Nokia 9 PureView review


Android One, Pie edition

Like many of Nokia’s smartphones, the Nokia 9 comes with Android One out of the box, so you’ll know you’re going to get quick and timely updates. It’s worth noting that carrier-specific versions might not receive updates just as quickly as those sold in the unlocked (retail) channel.

Nokia 9 PureView review

Where the Pixels have an Always on display or Ambient Display, the Nokia 9 has Glance screen. A remnant of Lumia times, its usual behavior is to pop up every time the phone detects movement and to go off after a predefined time-out (up to 30 seconds). It can be configured to show a clock, missed calls count, unread messages count, among other small notifications. On the PureView, however, you can leave it on at all times.

The under-display fingerprint is positioned a bit higher than on most other phones, but we quickly got used to it. The setup process takes a bit longer than usual – kind of remind us of the Galaxy S10 in this respect – but it’s not something you do every day so we weren’t going to be too harsh on it had it worked well.

Nokia 9 PureView review

However, we were quite disappointed by the way it operated. To start off, it’s hardly as fast as the other sensors we’ve seen on phones that came out this year. And we encountered all sorts of software glitches while using the sensor. Often times, the PIN keyboard appeared while trying to scan a finger causing multiple accidental entries of the number 5.

Other times we observed that upon a quick lock and unlock the phone will bypass the biometric sensor and put you straight on the homescreen or whatever was opened last. And after a few seconds the Nokia 9 will “remember” it didn’t ask you for your fingerprint, then proceed to lock the phone and pop-up the fingerprint prompt. This needs to be fixed ASAP and we hope HMD is already on it.

The fingerprint woes aside, the software on the Nokia 9 is Android as Google intended it through and through. The standard Android 9 homescreen utilizes the default Android pill-based navigation.

Lockscreen - Nokia 9 PureView review Lockscreen - Nokia 9 PureView review Homescreen - Nokia 9 PureView review App drawer - Nokia 9 PureView review Notifications and toggles - Nokia 9 PureView review
Lockscreen • Lockscreen • Homescreen • App drawer • Notifications and toggles

The Nokia 9 uses the default Pixel navigation. A tap on the pill button takes you Home, a quick flick from it to the right switches back and forth between the last two apps, while sliding it to the right takes you to one of the UIs for task switching. A short-ish swipe up from the bottom evokes the ‘other’ task switcher which is also the way to go into multi-window, and it’s about as clumsy as they could have possibly made it.

A longer (like seriously-almost-all-the-way-to-the-top-longer) swipe up takes you straight to the app drawer, though a second swipe up from Task switcher 2 will also work. It’s not all ideal, obviously. And there’s a back button on top of all that, there’s no gesture for that.

Task switcher 1 - Nokia 9 PureView review Task switcher 2 - Nokia 9 PureView review App drawer - Nokia 9 PureView review
Task switcher 1 • Task switcher 2 • App drawer

As for multimedia, it’s all in the hands of Google’s default apps. The Photos app is in charge of gallery-related tasks and video playback, while Google Play Music is the audio player. There’s a file manager with batch actions and Google Drive sync, and Google’s Calendar is Nokia’s calendar of choice.

Nokia has worked closely with Google so that the Google Photos app could natively understand how to support photos taken with the Nokia 9’s five cameras. Google Photos is able to adjust the focal point after taking the photo, adjust the amount of bokeh, and will be able to display the full-size RAW files – which are DNG.

Nokia has also worked with Adobe to fully support editing RAW data from the images taken on the Nokia 9. This can be done in the free mobile version of Adobe Lightroom. Interestingly, since Android One is all about a clean slate – Nokia isn’t preloading the app on the Nokia 9, but it gives you the option to install it during the initial setup.

Google Photos - Nokia 9 PureView review Photos - Nokia 9 PureView review Lightroom - Nokia 9 PureView review Google Play Music - Nokia 9 PureView review File manager - Nokia 9 PureView review
Google Photos • Photos • Lightroom • Google Play Music • File manager

Performance and benchmarks

The Nokia 9 is powered by last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. As a matter of fact, every image shot with the Nokia 9 uses information from all five cameras. The challenge for Nokia was to take full advantage of the chipset as much as possible in order to process images coming from all five cameras both quickly and efficiently so it doesn’t run down the battery.

Nokia 9 PureView review

Our guess for the previous-gen chip is that since Nokia worked hard for a long time to optimize the camera algorithms, which use all the chip essentials – CPU, GPU, ISP, DSP – it would have been impossible to translate this work for the Snapdragon 855 samples when they became available late last year. Plus, the Nokia 9 PureView isn’t that expensive, so there is that, too.

So, the Nokia 9 has an octa-core processor – 4×2.8 GHz Kryo 385 Gold & 4×1.77 GHz Kryo 385 Silver. Adreno 630 GPU is in charge of graphics.

The Nokia 9 comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. This appears to be the only memory variant that will be available.

We ran our usual sets of benchmarks and the scores are in. The GeekBench app is all about the processor and here the Nokia 9 does in line with the other S845 phones and is very close to what the latest Kirin 980 chip can do. It is also not that far from the latest Exynos either.

GeekBench 4.1 (multi-core)

Higher is better

GeekBench 4.1 (single-core)

Higher is better

The Adreno 630 has been already dethroned by the new Adreno 640 within the Snapdragon 855. It is still a flagship-grade GPU, especially under a 1080p screen. The Nokia 9 has a Quad HD one though, which means it will do lower than expected when it comes to rendering on-screen graphics content. There are quite a few Android flagships to run on 1080p screens and this gives them a big edge over the 1440p ones like the Nokia 9. And the Nokia 9 does pretty well, scoring close to the Galaxy S10.

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

GFX 3.1 Car scene (onscreen)

Higher is better

3DMark SSE 3.1 Unlimited

Higher is better

The compound benchmark AnTuTu confirms the very good skills of the Nokia 9. Here the score is a match to the Huawei P30 Pro’s.

AnTuTu 7

Higher is better

The Snapdragon 845 will be held against the Nokia 9 PureView even if its price isn’t suggesting cutting-edge technology across the board. But it really shouldn’t. The chip has enough punch to meet today’s demands hassle-free even under that Quad HD screen.

There isn’t a game or an app you can download today that will slow down the Nokia 9. The only thing that could eat a lot of resources is the post-processing of the images you take. But it works only when the phone is unlocked, and you aren’t doing something important such as running an app.

Unfortunately, while the Nokia 9 is well equipped to handle a lot, the OS has quite a few bugs and the camera app crashes often. Indeed, there is some more work to be done, but the potential is there. The PureView may also get hot due to the extensive work being done with image processing – especially after taking numerous photos, but it’s with reasonable limits.