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Nokia X30 5G review: A bit of a stretch

Nokia X30 5G Intro

Nokia has a long history in the phone industry. It’s filled with ups and downs, frivolous twists of fate, ominous predictions, and glorious reincarnations. Much like a Shakespearean sonnet.

When the license holder HMD decided to quit the flagship smartphone game after the Nokia 9 PureView fiasco many people were left disappointed.

But it is what it is, and in the past couple of years we’ve been left on the receiving end of numerous mid-range devices with the Nokia brand stamped on them.

The Nokia X30 5G is yet another one of those but at the same time trying to incorporate some flagship characteristics and in a sense justify its higher than usual price tag. Does it succeed in doing so? Read on to find out!

Nokia X30 5G Unboxing

Unboxing smartphones is a bleak and lonesome experience nowadays - once you’ve taken the smartphone out of its box you’re left with an empty cardboard shell, remnant of the old and long forgotten days of plenty - when smartphone retail boxes were ancient Cornucopiae or horns of abundance.

Back to present days - the Nokia X30 5G retail box contains the phone, a USB-C cable (both sides), some paperwork, and the SIM ejector tool.

The box sports a beige “recycled paper” look to emphasize Nokia’s effort in saving the planet but at the same time inside you’ll find a total of 11 paper leaflets that nobody would ever read - a huge chunk of dead trees.

In all fairness, it’s probably due to EU regulations on electronic gadget manuals or whatnot. It raises our metaphorical (and physical) eyebrows, though.

Nokia X30 5G Specs

Looking at the table above it’s plain to see that the Nokia X30 shoots for the upper-midrange segment - a tough game to play at this price point. You can check the detailed specs here.

Nokia X30 5G Design & Colors

The Nokia X30 5G is a pretty piece of tech, there’s no doubt about it. This is maybe the best part of the whole thing, and if you’re into thin, lightweight, premium feeling smartphones, you’ll love it.

The design might be perceived as old-fashioned, because phones strived to be as thin as possible a couple of years ago, and the overall frame treatment (matte aluminum with glossy chamfered edges) is also a bit outdated but it looks good.

The back of the phone is made of plastic but you wouldn’t be able to tell it and it’s very pleasant on the touch - it has a nice papery feel to it, and produces a cool “shhh” sound when you run your fingers through it.

It’s also a joy to hold with the slight curvature on the back and it’s 185g of weight. Another cool touch is the camera bump, which is made of a solid chunk of aluminum, slightly flushed with the body on one side. It does look premium.

The bezels around the display are a bit on the hefty side but at least they’re more or less uniform, and there’s a hole-punch selfie camera positioned in the upper center of the display (with a silver ring that in this case looks fine and in line with the overall aesthetics).

The phone is available in two color variants - Cloudy Blue and Ice White, both of which look very stylish.

Nokia X30 5G Display

Why not insert a random Mass Effect reference when we’re done with Shakespeare? Well, the display of the Nokia X30 5G is just like a Harbinger - the alien race that mind-controls the protagonist (or at least tries to) in the popular sci-fi game.

In what sense? Well, it’s a 90Hz refresh rate display but you can’t choose to have it at 90Hz. There are two modes - Standard (60Hz), and Adaptive (switches between 60 and 90Hz automatically).

There’s little to no control over the color scheme either - you can make the display cooler or warmer via a slider but that’s pretty much it - no color presets, or factory calibrated accurate settings.

And while the above can be (mis)taken for criticism, the display of the Nokia X30 is actually pretty decent - with a brightness of 700+ nits and good outdoor visibility. It’s also crisp with a 400+ PPI index.

The trouble is that most midrangers from other popular brands offer more features (120Hz, color calibrated modes, more sophisticated Always-on modes), for less money.

There’s an under-display fingerprint scanner onboard and for the most part it works okay. It’s not the fastest one out there but by now you already know my preference toward side-mounted capacitive scanners.

Nokia X30 5G Camera

The X30 5G sports a dual camera system on its back featuring the usual suspects (wide-ultrawide configuration). The main camera is a 50MP sensor under a 1.8 aperture lens with optical image stabilization and phase detection autofocus.

The ultrawide snapper is a 13MP, f/2.4 camera, and there’s a 16MP selfie camera on the front. Nokia proudly presents the Camera 2.0 software with the X30, with bells and whistles such as Night mode 2.0, TriPod mode, Dark Vision, AI Portrait, and more.

