Nokia 7.2 Review: Missed Opportunity

Is the Nokia 7.2 a legit mid-range contender?

With all the high resolution 48- and 64-megapixel smartphones launching nowadays, it’s easy to forget that Nokia was the first brand that had true 41-megapixel snappers in the form of the 808 PureView and Lumia 1020. HMD Global, for their part, continues the Finnish brand’s push for high-megapixel cameras with the 48-megapixel-equipped Nokia 7.2. With a camera bump that pays homage to the Lumia 1020, the Nokia 7.2 is HMD Global’s mid-range contender that’s looking to win back die-hard Nokia fans of old.

Can the Nokia 7.2 take on the heavyweights in the mid-range segment?

 

Lumia, is that you?

We’ve seen a bunch of phones with camera bumps that resemble front-loading washing machines before, but the Nokia 7.2’s camera module is somewhat based on the brand’s history. The camera module on the 7.2 a throwback to Lumia phones a few years ago—particularly the 41-megapixel Lumia 1020. That being said, the camera bump is significantly and we strongly suggest that you invest in a good case to protect it from scratches.

As for the build quality, we prefer the Nokia 7.2’s matte glass back over the glossy finish used on some of their phones (like the Nokia 8.1 and Nokia 6.1 Plus). While it is prone to smudges, the Nokia 7.2 is less slippery, a godsend for butterfingers. The Nokia 7.2’s unique polymer frame combines both the durability of aluminum and the lightness of polycarbonate. It is solid to the core, and it can definitely withstand daily wear and tear.

Like the Nokia 3.2, the Nokia 7.2 has a dedicated Google Assistant button and a notification light integrated on the power button. While we love the location of the notification light, we wished HMD Global added an option for the Google Assistant button to function as a shutter button—it’s only fitting considering the brand’s lineage.

 

Awesome PureDisplay, now with a less annoying notch

One of the things we love about the more expensive Nokia 8.1 is its PureDisplay screen, which we praised for being one of the better IPS panels out there. HMD Global used the same display for the Nokia 7.2, and it is just as good: colors are bright, viewing angles are great, and the display is bright enough for use in broad daylight.

The Nokia 7.2’s display slightly edges out the Nokia 8.1 since it utilizes a smaller teardrop notch, giving you more screen estate and fewer distractions when viewing videos and playing games. Compared to its premium sibling, the Nokia 7.2 is taller with its 18.5:9 aspect ratio (the Nokia 8.1’s display has an 18.7:9 aspect ratio).

Old processor saved by great software optimization

While we had our hesitations with HMD Global’s decision to use a two-year-old mid-range processor with the Nokia 7.2, they made their point across when HMD Global Country Manager Sancho Chak emphasized the importance of software optimization. Aside from scoring higher than most Snapdragon 665-powered phones in AnTuTu, the Nokia 7.2’s Snapdragon 660 processor is a great performer when it comes to games despite being a two-year-old SoC. Check out the benchmark scores below:

From MOBAs to racing games, the Snapdragon 660 performs like a charm, giving us good frame rates with at least 80% stability. In fact, it can go as high as 6oFPS with FPS games like Call of Duty at the highest possible settings. Again, not bad for a processor that debuted in 2017.

If that wasn’t good enough, the Nokia 7.2—just like any HMD Global smartphone—is guaranteed for at least 2 major Android updates thanks to it being part of the Android One program.

Great camera hardware hampered by half-baked software

The Nokia 7.2 is HMD Global’s second phone to have a triple rear camera setup and a 48-megapixel main camera (the first being the Nokia X71, which was exclusive to Taiwan). The high-resolution camera is accompanied by an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera and a 5-megapixel depth sensor.

In general, the cameras performed well in daylight, with a good amount of detail for both main and ultra-wide-angle cameras. However, the Nokia 7.2’s default camera app struggles with processing images taken in low light—and its night mode feature does not help either.

The night mode on the pre-installed camera app is a bit of a disappointment. Instead of adding more detail to low light shots, the Nokia 7.2’s in-house night mode overexposes the image, leading to blurred details especially when you zoom into the image.

We highly suggest installing GCam instead (here’s a link to an APK that’s designed for the Nokia 7.2), which produces better results for low-light photos.

Aside from better night shots, using GCam also improves the quality of photos taken using the 48-megapixel main camera by tweaking the exposure. Unfortunately, you can’t use the ultra-wide-angle camera with GCam—you will have to make do with the Nokia 7.2’s default camera app for that.

For the front camera, the Nokia 7.2’s 20-megapixel camera takes great selfies, and portrait mode gave us creative freedom with its variety of bokeh options. From the six possible options, the Nokia 7.2’s exclusive Zeiss bokeh (comprising of classic, swirl, and modern) gave us the best output.

 

Battery life is more on the average side

One of the downsides of the Snapdragon 660 is its rather old 14nm process and its lower power efficiency compared to newer processors, and it shows: we clocked in around 11 hours in PCMark’s battery test before the app crashed, which is expected for a 2-year old processor paired with a smaller-than-usual 3500mAh battery. AccuBattery, on the other hand, reports that a full charge is suitable for 6 hours and 43 minutes of screen on time.

Using the Nokia 7.2 as our daily driver, we manage to go through the day with enough juice for last-minute email replies and social media postings via LTE and/or WiFi. The Nokia 7.2 supports fast charging, though you only get a 10w charger out of the box. Topping up its 3500mAh cell using an 18w charger took around 1.5 hours.

 

Verdict: A great chance, wasted

HMD Global squandered a potentially great opportunity with the Nokia 7.2. The Zeiss-branded triple cameras could have enticed previous Lumia die-hards to come back to the fold, but instead, it’ll probably leave them disappointed. With sub-par performance in low-light shooting and a disappointing night mode, it’s hard to recommend the Nokia 7.2 when there’s a lot better and cheaper, options in the market for budding mobile photographers.

One can always wait for a software fix, but we’re not going to hold our breath. If you really want to buy the Nokia 7.2 installing GCam is a must, but for people looking to rekindle their love for Nokia and Zeiss, we recommend you look somewhere else.

The Nokia 7.2 is priced at Php 15,990.

Nokia 7.2 specs

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor
  • 6GB RAM
  • 128GB internal storage
  • 6.2-inch Full HD+ PureDisplay IPS display; 500nits brightness, 96% NTSC Color Gamut
  • Triple Zeiss rear cameras: 48-megapixel f/1.8 main camera; 8-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle camera; 5-megapixel f/2.4 depth sensor; dual-LED flash, EIS, 4K video recording, AI Scene detection, Portrait mode
  • 20-megapixel f/2.0 front camera with 0.9um pixels, AI bokeh effect, AI scene detection
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS
  • USB Type-C, fingerprint scanner
  • Android 9.0 Pie (Android One)
  • 3500mAh battery with 10W fast charging

 

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