Introduction

Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's Devices & Services division was one of the toughest tech breakups. Nokia has sort of a comeback to consumer devices though by licensing their brand for Foxconn to use in a co-designed product - the Nokia N1 tablet. It runs Android and has an all-aluminum body, plus it's among the first devices with USB Type-C, which shows the Nokia team hasn't lost its drive to innovate.

Nokia N1

This isn't quite the old Nokia though, all the engineering talent for mobile devices went over to Microsoft. Still, Nokia oversaw the design while Foxconn (better known in the West for manufacturing stuff for Apple) will do the actual building.

Speaking of Apple, the Nokia N1 is very clearly positioned as an Android alternative to the iPad mini. It's not the first, but at least it nails the aluminum unibody. Other similarities include the 7.9" screen with 4:3 aspect ratio and the reversible plug.

While it may have borrowed the form factor, Nokia beat its own path with a customized Android. The result is a mish-mash of Android styles ranging from Gingerbread (seriously) to Lollipop. The base OS is Android 5.0 Lollipop, but Nokia's custom apps need work.

Key features

  • Aluminum unibody, 6.9mm thick
  • 7.9" IPS LCD, 1,536 x 2,048 pixels, 324ppi; Gorilla Glass 3
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with Z Launcher
  • Intel Atom Z3580 chipset with 2.3 GHz quad-core processor, PowerVR G6430 GPU, 2GB of RAM
  • 8MP camera, LED flash, 1080p video recording
  • 5MP front-facing camera with 1080p video recording
  • 32GB of built-in storage, no memory card slot
  • USB Type-C connector (a first in a tablet)
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP
  • Stereo speakers (x 0.5W); Wolfson WM8958E codec
  • 5,300mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • Software feels unpolished
  • No built-in 3G option
  • No GPS
  • No memory expansion, no higher capacity options
  • Type-C connector works at USB 2.0 level only

Note that we got our Nokia N1 unit brought from China so it doesn't have Play Store installed, but the international version, which is reportedly under way, will have proper access to Googles' store. Nokia's app store is obviously not up to par.

The one piece of software that is actually good is the Z Launcher. It simplifies launching apps by using handwriting recognition - you scribble a letter or two to search for an app. The launcher will learn which apps you use the most and offer them on the homescreen. If that sounds cool, you can try it out on any Android device by downloading the Z Launcher from the Play Store.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

Nokia N1 official images

The Nokia is at the forefront of the inevitable move to the superior USB Type-C. The company also played it safe with the choice of chipset, going with Intel instead of troubled Qualcomm - the Atom Z3580 will age better than the Snapdragon 810 if you ask us.

Nokia's return to consumer products brings a mix of excitement and disappointment, but we certainly hope we'll even more products from the Nokia/Foxconn partnership - why not even phones.

Our main gripes are software related though, so you shouldn't feel like a beta tester - when Nokia gets the software right, you'll reap the benefits too.

Unboxing the Nokia N1

The Nokia N1 comes in a sleek flat black box with the tablet itself, a charger and a cable. The charger puts out 5V/2A, while the cable is pretty special - a standard USB 2.0 Type-A on one end and a USB Type-C on the other.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The retail box and its contents

Hardware overview

The Nokia N1 comes in two finishes - Natural Aluminum and Lava Gray. They roughly match iPad mini's Silver/Grey and Space Gray/Black colors.

The similarities don't end there, the Nokia N1 measures 200.7 x 138.6 x 6.9mm and weighs 318g. Basically, it's roughly the same size as the iPad mini 3, except thinner, slightly taller and a bit lighter.

Nokia N1

Both Nokia and Foxconn have experience with metal devices and they put them to good use in the Nokia N1 tablet. The design isn't novel, but it looks and feels good. It's nearly identical to the iPad mini, which will have you explaining to your friends that "No, it's not an iPad."

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The Nokia N1 looks dangerously similar to a well-known competitor

The Nokia N1 is 0.6mm thinner than the mini and its smoothly rounded sides make it very comfortable to hold. Nokia could have trimmed the bezels, Apple has never had the thinnest bezels but that's not really a feature to imitate.

The positioning of the controls is virtually identical, except that there's no hardware button on the front. The 5MP selfie camera is centered above the screen, there's also an ambient light sensor. The screen itself is behind Gorilla Glass 3 that is flat, but goes smoothly into the beveled sides which makes side-swipes feel smooth.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The 5MP selfie camera • smoothly beveled sides

The other missing thing is the mute slider on the right, but the two volume buttons are where iPad users would expect as is the power button on top and the 3.5mm audio jack. The mic is not centered, but closer to the Power button.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

3.5mm audio jack and mic • hardware keys • top view

The keys are easy to reach with the right hand when you hold the Nokia N1 in portrait and with the left when you hold it in landscape orientation. In landscape your right hand blocks one of the speakers though.