The main camera does well in good lighting conditions, even though I wouldn’t classify it as flagship-grade. Some of the images look a bit flat, with narrow dynamic range despite HDR mode trying to help as much as it can.

The ultrawide situation is a bit worse - the sensor just can’t get the same amount of light and detail as the one under the main camera lens. You can see this when looking at the serrated architecture of the building in the following photos - details are lost in the ultra wide shot.

There’s also a Night mode and it bears the 2.0 version label. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, this uses frame stitching, HDR and other tricks to make darker areas brighter and vice versa, revealing more details in the process.

Your mileage may vary, as always - using such modes require a steady hand and it’s very dependent on the frame you’re trying to shoot. On the plus side, the effect is pretty subtle and won’t make nightshots appear like ones taken in broad daylight (some Far East models are guilty of that).

Video is so-so, and the limit here comes from the platform itself - it tops at 1080p@60fps. The Snapdragon 695 doesn’t do 4K, and we saw this first with the Xperia 10 IV. I feel the camera is capable of more, and the end result would’ve been much prettier in 4K but again - it is what it is.

There’s a Cinema mode, something similar to what Sony’s doing with its CinemaPro app but with the lack of 4K it won’t get much usage, I’m afraid.

Portrait AI is one of the new features and it works pretty well - again it’s an algorithm that blurs the background for that sweet bokeh effect. At its most extreme setting it blurred the tip of my ear but all in all, it got the job done.

Nokia X30 5G Performance & Benchmarks

The Nokia X30 5G comes equipped with a Snapdragon 695 5G chipset, and it’s one of the most affordable silicon with the 5G moniker out there. We were unimpressed with the platform when we did the Xperia 10 IV, and the same applies here.

At this price point we expected to see something a tad more powerful - like the 778G or even the 870. The silver lining is that the phone works smoothly for the most part, with just a tad of lag and stutter during the most demanding tasks. There’s also no excessive heat produced and you won’t be warming your hands during the coming Winter with this one.

As for storage, the Nokia X30 comes with 128GB of onboard space in its base version and 6GB of RAM, and there’s also a 256GB model. No SD card slot.

Nokia X30 5G OS / Android version

The phone runs almost stock Android 12 out of the box, and that’s a big plus. There’s a pinch of bloatware (or not, depending on whether you find things like GoPro Quik and ExpressVPN useful), but the most important thing is the software support cycle.

Nokia promises 3 years of warranty, OS upgrades, and monthly security updates, as it’s proudly written on a separate sheet of paper in the retail box. That’s good news for the longevity of the model and also another possible reason for the higher price tag.

Other than that, there’s nothing much to report on the software side of things. It’s clean, works fine and it will stay like this for at least 3 years. What’s not to like?

Nokia X30 5G Battery

The battery inside the Nokia X30 sports a capacity of exactly 4,200mAh. Which is right in the middle - not up to other battery life champions but not a slouch either. The results paint the same picture - the battery life is nothing to write home about.

In practice, you’ll get a full day of usage easily, courtesy of the Snapdragon 695 and the AMOLED screen, and that’s pretty much what everyone needs these days. You can probably stretch that to two full days if you’re modest with your gaming endeavors (which is likely, given the equally modest processor).

There’s no charger in the box but the Nokia X30 supports fast charging with up to 33W of power. It takes around 90 minutes to charge the phone to max with a generic 30W fast charger.

Nokia X30 5G Competitors

Get in line. There are plenty of options in this price range (around $540). For starters, the Galaxy A53 is a great choice - it’s not only cheaper but also offers a 120Hz AMOLED display that’s bigger and brighter.

Then we have the Sony Xperia 10 IV, which sports the same chipset but has a bigger battery, lasts longer, and it is again cheaper than the Nokia.

You can get an iPhone SE if you feel like doing so, it’s hard to compare both phones but again, the Apple device is cheaper. The OnePlus Nord 2 5G offers a lot for less money, and you can get into flagship territory (Pixel 6, Pixel 7, Xiaomi 12) if you spend just $50 more. Plenty of choice and a hard time for the Nokia X30 5G.

Nokia X30 5G Summary and final verdict

Time to wrap it up! The Nokia X30 5G is a really good-looking midranger. It’s also slim, lightweight and compact, and comes with the promise of 3 full years of major software and security updates.

Sadly, it’s still a midranger, hampered by its mediocre chipset (the lack of 4K recording hurts), and also weighed down by its hefty price. The display tops out at 90Hz (when it decides to), and there are little to no reasons for people to opt for the Nokia when there are so many good options in this price range.

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