Nokia 8 Sirocco review (hands on): a proper, bona fide flagship phone

The reborn Nokia 8 Sirocco special edition is here

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T3 Verdict

With an attractive, premium design, competitive internals, and a powerful dual-camera system, Nokia has just gatecrashed the premium tier of the smartphone market. The Nokia 8 Sirocco isn't perfect, but from our time with the device so far, we're surprised at how little criticism we can throw at it.

Reasons to buy

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    Premium glass and metal build

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    Dual rear cameras tuned by Zeiis Optics

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    Wireless charging

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    Android One

Reasons to avoid

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    Running last year's CPU

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    No headphone jack

Nokia 8 Sirocco specs

Dimensions: 140.93 x 72.97 x 7.5mm

Screen 5.5-inch, 2560 x 1440

Processor: Snapdragon 835

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128GB

Battery: 3,260mAh

Rear camera: 12MP + 13MP

Front camera: 5MP

OS: Android 8

Nokia admitted in its MWC 2018 press conference that it had made the Nokia 8 Sirocco "for the fans", as according HMD at least, the Nokia 8 has been a massive success for the brand over the past year.

And while many would presume from the name that it was simply a slightly tweaked version of the original device, believing that HMD was simply treading water at the premium end of its offering, it is in fact a radically updated handset.

Yes, the Snapdragon 835 CPU that sits at the heart of the Nokia 8 Sirocco is the same as last year's phone, but almost everything else about the device has been upgraded.

The price has also changed, with the Nokia 8 Sirocco retailing for a not inconsiderable €749 (£660), which naturally leads us to ask the question of whether it is worth it. For the answer read on.

For a brief overview of the new phone then check out the Nokia 8 Sirocco's launch trailer:

Nokia 8 Sirocco review: release date and price

The Nokia 8 Sirocco will retail for €749 (£660) at launch, with its release date scheduled in for April 2018 worldwide.

Nokia 8 Sirocco review: design, build and connectivity

Nokia 8 Sirocco review

The first thing that hits you when you see and pick up the Nokia 8 Sirocco is that it appears a truly premium handset. It boasts an almost all glass body and, unlike Nokia's other devices, has a futuristic, alien look. Curved edges partner slickly with glossy black finish (yes, fingerprints are an issue) and in it feels weighty and premium in the hand and pocket.

The device is 7.5mm thick at the center, but this tapers away on the sides to just 2mm, and is also IP67 rated, too, meaning those flush buttons on either side are dust and water resistant.

Connectivity is dealt with by a bottom-mounted USB-C port.

Nokia 8 Sirocco review: hardware and screen

Nokia 8 Sirocco review

The Nokia 8 Sirocco sports a 5.5-inch OLED curved display with a QHD resolution of  2560 x 1440. The screen appears bright to the eye, with rich colours and good viewing angles, too. We wouldn't put the screen in the same league as the Super AMOLED stunner installed on the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, but it is sharper than many mid-range devices we've tested.

Internally, as we mentioned above, things have very much been taken up a few notches in the internal hardware department. While the Nokia 8 only came with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage space, the Nokia 8 Sirocco comes loaded with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, making it very competitive when compared to rival flagships such as the Sony Xperia XZ2.

Yes, the Snapdragon 835 processor remains, and ideally we would have liked a spec bump, but from our hands-on testing time the phone didn't suffer any slowdown and was responsive while navigating the UI and using the Sirocco's camera system.

Nokia 8 Sirocco review: camera and audio

Nokia 8 Sirocco review

Like with the internal hardware, HMD have definitely improved the Nokia 8's cameras in the Sirocco. The device comes loaded with a dual-rear camera setup tuned by Zeiss Optics - that's a 12MP main sensor alongside a 13MP telephoto lens. That telephoto lens allows you to have plenty of control of Bokeh blur, with a Live Bokeh mode allowing you to tune the level of background blur in your shots.

And, talking of tuning, the Nokia 8 Sirocco also supports the maker's Pro camera mode, which is activated by dragging the shutter button upwards. Once in Pro mode you can then adjust a variety of settings and controls such as focus, shutter speed and white balance.

Things aren't so powerful on the front, as you would expect, with a rather standard 5MP selfie/video messaging camera in residence.

Nokia 8 Sirocco review: battery and OS

Nokia 8 Sirocco review

Nokia 8 Sirocco review

As with all other current flagship Android phones, the Nokia 8 Sirocco comes running Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box. What does differentiate the Sirocco, though, due to HMD's participation in the Android One program, is that it runs stock Oreo without any propriety UI or skin.

We think this is a good thing, as during our testing period the Nokia 8 Sirocco was very fast and intuitive to navigate, and we suffered no lag or crashes. It is also a good thing as the Android One program guarantees that the Sirocco will, at the very least, receive the next two major Android updates from Google.

Battery capacity is rated at 3,260mAh, which beats out both the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Sony Xperia XZ2 flagships. We weren't able to test the battery life of the Nokia 8 Sirocco during our hands-on testing period, so will will look forward to seeing how far that battery can take the phone over the day's usage mark.

The Nokia 8 Sirocco's battery can also be charged wirelessly, and it supports fast-charge technology.

Nokia 8 Sirocco review: early verdict

Nokia 8 Sirocco review

We've got to be honest, we feel that the Nokia 8 Sirocco was absolutely the right move for HMD to make right now, as it fully fleshes out its mobile phone offering. Now it has a proper, bona fide flagship phone in its range and, while not cheap, it is more affordable compared to rival offerings.

By not jumping up to Nokia 9, too, it has insulated itself against potential criticism, as if it had, with this package, it would be far easier to highlight its lack of progression in terms of processing power. With the Sirocco, though, Nokia and HMD have laid very strong foundations for not just the year to come, but for the future of the brand at the premium, flagship level.

We still need to spend more time with the Nokia 8 Sirocco to make a definitive judgment call, however, right now colour us surprised and rather impressed. Roll on the full review...