The stereo speakers on the bottom with the USB port between them is just as familiar. It's not a Lighting port, but USB Type-C instead. The plug is reversible too, though Type-C is noticeably bigger than Apple's proprietary Lighting port. We'll cover it more detail in the Connectivity section on the next page.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

USB Type-C in between the stereo speakers on the bottom

The back is a single piece of aluminum with only the 8MP camera snuggled in the top left corner. There's no flash here but we don't hold tablet photography in high regard so that thing won't be missed. There's no Apple logo though, just a small Nokia logo near the bottom. This is the biggest giveaway that you are not in fact holding an iPad mini 3.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The bare aluminum back looks great even without an Apple logo

Nokia get top marks for build quality, the N1 is excellently put together. The bezels could have been smaller, but our main complaint about the design is this - it's an unabashed iPad mini clone. The Nokia Lumia 2520 wasn't all too different, but that design team went to Microsoft so we hoped some fresh blood in the design department would have tried something different. We also have to take into account the fact that this product has been designed for the Chinese market, which reveres Apple products, so it's not a big surprise that somebody would try and copy their looks.

Display

The Nokia N1 comes with a 7.9" display, with a squarish 4:3 aspect ratio. It has 1,536 x 2,048px resolution making for 324ppi pixel density. Yes, those are the vital screen measurements of the iPad mini 3 as well.

The aspect ratio falls between A4 paper and the US letter standards, which makes it quite suitable for reading documents, especially at this screen size. You'd have a hard time reading a full page on an 8" 16:9 display.

Nokia N1

The display itself is decently bright though we kept the brightness slider in the upper half of its range. The Auto works pretty well too if you want to save some battery. The software can further adjust screen content to better suit the current image on the display.

The contrast is good with fairly dark blacks. The glass is highly reflective though, which hurts the tablet's usability in direct sunlight.

Viewing angles are great thanks to the quality IPS panel though the colors are not particularly lively. Some will be okay with that, but if you prefer punchier colors you may be a little disappointed.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Apple iPad mini 2 0.2 167 835 0.56 450 804
Apple iPad mini 3 0.23 184 808 0.65 515 799
LG G Pad 8.3 0.09 100 1112 0.33 345 1047
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 0.34 281 830 0.6 498 822
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 221 398
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact - - - 0.45 631 1416
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 0.13 126 974 0.53 502 955
Nokia N1 0.28 251 902 0.64 577 907


The accessibility options include larger text, color inversion and correction modes for a few color blindness conditions.

Connectivity

The Nokia N1 is among the very first devices to support USB Type-C, though that's not entirely accurate. Type-C is a new reversible connector for USB that builds on top of USB 3.1. The cable supplied with the tablet ends on a USB 2.0 plug though.

That's important for two reasons. First is speed - USB 3.1 Type-C cables can go up to 10Gbps, but the N1 is limited to USB 2.0 speeds (480Mbps).

Second is that Type-C connectors are meant to go on both ends of the cable since the standard allows for functionality to go both ways - that's data transfer and even charging! The new standard also brings built-in video output capabilities and native fast charging, neither of which are available on the N1.

Over time USB 2.0 got updates to support external storage (USB OTG) and video out (MHL/SlimPort), but this tablet doesn't do any of that. The promise of USB Type-C is that it can do everything - the one cable that powers a whole desktop setup, like Apple is doing with the new single-port MacBook. Well, that's not the case on the Nokia N1.

The other wired connection the tablet offers is a standard 3.5mm audio jack. Type-C USB ports should supposedly support analog audio out too, but this one doesn't as you should have figured out by now. The tablet does have a Wolfson chip so audio quality should be on a good level, we'll test that in a few chapters.

For wireless connectivity, the Nokia N1 has Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and that's your sole connection to the Internet. There is no optional 3G/LTE connectivity, at least not yet. There's also Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP.

Now for what's missing. There's no GPS positioning, which should matter to you if you're wanted a compact tablet for navigation. There is no NFC either.

Battery life

The Nokia N1 has a relatively small 5,300mAh battery, 18.5Wh by a different measure. The Apple iPad mini 3 packs a 6,570mAh, 24.3Wh battery. That's 30% more capacity, though the iPad is slightly thicker. If we could choose, we'd pick the thicker tablet with a bigger battery.

