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Nokia G21 review: A hard-working budget phone with great battery life

Buy now £149.99, Argos.co.uk

  • evaluation: 6/10
  • Dimensions: 164.6 mm x 75.9 mm x 8.5 mm
  • Weight: 190 grams
  • Show: 6.5 inches 720 x 1600 (HD+) with 90Hz adaptive refresh rate
  • battery: 5050 mAh
  • Slices: UNISOC octa-core 1.6GHz processor
  • The operating system: Android 11
  • camera: Rear 50 MP primary 1/2.76″ CMOS, 0.64um, 5P lens, f/1.8, 2 MP macro, 2 MP depth; 8 MP

Nokia is very good at creating good looking budget phones. The G21 is no different, offering everything you could want from a phone at this end of the market.

It presents a sophisticated enough silhouette, bordering on the boxy but still unobtrusive look like a Rothko painting. The textured back is a winner, elevating the look and feel of the G21 while helping stave off some of the dreaded smudge marks we’re always getting greasy creatures with on our phones. Fortunately, Nokia knows that a large logo is no-holds-barred trademark, so the mark is subtle even though it’s centered on the back.

Aesthetics aside, it’s a light and sturdy phone, though no word on water and dust resistance. There’s room for two nano SIMs and a microSD card, and Nokia has helpfully provided a headphone port, while the fingerprint unlock works well, still a nice touch for the price. Overall, it’s the kind of phone you wouldn’t mind taking out at the dinner table or going down the street. It’s the win.

Display and sound

While the G21’s design delivers on Nokia’s stellar reputation, the phone’s screen and sound bring it back into the comfortable embrace of the budget market.

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The biggest downside (though by no means a deal-breaker) to the G21 is unfortunately its screen. It’s not the sharpest picture by any means, and colors aren’t particularly pop: the screen overall seems to be of very low quality for the price, although that might just be because we expect better from Nokia.

The 90Hz maximum refresh rate is rarely seen at this price point, but it is brought down by the 720p resolution offered. It’s certainly not the worst screen we’ve seen on the market, but if you’re looking for an ultra-clear experience, we’d suggest stretching your budget a bit.

The G21 provides mono sound, which only comes from the bottom of the phone when it’s in landscape mode. Again, this is not unlike the rest of this end of the market. Audio quality is good, if a little lackluster, and loses a bit of body compared to the slightly higher-end phones. Overall, the G21’s screen and sound do the job, but nothing to write particularly hard about.

performance

The clean Android 11 operating system is a boost, providing an attractive blank canvas for your needs. It also means that you won’t have to spend the first moments of your new phone’s life looking for and deleting rogue pre-installed apps.

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The G21 has enough processing power to keep up with the pre-installed Android 11, which makes regular use a hassle-free experience. Any more processing is taxing and you might see the phone slow down a bit as it tries to manage it, but most games are doable too, if a little swayed by the display quality.

The battery works as written on the box, and lasts for two days of normal use. Obviously, battery life depends on how often you absent-mindedly scroll through social media, but the G21 makes for a totally reliable companion for active weekends away from the couch. The G21 also offers an adaptive battery, reporting when a specific app is draining power and reacting accordingly. Highest score for budget phone.

camera

The G21’s camera setup puts it back in the good books, with a sophisticated set of features that deliver stable shots across the board, even if lighting is a minor issue. Video does a good job too, with minimal blur and sharp details.

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The portrait mode is particularly impressive for the price, with a lot of what you’d expect from a phone with a higher chip. Background blurring is subtle (no frosted glass effect, here), while your subject of choice remains crystal clear without ever a hint of contrast contrast.

Verdict: Nokia G21

The Nokia G21 is a decent phone. It looks good, feels good in the hand, and does the basics well enough to warrant consideration. The biggest feature the G21 carries, of course, is the massive battery under the airtight lid — with reasonable use, it lasts so much longer than the average phone, that you almost forget you haven’t charged it in a couple of days.

The trade-off for this is a slight lack of processing power and lower display quality and audio performance, most notably with the somewhat dull screen. The camera setup is sleek and perfect for odd social media posts — with Portrait mode in particular a refreshing highlight — but don’t expect to win the National Geographic Photography Awards.

However, if you’re looking for a phone that will enable you to get through a weekend of calls, internet and WhatsApp without thinking too much about finding a plug socket, the G21 deserves to be on your shortlist.