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Nokia 9 PureView hands-on review

THEY SAY THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER but Nokia reckons it’s five when it comes to smartphone cameras, as that’s the number the Nokia 9 PureView sports on its backside.

We got to have a quick fondle with Nokia’s new flaghship-not-flagship phone at MWC 2019, and while our time was brief we got a literal feel for the phone. Read on for our early impressions.

Design
The Nokia 9 PureView is somewhat of an evolution form the Nokia 7.1; it has a glassy rear, large 5.99in display and metallic aluminium trim on the side. But its edges are more rounded than the 7.1’s and as such, it feels rather nice to hold.

It is, however, one hell of a fingerprint magnet as the shiny Midnight Blue finish sucks up smudges and marks with gusto, which is a tad off-putting. But heck, the phone still looks pretty decent in the flesh.

At 155x75x8 mm and weighing in a 172g, it’s not the thinnest or lightest smartphone around, but it feels well-built and pleasant to hold in one hand, if a little large for easy one-hand operation.

The use of Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and rear allows for wireless charging and there’s an under-display fingerprint scanner which seems to be getting more common with phones these days.

IP67 water and dust resistance is also present and correct, which should mean the phone would stand up to being used in the rain, but we don’t recommend you drop it in the bog.

There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack but that’s to be expected; the Nokia 9 PureView instead delivers audio and other connectivity via Bluetooth and USB-C.

Display
Withits 6in p-OLED panel with 2K resolution, there’s no denying that the Nokia 9 PureView has an attractive screen. While there are bezels at the top and bottom of the screen, they’re pretty trim and there’s no notch or cut-out camera taking a bite out of the display’s real estate.

P-OLED displays have in the past been a tad lacklustre in some cases with odd colour shifts when viewed off-axis; we didn’t notice any of this with the Nokia 9 PureView.

And the display pushed out some rather nice colours, contrast and brightness – to our peepers it wasn’t class-leading but it’s still a nice panel to gawk at.

Performance, storage and battery
At the Nokia 9 PureView’s heart sits Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 paired with 6GB of RAM. The SoC is not a little long in the tooth, but in reality, it’s more than enough to keep Android Pie running at a good lick, and from our play with the Nokia 9 PureView, we didn’t notice any slowdown or choppiness.

Storage comes in one 128GB flavour and only that, though we feel that’s plenty for most people. As is the battery packs 3,320mAh capacity, which should see the phone last a full day’s worth of use and when it gets low there’s 10W quick charging on offer.

And that’s about it; the Nokia 9 PureView basically has the specs of a 2018 flagship phone, which is no bad thing when it’s priced at $699, some £535.

Cameras
It’s with the cameras that the Nokia 9 PureView gets interesting. While the front snapper has a sizeable 20MP lens, round the rear is where the fun happens.

Five 12MP f/1.8 aperture cameras sit in the Nokia 9 PureView’s camera array; two RBG Zeiss lenses and three mono Zeiss lenses, joined by a flash and a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor.

While the setup looks a bit odd, it’s also bloody smart. The camera array takes a photo using all five lenses then stitches the results together to form a single picture. HDR mode in other phones do this by taking multiple shots simultaneously, but the Nokia 9 PureView’s take is more unique.

Nokia boasts that the camera set up sucks in 10 times more light than other smartphone snappers and by capturing RAW uncompressed DNG format pics and working with Adobe Lightroom it allows for deeper photo editing on the phone.

That’s something photographers might get all warm and fuzzy about, but other people can benefit from the camera array’s capabilities at capturing a load of image data – some 60MP worth from each lens – allowing for more photo tweaking once a pic has been taken.

For example, the depth of field can be adjusted on the fly in portrait pics as can the focal length. It’s all pretty clever stuff and a step up form the Nokia 7.1’s “Live Bokeh” feature.

While we couldn’t really test the camera array’s full capabilities, we didn’t notice the Nokia 9 PureView kicked out some rather nice pic, with plenty of detail and decent colour and contrast. But we’d need to spend more time with it to see if more is more when it comes to smartphone cameras.

First impressions
All in all, the Nokia 9 PureView is a pretty interesting phone. Its design and specs are not cutting edge, but then its price isn’t wallet-busting either and when it goes on sale in the spring it could certainly win some fans.

The camera array is, naturally, the most impressive part of the phone and is likely to be its main selling point. But there are plenty of other smartphones with very good cameras; take the Pixel 3 and its single lens camera as an example. So the Nokia 9 PureView isn’t lacking in competition.

We’d need a proper play with the phone to get a better feel for it, but so far we’re leaving our hands-on time with the Nokia 9 PureView rather impressed and interested to see what Nokia does next. µ

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