In fact, 6,500mAh or so seems to be the norm for tablets around the 8" mark, except for the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, which has only 4,500mAh. Sony's tablet is even thinner, but the Z3 has a spectacular battery life. Similar story with the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 - a 4,900mAh battery lasts a long, long time.

Nokia N1

The Nokia N1 only managed half the battery life for web browsing and watching videos than the Z3 tablet. It compares more favorably to the Tab S 8.4, at least in the video test. The iPad mini 3 goes for at least 4 hours longer than the Nokia tablet on both tests.

Web browsing

  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    13:21
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
    12:52
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    12:48
  • Apple iPad mini 3
    10:25
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME572C
    10:00
  • LG G Pad 8.3
    6:53
  • Nokia N1
    6:23

Video playback

  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    18:09
  • Apple iPad mini 3
    13:12
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME572C
    11:57
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    11:02
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
    9:33
  • Nokia N1
    8:12
  • LG G Pad 8.3
    7:40

We'd point our finger at the battery capacity, but the reality is that both Sony and Samsung stretched smaller batteries to excellent battery life. The Nokia N1 could use a good deal of optimization, hopefully a lot can be done in software as the screen and chipset are fixed and the current results just aren't very good.

User interface

The Nokia N1 tablet runs on Android 5.0.2 Lollipop though you wouldn't know it just from looking at the homescreen. The company has customized the experience pretty thoroughly, using a launcher interface called Z Launcher. If it's not to your liking however, there is an option in Settings allowing you to switch the UI to a more traditional Android layout. Even with the custom UI set to ON however, the Settings menu, the keyboard and the task switcher look just as you would expect on Android.

Nokia N1

We got our tablet from China and it doesn't come with Google Play, but units sold on the international market should come with the Play Store. Even the Chinese tablet has access to some of Google's apps, those can be downloaded from the Nokia Store. Those don't work without the Google Play Services, which aren't available though.

The lockscreen is pretty standard, showing the current notification and a camera shortcut. One small addition we like is that while charging the lockscreen will show a "Time until full" reading, which gives you an estimate when the N1 is ready to be unhooked.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

A standard post-KitKat lockscreen

The homescreen is Nokia's Z Launcher, which is built around the idea of handwriting recognition as the way to find the app you need. There's an alphabetized list of all apps (grouped by three letters: ABC, DEF, GHI...) if you want it, but it's easier to scribble a letter or two.

One thing that needs work is that the launcher recognizes only one letter at a time. You can't write "CA" and wait for the calendar to appear, you have to do "C" and then "A" in the rare case the needed app doesn't appear. It's not just for apps, the launcher will use Google (or another search engine) to offer quick access to web search result. This is one area where multi-letter recognition would have helped greatly.

Another drawback is that while the screen is pretty high res itself, the UI icons and some system texts seem to be upscaled from a lower resolution. And that's a big turn-off by our books.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The most used apps on the homescreen • searching with scribbling • web results • all apps

The launcher learns from your use patterns and offers the most used apps on the main homescreen pane so often you don't even have to scribble search. It will even detect which apps are used together and will group them in a folder.

The latest version of the Z Launcher has a pane on the left for widgets, though our tablet hasn't gotten the update yet. The Z Launcher is available on the Play Store in its latest version so this is an annoying oversight.

The notification area is stock Android. One pull shows the notifications, a second pull reveals the quick toggles plus a brightness slider. The selection of quick toggles is a bit sparse if you're used to custom jobs and cannot be customized.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The notification area: first pull for notifications • second pull for quick toggles

The Nokia N1 software comes with full support for multiple users. You can create more than one additional accounts (the LG G4 is limited to just one extra, for example) and accounts can be of two types - fully fledged or limited. Full accounts get their own app selection, while limited accounts have access to what the owner of the tablet has allowed and seem a great match for a kid account.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

Switching between multiple users • whitelisted apps for restricted accounts • managing accounts

There's a pre-made Guest account so the tablet is ready for sharing right out of the box. Switching between accounts is pretty cool tool - when coming back to the guest account, the tablet will ask if you want to continue the old session (with the apps you had open as you left them) or start a new one. Starting anew takes you through the 30-second tutorial that explains the Z Launcher.

Multitasking is handled just like on other Androids with the 3D card interface. There are no split-screen options here.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

Standard Android app switcher

The settings page fits almost entirely on a single screen. It's organized into categories (Wireless & networks, Device, etc.) and each category is listed in two columns. It's a compact, easy to navigate arrangement but you can also use the search function if you get lost.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The compact Settings screen • searching though the options

The Nokia N1 comes preloaded mostly with custom apps, some are customizations of the vanilla Android apps though. The end result is quite messy at the moment - the music player looks has Gingerbread-era looks, the Gallery is in ICS Holo style while the email app is Material design.

