Nokia 3 review: Un-Finnished Business

Un-Finnished Business

GSMArena Team, 30 June 2017.

Hardware overview

Let's be frank here, we all know that there is only one true material worthy of the original old-school Nokia experience and it's definitely not brushed aluminum. Joking aside, the Nokia 3 is mostly using polycarbonate and does it well.

We've said this before and we'll say it again: plastic has plenty of benefits - better shock absorption and overall durability for one. The Nokia 3's back side is covered up by a pretty light and soft layer, which has a great silky-smooth feel to it and looks prepared to take a lot of abuse.

Nokia 3 back side - Nokia 3 review Nokia 3 back side - Nokia 3 review
Nokia 3 back side

The absence of unsightly humps is definitely a plus, but HMD could have gone the extra mile and made the rear removable as well. There is even a slight gap between the screen and the back plate that gives off the distinct impression that you can pop the Nokia 3 open, pretty old school. Perhaps even slap on another colorful piece of plastic, which used to be a Nokia staple. Still, this is more of a comment on a missed opportunity than criticizing an overall pretty sturdy and well-built phone.

Nokia 3 in the hand - Nokia 3 review Nokia 3 in the hand - Nokia 3 review
Nokia 3 in the hand

And the plastic back is not the only thing that gives the Nokia 3 an eerie kind of similarity to older Lumia generation devices. The overall design language is definitely shared and it's no coincidence either. Sticking to a familiar appearance is a pretty sound strategy in the process of re-establishing the legendary Nokia brand. If nothing else, staying true to tradition might be the credibility-boost that an emerging company like HMD could very well use.

Nokia 3 profile - Nokia 3 review Nokia 3 profile - Nokia 3 review
Nokia 3 profile

Plus, HMD sprinkled some 2017 styling on the Nokia 3 as well. Despite its budget nature, the Nokia 3 is set inside a metal frame. Again, there are a few details here and there we don't particularly enjoy, like the antenna bands of questionable necessity, given the all-plastic back. Still, we really dig the matte black finish.

Nokia 3 right-hand side - Nokia 3 review Nokia 3 right-hand side - Nokia 3 review
Nokia 3 right-hand side

As far as controls go, the button layout is pretty standard. A volume rocker and power button sit alone on the right bezel, positioned pretty high up. We found it to work pretty well for the most part on a 5-inch phone but having large hands would definitely help.

Nokia 3 left-hand side - Nokia 3 review Nokia 3 left-hand side - Nokia 3 review
Nokia 3 left-hand side

On the flip side, the relatively compact 143.4 x 71.4 x 8.5mm Nokia 3 coms with two card compartments. The Upper one is for SIM cards - one or two nano SIM chips, depending on the version. The one below that is a dedicated MicroSD card tray, for up to 256GB of additional storage. And just in case you were wondering, yes, the emphasis on the compact size of the Nokia 3 is definitely thinly veiled criticism against all the manufacturers out there opting for hybrid solutions on significantly bigger devices.

Nokia 3 top and bottom sides - Nokia 3 review Nokia 3 top and bottom sides - Nokia 3 review Nokia 3 top and bottom sides - Nokia 3 review
Nokia 3 top and bottom sides

As for the bottom and top bezels, you get a 3.5mm audio jack above the earpiece. Next to it is a secondary noise-canceling mic - a rather uncommon feature in the budget segment. A micro USB connector sits in the middle of the bottom bezel, flanked by a single speaker. We have to admit, we kind of like the simple grille design.

Nokia 3 review

The loudspeaker on the Nokia 3 is surprisingly loud and managed to score a "Very Good" rating in our test routine. You can definitely count on the little smartphone in a noisy environment, especially if you opt for a higher-pitched ringtone, since the equalizer seems to favor those.

