Nokia X30 5G reviewon November 4, 2022 at 15:32 Tech Advisor

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At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

Stylish, robust designImpressive camera performanceGorgeous displayThree-year warranty

Cons

Performance is lacking for the priceNo true stand-out feature compared to the competition

Our Verdict

The Nokia X30 represents a change in direction, with a more stylish design, hugely improved specs and a boost to camera performance despite no Leica partnership. It doesn’t do anything extraordinarily better than other good mid-rangers, but for the first time in ages Nokia has a chance of competing.

Price When Reviewed

From £399

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£399.99
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The Nokia X30 5G is a direct upgrade to last year’s Nokia X20, and it’s clear there has been a shift in direction for manufacturer HMD not only in terms of overall design but performance too. This year’s model boasts a better display, a quicker processor, faster charging and although a downgrade on paper, there’s a boost to camera performance too.

Compared to the Nokia X20 that we found hard to recommend to anybody but the most die-hard Nokia fans, big changes are on offer.

The catch? It’s now £100/€100 more expensive with a £399/€499 price tag, putting it up against big hitters in the mid-range space like the Google Pixel 6a, Nothing Phone (1), and OnePlus Nord 2T. The question is, does the Nokia X30 5G do enough to challenge those phones? The answer might surprise you.

Design & build

Overhauled design languageThinner and lighter than the X20Made from recycled materials

It’s clear that the Nokia X30 5G represents a reboot for Nokia’s top-end mid-range line, and that’s most evident from the refreshed design. Gone is the big, bulky, simplistic (read: dull) X20 design, replaced by something that’s more slender, compact and all-around more premium.

The Nokia X30 is a smaller smartphone than its 6.7in predecessor in practically every way. It sports a slightly smaller 6.43in display and a much thinner body that measures in at a svelte 8mm, a 1.1mm reduction, and it’s a whopping 35g lighter at 185g. The two phones couldn’t be more different, representing a serious change in Nokia’s design philosophy that makes for a much nicer in-hand feel.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

More generally, the smartphone boasts a combination of an aluminium frame and a plastic rear, with chamfered edges that make the phone look and feel more premium. It’s available in two finishes – Cloudy Blue and Ice White – with the latter photographed for this review.

Some might scoff at the inclusion of plastic but it’s fairly standard at the mid-range price point, and while it can still get scratched, it won’t shatter like glass will when dropped. It doesn’t feel cheap either, thanks to the frosted glass finish that also helps to hide fingerprints.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

The rear camera housing has also been completely redesigned. Gone is the large centrally placed circular cut-out, replaced by a much more compact, stylised rectangular camera housing on the top-left with matching chamfered edges and a vertical dip helping elevate the overall design. It really is a much cleaner, more premium-looking rear than its predecessor.

It’s not just stylish either, with Nokia using 100% recycled materials for the aluminium frame and 65% recycled plastic for its rear cover – something I whole-heartedly welcome at a time when consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious.

Display & audio

OLED display is a huge jump forwardSmooth 90Hz refresh rateNokia removed the 3.5mm audio jack

As alluded to, the Nokia X30 5G has a slightly smaller display than its predecessor, but that’s not a bad thing in my book. At 6.43in, the X30 feels comfortable to use in everyday use while still remaining reasonably pocketable, something that can’t be said for many 6.7in alternatives.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

It’s not quite in small phone territory – those looking for a compact Android phone should look at the 5.9in Asus Zenfone 9 – but it strikes a balance between portability and still offering a decent experience when watching TikToks, YouTube videos and the like.

Besides, the trade-off for a smaller display is both improved display tech and a boosted refresh rate – two features I happily take over a slightly larger display.

The AMOLED display is a big improvement on the old IPS LCD display, with much more vivid colours, deeper blacks and better dynamic range, though it’s not officially a HDR display, while the boosted 90Hz refresh rate is a big deal for making animations and scrolling feel smoother and more responsive. Some may lament the lack of 120Hz, but I’d argue that the jump from 60- to 90Hz is much more noticeable and significant.  

It’s also more than bright enough for use in direct sunlight, with a claimed maximum 750nits, though we could only reach a maximum of 454nits in tests.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

HMD also moved the fingerprint reader to underneath the display, which provided very few false readings during my time with the phone.

The audio experience, on the other hand, is lacking.

There’s a mono speaker on the smartphone that won’t do much to blow your mind, offering no kind of stereo output, and the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack will also disappoint those yet to make the jump to wireless earbuds. Considering its removal, it would’ve been nice for HMD to upgrade to a dual-speaker system to compensate.  