Performance

The Nokia N1 is an Intel-powered tablet, the Atom Z3580 chipset specifically. ARM-based devices are more common, but the Atom brings four 64-bit enabled CPU cores at 2.3GHz and a PowerVR G6430 GPU (same GPU as the iPad mini 3). They are hooked up with 2GB of RAM.

Nokia N1

The processor is fairly capable, Geekbench 3 places it on par with an octa-core processor in the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos 5420) or a quad-core Krait 400 in the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (Snapdragon 801). Nvidia's Tegra K1 chipsets, both of them, have a solid advantage.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • HTC Nexus 9
    3470
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    3276
  • Nokia N1
    2835
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    2781
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    2748
  • Apple iPad mini 3
    2486

The HTC-made Nexus 9 uses the Tegra K1 with a dual-core Denver processor, which doubles the performance of the Atom cores both individually and as a group. The Tegra K1 in the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 uses four Cortex-A15 cores and is quite fast too.

Basemark OS 2.0 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • HTC Nexus 9
    5358
  • Nokia N1
    2570

Basemark OS 2.0 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • HTC Nexus 9
    12745
  • Nokia N1
    6605

Full-system performance falls between the common Snapdragon 80x tablets like the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact and the beastly Nexus 9.

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • HTC Nexus 9
    1540
  • Nokia N1
    1166

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • HTC Nexus 9
    60297
  • Nokia N1
    46547
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    42505

Moving on to gaming performance, the iPads have proven the GPU is solid, especially at the 1,536 x 2,048px resolution. On-screen tests show playable frame rates on the older GFX 2.7 benchmark, though bleeding edge titles will not run at their max at full resolution. Games optimized for the iPad will be pretty easy to move over to the Nokia N1 and run at the same speed/graphics level.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC Nexus 9
    46.2
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    39.6
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    28.1
  • Nokia N1
    25.3
  • Apple iPad mini 3
    23
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    13.6

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC Nexus 9
    22.6
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    19.8
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    11.7
  • Nokia N1
    9.6
  • Apple iPad mini 3
    8.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    2.9

The raw GPU performance has been outshone by Nvidia's mobile Tegra GPU so a Nexus 9 or Nvidia's own Shield tablet will make a more serious gaming platform. Still, performance is comparable to an Adreno 330, which is quite popular on phones and tablets.

Note that both the Nexus 9 and Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 render screen content at the same resolution as the Nokia N1.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC Nexus 9
    60.2
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    53.1
  • Nokia N1
    29.7
  • Apple iPad mini 3
    28.2
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    27.7
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    20.5

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC Nexus 9
    31.5
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    27.3
  • Apple iPad mini 3
    13.1
  • Nokia N1
    13
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    12
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    5.6

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • HTC Nexus 9
    28244
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    24456
  • Apple iPad mini 3
    14781
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    12911
  • Nokia N1
    12839

For web browsing Nokia has provided a version of the vanilla Android browser and the results are quite good. JavaScript performance matches the iPad (Apple has a better optimized engine) and leaves a long-time Android player in the dust. Raw CPU performance lets the Nexus and Mi Pad take the lead.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • HTC Nexus 9
    3953
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    4647
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    4927
  • Nokia N1
    5154
  • Apple iPad mini 3
    5382
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    6500

Full web page rendering isn't hindered by super high resolutions and you can expect an experience similar to a Galaxy Tab S 8.4 or an Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. The Nexus 9 pulls way ahead, while the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 lags behind.

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • HTC Nexus 9
    2588
  • Nokia N1
    1693
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    1681
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    1467
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    952

The Nokia N1 offers good all-round performance for the upper mid-range market. Newer chipsets in phones are outpacing it, but those will take a while to trickle down to this price range. Nvidia currently rules the gaming market, but that aside popular compact tablets do not offer better performance for apps, games or browsing.

Contacts

For now Nokia offers the N1 tablet in Wi-Fi only flavor, but you still get a contacts app. Since our tablet was without Play Services we failed to sync our tablet (Google has discontinued free Exchange support). We ended up exporting the contacts from a _phone_ to a VCF file and importing it on the N1, hopefully the international version will not have such hiccups.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The Contacts app with Material Design • it doesn't quite fit on the 4:3 screen

The Contacts app itself follows Material design, though it feels like it wasn't designed for the 4:3 aspect ratio of the screen. Viewing a single contact leaves empty space on the sides of the UI.