Speakerphone testVoice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) 64.1 65.3 68.5 Below Average
Xiaomi Redmi 4a 62.8 67.5 72.1 Average
Lenovo K6 Note 63.2 69.5 71.0 Average
Sony Xperia L1 64.7 70.4 72.3 Average
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 64.2 67.2 76.9 Good
Huawei Honor 5c 66.5 71.1 74.4 Good
Lenovo K6 Note (Dolby Atmos Music preset) 63.7 69.0 79.4 Good
Sony Xperia L1 (ClearAudio) 68.5 72.2 72.8 Good
Meizu M5 63.7 69.1 82.5 Good
Nokia 6 (Chinese version) 63.0 70.2 85.2 Good
Meizu M5s 65.4 69.1 84.2 Good
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625) 67.3 70.3 81.5 Very Good
Meizu M5 Note 65.1 70.7 86.8 Very Good
Nokia 3 70.6 71.0 83.6 Very Good
Sony Xperia L1 (xLOUD) 91.5 74.3 83.2 Excellent

Just to round the hardware tour up, the front of the Nokia 3 looks pretty slick with its 2.5D edges, slightly tapering off at the side. We find it a bit hard to believe the finish is Gorilla Glass, since it doesn't really feel rigid or smooth enough. Then again, our review unit got away without a single scratch after being tossed around the office quite a bit, so the screen glass appears to be doing its job well enough.

Nokia 3 front side - Nokia 3 review Nokia 3 front side - Nokia 3 review
Nokia 3 front side

Navigation is handled by a trio of capacitive buttons. These are not backlit and can't be remapped, so you better make sure, you are comfortable with the arrangement. Other than that, the keys are perfectly responsive and won't let you down.

Speaking of dependability, the Nokia 3 is pretty well equipped on the connectivity front. The Dual-SIM option is a good value package and Cat.4 (150/50 Mbps) LTE seems to be the minimum requirement in the budget category in 2017.

Nokia 3 review

The entry-level Nokia doesn't skip on local connectivity either. It has dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, with support for Wi-Fi Direct and a hotspot feature. The only thing it seems to be missing overall is 802.11ac, which we can't realistically expect in a sub-$200 phone anyway. Other small, but still interesting added value features include Bluetooth 4.0, with Low Energy profile support, USB OTG, and FM Radio, with RDS, NFC, as well as a decent set of sensors: accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass.

It's really nice to see the Nokia 3 fully prepared to meet a modern connected lifestyle. Sadly, HMD made plenty of cut-backs in other areas.

Battery

For one, there is the battery. The Nokia 3 packs a total of 2630 mAh, which is definitely on the low-end. Just to put things into perspective, competing offers, like the Xiaomi Redmi 4 pack 4100 mAh in a body that is almost identical in size. If you have been keeping up with our recent review coverage in the budget smartphone segment, then you might remember we complained a lot about the batter downgrade in the Xiaomi Redmi 4a. Still, that phone has 3120 mAh.

Then again, one could make the argument that Sony Xperia L1, which we also reviewed recently, has a similarly sized 2620 mAh battery, an almost identical Mediatek MT6737T chipset and a 720p LCD display. True, but it didn't exactly shine in the battery department, only scoring a 63 hour endurance rating.

The Nokia 3 finds itself in pretty much the same boat, which should come as no surprise, given the many similarities between the pair. In fact, it did even worse, scoring only 53 hours of endurance in out standardized test.

Nokia 3 review

Looking at the numbers, the phone actually appears to handle itself pretty well during calls and web browsing. Even video playback is decent and that endurance number is achieved using the Google Photos app. We are pretty sure a well optimized dedicated video player app can do even better. Standby is the main issue with the Nokia 3. After multiple runs, it only managed to last 150 hours or so idling in standby, connected to the network with the screen off and Wi-Fi on.

Plus, to make things worse, there is the issue of charging, or rather, the lack of any fast charging solution. This is another grudge we had with the Xperia L1 as well. Still, to HMD's credit, at least the Nokia ships with a proper 5V@2A charger (not a 5V/850mA, like the Sony). 2A is the maximum rate at which you can replenish the 2630 mAh pack and that is enough to get it from about 3% or so of residual charge to 50% in about 45 minutes. A pretty slow charge for a battery pack of this size.

Display

As previously mentioned, the Nokia 3 has a 5-inch, 720p display - kind of the norm for budget offers these days. The panel is also surprisingly good, again considering the Nokia 3's sub $200 price. The "plasticky" finish on top is what drags the experience down a bit and adds some unpleasantly high level of reflectivity.

