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The Sirocco is everything the Nokia 8 should have been but wasn’t

There are many words that could be used to describe the Nokia 8, but for me, the one word that sticks out is: Disappointing. Even though I repeatedly told myself that it would never live up to the hype, it was still disheartening to see how far it missed the mark. And that made me a little angry at Nokia for what felt like a half-hearted attempt.

Still, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’re new to this. Maybe they just didn’t have the technical capabilities to produce the kind of flagship-grade hardware that would match their flagship’s excellent software. Then I saw the Nokia 8 Sirocco and I got even more angry because it was living proof (figuratively) that Nokia could make something exquisite — that they could make something special — but for some reason, didn’t.

I actually felt my lips stretch into an involuntary smile when I picked up the Nokia 8 Sirocco. Not many phones had that effect on me but the Sirocco was one of them, and a lot of that has to do with its splendid build.

Gone is the anodised aluminium body and in its place is a glass and metal sandwich so refined, it would even give Samsung a run for their money. But, just because it’s made from glass doesn’t mean that Nokia’s ditching their ethos of producing durable products that last.

The “3D” glass that wraps around most of the smartphone is Gorilla Glass 5, Corning’s toughest smartphone glass. And that metal frame isn’t some lame aluminium, it’s actually stainless steel — like the Xiaomi Mi 6 — that Nokia says is 2.5 times stronger than 6000 series aluminium.

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Combined, those building blocks also give the phone a heft that, although doesn’t make it unbearable to use in the hand, is enough to make the phone feel substantial.

However, that’s a bit of a double edged sword because the Nokia 8 Sirocco has a tapered side that’s only 2mm thick. It’s hard to describe how 2mm feels in the hand, but I’ll say that it’s the thinnest smartphone edge I’ve ever held. It’s so thin that it’s almost sharp.

Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise then that the phone can be quite difficult to grip. Couple that with the smartphone’s sizable mass and you’ve got a dangerous little device that constantly tries to escape your grip.

On the spec-sheet, the Sirocco also gets a handful of upgrades over the regular Nokia 8. You’ve got that pretty dual-curved 5.5″ pOLED Quad HD display — which looks really great, by the way — 128GB of internal storage, 6GB of RAM, IP68 water resistance and a slightly larger 3,260 mAh battery. Unfortunately, the Sirocco still packs last year’s flagship Snapdragon 835 processor and not the newer Snapdragon 845 SoC that we see in a lot the recently announced range-toppers.

Sirocco also features a new primary camera system that’s identical to the one on the newly launched Nokia 7 Plus. This means it now combines a 12MP f/1.75 aperture camera with a 13MP short telephoto lens with an f/2.6 aperture.

I’m not really sure if you can count this as an upgrade because I haven’t fully tested it out, but I can tell you that the camera software is now greatly improved, which means Nokia’s fixed one of my biggest gripes with the original Nokia 8.

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Now, it looks a lot more like the Lumias of old, with the functional — and sexy looking — rings for proper pro-mode controls. You can also pull up on the shutter button (towards the viewfinder) and watch them swivel in if you don’t want to go digging through the hamburger menu for it. Everything looks better and is more functional too, killing two annoyances with one software update.

It still irks me a little that this special edition Nokia 8 is so much better than the normal version. I would have loved if the basic Nokia 8 was this Nokia 8, because I think it would have done a much better job at “living up to the hype”. But, I guess it would have made the smartphone a little worse to live with as a daily driver too.

You see, I think the Nokia 8 Sirocco is closer to a work of art than a functional smartphone. Remember that super slim edge? Well, in addition to being super slippery and hard to grip, Nokia also shaved the power and volume rocker down so that it sits nearly flush with the frame — making them really hard to find even if you’re looking for them with your eyes. Then, there’s the button feel, which is just non-existent. Nokia also ditched the 3.5mm headphone jack for that added bit of inconvenience.

The Sirocco is definitely not the industrial nor practical smartphone that the standard Nokia 8 is. That standard one feels more it’s one with the people, sort of an everyman smartphone, while the Sirocco feels more like a posh aristocrat. If you like that down-to-earth feel then I guess the standard one is more your style.

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But I definitely prefer the Sirocco because if I’m dropping a bunch of cash on a flagship handset, I want it to feel like a proper flagship. I want it to feel special. Most of all, I want it to have hardware that befits the excellent stock Android software.

And the Nokia 8 Sirocco seems to tick all those boxes.

However, you may end up paying a premium for this special edition. In Europe, the Nokia 8 Sirocco will retail for EUR749 (around RM3,610), but it’s worth noting European prices tend to be a little higher. Of course, this is assuming the Sirocco even makes it to our shores — the last special edition Nokia device (Nokia 6 Arte) never officially set foot in Malaysia.