HMD Global-owned Nokia has mainly been playing in the budget and affordable smartphone space lately, with the exception of the rugged XR20 (review). The Nokia G21 follows in the footsteps of its budget siblings, and priced at Rs 12,999, faces competition from the likes of Realme, Xiaomi, Motorola, and others. Let’s find out in this review if Nokia has managed to navigate through the waters to deliver a quality budget smartphone experience.
The Nokia G21 does a few things quite well in terms of pandering to the budget audience. It has a clean Android skin with a promise for two years of future updates, decent enough battery life, and sturdy build quality. However, the absence of a capable processor, sub-par camera quality, and a jittery display put a dent in proceedings.
- Nokia has opted for its traditional single-tone polycarbonate back with a textured finish and it looks all too familiar. The device is quite sturdy in terms of build quality and the weight across the chassis is balanced. A triple-camera setup is arranged vertically on the top-left of the device at the back, while a single speaker and USB C port are present on the bottom. There’s a dedicated Google Assistant button on the side of the phone, a headphone jack on the top, and a power-button cum fingerprint sensor combo on the right.
- As for the front of the device, the 6.5-inch HD+ LCD panel is surrounded by chunky bezels and an outdated waterdrop-style notch. The panel does refresh at 90Hz but it lags and stutters, robbing the browsing experience of its fluidity. In terms of colour accuracy and brightness levels, the display is just above average although the device does thankfully have WideVine L1 certification for HD content on OTT platforms.
- On the optics side of things, the phone has three sensors of which the primary shooter can click 50MP photos, and the supporting cast includes a 2MP macro and 2MP depth shooter. Without getting into too many details, I can say that the G21’s image-taking capabilities are not up to the required standard. Details are oversharpened a lot and colours are quite dull. The dynamic range in shots is all but absent although exposure levels are somewhat controlled.
- The story is the same for the camera’s low-light performance which is unimpressive and not helped by the dedicated night mode. As for the macro and depth shooters, they serve the purpose of camera padding but that’s about all. Lastly, there is the selfie camera upfront which takes somewhat decent photos but smoothens out a lot of facial details.
- For processing needs, Nokia has employed the services of Unisoc’s T606 chipset built on 12nm platform. Most phones that are using this silicone sit well below the Rs 10,000 mark and it stands to reason why. The SoC can match others in the lower budget tier but not at the price G21 is selling at. Benchmark numbers paint a somewhat bleak picture with the device managing less than 200,000 on Antutu and a low 1,179 on Geekbench 5’s multi-core test.
- My daily usage was hampered from time to time with lags and random screen freezes. BGMI gaming isn’t enjoyable on the device. The G21 comes with up to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The phone’s bottom-firing speaker is average, authentication speeds are decent enough and the device doesn’t create problems while operating on Jio’s Noida circle.
- Software is an area for Nokia to excel as it offers a clean stock Android experience with up to two years of upgrades on top. As for the battery, the Nokia G21 has a 5,000mAh cell that can charge at 18W. The company claims 3-day battery life on the device and although the figure is exaggerated a bit, the Nokia G21 does last for more than a day on regular usage. With its charging speeds, you can juice up the phone in just under 2 hours.
The Nokia G21 is not the most ideal choice for a budget smartphone as it falls short in terms of performance, cameras, and display quality. However, the device excels in providing a clean software experience, decently good battery life, and a robust build. Users with more processor-intrinsic needs can look to the POCO M3 Pro 5G (review) but brand loyalists can consider the Nokia G21.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Robust design
- Clean software
- Good battery life
- Performance could be better
- Cameras are average
- Lags on occasion