Nokia 3 review

The Nokia 3 is plenty bright, topping out at around 477 nits. That is pretty comparable to the likes of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 and the Sony Xperia L1. Adaptive brightness is also enabled, but it is a little bit sluggish in reacting to changes. There is no "Max Auto" though, or outdoor boost feature, to temporarily go beyond 477 nits.

A tiny amount of light bleed is noticeable in black at 100%, but nothing really unusual for an LCD. Contrast is also pretty good - comparable to what you get from a Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 and noticeably better than on the Sony Xperia L1.

Display test 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Nokia 6 (Chinese version) 0.377 522 1385
Nokia 3 0.353 477 1351
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625) 0.322 484 1503
Xiaomi Redmi 4a 0.513 475 925
Lenovo Moto M 0.3 425 1417
Meizu M5 0.453 480 1060
Meizu M5 Note 0.614 463 754
Meizu M5s 0.426 407 955
Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) 0.00 331
Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) outdoor mode 0.00 468
Huawei Honor 7 Lite / Honor 5c 0.58 416 717
Lenovo K6 Note 0.383 521 1360
Asus Zenfone Selfie 0.36 333 928
Sony Xperia L1 0.47 450 957
Sony Xperia L1 (Max Auto) 0.571 531 930

Color accuracy is not a strong point of the Nokia 3. It managed an average deltaE of 9, with a maximum of 15.1, with brightness at full blast. Bringing the panel down to the standard 200 nits we use for certain battery testing scenarios, only made things worse. The display simply has a distinct Cyan, Blue-Greenish tint to it.

Nokia 3 review

You don't get any color modes or manual correction options out of the box, but HMD did throw in a few interesting color correction schemes. These are experimental and meant to help people with particular types of color blindness. Fun to play around with for sure, but not really usable for most and they do take a noticeable toll on performance.