There's not much you can do from here than send email, there isn't even Hangouts on our unit.

Messaging and text input

Out of the box you only get an email app, which is based on the AOSP app. It's a beautiful, functional app that supports multiple accounts (IMAP or Exchange) and has a split-screen UI in landscape mode, which makes browsing emails very quick.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The email app is attractive and functional

Other messaging apps weren't provided but you can download some. You're a bit limited by the lack of a SIM card - Viber supports tablets, but WhatsApp does not. Viber will also allow you to do voice calls too.

The keyboard pre-installed on the device is the Android Keyboard with the new Material Design theme. It supports spell checking, text correction and gesture input. The gesture input didn't work for some reason though. You can add a dedicated number row and additional punctuation keys if you enable the PC layout.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The Android Keyboard • PC layout • settings

Gallery

The gallery app looks straight out of Ice Cream Sandwich. It sorts photos by Albums, Locations, Time, People and Tags. Unfortunately, some of those don't seem to work, you can edit tags and there's no facial recognition.

The app can do slideshows and there are basic editing tools - you can add preset color effects, borders, crop and straighten images as well as adjust image properties for quick correction of your photos.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The Gallery is pretty basic, has Holo looks

There's no DLNA support here though, the only options in the Share menu are Bluetooth and Email. For what it's worth the Gallery works fast, but don't expect anything beyond basic photo and video browsing.

On international Nokia N1 tablets the Google Play package will be pre-installed so you'll have Google's more capable apps, like Photos.

Music player

If the Galley felt outdated, wait until you see the music player. It's brings back Gingerbread memories with its UI, the Now playing screen looks especially dated. You'll probably want to download a third-party player, but this one will get the job done.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

And just like that we're back in 2011

Even FLAC tracks (both 16-bit and 24-bit) are supported. You also get a 5-band equalizer with presets and with headphones plugged in there's also Bass boost and Surround sound. Again, no DLNA though.

Google Play Music is actually a very good offline music player so you'll probably use it more than Nokia's app. There's the option to stream music too and even though there's no 3G/4G connection the app will cache music so you can keep listening between Wi-Fi hotspots.

Loudspeaker

The Nokia N1 has two speakers on its bottom, each rated at 0.5W. The positioning isn't great for a full stereo effect and in landscape mode you tend to cover at least one speaker with your hand. It's not very loud either, though that seems to be the norm for ~8" tablets with stereo speakers.

The Nokia N1, Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact and iPad mini 3 all score Below average, while the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and LG G Pad 8.3 both managed a Good score.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact 66.2 66.3 65.3 Below Average
Nokia N1 65.9 62.7 70.0 Below Average
Apple iPad mini 3 65.6 63.1 70.6 Below Average
LG G Pad 8.3 66.9 75.7 66.6 Good
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 68.7 66.5 75.8 Good
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 75.7 69.6 82.7 Very Good
Xiaomi Mi Note 75.9 68.9 83.3 Excellent


Video player

There's no dedicated video player, you launch videos from the Gallery or the File manager instead. There's no subtitle support, no DLNA again, but the Atom chipset comes with Intel Smart Video.

It promises to enhance videos with smoother motion, lower noise and boosted colors and contrast. You can toggle both options too.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The basic video player • Intel Smart Video settings

Still, you'll probably want a third-party player if you do serious watching - the 4:3 screen isn't the most inviting for modern videos though. The hardware is quite capable and handles 1080p videos using any codec you can throw at it (multi-channel audio is not supported as usual).

There's no TV out hardware but you can use the Cast screen option from the notification area, which wirelessly mirrors your tablet screen on a Chromecast or a compatible TV. Again, it's a 4:3 image though, even on a 16:9 TV.

Audio quality is very good

The Nokia N1 turned out to be a talented performer in the first half of our test - the one with an active external amplifier. The tablet had high volume levels as befitting to its device class and excellent results in every reading.

Plugging in a pair of headphones brought quite a lot of extra stereo crosstalk and brought the volume down a bit, although the latter still remained above average. Some intermodulation distortion crept in, but it's too little to have a huge effect on the perceivable output. All in all, the results are very good and will please the vast majority of the users, even if they are not quite the best around.

