Resistance is important. Sir Mo Farah made his name by having it in abundance; so too Alexander the Great, Margaret Thatcher and Genghis Khan. What a cast.
Nokia can also claim to be a member of this influential list. Founded as a pulp mill in 1865, the company has come a long way from its paper crushing days, producing some of the best-known phones ever made: the 3210 is in the permanent collection of the Science Museum.
The company owes its commercial resilience in part to something that has become a Nokia hallmark: massive batteries. The 5G-ready G50 offers a 5000mAh battery that comfortably lasted a full weekend during our testing, sacrificing little performance for this beastly battery life.
Launched earlier this year, the Nokia G21 slightly outperforms the battery stakes, offering 5050mAh and promising a cheaper, more convenient and easier smartphone experience thanks to the magic of AI camera, extra security and a 6.5-inch display.
The energy-saving technology and less powerful processing means Nokia claims you can get three days of use out of the G21 before picking up the plug. Can the G21 maintain smartphone quality, or does your quest for extra juice affect the experience? We charge (once, of course) to find out.
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how we test
Nokia G21 is a budget smartphone. That doesn’t mean, however, that leeway should be given when it comes to doing the basics – and more – correctly. It might not be a big-budget monster after all, but Nokia is still asking you to shell out £150. To that end, we approach testing the same way we would any smartphone.
The first is always design, from shape and weight, to appearance and finishes. Does the G21 withstand stress tests? Are water and dust a problem? How robust is the device and does it feel like a brick in the hand or does it offer a leaner, more premium experience? And most importantly, how many finger stains will you have to put up with?
So we looked at the nitty-gritty under the hood to test the phone’s usability. From processing speed and power to battery life, sound and display, we see how it stacks up against other models in the same price range and beyond, subjecting it to heavy media usage, multiple camera setups and the range of scenarios in that you could sensibly expect to use a smartphone. Here’s what we made of it.
Buy now £149.99, Argos.co.uk
Dimensions: 164.6mm x 75.9mm x 8.5mm
Exhibition: 6.5-inch 720 x 1600 (HD+) with 90Hz adaptive refresh rate
Chipset: 1.6GHz octa-core UNISOC processor
ONLY: Android 11
Camera: Rear 50 MP Main 1/2.76“ CMOS, 0.64um, 5P lens, f/1.8, 2 MP Macro, 2 MP depth; Front 8MP
Nokia is very good at creating good looking budget phones. The G21 is no different, offering everything you’d want from a phone at this end of the market.
It offers a sophisticated enough silhouette that borders on the square but is far from looking like a Rothko painting. The textured back is a winner, elevating the look of the G21 while helping to avoid some of the dreaded smudge marks that greasy organisms invariably subject our phones to. Fortunately, Nokia knows that a big logo is a no-no, so the label is subtle despite being located in the middle of the back.
Aside from the aesthetics, it’s a lightweight and rugged phone, although there’s no word on water and dust proof. There’s room for two nano SIMs and a microSD card, and Nokia has provided a headphone port, while fingerprint unlocking works well and is still a nice touch for the price. Overall, it’s the kind of phone you wouldn’t mind picking up from the dinner table or leaving on the street. It’s a win-win.
display and sound
While the G21’s design delivers on Nokia’s stellar reputation, the phone’s display and sound bring it back into the comforting embrace of the budget market.
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The biggest drawback (although by no means a problem) of the G21 is, unfortunately, its display. It’s not the sharpest picture by any stretch, and the colors aren’t particularly pop: the screen overall looks really low-quality for the price, though that might just be because we expect better from Nokia.
The 90Hz maximum refresh rate is something rarely seen at this price point, but it’s let down by the 720p resolution on offer. It’s certainly not the worst display we’ve seen on the market, but if you’re looking for a super-sharp experience, we’d suggest upping your budget a little.
The G21 offers mono sound, emanating only from the bottom of the phone in landscape mode. Again, this is no different from the rest of this market. The sound quality is good, if a little light, and it loses a bit of body compared to slightly higher-end phones. Overall, the G21’s display and sound do a job, but it’s nothing to write home about.
The clean Android 11 OS is a boost, providing an attractive blank canvas for your needs. It also means you won’t have to spend the first few moments of your new phone’s life searching for and deleting sneaky pre-installed apps.
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The G21 has enough processing power to keep up with Android 11 pre-installed, making regular use a pretty straightforward experience. Any more demanding processing and you might see the phone slow down a bit as you try to manage it, but most games are doable too, if slightly affected by the screen quality.
The battery does what it says on the box, lasting a few days of normal use. Battery life obviously depends on how often you idly scroll through social media, but the G21 offers a perfectly reliable companion for active weekends away from the couch. The G21 also offers adaptive battery life, signaling when a certain app is draining power and reacting accordingly. Top marks for a budget phone.
The camera setup brings the G21 back to the good books, with a sophisticated array of features that deliver solid shots across the board, even if lighting is a small issue. The video also does a good job, with minimal blur and sharp details.
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Portrait mode is especially impressive for the price, with a lot of what you’d expect from a higher-end phone. Background blur is subtle (no frosted glass effect here), while your subject of choice remains crystal clear without any hint of jarring contrast.
The verdict: Nokia G21
The Nokia G21 is a decent phone. It looks good, feels good in the hand, and does enough basics to warrant consideration. The biggest advantage the G21 has, of course, is the massive battery under the textured hood – with sensible use, it lasts much longer than the average handset, to the extent that you almost forget you haven’t charged it in a few days.
The trade-off for this is a slight lack of processing power and lower quality display and sound performance, particularly with the rather dull display. The camera setup is perfect, perfect for the awkward social media post – with portrait mode in particular a refreshing highlight – but don’t expect to win at the National Geographic Photography Awards.
However, if you’re looking for a phone that will get you through a weekend of calls, internet, and WhatsApp without giving much thought to finding an outlet, the G21 deserves to be on your list.
Buy now £149.99, Argos.co.uk
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