Making a smartphone that stands out from the crowd is no easy task. Nokia’s latest G50 is a testament to this; it’s a smartphone with no glaring weaknesses but no praiseworthy strengths either. It has a big screen, good battery life and the promise of software updates, which speak well to its longevity. But with poor cameras, slow performance and a low-resolution display, it isn’t the best smartphone for most people.
- Sturdy design
- Strong battery Life
- Many updates promised
- Underwhelming cameras
- Low-resolution, dim screen
- Huge displayThe 6.82-inch screen is one of the bigger available at this price
- 5GThe Snapdragon 480 chip supports 5G data networks
Ever since it raised the brand name ‘Nokia’ from the grave, HMD Global has been trying to find a voice and identity for its smartphones. It has tried nostalgia, the promise of quick updates, and the lure of fuss-free software – and the Nokia G50 is its latest entry to the smartphone race, attempting to combine each of these three pillars.
It comes with much the same design seen in many Nokia handsets released recently: a plastic build, a camera ‘oreo’ with a quad-array of sensors, and a green-blue colour scheme. It closely resembles the X10, the Nokia X20, the 5.4 and more, struggling to stand out both in the mind, and on the shelf.
However, it also comes sporting a massive screen, a reasonably sized battery and 5G connectivity – all for a price that doesn’t break the bank.
But with a budget price comes some inevitable compromises, and the question is, as ever, do these outweigh the positives?
Design and Screen
- Thick plastic design
- The screen is flat
- A large camera ‘oreo’ on the rear
In its heyday, Nokia’s devices weren’t known for being minimalist or artistic. Instead, they were fun and sturdy. The likes of the Lumia line showed that plastic (or ‘polycarbonate’) could be as interesting as anything made from metal or glass, mainly through the use of colour.
Where the brand’s old Windows phones were a riot of colour, the new Android releases have been quite the opposite. There’s a hint of excitement in the design options available, but they’re primarily meant to be as at home in the boardroom as on the street, so tend to stick to a safer colour palette. The Nokia G50 is available in just one colour option, Ocean Blue. It’s pleasant enough, but very similar in looks to the shade used for the Nokia 5.4 earlier this year.
As for form, this is an unabashedly a big handset, being completely impossible to use one-handed. This is in part due to the screen, which measures 6.82 inches on the diagonal. At 220g, the Nokia G50 isn’t light, either – this is a phone with a presence that’s impossible to escape, and which may cause trousers to creep towards the floor when placed in a suitably big pocket.
Hewn from plastic, which is hardly unusual at the price, the Nokia G50 feels relatively solid in the hand. It will happily survive a few hits and knocks won’t prove a problem, although such occasions may well be marked by a few dents.
Between its size, the plastic and its sheer girth, however, the Nokia G50 does seem slightly old-fashioned in its appearance, similar to the Samsung Galaxy Mega of yesteryear. As rivals are adopting taller aspect ratios and reducing bezels, Nokia’s build choices here feel somewhat odd.
The ‘Google’ button, found on the left side of the device, is also an oddity; it’s impossible to re-map to anything useful. Most will likely disable it at the first opportunity, given the annoying propensity for Google to activate itself in the pocket due to false presses.
Another anachronism that has found its way into the design is the display itself. At 720p+, it does enough to earn the necessary HD resolution marking. However, at 252ppi the screen is noticeably pixellated. This is less the case when watching video or playing games, but is definitely clear when reading. Since Full HD has become the standard, even at lower price points, and with Nokia’s own X10 offering up a 1080p panel for around £20 more, the inclusion of a 720p screen is disappointing.
Of course, there is more to a screen than resolution. Unfortunately, though, the panel here doesn’t really impress in nearly any important metric. Brightness is just sufficient for a dull autumn day, but won’t outcompete bright sunlight, and its colour cast tends towards the cool. The lack of a high refresh rate of any kind also ages the panel in comparison to rival devices. Many sub-£200/$200 category phones, especially from Xiaomi, are now offering at least 90Hz as standard – and although this feature is far from a game-changing addition, it’s certainly a pleasant one, and its absence can be felt.
In more general use, there are likely many who will be okay with the quality of the Nokia G50’s panel. However, there are better value screens available for the price.
- 48-megapixel main sensor binning to 12 megapixels
- 5MP ultra-wide sensor
- Camera app offers a Night mode, panorama and more
In life there are three certainties: death, taxes and 48-megapixel sensors on budget smartphones. Since these sensors first hit the market several years ago, they have proliferated widely and are now seen as arguably a ‘minimum’ megapixel count for manufacturers to hit before going to market.
It’s a shame then that they haven’t ushered in a new age of image quality at the budget end of the market. The Nokia G50 certainly does nothing to buck this trend, offering a 48-megapixel main sensor, a 5-megapixel ultra-wide, and a 2-megapixel ‘depth’ unit that offers mostly unremarkable image quality.
