Nokia 5.1 Plus review

GSMArena team, 8 Oct 2018.

Software

As with other recent Nokia phones, the 5.1 Plus is part of Google's Android One series. All devices that are part of this series have close to stock Android and relatively quick updates. Nokia has promised two years of major Android updates and three years of security updates for its devices from the date of launch.

Just to be clear, Android One devices still receive updates from the OEM, not directly from Google, as some erroneously believe. As such, when you get the update, if at all, is decided by the OEM.

Nokia Launcher - Nokia 5.1 Plus review Nokia Launcher - Nokia 5.1 Plus review Nokia Launcher - Nokia 5.1 Plus review
Nokia Launcher

Speaking of updates and Android versions, the Nokia 5.1 Plus comes with Android 8.1 Plus out of the box, which is obviously out of date at this point, which says everything about Google's Android One program. The reality is, Android One was never quick to get updates and while it's still quicker than most OEMs, it's nowhere as quick as the Pixel series or even some OEMs like OnePlus.

Rants about Android One aside, this is pretty much stock Android Oreo that we have seen many times before. The software experience on the Nokia 5.1 Plus is identical to that on the 6.1 Plus we checked out a few weeks ago. That means it has the same strengths and weaknesses.

The strengths would be the relatively stock Android, which for some is still very important. Nokia also does very little meddling here, and you won't find a lot of apps from the company, something that's not true for all Android One devices.

Settings menu - Nokia 5.1 Plus review Settings menu - Nokia 5.1 Plus review Settings menu - Nokia 5.1 Plus review
Settings menu

However, there are other aspects of the device that could have used more attention, such as the notch, in particular. Nokia still doesn't allow apps to access the area around the notch in fullscreen mode. The notch also awkwardly intrudes into the display area, and you can see some notification icons and volume bar sliders go under the notch area. This was also an issue on the Nokia 6.1 Plus, but it's even more obvious here due to the bigger notch. The icons are not even the same size, and the battery icon is strangely taller than the other icons in the status bar.

For what it's worth, the phone does ship with the Widevine L1 DRM. However, neither Netflix nor Amazon Prime Video support HD streaming on this phone as of this writing. There are more factors that go into enabling HD playback beyond just the DRM version, one of them being developer motivation. Besides, even if the phone did support HD playback, this is not a screen you'd want to binge watch videos on.

That aside, there's not much to complain about. Outside of the expensive Pixel phones, Android One devices remain the best way to experience stock Android for those who seek it. The upgrade experience has been rather disappointing, but at least the company is promising updates. It's just the matter of when you'll be getting them that's uncertain, even though that was one of the things Android One was supposed to solve.

Performance

The Nokia 5.1 Plus has a MediaTek Helip P60 chipset with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The Helio P60 is a known quantity at this point and we were greatly impressed by its performance in the past on devices such as the Realme 1 and the Oppo F9. In fact, the Helio P60 is even more powerful than the Snapdragon 636 in the Nokia 6.1 Plus, which would have put Nokia in a bit of an awkward situation.

But to avoid that, Nokia has downclocked the Helio P60 on the Nokia 5.1 Plus to some extent. The P60 on the aforementioned Realme and Oppo devices runs at the full 2.0GHz clock speed on all its cores. The P60 on the Nokia 5.1 Plus, meanwhile, runs at 1.8GHz.

We were really interested in powering up Geekbench and checking where exactly does this put the Nokia 5.1 Plus between the Nokia 6.1 Plus and the other Helio P60 devices, not to mention all the other phones in this segment.

Unfortunately, our review unit from Nokia would not let us run Geekbench. Something prevented the Geekbench application from connecting to the internet, which it requires before it can run the benchmark. We checked with our colleagues from other publications, and they too said that their Nokia 5.1 Plus review units had a similar issue, so it's either a bug or a conscious effort from Nokia to disallow running the benchmark on this phone.

Anyway, we did run the rest of the benchmarks, we usually run, and the Nokia 5.1 Plus was predictably slower than the other P60 phones. It was also slower than the Nokia 6.1 Plus even though it had no right to be. The only area where the Nokia 5.1 Plus raced ahead was in on-screen graphics benchmark, where the low 720p resolution display gave the phone considerable advantage over the others.

It's a shame Nokia had to nerf the P60 chipset on the Nokia 5.1 Plus. Sure, there could be some legitimate power consumption concerns, especially since the phone does not exactly have the biggest battery in the world (the other P60 phones have about 17% larger batteries). But not wanting the cheaper device from stealing the thunder from the more expensive one also seems like a fairly legitimate concern from a marketing perspective.

