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Nokia G20 review: a very basic budget smartphone with Android One

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The Nokia G20 has a slim yet practical design, promises a 3-day battery life and runs on Android 11 software that comes close to standard. On paper, it looks like a decent budget smartphone with a focus on build quality and hassle-free day-to-day operations. However, after working for a week, I found that it did not live up to some of my expectations, so it is rather difficult to recommend it.

Nokia G20 price and options

The Nokia G20 is available in a configuration with a single 4GB RAM and 64GB storage, priced at Rs. 12,999 people in India. It has a triple slot tray and accepts two nano SIM cards along with a microSD card (up to 512GB). While the price of a base smartphone is quite reasonable these days, take a look at what the competition has to offer in terms of specifications and additional features, and it’s easy to conclude that the Nokia G20 is overpriced.

Nokia G20 design

The design of this phone is a mixture of what we saw in Nokia 2.4 (Review) and Nokia 5.4 (Review). It weighs 197g and is 9.2mm thick. The body and back of the Nokia G20 are made of plastic, but it doesn’t look cheap. The back panel has a fine grooved texture that makes this phone easy to hold in your hand and also gives it a premium look. My review unit was finished in a Night finish, which is basically a deep blue with a bright purple glow visible from an angle.

You will see a circular camera module on the back, just like on the Nokia 5.4, but the G20 has a fingerprint reader located on the right side rather than under the cameras. Above the fingerprint reader is the volume rocker, which was a bit difficult to reach given the height of this phone. On the left is the Google Assistant key, and above it is the SIM tray. While voice commands work fine when the phone is unlocked, they cannot be triggered when the phone is locked. This is where a dedicated button comes in handy.

The plastic back of the Nokia G20 looks great.

One speaker, USB Type-C port and microphone are at the bottom, while the headphone jack and secondary microphone are at the top.

The 6.5-inch display has a notch at the top, which seems a little dated now that most of the competition at this price level has moved to smaller cameras. There is also a prominent chin at the bottom with the Nokia logo that grabs attention. The glass front panel does not attract dust and does not leave fingerprints.

Nokia G20 specifications and software

The Nokia G20 uses a MediaTek G35 processor with eight Cortex-A53 cores running at a maximum frequency of 2.3 GHz and an IMG PowerVR GE8320 integrated graphics processor. There is no dual-band Wi-Fi (only 2.4GHz supported), but you get Bluetooth 5 and support for GPS / AGPS, GLONASS, and Beidou navigation. There’s also an FM radio, which requires you to plug in a pair of wired headphones in order to work.

The phone is powered by a 5050mAh battery and Nokia includes a 10W wired charger. The 6.5-inch LCD panel has HD + resolution and a standard 60Hz refresh rate.

HMD Global is sticking to the Android One program and says it is offering two years of software updates with the G20. The software is almost done, but with some minor tweaks like the ability to tweak the color balance of the display and numerous tweaks to the camera app. When it comes to malware, this is one of the best budget smartphones out there – it only came with two pre-installed apps: My Nokia and Netflix.

Nokia G20 performance and battery life

With such minor software tweaks, I expected the Nokia G20 to run smoothly for my day to day tasks, but it didn’t. I experienced noticeable stuttering from time to time, especially when using social apps where videos were appearing in their feeds. Multitasking between recent apps wasn’t an issue, but they didn’t stay in memory for long. Overall, the hardware struggles to keep up with current apps and usage scenarios, so you’ll notice that sometimes it takes the phone an extra second to open a new app (which isn’t in memory). These are common complaints that you usually hear about when using entry-level smartphones.

In particular, using the camera app was a little frustrating. There is a slight lag when switching between camera modes, and I also had to wait a few seconds after pressing the shutter button before I could take another shot. When I clicked on a thumbnail to preview the photo I just took, I had to wait a second or two for the phone to process and display it.

Nokia G20 front display ndtv NokiaG20 Nokia

The Nokia G20 is equipped with a 6.52-inch HD + LCD display with a 60Hz refresh rate.

The 6.5-inch HD + display was bright enough indoors, but did poorly in bright sunlight. I also had a noticeable blue tint on my machine. The viewing angles are decent. At 226ppi, the jagged edges of icons and text were easy to spot. Most video streaming apps, including Netflix, apparently only supported SD quality playback, so the video didn’t look sharp.

