Nokia 9 PureView falls short of flagship excellence even with five cameras [Review]

Huge number of lenses on the back may grab headlines, but Nokia's latest flagship delivers merely competent performance at a premium price

Wong Tsui-kai |

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Five forward facing cameras and lot to work with for a deft hand at mobile photography.

The Nokia 9 PureView is the new shiny high-end phone built to compete with the likes of the Apple iPhone Xs and Samsung Galaxy S series at the premium end of the market with a retail price of HK$4,988.

It feels good in the hand, comparable in size with other Nokia phones and even fits snugly in a case for the Nokia 6. It is also not especially heavy and the back is super smooth with no camera bump, even though it houses five lenses (more on that later).

Function wise, it offers the usual fingerprint scanner (which is under the screen), face scan unlock, wireless charging (accessories do not come stock), waterproofing and no headphone jack common to most flagship phones today. However, the fingerprint scanner is still buggy and only works some of the time as a result of the new technology.

Software-wise, the Android OS leaves little to complain about, with little bloatware and easy customisation. However, we are still waiting on the promised software optimisation for the camera and print scanner.

Battery life is fine, one charge lasting you a perfectly fine 24-hour cycle of normal use with a good bit of reserve to spare.

The cameras have no trouble taking in night-time detail.
Photo: Wong Tsui Kai/SCMP

Hardware wise, we tested the limits and hit them. Though the Nokia 9 has 6 GB of RAM, it lags quite hard if you forget to close your mobile games in the background. However, it runs without a hitch otherwise, even with the camera, browser and other programs on. Storage is a reasonably chunky 128GB, though what you see is what you get, as the MicroSD card slot of the cheaper models was removed as well.

The processor is also not exactly cutting edge either, the 9 coming with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, which is a 2018 chip in a 2019 phone. Granted though, you won’t notice the difference in regular use.

The 6 inch, 1440 x 2880 pixel screen, while not a wide body, does not really need to be. It played video at good quality and at 538ppi,  matches the other flagship phones on the market.

If you are interested in Instagramming your food, there are more economical phones to get.
Photo: Wong Tsui Kai/SCMP

The cameras work by interlaying the images from all five into one image. It promises a lot on the box, but is inconsistent and a little slow in practice. But it also sports a ‘pro’ mode, where you can adjust everything, including ISO, shutter speed, exposure and other factors yourself. You can also grab the raw file for post processing, which might be attractive for super photo junkies.

Overall, if you want this phone, make sure you really want it. Five thousand dollars is a hefty price tag for a piece of hardware if you don’t plan on making use of all its functions. While Nokia is not yet playing in the flagship leagues, they are advancing steadily into the high-end market.

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