Lewis Painter / Foundry

Features & performance

Improved performance compared to Nokia X20Still lagging behind similarly priced phonesDecent everyday performance

The Nokia X30 5G offers a big step forward in performance compared to last year’s X20 which featured the budget-focused Snapdragon 480. This year, it has had a meaningful upgrade to the Snapdragon 695, complete with either 6- or 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of storage depending on the variant you opt for.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, for the £399 asking price, there are plenty of more powerful options out there, and some are even cheaper than Nokia’s latest smartphone.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

The MediaTek Dimensity 1300 within the OnePlus Nord 2T boasts noticeable gains over the Snapdragon 695, and the phones that do offer the Snapdragon 695 – like the Motorola Edge 30 Neo and Poco X4 Pro 5G – are available for as much as £140 less than Nokia’s option.

That’s largely reflected in our benchmarks. Though it’s a big boost compared to the Nokia X20, the X30 struggles to keep up with the similarly priced competition, and the phones it falls in line with cost much less than the asking price.

That’s all numbers and tests though; in everyday use, the Nokia X20 5G feels rapid and responsive with nary a stutter when scrolling through Facebook, replying to WhatsApps or watching TikToks. That’s no doubt in part thanks to the boosted 90Hz refresh rate available this year that helps smooth out the animations and scrolling in media-heavy apps, making everything feel more fluid.

I noticed that there can be an occasional wait when initially opening the Camera app, but this only happens every now and again, making me wonder whether it’s more software than hardware that’s at fault. If it’s the former, I’d expect a fix to roll out in the near future.

When it comes to gaming, you shouldn’t expect to run AAA titles like Genshin Impact or Call of Duty Mobile at the maximum graphical settings, but if you drop the quality down, it’s still possible to game on the phone, and it doesn’t get too warm over long periods of use. It’s not quite a gaming phone for die-hard gamers that want 60fps+, but if you play the occasional bit of Candy Crush, it’s absolutely fine.

Other standout features of the phone include 5G connectivity alongside Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, as well as NFC for mobile payments. There’s also eSIM support for those looking to ditch the physical SIM card.

Cameras & photography

Huge leap forward in camera quality despite no Leica partnership50Mp is capable both in well- and low-lit conditionsDitches useless low-res cameras for a decent 13Mp ultrawide

On paper, it seems like the Nokia X30 has had a downgrade in the camera department. It no longer boasts the Leica branding following the end of Nokia’s relationship with the camera manufacturer, and with a main 50Mp snapper, it’s 14Mp fewer than the X20. However, in reality, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

Despite assumptions that higher megapixel counts mean higher quality (which we all know is a lie), the 50Mp snapper of the Nokia X30 far outpaces that of its predecessor in practically every department. Images are generally well-lit with an aperture of f/1.9 letting in plenty of light, colours are fairly accurate, and the detail is impressive for a smartphone at this price. That performance is consistent too, unlike the X20 where you’d have to take a few snaps to find the ‘one’.  

It’s in the low-light department that the X30 sees real gains, and that’s a bit of a surprise considering most mid-range smartphones are a bit naff when it comes to low-light photography. Nokia credits its Night Mode 2.0 tech for most of the advancements, though the wider aperture can’t hurt either. Either way, night-time shots taken on the X30 are of surprisingly good quality, delivering photos with balanced light and plenty of detail in low-light scenarios like a streetlamp-lit street.

Nokia has extreme low light covered with its Dark Vision mode, an additional night mode function enabled by tapping the icon in the top-right of the Night shooting mode. This sucks in as much light as possible to capture more light than I could see in some scenarios. Of course, the quality isn’t up there with standard night mode photos with some source of light, but it’s still fairly impressive.

The only downside is that, with the lack of a laser-based autofocus system, particularly dark night shots can come out a little soft as the phone struggles to set a focus point.

Overall though, the main 50Mp lens isn’t just a good snapper for a mid-ranger, it’s a good snapper full stop.

While the X20 came with a trio of low-quality accompanying lenses including a 5Mp ultrawide, 2Mp macro and 2Mp depth sensor, the X30 ditches the needless camera count for a higher quality 13Mp 123-degree ultrawide lens. If other budget and mid-range manufacturers could follow suit, that’d be great!  

Though not quite as exceptional as the main 50Mp snapper in low-light conditions, the ultrawide lens does a great job at capturing wide-angle shots, and accurate colour matching means there’s no real difference in colour in shots across the two rear lenses.

Flip the phone over and you’ll find a 16Mp front-facing camera that, like the 50Mp lens, offers a downgrade in pixel count while boosting the quality of images taken. Images are generally well-lit and of decent quality, and you’ve got the option of using Night Selfie mode when light levels begin to drop. The experience is enhanced further by an AI Portrait mode with fairly decent edge detection. It’ll still miss wispy hairs, but it does a good job overall.