Check out the table and see for yourself.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Nokia N1 +0.02, -0.03 -92.0 92.0 0.025 0.105 -90.8
Nokia N1 (headphones attached) +0.35, -0.11 -92.0 92.0 0.028 0.258 -48.7
Xiaomi Mi Pad +0.04, -0.42 -92.0 90.1 0.0055 0.069 -88.4
Xiaomi Mi Pad (headphones attached) +0.02, -0.43 -91.6 89.8 0.375 0.335 -46.3
Apple iPad mini 3 +0.09, -0.48 -93.7 93.7 0.0015 0.0071 -85.2
Apple iPad mini 3 (headphones attached) +0.08, -0.01 -93.6 93.6 0.0048 0.047 -69.7
LG G Pad 8.3 +0.14, -0.11 -93.8 92.9 0.0021 0.0082 -93.8
LG G Pad 8.3 (headphones attached) +0.29, -0.11 -90.7 92.7 0.0074 0.208 -53.6


Nokia N1 frequency response

Nokia N1 frequency response

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

Camera

The Nokia N1 comes with decent camera hardware for a tablet - an 8MP camera on the back and a 5MP one on the front, both capable of 1080p video at 30fps.

Nokia N1

The software is the letdown though, it's very barebones. It's not very intuitive either, switching between front and back cameras and between photo and video modes takes a bit of random typing and swiping before you figure how things work.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The camera UI is simple, but unintuitive

Photo and video mode is all you get - there's no HDR, no panorama, no in-camera effects, no nothing. The Google Camera is a great free alternative and we'd prefer that over the pre-installed app any day. From the Advanced options you can enable manual White balance and Exposure compensation.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

Only a few settings are available

Don't expect miracles of image quality. The 8MP photos come out noisy and over-processed (both over-sharpened and with smeared fine detail), the color balance is off too, while the dynamic range is nothing special. The iPad mini 3 doesn't seem to have much better hardware to work with but the software processing is noticeably better.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

Nokia N1 camera samples

Here's a sample from the 5MP front-facing camera. The results are quite pleasing, the dynamic range could have been wider though.

Nokia N1

Selfie camera sample

You can compare the Nokia N1 directly with the iPad mini 3 and other compact tablets (like the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact) at our Photo Quality Compare Tool.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Nokia N1 vs. Apple iPad mini 3

Nokia had the best cameras once upon a time, even bought companies for their advanced image processing techniques. That talent has moved to Microsoft or elsewhere since then, as the N1 certainly doesn't benefit from it.

Video camera

Both cameras max out at 1080p @ 30fps videos. They are recorded at a good 15Mbps total bitrate and above average 192Kbps stereo audio.

The image quality suffers from a many of the same issues as the still camera though - lack of sharpness, oversaturated colors, middling dynamic range. The audio sounds good though a couple of times we managed to block the mics with our hands resulting in very muted audio (practically unusable).

You can download an untouched sample if you want a closer look - 1080p@30fps.

If you're interest in video selfies, check out this video:

Here's how the Nokia N1 does at 1080p video against in compact tablet competition:

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Nokia N1 in our Video quality compare tool

Web browser

The web browser feels like another ICS throwback. It features tabbed browsing, no Incognito tabs though. You have Find on page and Request desktop site functionality. There's no bookmark or tab syncing functionality either.

The browser works fast and the 4:3 screen lends itself to browsing pages. However, you should probably consider installing Chrome or Firefox if you need private browsing or cross-device syncing.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

Fast and capable browser, but lacks advanced features

One issue we spotted is that the browser relies on some Android stuff that has been removed and you can't set the New tab page to "Most viewed sites" for example. Another vote in favor of a custom browser.

Apps

The Calendar app is another Ice Cream Sandwich stowaway. It has the standard Day/Week/Month views along with the Agenda view. The Day and Week options show the full month at the bottom of the screen for easier navigation.

Multiple sync accounts are supported, though syncing with the Google Calendar depends on Play Services so owners of Chinese N1 tablets should look to other services. Nokia doesn't provide a cloud service to sync your stuff with, not contacts, not calendars (Ovi is long dead).

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The Calendar app requires an online account to work

The Clock app shows the time in multiple cities and supports multiple alarm clocks, each with its own repeat pattern. A stopwatch and timer are part of the app too.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The Clock app handles alarm, stopwatch and timer duties

The File Manager can browse the internal storage by folder or by content type. It offers list and grid views and can do batch operations, but that's about it.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The File Manager

The Sound recorder is a very basic app that lets you record audio. The Auto Start Manager gives you information on how much power (in mAh) a certain app has used and how much RAM it occupies. You can disable apps to save both RAM and battery.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

Basic sound recorder • Auto Start Manager

The international Nokia N1 tablets will come with the proper Google Play Store, but Nokia's shelves are stocked with some of the more popular apps. It's called just The Store and it worked quite slow for us (perhaps it's faster inside China). We also had to enable Unknown sources so that it can install apps.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The Store is pretty baren, some of the apps probably weren't officially uploaded by their maker

That's not the biggest issue though, most vexing is the lack of a mapping application. The Nokia N1 does not have a GPS, but Nokia's HERE Maps is among the best and it's available for free for any Android. It's worth having pre-installed even just for looking things up, without navigation.

