This phone is part of Nokia's "value first" approach that has been very successful for the company recently and continues their dominance in the budget smartphone market. In fact, its combination of affordability, features and design make it the best ultra-budget phone we've seen yet.
Before reading the full review, you can familiarize yourself with the detailed Nokia C21 Plus specs or watch the video below the article.
- Low price
- Unrivaled performance
- Nice design
- Poor battery life
- Slow micro-USB charging
- No NFC
- Release date: 2022, February 28
- Colors: Dark Cyan, Warm Gray
- Dimensions: 164.8 x 75.9 x 8.6 mm.
- Weight: 178 g.
- Screen: 6.52" inc, 720 x 1600, IPS LCD
- Camera : Dual, 13MP
- Chipset: Unisoc SC9863A (28nm)
- CPU: Octa-core (4x1.6 GHz Cortex-A55 & 4x1.2 GHz Cortex-A55)
- Memory: 32GB 2GB RAM, 32GB 3GB RAM, 64GB 3GB RAM, 64GB 4GB RAM
- Battery: 4000, Li-Ion, non-removable
- Network: GSM / HSPA / LTE
- Operating system: Android 11 (Go edition)
- Sensors: Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, proximity
What you need to know
The Nokia C21 Plus features a large 6.52-inch 720p IPS display, dual camera, Unisoc SC9863A processor, 2GB RAM, 32GB expandable storage and 4000mAh battery. It runs a customized version of Android 11 Go designed for low-powered devices, with Nokia promising up to two years of major Android upgrades.
Price and competition
The Nokia C21 Plus has arrived at a time of economic austerity and credit constraints, making it a perfect fit for consumers looking for an affordable smartphone. At just under £100, it's one of the cheapest options available.
Other phones that are close in price to the C21 Plus include the Alcatel 1B (2022) and the Motorola Moto E20, which are priced at £80 and £94 respectively.
Design and key features
Budget smartphones often don't have a very attractive design, but the Nokia C21 stands out from the crowd. Although it's slightly thicker than current standards, at 8.6mm, it has plenty of interesting features, including thin screen bezels, a discreet notch with holes for the front-facing camera, and wavy, fingerprint-like edges on the plastic back panel. It is available in two colors - Dark Blue and Warm Gray.
The Nokia C21's dual camera is housed in a small rectangular module that sits in the top left corner above a rear-mounted fingerprint reader that performed well in testing.
The Nokia C21 Plus features a SIM card tray that can accommodate two nano-SIM cards and an additional microSD card slot if additional storage is needed.
A 3.5mm headphone jack is located on the top edge. Unfortunately, the phone does not have NFC payment capability.
One problem is the micro-USB charging port on the bottom, which results in a slow charging time, taking more than two hours for a full charge. However, Nokia includes the necessary charger in the box.
Considering its price, the display on the Nokia C21 Plus might not be the best, but it still offers a decent viewing experience for its price range. The 6.52-inch IPS panel with a resolution of 1600 x 720, although basic, performs well.
Color accuracy is slightly lacking with an average Delta E of 2.87, but the 1604:1 contrast ratio and high peak brightness of 390cd/m2 are positives. While it would be great to have a high refresh rate, the lack of one for this price is acceptable.
Performance and battery life
The Nokia C21 Plus is powered by a Unisoc SC9863A processor, an octa-core chipset clocked at 1.6GHz with an IMG8322 GPU. In the UK, it has limited memory with only 2GB of RAM, which is the minimum requirement for an Android device, and limited storage with only 32GB expandable. Despite its underwhelming specs, the Nokia C21 Plus outperforms its competitors, being 25% faster than the previous benchmark winner, the Nokia 1.4, in the Geekbench 5 multi-core test. The difference in performance is noticeable from the moment you turn on the device.
The Nokia C21 boots and unlocks quickly, providing smoother overall navigation. Although there is occasional lag when switching apps or scrolling, the C21 is one of the fastest options for this price.
Graphics have also improved with an average frame rate in the GFXBench Manhattan 3 test of 16fps, which is more than three times faster than the Nokia 1.4, although there is still room for improvement.
However, battery life is a disappointment, lasting just 13 hours in video playback mode, which is about an hour less than the Nokia 1.4. With such a low score, it is recommended to charge the phone every night, even with moderate use.
The Nokia C21 Plus runs Android 11 Go Edition, a customized version of Google's mobile operating system designed for low-end devices. This means the phone comes with optimized "Go" versions of popular Google apps like Chrome, Maps and Gmail, taking up less storage and requiring fewer updates.
The overall experience of the phone is similar to the stock version of Android 11, with fewer customization options in the notification drawer. The app switcher also doesn't show recent screenshots of open apps.
One missing feature is the storage indicator in the camera app, which shows the remaining number of images that can be taken before the phone's memory is full. This feature is useful, especially with limited storage space, and we hope it will be included in future updates.
Nokia C21 Plus has basic camera features consisting of 13MP primary camera, 2MP depth sensor and 5MP front selfie camera.
The cameras perform adequately, but may not meet the expectations of an avid photographer. Captured images have decent detail and neutral color balance, but are not without flaws.
Depending on the lighting, photos can look soft and tend to overexpose in bright light. Also, there is a noticeable delay between pressing the shutter button and capturing the image. If you're looking for better camera capabilities, you'll need to invest in a more expensive device.
In portrait photos, background blur is absent and there is an obvious face smoothing effect. Even when you try to stop this feature it continues to work.
The selfie camera, on the other hand, performs reasonably well. The Nokia C21 Plus can capture video at 1080p and 30 frames per second, which is an improvement over the 720p limit of the Nokia 1.4.
Video quality is generally good, but there's no image stabilization, so you have to be careful to hold the phone steady while recording.
The Nokia C21 Plus is an exceptional budget smartphone. It outperforms the Nokia 1.4 in several areas, including processing power and design, and the display quality is also decent.
While it has some drawbacks, such as slow micro-USB charging and poor battery life, it still delivers great value for its £100 price tag. Overall, this is the best phone available in its price range.
Nokia C21 Plus video review
Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is based on our team's personal experience with the Nokia C21 Plus and third-party sources. While every effort has been made to provide accurate and reliable information, readers should keep in mind that this is a subjective assessment. The writing of this article was not paid for or sponsored by Nokia.