Nokia 3 review: Un-Finnished Business

GSMArena Team, 30 June 2017.

Performance

We didn't really go into the performance section expecting to be blown away in any way by the Nokia 3. Frankly, it wouldn't be fair or realistic to ask anything other than basic functionality out of a Mediatek MT6737, with only four 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53 cores at its disposal and a single Mali-T720MP1 GPU core.

That being said, we expected to see a level of performance similar to that on the Xiaomi Redmi 4a or the Sony Xperia L1. Both also have four Cortex-A53 cores, running at around 1.4 GHz, 2GB of RAM and 720p displays. There are some notable differences in GPUs, but nothing that should have any effect on the overall usability of a phone, outside gaming and other graphics intensive tasks. Unfortunately, where Sony and Xiaomi came through with software optimization for a reasonably smooth experience across the UI and light everyday tasks, the Nokia 3 really struggles to cope.

Nokia 3 review

Hopefully, it's an optimization issue that can be resolved in future software updates. After all, HMD did make a huge point out of its dedication to timely updates and a high level of security on the new wave of Nokia devices. However, in its current state, the Nokia 3 unit we got for review, running its latest available Android 7.0 ROM really struggles even with mundane tasks.

The UI is far from smooth, with animations often slowing down. We even got occasional freezes, with the CPU obviously trying hard to keep up with loading and scrolling heavier webpages and even searching and browsing the Play Store. Want to leave some app updates in the background while you go about other tasks? Not, really a viable option, to be frank...

To kick things off, we have GeekBench 4 - a pure CPU benchmark. Things are looking rather bleak for the Nokia 3. In terms of competition, we pit it up against a few other recent quad-core, Cortex-A53 devices, we had in the database, like the Sony Xperia L1, Xiaomi Redmi 4a and Meizu M5c. Most other devices we threw into the mix are there based on their price similarity to the Nokia 3. Meizu M5 and M5s, Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 - most of these have four more cores to work with, which makes for pretty big variances in performance.

GeekBench 4 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    4456
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    3016
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    3011
  • Lenovo Moto M
    2921
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    2719
  • Meizu M5 Note
    2690
  • Meizu M5s
    2480
  • Meizu M5
    2428
  • Huawei Honor 5X
    2035
  • Sony Xperia L1
    1775
  • Lenovo K6 Power
    1698
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    1670
  • Nokia 3
    1487
  • Meizu M5c
    1213

GeekBench 4 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    1546
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    832
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    819
  • Lenovo Moto M
    771
  • Meizu M5 Note
    683
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    658
  • Sony Xperia L1
    655
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    638
  • Huawei Honor 5X
    616
  • Meizu M5s
    610
  • Lenovo K6 Power
    610
  • Meizu M5
    592
  • Meizu M5c
    565
  • Nokia 3
    557

AnTuTu is a more compound benchmark, taking into account things like RAM capacity and speed, as well as storage speed. Sadly, GPU plays a part in the score as well and we suspect that's what really dragged the Nokia 3 down overall, since it only has one graphics core to work with.

AnTuTu 6

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    85162
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    62316
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    61616
  • Lenovo Moto M
    51831
  • Huawei Honor 5c
    51220
  • Meizu M5 Note
    47806
  • Nokia 6
    46413
  • Lenovo K6 Power
    44115
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    44062
  • Moto G5
    43755
  • Meizu M5
    40831
  • Meizu M5s
    39166
  • Sony Xperia L1
    37813
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    36110
  • Huawei Honor 5X
    35469
  • Meizu M5c
    29001
  • Nokia 3
    28441
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
    24884

To further prove this point, here is how the entry-level Nokia handled GFXBench. Even the basic OpenGL ES 3.0 test was enough to bring the Nokia 3 to its knees. Just to put things into perspective, the Meizu M5c is also stuck with a lonely single Mali-T720MP1 GPU core. The Meizu M5 Note, Xiaomi Redmi 4a and Huawei Honor 5x, on the other hand, run much more capable, multi-core GPU's - Mali-T860MP2, Adreno 308 and Adreno 405, respectively. These are barely powerhouses as well, but even they put the Nokia 3 to shame.

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    15
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    9.9
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    9.8
  • Huawei Honor 5c
    7.8
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    7.2
  • Lenovo Moto M
    7.1
  • Moto G5
    7.1
  • Lenovo K6 Power
    7.1
  • Huawei Honor 5X
    5.6
  • Meizu M5 Note
    5.5
  • Meizu M5
    5.2
  • Meizu M5s
    4.5
  • Sony Xperia L1
    4.1
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    2.8
  • Nokia 3
    2.2
  • Meizu M5c
    2.2

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    15
  • Meizu M5
    10
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    9.7
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    9.6
  • Meizu M5s
    9.2
  • Sony Xperia L1
    8.8
  • Huawei Honor 5c
    8.3
  • Lenovo Moto M
    7.6
  • Moto G5
    7.1
  • Lenovo K6 Power
    7.1
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    7
  • Huawei Honor 5X
    6.1
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    5.7
  • Meizu M5 Note
    5.5
  • Nokia 3
    4.5
  • Meizu M5c
    4.4

There are a couple of other interesting observations to be made here. The Sony Xperia L1 might appear to use the exact same GPU as the Nokia 3, but it has the advantage of two GPU cores. The test results speak for themselves.

