Nokia G21 review: Buy it for a clean Android experience

Nokia G21 is the first phone from HMD Global in 2022. Instead of focusing on specs, the company is trying to provide users with a clean software experience through its latest smartphones. One thing we love about Nokia is that they are candid about the software experience of the device. The company promised two years of Android updates and three years of security updates for its budget phone.

Nokia stumbled into the Indian smartphone market recently, so it will be interesting to see if the company has learned from its past mistakes. We’ve been using the Nokia G21 for two weeks now, and so far, our opinions have been mixed. So, what are they, you ask? Read on to find out.

Nokia G21 review: Design and build

Despite being made of plastic, the Nokia G21 is well built and feels great in hand. Crinkle pattern on the back makes it easy to hold. The camera and LED flash are housed inside a glossy vertical unit. The device weighs 190 grams and is 8.5 mm thick, which is neither heavy nor light. It feels a little heavy on the hands.

You have the volume buttons and the power button that acts as a fingerprint sensor on the right side. There is a SIM card slot and a dedicated Google Assistant button on the left. You get a Type-C port, speaker grille on the bottom, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on top.

The Nokia G21 is available in two colors – Nordic Blue and Dusk. We have North Blue, and it looks better. To sum it up, the Nokia G21 has a solid build quality and elegant design but it lacks any IP rating.

Nokia G21 review: Display and audio performance

The Nokia G21 has a 6.5-inch IPS LCD display with HD + screen resolution. That’s a huge reduction in this price range if you ask us. But this was the case with Nokia recently in India. We don’t remember when was the last time Nokia released a mid-budget phone with a Full HD+ display. However, the screen lacks vibrancy, and the color appears to be dull. You can adjust the white balance of the screen from the settings. The 90Hz screen makes the content on the screen seamless. I went out on the height of a Delhi summer afternoon, and struggled with reading and watching content on the device. The screen is almost visible on the outside.

In front, there is a waterdrop notch and thin edges on the sides, but the chin is very thick. The device has a speaker on the bottom, which is neither loud enough nor clear. You may want to connect earphones while playing games or watching movies. Nokia G21 is suitable for media consumption.

Nokia G21 review: Battery life

The Nokia G21 has a powerful 5000mAh battery which can last up to two days on regular use. It gave us over eight hours of screen time, which is excellent for a budget phone. Our usage included scrolling through social media all day, an hour of playing Youtube videos and browsing the internet. Brightness is set to 50%, and the screen is set to an adaptive refresh rate.

However, the device comes with a 10W charger out of the box, which takes over 150 minutes to charge the battery from 0 to 100%, which is plenty. The device supports 18W charging support, but the experience could have been better if the company had provided an 18W charger out of the box. Despite charging for a long time, the phone did not heat up.

Nokia G21 review: Performance and software

The Nokia G21 is powered by the Unisoc T606 SoC, which is less efficient than the Snapdragon 680 or Mediatek Helio G96 we get on other phones in this price range. The device comes in two variants, our unit with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage which costs Rs 2,000 more than the base variant. If you want, you can add a microSD card and expand its external memory up to 512 GB.

The Unisoc T606 is suitable for everyday use, such as scrolling on social media, browsing the web or watching videos, but it tends to struggle with multitasking or gaming. We played Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI), Asphalt 9 and Call of Duty: Mobile on Nokia G21. All three games were suffering a lot, and there was a drop in frame rates. The maximum BGMI graphics setting is High + HD which becomes unplayable. COD: Mobile and Asphalt 9 can run on low settings. You can still play games like Dr Driving, Temple Run 2, etc., smoothly on this device.

As for benchmark performance, the phone scored 305 points on one core and 1222 on multiple cores on Geekbench. These numbers are lower than what we get on the Snapdragon 680 chipset. For some reason, we were unable to install AnTuTu on the device.

The Nokia G21 runs Android 11 out of the box and has the March 2022 security patch. We received one security update during the review period that updated the security patch to April 2022. That’s great. We expect Nokia to be regular with security updates, as the company has promised three years of security updates and two years of Android updates for the G21. This means that the device will also receive Android 12 and 13 updates. It would have been better if the device ran Android 12 out of the box.

As for the user experience, it has a very simple interface due to the stock Android. There are no bloatware, and you don’t have to deal with spam notifications.

The device can be unlocked by face unlock or fingerprint, both of which work just fine.

Nokia G21 review: Camera

The Nokia phone has a 50MP primary camera on the back, accompanied by a 2MP camera and a 2MP depth sensor. However, we would have preferred an ultra-wide lens rather than two 2-megapixel sensors. The device uses an 8-megapixel front camera to take selfies and video calls.

The phone takes good pictures with better detail and natural colors in broad daylight. You need to keep the device stable because it takes time to focus. Otherwise, you will end up clicking blurry photos. This was the case with about 30% of our photos.

Macro mode maintains focus, but the color of the subject seems to be more on the cooler side. Shadows and highlights are well captured.

Low-light or night-time photos look better without the night mode. Once you turn on the night mode, the camera tries to raise the level of brightness, which overexposes the photos, and loses most of the highlights.

The selfies were a disappointment on the Nokia G21. The selfies taken inside were fine, but the skin tone was unnatural. Even without beauty mode, AI tends to shine a light on your face to improve it, but it screws it up really badly. We took some selfies outdoors, almost all of which have unnatural tones. HDR mode captures the background well in harsh sunlight but spoils the color tones poorly. All that said, take a look at the photos below, and you will get to know them better. The company will have to work on better handling.

1080p videos can be shot at 30 frames per second on the front and rear cameras. Unfortunately, the video quality is not impressive as there is a lot of noise in the frame, and it takes a lot of time to focus. The company says that the device supports OZO audio to capture surround sound for a better experience.

Nokia G21: Verdict

The Nokia G21 makes many compromises to provide a clean software experience and regular software updates. Unfortunately, some major drawbacks like slow charging, average speaker, HD+ screen, average cameras, etc., are deal breakers for us. But, if you are looking for a device that can give you a near-stock experience, smooth screen, basic gaming, and solid build quality, then this might be the right pick for you. The Nokia G21 is a good upgrade over its predecessor, the G20, but the competition offers better features.

If you are looking for a multi-functional phone in sub 15,000 rupees, then you can check out the Redmi Note 11, Realme 9i and Poco M4 Pro 4G.

Nokia G21


Nokia G21

what is good?

  • clean software
  • Durable build quality
  • Good battery life
  • refresh rate 90 Hz

What is bad?

  • 720p . screen
  • Disappointing selfies
  • Not for games
  • Low vision outdoors
  • 10W charger in the box

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