Nokia XR20 review: A tough phone but too many compromises

Previously the undisputed king of rugged/seemingly indestructible phones, Nokia has decided to make a bit of a comeback in 2021, launching its first rugged smartphone in years: the Nokia XR20.

With 5G connectivity, a good-sized screen, and a design that should be able to take some pretty hard knocks, the Nokia XR20 could be just the ticket for those who need a rugged yet competent smartphone that can keep up with their daily adventures.

Nokia XR20 review: What you need to know

It’s immediately obvious that the Nokia XR20’s biggest selling point is its robust build. While most modern phones are relatively dainty and dainty by comparison, the Nokia XR20 packs solid features like a MIL-STD-810H rating, IP68 waterproofing, and a thick protective bumper that surrounds its aluminum frame. The screen is also protected by a layer of Victus Gorilla Glass, which is tougher than anything we’ve seen on a Nokia phone before.

Inside, the Nokia XR20 is powered by a relatively weak Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 processor and 4GB or 6GB of RAM. The FHD+ (2400 x 1080) IPS display is certainly tough, but it only has a 60Hz refresh rate and the cameras are also reasonably restrained, with just two lenses on the back – these consist of just 48MP (f/1.8 ) and 13MP (f/2.4) ultra-wide cameras.

Nokia would like to point out that the XR20 is well supported for the next few years, with the promise of three years of basic Android updates (up to Android 14) and four years of monthly security updates. You also get an extended three-year warranty if you buy one in the UK.

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Nokia XR20 review: Price and competition

Priced at £399 or £450, the Nokia XR20 is an expensive smartphone for what it offers in terms of internal hardware, but it’s actually a reasonably priced option when compared to other rugged phones.

Admittedly, the tough smartphone market isn’t particularly extensive, but the main competition comes from the likes of smartphones. Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR, which costs £440 but has a smaller screen and lacks 5G. However, it does come with a FLIR endoscopic camera and thermal imaging, so it is perhaps more suitable for use on a construction site or as a companion to an engineer.

Alternatively, there is the Blackview BV9900 Pro, which has an even smaller 5.84-inch screen but also incorporates a FLIR imaging camera. However, it’s another phone that’s a bit behind hardware-wise and can be hard to track down in the UK. If you can find one, you can expect to pay around £520 or so.

Finally, we recently reviewed the motorola challengewhich has similar robust properties to the Nokia, but costs only £279. However, it’s much weaker than the Nokia XR20 when it comes to performance, with a smaller 720p screen and support for 4G connectivity only.

Nokia XR20 review: Design and key features

Ruggedness is the obvious focus when it comes to the look of the Nokia XR20. It’s a chunky phone that’s not exactly inspiring at first glance, but the thick rubber bumpers surrounding its exterior are a nice touch, and it feels like you can drop it on any surface and it’ll bounce right back.

That said, it’s reasonably stylish where it counts. It fits nicely in the hand, despite its extra-large dimensions, and the textured back is also nice and grippy. In my eyes, it is a more attractive phone than the bike challenge, mainly because it doesn’t look like the kind of phone you only see on a construction site. In fact, you can (almost) mistake it for a “regular” smartphone if you find one in the wild.

The front of the phone is covered in a protective layer of Victus Gorilla Glass, which Nokia says is its toughest screen yet. The XR20 is also IP68 rated for dust and water ingress protection, meaning you can submerge the phone to a depth of 1.5m for at least half an hour. And just like the Moto Defy, the MIL-SPEC-810H certification also means it’s capable of withstanding temperatures between -25°C and 55°C, and is drop tested to a height of 1.8m.

A small pinhole notch sits at the top of the screen, which barely steals the focus, which is where you’ll find the 8 MP (f/2.0) selfie camera. I particularly like the red emergency button, which is located on the top edge, next to the shared dual SIM and microSD card tray. When pressed, it can be used to quickly call any pre-selected emergency contact.

On the right side of the phone is the volume rocker and power button, which also houses the fingerprint sensor for secure unlocks. On the left is Nokia’s annoying Google Assistant button, which I often accidentally pressed. Like the other Nokia smartphones, you can’t sadly reassign or disable it either.

Finally, the USB-C charging port is sensibly situated at the bottom of the phone, next to the 3.5mm audio jack.

