Many of us have been asking Nokia to give Android a chance and would have loved to see a Lumia run Android. But the Nokia X is not what we expected, its more akin to Windows Phone than Android, even though it has the underpinnings of Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. The interface is as alien to Android as can be with tiles and gestures.
But is the Nokia X something you should consider when buying an entry-level smartphones, leaving alone what it runs ? Has Nokia packed enough in this budget offering, making it worth your consideration? We take a look at all these question in our in-depth review of the Nokia X.
- Excellent Build
- Bright, Sharp Display
- FastLane is intuitive
- Sluggish UI
- UI Needs Work
- Poor Performance
- Fixed Focus Camera
- No Front-camera
- No Flash
The Nokia X is a purely entry-level device with mediocre specs. It runs on a 1 GHz dual-core Snapdragon MSM8225 processor using two Cortex-A5 cores and 512 MB RAM. Performance is sluggish and gaming is a pain. Somehow, Asphalt 8 is able to run smoothly on the Adreno 203 GPU but that's no consolation. The 4-inch WVGA display on the Nokia X however, is one of the sharpest displays available in this segment with excellent touch response. Moreover it has excellent color reproduction.
There's just a single capacitive back button just below the display, which acts both as the home button when long pressed and the contextual back button. You have a 3-megapixel fixed focus camera at the back, we will talk more about it later. There's no flash and no front-facing camera as well, which have become common in this segment.
You have an Accelerometer, Proximity Sensor and Light Sensor as well on the Nokia X. There's GPS thrown in there for good measure and it works quite fine, able to locate your position within seconds. Connectivity options include 3G, WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth, FM Radio and Dual-SIM support. The Nokia X uses two micro SIM card slots. It also has a microSD card slot for expandable storage upto 32 GB. There's no USB OTG support though, but that's really asking too much from a budget offering.
Nokia X has a 1500 mAh removable battery which is capable of running through an entire day without requiring to be charged again.
You can watch our unboxing of the Nokia X and also read our first impressions by following this link.
Nokia has always made solid phones, they are the subject of several meme where they are compared with hammers, break floors among several other things. Nokia X carries on that tradition with a solid construction, it feels solid without ever being heavy. It weighs just 128 grams and is relatively quite thin at about 10.4 mm.
The backcover wraps around the sides giving the phone a unibody look, but the back is removable. It hides the two micro-SIM card slots underneath as well as the space for the battery. You also have a microSD card located between the two micro-SIM card slots. You will also find the 3 MP camera at the back of the Nokia X alongwith the loud speakerphone.
There's a 4-inch display in the front, main earpiece, Nokia branding as well as the proximity and light sensors. There's no front-facing camera and you have a capacitive back button which acts as the Home key when long tapped.
On the left there's nothing, the power lock/unlock button as well as the volume rocker find a place on the right side. Both are quite sturdy, offer good travel and aren't clicky.
On the top you have the 3.5 mm audio jack, a bit offset to the left, while the microUSB data-syncing/charging port can be found on the bottom of the device in the center. The build is similar to Asha series phones before Nokia switched to the new transparent type backcovers.
Nokia X has a 4-inch WVGA (480x800 pixels) display in the front which has superb viewing angles. The display has excellent touch response and color reproduction. As I have said earlier, its easily one of the sharpest displays available in this price-segment.
Its visible in sunlight as well due to good contrast as well. You also have auto-brightness on the Nokia X, which works well and is quite smooth in its operation. There's Nokia glance screen available as well which shows you the current time as well as icons of the basic apps that have any notifications. We also saw the option for double tap to wake up phone and it does to work as well especially if you have Glance Screen off.
Network and Call Quality
We didn't have any issues with call quality of Nokia X. Network retention is better than average. Dual-SIM functionality also works fine and are especially aided with Nokia's implementation of the status bar which easily lets you switch the primary SIM card.