Battery life & charging

Smaller battery than the X20Comfortable all-day battery lifeImproved 33W fast charging

Though the Nokia X30 has a smaller display than its predecessor, the battery capacity still comes in at a respectable 4200mAh, just 270mAh less. However, while a smaller display usually means better battery life, the jump to 90Hz muddies the water somewhat.

We found the Nokia X20 could last around a day and a half on a single charge with the possibility of squeezing two days with more conservative use. The Nokia X30, on the other hand, is more of a one-day device. It’s a comfortable all-day experience, don’t get me wrong, usually finishing the day around the 30% mark with a healthy amount of texting, scrolling and TikToking, but more power-hungry users fare a little worse.  

Lewis Painter / Foundry

That’s largely backed up by our battery benchmark that saw the Nokia X30 last a respectable, but certainly not industry-leading, 11 hours and 10 minutes before needing a top-up.

To compensate for this, the Nokia X30 cranks up the fast-charging experience to 33W. Though it’s not quite up to the standard of the Redmi Note 12 Explorer Edition and its 210W charging, it’s a big improvement on the 18W of the X20 that matches that of the Nothing Phone (1).

Regardless, it should help reduce the amount of time you’ll need to charge the phone. In my experience, I found the Nokia X30 could go from flat to 39% in 15 minutes, jumping up to 75% in half an hour and a full charge in around an hour.

The catch? Nokia is one of a growing number of brands to not ship a charging brick with the smartphone, meaning you’ll have to source your own 33W USB-C charging brick if you want to take advantage of the faster charging on offer from the X30.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

Software & upgrades

Near-stock Android 12Some pre-installed apps, but not manyThree years of OS and security updates

One of the biggest draws of the Nokia X30 5G, like most other Nokias in the current range, is the software experience. Unlike many budget- and mid-range alternatives, the Nokia X30 5G ships with a near-stock Android experience with Android 12 supported out of the box.

That means you’ll be getting an experience close to how Google originally envisioned it, though without a handful of Pixel features like Material You. Everything is where you’d expect it to be, particularly in the Settings app where some manufacturers make odd menu decisions, sporting a fluid UI that’s hard to complain about.

The Nokia X30 doesn’t boast anywhere near the level of bloatware of some alternatives, but it does come with some apps pre-installed – though these are, unusually, apps you’d actually use on a day-to-day basis. This includes Netflix, ExpressVPN, Amazon and LinkedIn, along with the Nokia My Device app for service and warranty information and the GoPro Quik app for on-the-fly automated video editing.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

Though LinkedIn is an odd addition, I’m not overly disappointed with the pre-installed apps as they’re apps I tend to use and not random games or social networks I’ve not heard of. Of course, some may feel different, but you’ve always got the option of uninstalling them.

When it comes to updates, Nokia is up there with the best, with three OS upgrades taking users all the way to Android 15. Though it’s in line with the Nothing Phone (1), it’s much better than the OnePlus Nord 2T’s two years and lack of any update promise at all for cheaper alternatives like the Poco X4 Pro 5G.

Pricing & availability

The price is the sticking point for the Nokia X30, with a £100 increase compared to its predecessor with a starting price of £399 for the 6GB/128GB model, jumping up to £439 if you want to max out the RAM and storage at 8GB and 256GB respectively. It’s a little more expensive in Europe, starting at €499 for the 128GB model and jumping up to €549 if you want the 256GB model.

It’s a competitive price point that puts the Nokia X30 directly in competition with the Google 6a, OnePlus Nord 2T and Nothing Phone (1), but for the first time, there’s enough on offer for Nokia to hold its own against the big hitters.

The bigger plus is the ability to get the phone on subscription via Nokia’s Circular plan in the UK, starting at just £22 per month. If you do want to buy it outright, you can do so from Nokia itself in both the UK and Europe along with local retailers like Argos.

As you might assume considering we’ve not mentioned US pricing throughout this review, the Nokia X30 isn’t currently slated for release in the US.

For more mid-range inspiration, take a look at our selection of the best mid-range phones.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

Verdict

The Nokia X30 is a complete reimagining of last year’s X20 in just about every regard. It has a much more stylish design while being both thinner and lighter, it has an upgraded display with a faster refresh rate, performance has seen a boost and despite no Leica branding, the cameras are truly exceptional this year. These are all welcome upgrades that almost negate the £100 price bump to Nokia’s top-end mid-ranger.

It may not do much to outshine the popular mid-rangers like the Nothing Phone (1)’s IP53 water resistance and wireless charging and OnePlus Nord 2T’s extraordinary performance, but for the first time, Nokia has a fighting chance at securing its place in the mid-range market.  

Mid-range smartphones, Smartphones

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