Nokia N1's out of the box app package offers slim pickings. Half of the ones that are on board should quickly be replaced with something more modern from the Play Store. The OS is pretty solid (it's just AOSP Android after all), but Nokia really needs to step up its app game if it wants the N1 to be taken seriously.

Final words

We rejoiced when we learned that Nokia is coming back to consumer devices. It's the Rolling Stones of smartphone makers - it had a wild youth but as time went on it became recognized as the best. It took a short hiatus, but now it's back.

We've seen some outlandish looking hardware from Nokia, it was part of its charm - the Finns were never afraid to try something new and we got a lot of great hardware thanks to that. The Nokia N1 is not that, it's playing it safe and quite derivative in design.

Nokia N1

Not to be too harsh on Nokia, but the similarity to the iPad mini is distracting. It feels like a knock-off, even though the hardware is actually really nice on its own.

The aluminum unibody is one seamless piece, no joints or gaps between panels, only buttons and ports and grills that have been carved out. Not that Apple has a patent on aluminum tablets, but the N1 borrows a little too heavily four our tastes and we cringe at the inevitable situation of getting asked which iPad mini is that.

For smaller sizes a 4:3 screen makes for a better reading experience. The resolution is fine - 324ppi is sufficient for a tablet screen and the viewing angles are great. Unfortunately, colors appear dull and the Gorilla Glass 3 is quite reflective.

The chipset is fast enough, though not the fastest if you're into gaming. The software though needs a lot of further work.

We found the version for China barely usable - without Google Play Services or a suitable alternative we couldn't even create a calendar appointment as the app wants a server to sync with. Even if you could provide the Google Play integration, you'll find yourself rummaging the app store for better media apps than the pre-installed ones.

The Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich interfaces of some of the preloaded apps are off-putting. The international version of the Nokia N1 will hopefully come with a better app set and a rich app store to get some third-party alternatives.

The camera app is pretty bad too, but the image processing is worse. The main camera just doesn't live up to the 8MP competition or what we're used to from Nokia-branded products. The selfie camera was actually pretty decent.

Key test findings

  • The aluminum unibody has great build quality
  • Good display quality, though it's quite reflective and colors are dull
  • No expandable storage or bigger storage options are limiting
  • Connectivity lacks wired TV out, GPS; the reversible USB Type-C plug is cool though
  • Battery life is disappointing, below tablets with smaller batteries
  • The software feels very unfinished
  • The Intel chipset provides adequate performance
  • Speakers are quite easily muffled with hand and are not very loud to begin with
  • Uninspiring default video player, no subtitles support, no DLNA either
  • Audio output quality is very good
  • The main camera is pretty bad, even for a tablet; the selfie camera is good
  • 1080p videos are better than the stills, but not great

The 4:3 format for 8-inch tablets is surprisingly popular. The Apple iPad minis are the best known examples, but Android has a lot of entries in this category as well.

The iPad mini 3 is pricier, especially if you want to get away from the suffocating 16GB storage option (and you do, believe us). The software is infinitely more polished though and you do get storage options, even if they are expensive. An iPad mini 2 could reduce the price if you don't need the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

Apple iPad mini 3
Apple iPad mini 2

Apple iPad mini 3 • Apple iPad mini 2

The Nvidia Shield Tablet packs the beastly Kepler GPU, which is currently the benchmark for mobile gaming. You also get a microSD card slot to store all the games and optional LTE to play on the go. It has stereo speakers pointed at the front and stylus support for a creative outlet. The Shield Tablet has a metal frame and a plastic back.

Nvidia Shield
Nvidia Shield LTE

Nvidia Shield • Nvidia Shield LTE

HTC made the first Nexus tablet for Google and based it on the same Tegra K1 chipset as the Shield Tablet. The screen is bigger - 8.9" - as is the tablet, something to keep in mind itself in case you prioritize compactness. It has a metal frame and plastic back. You'll be the first to get the latest Android version, though the storage situation isn't great.

It's getting close to two years old now, but a budget, mostly metal alternative then the LG G Pad 8.3 is a good pick. It had a Google Play Edition so it gets current software too. Probably not for long, but at least it got as far as 5.1 Lollipop.