Call quality is clear both over the earpiece and the speakerphone. There is no echo or any foreign sound introduced by the phone in any conversation. Video calling over 3G is not available. WiFi connectivity is excellent and the phone is able to maintain connection with proper speed.
The 3-megapixel camera on the Nokia X can produce good bright images but lacks autofocus, to macro shots are impossible to get right. Even far away shots look a little lost as there are no focus points. Even centre focused shots turn out to be a little blurry no matter how steady your hands are.
Nokia X is only capable of recording FWVGA (480x854 pixels) videos as opposed to every other phone in this segment able to record 720p videos except the Xperia E1 Dual which can too record just SVGA (600x800 pixels) videos. The video quality is quite good and sharp but audio recorded is a bit muddled since there is no noise cancellation.
The camera UI too is a bit sluggish and takes a little time to take the shot after the shutter is pressed. Its the same story throughout the interface, everything feels a little slow. But there are a lot of settings to be played with including White Balance, Exposure levels, Anti-banding, choosing an ISO level, Noise Reduction, Face Detection, Automatic Exposure, Color Effects as well as whether you want stutter sound to be on.
There's a lot more to play in the camera app than what is actually required. If the camera only had Autofocus or even touch to focus, it would have instantly become a much better offering.
Low-light videos and images are utterly, ridiculously bad, but we weren't expecting much on that front. The gallery app has been customized quite a bit just like the rest of the UI. It does have some filters to change the look of images taken in real-time on your phone. Have a look at some of the camera samples taken with the Nokia X.
You can see the full-res image samples in our Google+ Albums.
The speakerphone is exceptionally loud, it sounds great as well. Although in some tracks at full volume it does tend to crackle. But that's a one-off occurrence, almost every-time else it sounds good. There is a general lack of bass, but the clarity makes up for it.
Generally you would have to keep the volume lower than full as its quite loud.
Music and Bundled Headset
The headset you get within the box is the same you get with the Asha series. Its bright red in color, sounds alright, there is a little hint of bass in there as well. They have a very long cable as well but no button to end or receive calls. They are not great for listening to music but do the job, but without any cushion they would start hurting your ears if used for long hours.
Music playback on the Nokia X is excellent, the audio is crisp and there's no stuttering or skipping anywhere. The Music app is rather minimal but does allow you to set your custom settings for the equalizer. You also get music controls on the lockscreen both while using the Music as well as FM Radio app.
Nokia Fastlane also shows the currently playing tracks' album art and a play/pause button. FM Radio reception is great, quality is good as well. The app is limited in the way that you can't record FM but you do have Stereo FM playback both over the headset and the speakerphone.
You also get the Nokia MixRadio app, for the first time on an Android device which lets you use the free online music service which lets you play music you want anytime. It works fine on a 2G connection as well and allows you to skip 6 tracks every hour. The interface again is great looking and the audio quality depends more on your connection speed.
Nokia X struggles in this department, even 720p videos lag with motion blur and framedrop. Therefore, at max you can play 480p videos on the Nokia X. We tried YouTube videos in high-quality and they seem to work fine without any hint of lag or choppiness.
Out of the box you get about 1.29 GB as internal storage and 1.17 GB as phone storage. Apps are movable to the SD card but app data still resides in the internal storage so large games cannot be installed, and even if they could they can't be played well.
Only Asphalt 8 seems to circumvent app installation process, as it saved its game data to the SD card. Since its the only high-end game available in the Nokia Store we were not able to test any other game, if the same thing happened there. All side-loaded games needed their game data to reside in the internal storage.
FastLane is your multitasking UI, app history and notification center. Its everything you do on your phone and everything you need to know that's happening. Alarms, messages, Twitter and Facebook feed all appear in the FastLane making it an even more important interface than the homescreen.
Its customizable as well, you can choose which apps are able to show their notifications in the FastLane and also which apps appear there when you have accessed them.