The user experience was slightly below expectations, and the benchmarks also painted a similar picture, with scores well below average for this price point. The Nokia G20 scored 1.13,751 points in AnTuTu compared to 3.56,846 points for the Realme Narzo 30. The same is reflected in the Geekbench scores: Nokia G20 scored 162 and 914 points in single and multi-core tests, respectively, and Narzo 30 – 532 and 1700 points in the same tests.

Playing on the Nokia G20 is not so pleasant. The phone heats up despite running the lowest settings in most 3D games. I noticed horrible touch input lag when playing Call of Duty: Mobile with low default graphics and medium frame rates (with all other effects disabled). There were also a lot of lags during the game. Asphalt 9: Legends could be played with the default graphics preset, but it didn’t look very good, which made the game look very lackluster. This phone is only suitable for casual games.

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Nokia G20 main camera ndtv NokiaG20 Nokia

The Nokia G20 has four cameras on the back in a circular camera module.

In our HD video battery test, the Nokia G20 lasted 16 hours 44 minutes, which is average for a smartphone in this segment. However, it lasted two days without recharging. I was mostly limited to casual use as this phone couldn’t play games too well. The included 10W charger allowed the 5050mAh battery to charge up to 18 percent in 30 minutes and 37 percent in an hour. It took 3 hours 5 minutes to fully charge.

Nokia G20 cameras

The Nokia G20 has four cameras on the back: a 48MP main camera, a 5MP ultra wide-angle camera, a 2MP macro camera, and a 2MP depth sensor. Selfies are performed by an 8-megapixel camera. The interface is the typical Nokia camera app we’ve seen over the years. This provides quick access to important controls in photo mode. In video mode, I missed the opportunity to quickly change the video resolution – this setting is hidden in about five taps, deep in the camera settings.

Samples of Nokia G20 day cameras. Top: main camera, bottom: ultra wide-angle camera (tap to see full size)

Photos taken with the main camera in daylight turned out to be a little boring, but with decent detail and good dynamic range. I noticed a ghosting effect in brighter areas where objects were highlighted against a bright background. The ultra wide-angle camera captured blurry images in daylight with more purple fringing in brighter areas. The macro camera reproduces below average detail and is only intended to fill the specification.

Nokia G20 Selfie Portrait Camera Samples. Top: Daylight, Bottom: Low Light (Click to see full size)

Selfies taken in portrait mode are sharp but overexposed and below average edge detection. Portraits taken with the rear camera showed a lot more detail with better saturation, but looked a little overly sharp. Edge detection was much better with the rear camera.

After sunset, image quality plummeted. The textures appeared flat, but the noise seemed to be controlled assuming there was some stray light nearby. In dimmer conditions, the quality dropped dramatically, and the photos came out with a lot of noise and fuzzy details. Night mode didn’t help at all, and the textures only got worse. Photos taken with the ultra wide-angle camera at night could not be used and night mode was not available. Selfies and portraits using the front camera at night are also colorless and dull, with poor edge detection.

Samples of Nokia G20 cameras for low light. Top: Auto, Bottom: Night Mode (click to see full size)

The maximum video recording speed is 1080p @ 30 frames per second. The video shot in daylight showed decent dynamic range, but it came out very wobbly. Selfie videos were below average, with overexposed subjects and backgrounds and a lot of oversharpness. In low light, 1080p 30fps video came out with medium detail, but was very wobbly and unstable, even when recorded in a stationary state. The footage recorded with the ultra wide-angle camera looked too dark and in most cases was unusable even in nearby ambient lighting. While video quality was below average at best, Ozo’s spatial audio recording function did an excellent job of delivering immersive audio.

Verdict

After a week of using the Nokia G20, it became clear that this is a budget smartphone with entry-level performance. Nokia promises software updates, but the weak hardware means the UI struggles to keep up with day to day tasks, even though it runs a near-standard version of Android 11. The two-day battery life is not bad, but that battery has 5050mAh battery takes over three hours. During the day, the camera works fine, as does the video quality. The HD + display quality is also far from what the competition is offering.

Take a look at the competition and the Nokia G20 fades into the background. There is Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 10 (Review) which offers a very powerful processor, Full HD + Super AMOLED panel, stereo speakers and 33W charging for the same price. Price 12,999. For Rs. 12,499, Realme Narzo 30 (Review) offers 90Hz Full HD + LCD screen, MediaTek Helio G95 processor, 16MP selfie camera and 30W charging. Even the Samsung Galaxy F22 (Review) is priced at Rs. 12,499, offers much better hardware with a 90Hz HD + Super AMOLED display, a powerful Helio G80 processor and a 6000mAh battery.



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