This is largely an issue of processing. While some Nokia handsets do handle image processing reasonably well, the G50 isn’t one of those devices. A chief issue is exposure, with the phone frequently pushing scenes too bright and blowing out contrast as a result. Colours are a hodgepodge, with reds and greens going nuclear, while blues and yellows look washed-out and pale. Dynamic range, even with the use of HDR, leaves much to be desired, and the Night mode struggles to produce competent images in low-light conditions.
Perhaps the main issue is sharpening, or over-sharpening. Fine detail in most images shows telltale halos that are easy enough to live with when shooting images of buildings, but that destroy fine detail such as foliage.
The ultra-wide sensor shares mostly the same issues described above, but while offering even less detail, and the selfie shooter takes soft and grainy images. While the budget segment continues to heat up, the inability of Nokia to produce a competent camera in its budget handsets is noticeable. You can see some sample images below:
- Runs a Snapdragon 480
- Comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage by default
- Runs cool
Nokia has attempted an interesting strategy with its 2021 suite of budget handsets. Typically a manufacturer will put higher-calibre processors in its more expensive smartphone offerings; however, the Finnish firm has done quite the opposite. From the G50, through the X10 and the X20, all devices share the Snapdragon 480 chipset at their core.
This is far from the most powerful option produced by Qualcomm, and other handset manufacturers are predictably equipping their phones with more power – and at lower price points. From the perspective of providing long-term software updates it makes sense; utilising the same chipset ensures greater consistency across devices and will make things easier for Nokia.
In the short-term, however, it’s the consumer who loses out. Although the Nokia G50 can’t be expected to perform on a par as the iPhone SE (2020), it tends to chug through most tasks at least a beat slower than most will have come to expect.
Whether it’s loading Gmail, a video, typing or otherwise, there’s noticeable lag throughout the system – although not necessarily when navigating the interface. It’s particularly egregious when firing up a game. Although the likes of Fruit Ninja won’t trouble the G50 overly, it becomes more than a little out of breath when attempting the likes of PUBG. Those looking for the best cheap phone for gaming handset should look elsewhere.
The phone comes with 4GB of RAM by default, which is enough to keep several apps in memory, and offers 64GB of storage along with the ability to take microSD cards up to 512GB in size, providing some important future-proofing.
Fitting in with Nokia’s focus on providing long-term software updates for its devices, the version of Android it presents on the G50 is both clean and somewhat sparse. With minimal duplicate apps it’s certainly less cluttered than what some competitors offer, but it can also be accused of lacking in personality.
There’s very little from a software perspective to distinguish this as a ‘Nokia’ phone from other handsets, like Motorola phones achieve with their gestures and focus on providing helpful extra features. Whether this is a positive or a negative will be largely a matter of opinion, but it does leave the G50 without a clear identity of its own.
- 5000mAh battery
- 18W fast charging
- No charger in the box
At the budget end of the smartphone market, battery life has quickly become among the most important metrics by which all new entrants are judged. With bigger batteries and less powerful internals than many of their flagship peers, it’s the expectation now that new handsets at lower price points should be able to last at least a full day before running out of juice.
On these metrics the Nokia G50 delivers. With a 5,000mAh battery, a relatively efficient processor and a low-resolution screen, the device will comfortably manage to make it through a full day for most.
During our best day, with regular messaging, constant email, some videos, playing music and indulging in a few games, we managed over six hours of screen-on time. There will be variations (such as when travelling or working in areas with low signal strength), but this is a strong showing, without going so far as to make the device a battery champ.
When the time comes to top up, the ability to fast-charge at 18W will help to make things a little quicker – although we found the battery still took a while to reach a full charge, likely a consequence of its large capacity in addition to the relatively low charging speed.
In keeping with Nokia’s commitments to sustainability, no charger is included with the handset in the box.
Should you buy it?
You want years of updates: With its clean software and promise of updates, this is an easy phone to use and get to grips with.
You value fast phones: During the review, we found this phone to be particularly slow in certain situations, even to the point where it became very annoying.
The Nokia G50 is an interesting budget handset, in that it has no single weakness that acts as a deal-breaker but no particular positive that sets it out as a release to note either. Its screen is big – but low resolution and dim. Although it comes with a relatively versatile range of cameras, image quality is nothing to write home about. Its performance is just about good enough, but the competition is offering more for less.
Much of the appeal of the Nokia G50 for most people will centre around it being marketed as an affordable 5G handset, and yet for many this isn’t a feature they can access, sometimes for years.
If you simply need a smartphone that will receive three years of software updates and that offers the bare minimum in every area, the G50 (especially with a discount) will serve you well. In every other scenario, we’d recommend looking elsewhere. The G50 is a smartphone without a clear audience in mind, with no real raison d’etre – and, ultimately, this impacts the experience of using it heavily. It’s good enough for many, but the best for no one.
How we test
We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Used the camera in a variety of lighting conditions
Performance tested in real-world and synthetic tests
Used the phone for over a week
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You do not get the a charger with the Nokia G50
Yes, this is a 5G phone if you have the correct SIM plan