultrawide, the 2 MP macro option and a 2 MP depth sensor. It’s not a terrible lineup, and in our experience, you don’t necessarily need more than this for normal day-to-day shooting. But there are definitely a few drawbacks when it comes to picture quality in a few scenarios.
Just… don’t zoom at all if you can help it. Because the camera tries to overcompensate for sharpness, you’ll be greeted with comic book-esque lines around your subject. The best method here is to stick to small zooms or just avoid zooming altogether.
The shutter is fairly quick, however, so you should get sharp images from a moving subject most of the time. We just stuck to the ‘multiple shots’ rule to make sure at least one of the shots come out sharp. In well-lit scenarios pictures look amazing, with little-to-no oversaturation (something we see in most Asian smartphones), which is extremely welcome.
What did surprise us, is its low-light performance. This is something many midrangers struggle with — just because their sensors are too small to translate little lighting into something useful. Of course, images come out with some noise and loss of detail, but pictures still look fairly well-lit considering.
Nokia 8.3 5G Final Verdict
There’s really no reason to overlook the Nokia 8.3 5G as your next smartphone, even though they’re not available through mobile networks. Combine its Android One software experience with a solid design and a capable camera and you’ve got an enjoyable device that’ll last a good few years.
Nokia may have lost its brick-like form factor, but it hasn’t lost its focus on quality and value for money. You can buy the Nokia 8.3 5G cash from R14,000.