HTC Nexus 9
LG G Pad 8.3

HTC Nexus 9 • LG G Pad 8.3

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 predates Nvidia's tablet and uses the earlier iteration of the Tegra K1 chipset, but still has amazing gaming performance. It has a plastic body, but if you can import it, you'll end up paying less than for a Nokia N1.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is waterproof, with a thin body that sports an aluminum frame. You can take it in the pool and it's very light too. The Triluminos screen has great colors and the stereo speakers are positioned around it, pointed forward. It has some stunning hardware but it's priced to match it.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 has an amazing Super AMOLED with vivid colors and great contrast, slightly sharper too. The metal frame looks good, though the perforated leather on the back isn't the best. Still, you get a fingerprint sensor (not as good as the iPad's) and optional LTE connectivity.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 LTE

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 LTE

Another tablet with an OLED screen (also 8.4", same resolution) is the Dell Venue 8 7000. This one isn't as common in stores, but has a metal unibody that's only 6.1mm thick and a rare Intel-powered 3D camera. It's based on the same Atom chipset as the Nokia, but you get a more traditional Android experience.

Dell Venue 8 7000

Dell Venue 8 7000

Nokia picked a very competitive field for its return to consumer products. Even the highly popular full-size iPad is finding it tough to compete with its 8" (give or take) sibling and the market is rife with high-quality tablets of that size. And the Nokia N1 just isn't geared enough to compete, it feels derivative, it doesn't offer anything unique and the software is a deal-breaker.

Still, if Nokia learns from this experience (experienced personnel moved to Microsoft so there are things to re-learn), we may be getting excited about a Nokia _phone_ again soon.

Unboxing the Nokia N1

The Nokia N1 comes in a sleek flat black box with the tablet itself, a charger and a cable. The charger puts out 5V/2A, while the cable is pretty special - a standard USB 2.0 Type-A on one end and a USB Type-C on the other.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The retail box and its contents

Hardware overview

The Nokia N1 comes in two finishes - Natural Aluminum and Lava Gray. They roughly match iPad mini's Silver/Grey and Space Gray/Black colors.

The similarities don't end there, the Nokia N1 measures 200.7 x 138.6 x 6.9mm and weighs 318g. Basically, it's roughly the same size as the iPad mini 3, except thinner, slightly taller and a bit lighter.

Nokia N1

Both Nokia and Foxconn have experience with metal devices and they put them to good use in the Nokia N1 tablet. The design isn't novel, but it looks and feels good. It's nearly identical to the iPad mini, which will have you explaining to your friends that "No, it's not an iPad."

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The Nokia N1 looks dangerously similar to a well-known competitor

The Nokia N1 is 0.6mm thinner than the mini and its smoothly rounded sides make it very comfortable to hold. Nokia could have trimmed the bezels, Apple has never had the thinnest bezels but that's not really a feature to imitate.

The positioning of the controls is virtually identical, except that there's no hardware button on the front. The 5MP selfie camera is centered above the screen, there's also an ambient light sensor. The screen itself is behind Gorilla Glass 3 that is flat, but goes smoothly into the beveled sides which makes side-swipes feel smooth.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The 5MP selfie camera • smoothly beveled sides

The other missing thing is the mute slider on the right, but the two volume buttons are where iPad users would expect as is the power button on top and the 3.5mm audio jack. The mic is not centered, but closer to the Power button.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1
Nokia N1

3.5mm audio jack and mic • hardware keys • top view

The keys are easy to reach with the right hand when you hold the Nokia N1 in portrait and with the left when you hold it in landscape orientation. In landscape your right hand blocks one of the speakers though.

The stereo speakers on the bottom with the USB port between them is just as familiar. It's not a Lighting port, but USB Type-C instead. The plug is reversible too, though Type-C is noticeably bigger than Apple's proprietary Lighting port. We'll cover it more detail in the Connectivity section on the next page.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

USB Type-C in between the stereo speakers on the bottom

The back is a single piece of aluminum with only the 8MP camera snuggled in the top left corner. There's no flash here but we don't hold tablet photography in high regard so that thing won't be missed. There's no Apple logo though, just a small Nokia logo near the bottom. This is the biggest giveaway that you are not in fact holding an iPad mini 3.

Nokia N1
Nokia N1

The bare aluminum back looks great even without an Apple logo

Nokia get top marks for build quality, the N1 is excellently put together. The bezels could have been smaller, but our main complaint about the design is this - it's an unabashed iPad mini clone. The Nokia Lumia 2520 wasn't all too different, but that design team went to Microsoft so we hoped some fresh blood in the design department would have tried something different. We also have to take into account the fact that this product has been designed for the Chinese market, which reveres Apple products, so it's not a big surprise that somebody would try and copy their looks.

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