The other thing worth mentioning is that despite its poor graphics performance the Mali-T720 still supports OpenGL ES 3.1 - a requirement for running Android Nougat. This is kind of obvious, given that the phone ships with Android 7 to begin with, but It's still good no note, as one less criteria to worry about, when it comes to potentially running future Android versions.

Basemark X tells a pretty similar story. It has the Nokia 3 trading blows with the Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) and its Mali-400 GPU at the very bottom of the chart.

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    13666
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    10446
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    10424
  • Huawei Honor 5c
    7735
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    7522
  • Moto G5
    7475
  • Lenovo K6 Power
    7475
  • Lenovo Moto M
    6732
  • Meizu M5 Note
    5276
  • Huawei Honor 5X
    5009
  • Meizu M5
    4767
  • Meizu M5s
    4646
  • Sony Xperia L1
    4045
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    3335
  • Meizu M5c
    2292
  • Nokia 3
    2210
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
    1424

Basemark X (medium)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    23300
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    21078
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    20921
  • Huawei Honor 5c
    16171
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    15303
  • Moto G5
    15292
  • Lenovo K6 Power
    15286
  • Meizu M5 Note
    11983
  • Meizu M5
    11303
  • Huawei Honor 5X
    10107
  • Meizu M5s
    8915
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    6251
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
    4605
  • Nokia 3
    4511

Last, but not least, there is Basemark OS II and its second version. They seem to be a bit kinder to the Nokia 3, evaluating its overall performance a bit higher. Still, the numbers hardly impress.

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    1296
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    1290
  • Lenovo Moto M
    1127
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    1041
  • Nokia 6
    1004
  • Meizu M5 Note
    944
  • Huawei Honor 5X
    906
  • Meizu M5
    846
  • Meizu M5s
    842
  • Sony Xperia L1
    802
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    801
  • Nokia 3
    620
  • Meizu M5c
    522
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
    399

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Helio X20)
    1728
  • Huawei Honor 5c
    1221
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    1050
  • Huawei Honor 5X
    874
  • Moto G5
    795
  • Meizu M5s
    781
  • Sony Xperia L1
    767
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    707
  • Nokia 3
    568
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
    326
  • Lenovo K6 Power
    281
  • Meizu M5c
    182

Circling back to our original point on performance, we really didn't expect or ask much of the Nokia 3. All it had to do is deliver a usable experience, while performing day to day Android tasks. Nothing fancy or advanced, just things your grandma will expect.

In all fairness, we can't say that it totally failed to deliver. However, the experience is far from smooth, even with the low bar we set. Frankly, we point the finger squarely at the manufacturer HMD and its software department. We've already seen the likes of the Redmi 4a and the Sony Xperia L1 perform a lot better on basically the same low-end hardware. The Nokia 3 should theoretically have an additional edge with its near-stock Android experience.

In reality, all synthetic tests aside, however, both Sony and Xiaomi managed to deliver a much more pleasant, albeit far from stellar, experience, with a lot more added value functionality baked into the OS.

Audio output is mediocre

The Nokia 3 did well with an active external amplifier, delivering above average loudness and nicely clean output.

Plugging in a pair of headphones did a lot of damage though, affecting the degrading the readings across the board. Volume plummeted too so it's really not a performance worth writing home about.

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Nokia 3+0.02, -0.11-91.991.80.012 0.017-91.8
Nokia 3 (headphones)+0.88, -0.06-78.777.60.039 0.348-52.5
Sony Xperia L1+0.10, -0.11-93.692.90.0090 0.013-93.8
Sony Xperia L1 (headphones)+0.79, -0.10-92.991.90.010 0.420-53.1
Xiaomi Redmi 3s+0.02, -0.07-94.390.60.0024 0.0087-91.8
Xiaomi Redmi 3s (headphones)+0.02, -0.10-93.790.30.028 0.061-72.2
Oppo F1s+0.37, -0.00-71.275.30.936 1.190-41.2
Oppo F1s (headphones)+0.80, -0.05-67.874.60.336 0.579-42.3
Huawei Honor 7 Lite (5c)+0.03, -0.44-90.490.90.0019 0.011-87.9
Huawei Honor 7 Lite (5c) (headphones)+0.04, -0.47-90.390.70.0067 0.072-73.1
Motorola Moto G4 +0.02, -0.07-92.492.50.0028 0.0084-92.1
Motorola Moto G4 (headphones) +0.04, -0.08-92.092.00.0073 0.070-63.8

Nokia 3 frequency response
Nokia 3 frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

Reader comments

  • Tman

I use Nokia 3 I have no problem with the price is good I like it

  • Kal

My selfie is nolonger working,can you help?

  • HIMANSHU

nice phone with good look..