Color Correction modes - Nokia 3 review
Color Correction modes

Sunlight legibility is on par with similar devices. That is to say, it is not spectacular in any way, but still decent enough for outdoor use.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    4.768
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    4.658
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+
    4.615
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
    4.439
  • OnePlus 3
    4.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    4.376
  • HTC One A9
    4.274
  • Samsung Galaxy Note7
    4.247
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • OnePlus 3T
    4.232
  • Google Pixel XL
    4.164
  • ZTE Axon 7
    4.154
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017)
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    4.09
  • Huawei Nexus 6P
    4.019
  • OnePlus X
    3.983
  • Vivo Xplay5 Elite
    3.983
  • Apple iPhone 7
    3.964
  • Oppo R7s
    3.964
  • Huawei P9 Plus
    3.956
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    3.935
  • Lenovo Moto Z
    3.931
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016)
    3.918
  • OnePlus 5
    3.914
  • Samsung Galaxy C5
    3.911
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    3.896
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 outdoor
    3.879
  • Samsung Galaxy J2 outdoor
    3.873
  • Samsung Galaxy A8
    3.859
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    3.818
  • Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016)
    3.817
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    3.804
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) outdoor mode
    3.802
  • Xiaomi Redmi Pro
    3.798
  • LG V20 Max auto
    3.798
  • Sony Xperia XZ
    3.795
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
    3.789
  • Apple iPhone 6s
    3.783
  • Meizu Pro 5
    3.781
  • Microsoft Lumia 650
    3.772
  • Xiaomi Mi 6
    3.767
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    3.756
  • Oppo F1 Plus
    3.709
  • Vivo X5Pro
    3.706
  • Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)
    3.688
  • Apple iPhone SE
    3.681
  • Huawei Mate 9
    3.68
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Meizu PRO 6
    3.659
  • BlackBerry Priv
    3.645
  • Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra
    3.597
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    3.588
  • LG G6
    3.556
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus
    3.53
  • Motorola Moto Z Play
    3.526
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
    3.523
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) outdoor mode
    3.523
  • Acer Jade Primo
    3.521
  • Microsoft Lumia 950
    3.512
  • Oppo R7 Plus
    3.499
  • nubia Z11
    3.466
  • Huawei P10 Plus
    3.456
  • HTC U Ultra
    3.453
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    3.422
  • Meizu MX5
    3.416
  • LG V20
    3.402
  • Huawei P10
    3.379
  • Oppo R9s
    3.352
  • Honor 8 Pro
    3.341
  • Oppo R7
    3.32
  • Lenovo P2
    3.316
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s
    3.276
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    3.244
  • Samsung Galaxy J2
    3.235
  • Sony Xperia X Performance
    3.234
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 2
    3.228
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    3.222
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    3.218
  • Huawei Mate 9 Pro
    3.206
  • Huawei P9
    3.195
  • Lenovo Vibe Shot
    3.113
  • Motorola Moto X Force
    3.105
  • LG Nexus 5X
    3.092
  • HTC U11
    3.089
  • Huawei Mate S
    3.073
  • Microsoft Lumia 640 XL
    3.065
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    3.012
  • Sony Xperia L1
    2.994
  • Sony Xperia X
    2.989
  • Huawei P10 Lite
    2.974
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Huawei Mate 8
    2.949
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3S
    2.913
  • Sony Xperia XA Ultra
    2.906
  • LG G5
    2.905
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3s Prime
    2.893
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus
    2.884
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium
    2.877
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium (sRGB)
    2.877
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    2.876
  • Nokia 3
    2.871
  • Microsoft Lumia 550
    2.851
  • Lenovo Moto M
    2.813
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro
    2.803
  • Sony Xperia Z5 compact
    2.784
  • Meizu MX6
    2.751
  • LG V10
    2.744
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3
    2.735
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    2.714
  • Meizu M5
    2.71
  • Sony Xperia M5
    2.69
  • Huawei P9 Lite
    2.679
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    2.679
  • Vivo V3Max
    2.659
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix
    2.658
  • Xiaomi Mi 4i
    2.641
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    2.635
  • Sony Xperia XA
    2.609
  • Motorola Moto G4 Plus
    2.582
  • Motorola Moto G4 Plus (max auto)
    2.582
  • Meizu M5s
    2.58
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    2.574
  • LeEco Le Max 2
    2.567
  • Microsoft Lumia 640
    2.563
  • Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
    2.563
  • Lenovo K6 Note
    2.544
  • Lenovo Moto G4
    2.544
  • Oppo F1
    2.528
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
    2.525
  • Huawei Honor 7 Lite / Honor 5c
    2.506
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
    2.503
  • Oppo F1s
    2.481
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus
    2.473
  • Huawei G8
    2.471
  • Huawei nova
    2.467
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Lenovo Vibe K5
    2.459
  • Meizu m3 max
    2.447
  • HTC 10 evo
    2.407
  • Huawei Honor 7
    2.406
  • Sony Xperia E5
    2.386
  • ZUK Z1 by Lenovo
    2.382
  • Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016)
    2.378
  • HTC 10
    2.378
  • Oppo F3
    2.376
  • vivo V5 Plus
    2.371
  • Meizu m1 note
    2.362
  • Huawei nova plus
    2.329
  • HTC One E9+
    2.305
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Lenovo Vibe K4 Note
    2.254
  • Sony Xperia C5 Ultra
    2.253
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (MediaTek)
    2.249
  • Sony Xperia C4 Dual
    2.235
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    2.234
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    2.233
  • Huawei P8
    2.196
  • Meizu M5 Note
    2.189
  • Huawei Honor 6
    2.169
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 2
    2.166
  • OnePlus Two
    2.165
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • LG Aka
    2.145
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (X20)
    2.145
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    2.134
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Xiaomi Mi 4S
    2.095
  • Acer Liquid X2
    2.084
  • Huawei P8lite
    2.078
  • vivo V5
    2.059
  • Moto G 3rd gen max manual
    2.026
  • Xiaomi Mi Max
    1.996
  • Sony Xperia E4g
    1.972
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Meizu m3 note
    1.923
  • Meizu m2 note
    1.892
  • BlackBerry Leap
    1.892
  • ZTE Nubia Z9 mini
    1.759
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Asus Zenfone Selfie
    1.68
  • Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen)
    1.675
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    1.659
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Xiaomi Redmi 2
    1.311
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215

Reader comments

  • Nahnah

My phone is mostly unreachable although I hardly put it off.

  • OmarM

Been 2 years now, not bad at all.

  • maestro

Phones good, battery better, network's best