Nokia 5.1 Plus preview: Robust hardware backed by excellent software

Nokia 5
Nokia 5 (Image credit: Android Central)

HMD Global is starting to gain momentum in India following the launch of the Nokia 6.1 Plus. The phone introduced a notched design and improvements on the hardware front, but more than that it signaled HMD's intent to become more aggressive in the Indian market. Retailing for just ₹15,999 ($220, the Nokia 6.1 Plus goes up against of the likes of the Redmi Note 5 Pro and the ZenFone Max Pro M1 in the country.

With the Nokia 5.1 Plus, HMD is continuing the same strategy. The phone shares most of the same design elements as the Nokia 6.1 Plus but is available at a lower ₹10,999 ($150) price point. To accommodate the price tag, HMD had to make a few changes on the hardware side of things, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the Nokia 5.1 Plus is a fantastic budget phone.

Nokia rolled out its first device with a notch with the 6.1 Plus, and the company is fully embracing the cutout with all the Plus models. The Nokia 5.1 Plus has an even wider cutout at the top of the display, and it looks like the upcoming Nokia 7.1 Plus will follow suit.

At 5.86 inches, the Nokia 5.1 Plus is marginally taller than the 5.8-inch Nokia 6.1 Plus, but the screen resolution has been lowered to HD+ (1520x720). The overall design aesthetic is near-identical to that of the Nokia 6.1 Plus, with the only major change being the lack of chrome accents around the power and volume buttons and the camera sensor.

The power and volume buttons have a decent amount of tactile feedback, and it's great to see HMD make the switch to USB-C charging. There's also a 3.5mm jack located up top, and the hybrid SIM card tray lets you fit in a MicroSD card in the second SIM card slot.

Android manufacturers have done little to justify the presence of the notch, and the Nokia 5.1 Plus doesn't fare any better. There's a sizeable chin at the bottom of the display that includes the Nokia logo, and while Nokia is trying to free up some real estate by offering the cutout, in this particular instance it would have made more sense to go with a traditional 18:9 setup. It's not even fully clear why the Nokia 5.1 Plus has a wide cutout, as it doesn't look like the entire space is being utilized.

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SpecsNokia 5.1 Plus
Screen5.86-inch HD+ (1520x720) IPS LCD
ChipsetMediaTek Helio P60
SoftwareAndroid 8.1 Oreo
Rear Camera 113MP, ƒ/2.0
Rear Camera 25MP
Front Camera8MP, ƒ/2.2
SecurityRear fingerprint
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 ac, BT4.2
ColorsGloss Black and Gloss Midnight Blue
Dimensions149.5 x 71.9 x 8.0mm
Price₹10,999 ($150)

Both the front and glass feature 2.5D glass panels with a polycarbonate chassis sandwiched in between, and just like the Nokia 6.1 Plus the 5.1 Plus has excellent in-hand feel. While it isn't as conducive to one-handed use, it is better than most other devices in this category.

When it comes to the hardware side of things, the Nokia 5.1 Plus has all the bells and whistles. There's 3GB of RAM along with 32GB of storage, a MicroSD slot, 3.5mm jack, Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 4.2, dual 13MP + 5MP cameras at the back, 8MP front shooter, and a 3060mAh battery. Interestingly, HMD has decided to go with MediaTek's Helio P60 in lieu of Qualcomm hardware, and we'll have to wait and see if that decision ends up hurting the phone when it comes to software updates.

HMD is pushing the Nokia 5.1 Plus as a gaming phone, and the Helio P60 is just as capable as the Snapdragon 636 in this area. The Helio P60 has two 2.0GHz Cortex A73 cores paired with two 2.0GHz Cortex A53 cores and a Mali-G72 MP3 GPU, so the device isn't exactly lacking when it comes to power.

That's evident in day-to-day usage — the Nokia 5.1 Plus doesn't really slow down or lag during everyday tasks, and the 3060mAh battery is more than adequate to last an entire day with room to spare.

There is a 409MB day-one software update available for the device that offers a host of bug fixes and stability improvements, and the software experience is largely unchanged from what you get on other Android One phones. There's zero bloat to be found, and while the phone comes with Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, HMD says the device is ready for Pie, with an update planned in the coming months.

Nokia 5.1 Plus preview

The Nokia 5.1 Plus will be available in India starting October 1, and you'll be able to pick up the phone from Nokia's website as well as Flipkart. The phone will be sold in a single 3GB/32GB option that will retail for ₹10,999 ($150), with Gloss Black and Gloss Midnight Blue color options available.

For the price, the Nokia 5.1 Plus definitely looks like a great phone, and the design combined with HMD's track record with updates should give it a leg up in this category. Combined with the aggressive pricing of the Nokia 6.1 Plus, it looks like HMD is positioning itself to take on the likes of Xiaomi.

The only unknown is the Helio P60 and if HMD will be able to deliver timely updates. If it manages to do so, the Nokia 5.1 Plus will have no issues taking market share away from Xiaomi and others in this space. I'll have much more to share about the Nokia 5.1 Plus in the coming weeks, but what do you think of the device? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

See at Flipkart

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is Android Central's Senior Editor of Asia. In his current role, he oversees the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, networking products, and AV gear. He has been testing phones for over a decade, and has extensive experience in mobile hardware and the global semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.