The China-specific Nokia 6 was our first encounter with HMD's revived Nokia and it left us with mixed feelings. There was enough to like about the 6: the superb build quality and the all-round great display, but then the camera was beyond meh, and the chipset felt a little underpowered.
In came the global version of the handset and we expected little more than a few software changes. While those did end up being there, we were in for a few hardware surprises.
Getting the bad stuff off our chest first - what did the notification LED ever do to you, HMD Global? The global Nokia 6 is missing the tiny status diode that the Chinese version of the handset. Why?
Now, let's dial down the drama and move on. We won't go so far as to call these downgrades, but the display of the Nokia 6 for the rest of the world is slightly dimmer at maximum setting and lacks color temperature adjustments. On top of that, the battery life is a little worse - a result of Google services taking their toll, a different modem, software optimization, or a subset of those. Or none of them, but either way, the global Nokia 6 trails its Chinese counterpart in terms of battery endurance.
But the Chinese variant can't hold a candle to the international Nokia 6 when it comes to image quality. There's no sign of the low contrast, muted colors and blurry corners - the Nokia 6 that you can buy internationally takes pleasing photos with plenty of detail, vivid colors and great contrast. The front-facing cam is also a big step up - not in small part thanks to the addition of the autofocus which the Chinese version lacks.
If you've been reading carefully, you would have seen that we're inclined to recommend the Nokia 6 to the right set of prospective buyers.
It's always worth to check out the alternatives, so our first question to you would be - are you sure you don't want the Nokia 5 instead? It's slightly more compact, and cheaper, while also having a similar-quality aluminum build and the same chipset inside. The display is lower-res at 720p, but that's actually a good thing in this case as it goes easier on the graphics chip. Battery life is also superior on the 5. If only there were a 3GB/32GB Nokia 5 that would have been an easy recommendation, but we're wary of 2GB/16GB smartphones these days.
The Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) is itself made of aluminum, unlike older J7s. It packs an AMOLED display and a more powerful chipset, plus it lasts much longer on a single charge. Typically, it only comes with 16GB of storage too, unfortunately, though some regions do get a more reasonable 32GB version, which is the standard Nokia 6 storage. The 6's cameras are superior too, and the Nokia is, in fact, slightly more affordable.
A host of Moto G5 models can be seen as Nokia 6 competitors. The G5 proper and the G5S come with the same 1080p display/Snapdragon 430 combo, so you'd be better off looking at the Pluses. The Moto G5S Plus is a bit more expensive, but packs a dual 13MP camera and a frugal yet more powerful Snapdragon 625 chip, plus it can shoot 4K video. If you don't care about the second camera, the Moto G5 Plus (minus the 'S') comes at the Nokia 6's price with a S625 chip and 4K video.
Or just go right ahead and pick up a Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, ideally in its Snapdragon 625 trim as opposed to Mediatek Helio X20. You won't be getting as good a camera though - the Nokia 6 comfortably leads in this department. But the Redmi Note 4 has near double the battery life and is cheaper. Plus MIUI is a lot more feature-rich than the vanilla Nougat of the Nokia 6, though we can see how some folks will be on the other side of this argument.
The Nokia 6, the global one, addresses one of the two major issues we had with its Chinese counterpart, camera image quality. And if a vastly improved camera output comes at the price of a status LED, a notch down in max brightness, and a slight toll on battery life at video playback - well, let's just say it looks like a reasonable trade-off in our book. As for the other source of complaints, the underpowered chipset is up to a Nokia 7 or whatever comes next to fix. We wouldn't hold our breath just yet though, so right now HMD's Nokia 6 is the most sensible Nokia smartphone you can get.