Nokia XR20 review: Display

The Nokia XR20’s FHD+ IPS display is large, measuring 6.67 inches diagonally. If you have small hands, you probably won’t be able to use it with just one hand, and there’s nothing special about quality bets either.

For starters, it only supports a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz, which is a shame as cheaper phones now support enhanced refresh rates for a lot less money. Color accuracy is also on the weak side, with an average Delta E of 3.82 (lower is better) and coverage of just 85.9% of the sRGB color gamut, at 102% full volume. %.

Still, at least the Nokia XR20’s pixel density of 395ppi isn’t bad at all, and brightness maxed out at 556 cd/m² in testing, which is perfectly readable outdoors and in bright sunlight. sun.

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Nokia XR20 review: Performance and battery life

At its core, the Nokia XR20 is simply a variant of the Nokia X20, which unfortunately means it uses some pretty common hardware. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 chipset for processing duties, which we last saw at the £180 Moto G50, though it does have a healthy 6GB of RAM. Software-wise, the Nokia XR20 launches with Android One, which is a seamless version of Android 11, and it’s the closest thing to a stock experience.

Nippy to unlock, there’s still a moment of hesitation when opening apps, and the Nokia XR20’s Geekbench 5 multi-core score of 1,637 isn’t exactly at the top of the charts either. With speeds roughly on par with the Moto G50 and slightly ahead of the rugged Moto Defy, everything is typically somewhat average for the Nokia XR20.

Gaming performance paints a similar picture, with the XR20 hitting an average frame rate of 37fps on the GFXBench Manhattan 3 on-screen benchmark. fidelity like Call of Duty: Mobile may need to tweak some of their visual settings to get consistent frame rates.

With a 4630 mAh battery, the Nokia XR20 extends to a couple of days of use on a single charge. Lasting just over 17 hours in our video playback test, the Nokia XR20 lags behind everything else, although the 15W wireless charging is a small advantage.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Nokia XR20 doesn’t come with a wall charger in the box. In his absence, Nokia says it will plant 50 trees for every device sold and make a donation to the ClearRivers charity every time a separate wall charger is purchased in a bid to establish a plastic-free sea.

Nokia XR20 review: Cameras

The Nokia XR20 comes with a pair of standard rear cameras and an equally common 8MP front camera for selfies. There’s a 48MP (f/1.8) main lens, which sits alongside a 13MP (f/2.4) lens for 123-degree ultra-wide shots. It’s a pretty simple setup, that’s for sure, and the results are pretty monotonous too.

In terms of color reproduction, the Nokia XR20 does a good job of capturing the feeling of what you’re shooting, but there’s little to no overall vibrancy or emotion to the images. Zoom in on things further in the frame, like grass edges and tree foliage, and it mostly merges into a bit of messy mush.

Low-light performance is more of a standout, and while colors aren’t produced beautifully, the Nokia XR20 does a pretty decent job of capturing detail. Night mode isn’t the best though, as this setting fails to cut through the darkness and generally softens the image too much.

Software-wise, there’s at least some assistance in the form of auto HDR, and it also recommends various shooting modes depending on what you’re pointing the cameras at. This is a nice gentle nudge in the right direction if you’re not usually happy with snapshots or if you’re still getting to grips with what Android has to offer.

For videos, the Nokia XR20 is similarly limited but functional. There’s no 4K capture, with a maximum recording resolution of 1080p at just 30fps. Simple electronic image stabilization adds a small amount to this very basic video capture setup.

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Nokia XR20 review: Verdict

A run-of-the-mill phone in almost every way, the Nokia XR20 won’t appeal if you’re not already in the market for a tough-as-nails smartphone. For the same amount of money you can do a lot better when it comes to specs, but of course you’ll miss out on the near-indestructible qualities of the Nokia XR20.

Paying more for the reinforced screen, rugged design, and rubber bumpers is the kind of decision that comes down to how you use your smartphone. If you have an active lifestyle or a physical profession, then you know more than anyone how easy it is to damage your phone, and that’s where the Nokia XR20 really shines.

However, as a compromise, you’ll miss out on fast performance, a powerful camera, and long battery life, but that’s not to say that none of these aspects are competent enough. In years to come, you may be more frustrated by the Nokia XR20’s speeds, but at least you won’t have to worry about it breaking easily, and 5G connectivity will help keep the Nokia XR20 relevant for years to come. also.

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