Multitasking is a bit of a pain really, and I wouldn't really call it that either. Its not true multitasking. To minimize an app you have to long tap on the back button and come back to the homescreen. The app will then appear on the FastLane, so you can do this with as many apps as you want. But to use the same app again where left off, you would always have to come back to homescreen and then access the app through FastLane.
Software and Apps
Nokia X is a lot less about the hardware and way more about its software. Although on the inside it runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, but on the outside it looks nothing like it. Nokia has made sure, anybody looking at its interface finds nothing remotely Google about it.
Starting with the homescreen instead of app shortcuts you have app tiles which are resizeable and you can change their colors as well.
You can even uninstall an app by long tapping on any tile and then hitting the "X" mark on the tile. All apps that you install come as a tile on the homescreen. Therefore this single interface behaves as the homescreen as well as the app drawer.
Swiping to the left of right takes you to the Nokia FastLane which we have already talked about. Its like the central console of the entire UI. You will receive your notifications, multitask and interact with apps right through here.
So, there's no notification drop down, if you swipe down from the top all you get is the status bar which gives you some toggles to connect WiFi, Bluetooth, Sync and Audio Profile currently in use. It also shows which SIM is currently the primary SIM and lets you switch between them. Battery percentage is not displayed in the status bar.
The homescreen is static and although you can change tile colors you cannot add a background. But you can change the lockscreen wallpaper.
You have a gesture enabled keyboard with swipe functionality which works quite well in predicting what you are typing and as well as correcting it. Its quite a robust solution right out of the box.
Coming to the lockscreen its another thing that's been changed. Now its a single swipe to the left or right which lets you access the homescreen. The lockscreen is able to show actionable notifications with a title and subject which is actually a welcome addition. you can swipe a notification to the right and it straight away jumps into the app the notification is from. The lockscreen also displays media controls when something is playing on the phone.
Most of the settings are still same as any other Android device however you do get Glance screen and Double tap to Wake up device options in display.
Nokia bundles its own browser with the X, its based on Chromium project so it renders websites well. There is nary a compatibility issue but browsing is still slow as the processor just cannot handle large pages with many images and embedded videos.
Nokia has got rid of the Pattern option from Security, and you are left with using either a Pin or a password. You can encrypt your device as well.
Performance & Battery Life
The UI of the Nokia X is sluggish to say the least. Everything takes just a tad bit longer to load. Apps take longer to load than competing Android smartphones and more due to the weak processor than Nokia's skin on Android. The Cortex-A5 processor is simply not upto the task. Gaming is again painful with low framerates, stutter and lag all over the place. Nokia X came at the bottom of the pool in every performance test we ran on it, when compared to similarly priced handsets. You can check the comparison in our benchmarking review.
Battery life however is quite decent. You can easily get more than a day's worth of usage including some gaming on the Nokia X.
Nokia X is not made for gaming, lets just say it out right. It has truly mediocre specs and its just not powerful enough to handle even the most basic games. Gameplay is laggy, framerates inconsistent and generally its not a good experience.
But Asphalt 8 does run surprisingly well on the Nokia X, it might have been customized to somehow work on the device as it also bypasses the storage restriction where app-data cannot be moved to the SD card. Asphalt 8 when downloaded from the Nokia Store strangely saves app-data to the SD card.
Nokia X is something that really shouldn't exist given that the company chose Windows Phone over Android and then was recently acquired by Microsoft. Presenting an Android smartphone at this point in the game is simply confusing for the customers as well as the future of the platform. Would Microsoft let Android breathe under its roof? I don't think so.
Whatever fate beholds the Nokia X, its a good first draft. If only it performed a bit better and had an autofocus camera, people would have flocked to buy one of those gorgeous looking phones. To the general user it doesn't matter what your phone is running on the inside as long as you are able to get things done. The Nokia X doesn't fail there, it ticks the right checkmarks in terms of apps and features. But its definitely not what we thought would be Nokia's first Android device.