The good news is, Nokia shows aspiration. It looks like the company is willing to put up a tough fight against giants such as Samsung, Realme and Lenovo as far as tablets are concerned. And the latest T21 tablet is one step in the right direction.
Inside the box
- Nokia T21 tablet
- Typc-C cable and 18W adapter
- SIM ejector tool
- User guide
When the device gets booted up, a once-familiar ringtone runs in the background, transporting us to a nostalgic past. For those unfamiliar with the emotion, this tune from Nokia was quite literally an anthem for a whole generation of cellphone users, not so long ago. No smartphone company can match the joy of a Nokia device warming up. Period.
A veteran in the cellphone industry and rightly so, Nokia, for many of us, has become a prized possession of the past. And I, for one, haven’t used a Nokia device in a decade at least. But, but, Nokia is not done yet. After struggling hard to re-establish a foothold in the cut-throat smartphone industry, Nokia is slowly getting back on its feet.
With the new T21 tablet, they seem to have cracked the formula: no fake promises or tall claims. The tab benefits largely from this approach by keeping things simple and straightforward. The T21 is a decent follow-up to its predecessor, with a few improvisations. But at the same time, the tablet is a classic case of the device being good but not good enough. I’ve been testing the device for two weeks and these are my thoughts:
As far as the design is concerned, the T21 has an aluminum body (60% of which is recycled plastic antenna cover, according to Nokia) that feels sturdy in the hands. But there is a downside too: the matte finish on the back might get slippery. Clearly this is not a tab for someone who has butterfingers!
It has the power button on the top right, while on the right-hand side are volume buttons. There’s a removable tray that has a slot for microSD and SIM cards (for the WiFi-4G) variant. The device I tested came without the SIM card slot.
With the thickness of 7.5mm and weighing 471g, the T21 does feel a little heavy and comes only in one colour: charcoal grey. Something about this device reminded me of Samsung Galaxy Tab S8. Perhaps it’s the thin bezels. Unlike the Samsung tablets, you don’t get a stylus included in the box. Nokia has made a few small improvements in the hardware when compared to its previous version – the T20. Like the latter, the new tablet also comes with an IP52 rating.
The T21 has two sets of stereo speakers on both ends of the tablet and has a provision for a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom. That’s a yay. Overall, the design is simple and sleek.
Display and sound
Nokia T21’s display is definitely good for a mid-ranger. But not good enough. It has a 10.36-inch display with 2K resolution that offers brightness up to 360 nits, and is protected by toughened glass just like its predecessor. The 60Hz display is bright and fares fairly well indoors, though it gets tricky outdoors.
I made a mistake by taking this tablet out on a bright Monday morning in Chennai. The device warmed up too quickly under the scorching Sun. So much so that at one point, the tablet was too hot to handle. You may not want to try doing it.
Even in the indoor conditions, it feels like the display has this overpowering blue-ish tint that reminded me of the tacky display quality in Micromax products. This is hard to miss if you are reading something or just surfing on the internet. There is another catch: you can play only 720p videos, which is a bummer.
In some cases, the tablet lets you play 1080p videos. But otherwise, it doesn’t let you change the resolution on YouTube. The tablet supports HD streaming on Netflix, however, if you are someone who consumes a lot of videos, the T21’s display and the video quality might make you want to look elsewhere. Hello, Samsung!
The tablet comes with two sets of stereo speakers and the sound quality is decent. It gets loud for a room (can go up to 96dB) but not loud enough. When I tried changing the display – from portrait to landscape to portrait again – there was a macro-second lapse in the audio. A bug?
Software and performance
The T21 tablet is shipped with 4GB RAM with 64GB internal storage. Additionally, there is a provision for a microSD slot that allows you storage up to 512GB. Though the device works fine for basic operations, it does lag quite a bit, especially when multitasking and switching between apps. Sometimes the device takes its own sweet time to open apps such as Settings or even Files. This could perhaps be due to the hardware: Unisoc T612 octa-core processor is simply not powerful enough. At the same time, the T21’s performance is not bad either. Playing performance-heavy games like Asphalt was a smooth-sailing experience.
At the same time, the device gets buggy. There was one instance when I switched on the device, and it just froze after the Nokia logo appeared on the screen. The tablet currently runs on Android 12; Nokia promises that it “will stand by you with a durable build” – but only for two years! For, the device will only receive two OS upgrades. This is not a dealbreaker, though. You wouldn’t want to use the T21 for more than two years.
Camera and face unlock
The face unlock feature in T21 is fast and simply superb. It unlocks the device in a matter of macro seconds and comes handy in the absence of an in-display fingerprint scanner. Since the front-facing camera is on the right-hand side of the tablet, the face unlock feature is naturally more efficient in landscape mode.
Speaking of cameras, the device has a front and rear camera of 8MP. It is hard to expect a decent set of photos from such a hardware system. The T21 tablet takes okay-ish photos in daylight conditions; the color reproduction is decent too. In low-light conditions, the camera takes a hit and the photos are too soft and washed out. If you look at the selfie, you will notice that the photo isn’t sharp enough.
Here are some of the photos I clicked:
This device is a battery monster and I say this, after testing it for two weeks, with the least bit of exaggeration. It is powered by a 8200 mAh battery and the T21 won’t simply give up. I have been using it mostly for watching videos, some casual browsing, and occasionally playing Asphalt.
The battery is one of the most impressive features of this device; Nokia guarantees a battery life of three days. I am not sure about that, but I did get a battery for two days, with a screen-on-time of 10–12 hours. Having said that, the device gets warm a little too frequently, even while charging. Hopefully, an update should fix it.
What’s the verdict?
The good news is, Nokia shows aspiration. It looks like the company is willing to put up a tough fight against giants such as Samsung, Realme and Lenovo as far as tablets are concerned. If Nokia is serious about not giving up and can pool in the extra money for R&D, and a UI of its own, the company could well become a competition to Samsung in the budget segment. And Nokia T21 is one step in the right direction.
The Wi-Fi version of Nokia T21 tablet is priced at ₹ 17,999, while the Wi-Fi+4G costs ₹18,999 in India. It is available from Amazon.in, Flipkart and Nokia.com online as well as retail stores, partner portals and leading outlets.
Review by Srivatsan, an independent journalist who previously worked with The Hindu as a cinema-cum-feature writer, and has written for publications such as India Today, The Quint, The Federal and The News Minute. A gadget enthusiast, he is not guilty of bingeing on unboxing videos on YouTube.