Benchmarks aside, the Nokia 5.1 Plus is an absolute pleasure to use. The animations and transitions within apps flow smoothly, you can start an app or launch a game or play a video, and it all happens fluidly without any stuttering or dropped frames. Scrolling through apps is smooth too, and even multitasking works brilliantly. This feels like a phone that is comfortable with anything you can throw at it, and it does all of it without complaining.

The only concern here would be the 3GB RAM and 32GB storage, both of which will likely age faster than the processing power of the chipset. It's unfortunate that Nokia currently does not offer any higher spec variants for this device.

AnTuTu 7

Higher is better

  • Honor Play
    204876
  • Oppo F7
    139414
  • Realme 1
    138524
  • Realme 2 Pro
    132958
  • Realme 2 Pro
    132958
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    130927
  • Meizu 15
    128680
  • Nokia 5.1 Plus
    119428
  • Nokia 6.1 Plus
    115571
  • Sony Xperia XA2 Plus
    86374
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro)
    77964
  • Realme 2
    75434

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Honor Play
    39
  • Meizu 15
    15
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    15
  • Realme 2 Pro
    14
  • vivo V11
    14
  • Realme 2 Pro
    14
  • Oppo F7
    12
  • Realme 1
    12
  • Oppo F9 (F9 Pro)
    12
  • Nokia 6.1 Plus
    10
  • Nokia 5.1 Plus
    9.6
  • Sony Xperia XA2 Plus
    9.5
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro)
    6.5
  • Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus
    6.5
  • Xiaomi Mi A1
    6.4
  • Realme 2
    6.1

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Honor Play
    36
  • Nokia 5.1 Plus
    20
  • Meizu 15
    16
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    14
  • Realme 2 Pro
    12
  • vivo V11
    12
  • Realme 1
    12
  • Realme 2
    12
  • Realme 2 Pro
    12
  • Oppo F7
    11
  • Oppo F9 (F9 Pro)
    11
  • Nokia 6.1 Plus
    9.6
  • Sony Xperia XA2 Plus
    9.1
  • Xiaomi Mi A1
    6.3
  • Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus
    6.2
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro)
    6.1

GFX 3.1 Car scene (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Honor Play
    22
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    9
  • Meizu 15
    8.7
  • Realme 2 Pro
    8.2
  • vivo V11
    8.2
  • Realme 2 Pro
    8.2
  • Oppo F7
    7.5
  • Realme 1
    7.5
  • Oppo F9 (F9 Pro)
    7.5
  • Nokia 6.1 Plus
    6.3
  • Nokia 5.1 Plus
    5.9
  • Sony Xperia XA2 Plus
    5.5
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro)
    3.6
  • Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus
    3.5
  • Xiaomi Mi A1
    3.5
  • Realme 2
    3.5

GFX 3.1 Car scene (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Honor Play
    21
  • Meizu 15
    9.2
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    8.6
  • Realme 1
    7.5
  • vivo V11
    7.4
  • Nokia 5.1 Plus
    7.4
  • Realme 2 Pro
    7.2
  • Realme 2 Pro
    7.2
  • Oppo F7
    6.7
  • Oppo F9 (F9 Pro)
    6.5
  • Realme 2
    6.3
  • Nokia 6.1 Plus
    5.9
  • Sony Xperia XA2 Plus
    5.1
  • Xiaomi Mi A1
    3.5
  • Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro)
    3.4
  • Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus
    3.4

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Honor Play
    32238
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    21378
  • Meizu 15
    20786
  • vivo V11
    18818
  • Nokia 6.1 Plus
    14903
  • Realme 2 Pro
    14576
  • Realme 2 Pro
    14576
  • Sony Xperia XA2 Plus
    14119
  • Nokia 5.1 Plus
    13873
  • Oppo F7
    11873
  • Realme 1
    10880
  • Oppo F9 (F9 Pro)
    10536
  • Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus
    10484
  • Xiaomi Mi A1
    10472
  • Realme 2
    6703

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • Honor Play
    3294
  • Meizu 15
    2556
  • Xiaomi Mi A2
    2240
  • vivo V11
    2218
  • Oppo F7
    1953
  • Nokia 6.1 Plus
    1951
  • Realme 1
    1940
  • Realme 2 Pro
    1911
  • Realme 2 Pro
    1911
  • Oppo F9 (F9 Pro)
    1904
  • Nokia 5.1 Plus
    1868
  • Sony Xperia XA2 Plus
    1523
  • Xiaomi Mi A1
    1262
  • Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus
    1226
  • Realme 2
    1039

Reader comments

Yeah me too but the fingerprint sensor is damaged and not scanning

  • Matk

I've been using my phone for 2 years until now.. Its on android 10 october 2021 security update.. No problem for me

Maybe you charge play will affect the charging interface will damage it replace it