Nokia X20: First look and impressions

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The Nokia X20 flagship is part of its latest lineup of smartphones. Nokia recently launched them in hope of extending its ‘Love it. Trust it. Keep it.’ philosophy. While the X20 will be available in the UAE for Dh1,349 this May, we had a chance to check out a preview version of the smartphone.

Design and build

Nokia’s traditional Nordic design is an integral part of its X20 flagship. It sports an attractive ‘Midnight Sun’ finish however the device does not feel premium and lacks any degree of IP resistance, something we have seen many manufacturers opt in this price segment. Its heftier 220g weight and 9.1mm thickness counter-acts that to some extent however you cannot take away the smartphone’s matte plastic rear and glossy plastic frame.

The top edge of the smartphone sports the secondary microphone whereas the left edge houses the Google Assistant button which we found little use for and the 2-in-1 dual-SIM tray. You can use 5G SIM cards with the latter however unlike other smartphones in this range, you do not find a 3-in-1 triple-SIM tray. This means if you want to take advantage of the smartphone’s microSD card expansion feature, you will have to sacrifice on a SIM card.

The colour finish of the Nokia X20 is fairly attractive

On the bottom, you find a 3.5mm headphone jack, the primary microphone, the Type-C USB port and the speaker. It is slightly underwhelming to see only one speaker on Nokia’s flagship, especially when many budget smartphones offer a dual stereo speaker experience in 2021. Lastly, the right edge has the volume buttons as well as a recessed power button which also doubles as a reliable but slightly slow fingerprint scanner.

The width of the smartphone combined with its sheer size means it might not be for everyone. For someone with smaller hands like myself, handling the X20 on a daily basis is a bit of a juggling act, especially if you opt to use it with Nokia’s 100 per-cent compostable case provided out of the box. The provision of this though is in line with Nokia’s push for sustainability which is a good thing.

Display

We touched on the lack of stereo speakers on the Nokia X20 but a major part of the multimedia experience is the display. The flat panel on the smartphone is a 6.67-inch FHD+ one with a punch-hole style design. But unlike the competition, this is an IPS LCD display and not an AMOLED one. Not only that, the lack of a high 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate means Nokia has hit consumers with a double-whammy, especially when the processor on the support is capable of supporting this feature.

We would have liked to see a higher refresh rate IPS LCD panel on the Nokia X20 especially given its price tag

This is something that we had pointed out in our Nokia 8.3 5G overview too but unfortunately, Nokia has decided to leave it unchanged. Being an IPS LCD panel, you do benefit from good viewing angles. However, the lack of vivid colors and deep blacks is a big miss here. We would have liked to see Nokia improve the most on this aspect, at least for its flagship X20.

Performance and user experience

Inside, the Nokia X20 comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 5G processor. This is an octa-core chip clocked at 2.0GHz and comes with the Adreno 619 GPU. You also find 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage here. With this combination of hardware and Android 11, performance on the Nokia X20 is decent. We did face a few stutters and for some reason, our display timeout preferences kept resetting every few hours but we cannot make a full a judgement on the experience as this is a preview device.

Stock Android and a clean user interface is what makes the Nokia X20 special

The one good aspect about the Nokia X20 is its promise for updates. With a largely stock like software experience, users do not have to face any bloatware. But on top of that, the Nokia X20 comes with a promise for three years of upgrades. This is great from a long-term use perspective although it would have made more sense if some of the features and specifications on the smartphone were also this future-proof.

Conclusion

Aside from the hardware we discussed, the Nokia X20 also has a quad-camera setup and a 4,470mAh battery. The primary camera is a 64MP wide sensor, accompanied by a 5MP ultra-wide sensor, 2MP macro and 2MP depth sensor. It would not be fair to judge the camera performance on this preview device but we will revisit this when we receive the final version. Likewise, Nokia claims the battery on-board can give users 2-days of use however in our use case, it drained to 20 per-cent by the end of the day. However, once again, we will give Nokia the benefit of the doubt here.

We will discuss the camera and battery life a bit more in-depth once we receive a retail unit of the device

Even if the battery and camera performance is stellar, we think the Nokia X20 finds itself in a tricky position. In 2021, the Dh1,000 to Dh1,500 price segment is extremely competitive. A notable mention in this price bracket is the Samsung Galaxy A52, which impressed us. But even at Dh649, we have the Xiaomi Redmi Note10 which offers a thoroughly enjoyable experience and unbeatable value for money. Given this aggressive pricing strategy from other brands, the Nokia X20 finds itself oddly placed. We get that its unique selling point is its clean software experience and promise of updates but a mid-range smartphone in 2021 should offer more than that.

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