Review: Nokia’s T21 brings the premium feel on a budget

Nokia is forging its own way in the tablet world with affordable, stylish devices and having launched the original T20 back in 2021, it’s back with a successor – the T21. What also sets its Android devices apart is the promise of two years of OS and three years of security upgrades, something you’ll struggle to find at the same price point.

I reviewed the tablet’s little brother – the T10 – last year and was left really impressed so I was looking forward to trying out the larger version. The first thing you’ll be struck by is the design, which looks and – more importantly – feels premium. To the rear, you’ll find a tough aluminum body in a charcoal grey, while to the front you’ve got a wide 10.36ins, 5:3 ratio screen. You’ll also find back bezels but they look a lot skinnier than on the T10 and so aren’t as noticeable.

The screen is pretty decent – especially for a tablet that you can pick up for £199 – and protected by toughened glass. It’s a little dimmer than the previous version but I found it plenty of bright enough in indoor situations. You might be struggling outside or in direct sunlight, however. HD movies played well and this is where the ‘widescreen’ look really excelled.

The rear panel houses an 8MP primary camera with auto-focus and an LED flash. The selfie camera is a 8MP fixed focus lens. Both are fine without being spectacular, but it does allow for face recognition unlocking which I found to be snappy and reliable.

A pair of stereo speakers use OZO Spatial Audio software to decent effect, chances are you’ll be listening with earphones but if not, they are more than up for the job. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack. All in all, the case is dust and splash resistant, but not waterproof.

You get 64GB built-in storage on the wi-fi version but you can bump this up by up to 512GB using the MicroSD slot. You can get 128GB on the 4G variant. I found the battery life really impressive, you’re talking days with moderate usage. It can do fast charging but you won’t find a charger in the box, just a USB-C cable, so you’ll end up charging it overnight.

The heartbeat of the tablet is a Unisoc T612 CPU, paired with 4GB RAM. Performance is absolutely fine other than I found I hit my head on the device’s ceiling when switching between and launching apps. This was interesting as it’s not something I noticed with the N10, which actually has a slower chipset but obviously powers a much smaller screen. As a said, when you’re in the apps – be that surfing, emailing or streaming – it’s a pretty smooth ride. Hard-core gaming will be out of its reach but simpler fare is AOK.

Software-wise we’re in a good place. The Nokia comes with Android 12 (not the latest, but don’t forget the OS update guarantee) and with none of the bloatware that often weighs down budget devices. A bunch of Google apps are pre-loaded, meaning it’s good to go straight out of the box.

The features don’t stop there. The T21 can be used as a second screen with Windows devices, while it also has active pen support, compatible with Wacom WGP and Wacom Active ES 2.0 pen technology.

Now at just £199, the tablet has price on its side. But Nokia is committed to the green cause and so also gives you the option of renting it straight from the manufacturer. You can pick one up using the ‘Circular’ service for just £12.50 a month and can trade in for another model at any time. Nokia says older devices will not end up in landfills, but will either be recycled or donated to charity. There are many other tech manufacturers who should take note.

I found the T21 a very solid tablet with a lot going for it. I wasn’t blown away like I was with the T10 but it’s very close – just a little faster chipset – from being great rather than simply very good.

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