Nokia 5.4 Review – better than its predecessor!

It’s 2021 and Nokia’s return to the smartphone world with Android is still a seesaw. The company since its return has introduced a bunch of smartphones in India. In the year 2018, we saw a good range of smartphones from the brand, which started to slightly disappoint us as they grew the range over the year. 

Now, the successor to the Nokia 5.3 has arrived in our hands, and we have been using it for more than a week. I have a lot of thoughts about Nokia’s new smartphone in India. Let’s dive into the details. 

Design & Build

The Nokia 5.4’s design is defined by the circular camera cut-out, the same as the Nokia 5.3’s. The only major difference is the flash module is now sitting outside the circular camera array. We find it appealing! Here Nokia might be the only brand that has not moved to the square or rectangular corner setups, instead, they have been sticking with center camera modules. 

Nokia 5.4 - Mr. Phone - 4

Talking about the body, it is made entirely of polycarbonate, which is not a bad thing considering it’s built so well. The dimensions are more or less similar with a tiny bit of change since the successor comes with a smaller display. More on that later! The rear looks elegant if not fancy with its patterned texture visible from all the angles, unlike the predecessor. 

Nokia 5.4 - Mr. Phone - 5

Looks like Nokia has embraced the appeal of its 5.3. This fairly big phone is gentle on the hands as the rear curves make it easier. Further, the weight distribution of the phone is fantastic. For the record, it weighs 181 grams and has a thickness of 8.7mm, which is slightly thicker than the last year’s model.  

Nokia 5.4 - Mr. Phone - 10

Speaking about the fingerprint sensor, which is placed on the rear, is easy to reach and fast to unlock. Also, the face unlock works fast too. The one thing that I noticed missing from the design is the notification LED in the power button. Nokia 5.3 came with the said feature, which made it a bit convenient for us to notice notifications. Sadly, it’s been missing from the new model. As far as the tactile feedback, Nokia has impressed us again, the power button, volume rocker, and the dedicated Google Assistant button offer a fairly nice clicky feel. Unfortunately. Nokia still doesn’t allow to re-configure the button. 

Nokia 5.4 - Mr. Phone - 9

Notably, you also get a headphone jack and a mic on the top. And, a type-C port, another mic, and a speaker grille at the bottom. Overall, the Nokia 5.4 is a well put together smartphone in a typical Nokia fashion.  

Nokia 5.4 – Display 

As for the display, the 5.4 has a 6.39-inch IPS LCD panel with a 720p resolution and a 60Hz refresh rate. It is an average looking panel with a punch-hole design. It’s not too bright if anything it’s less bright than its predecessor. Plus, one could easily spot the light bleeding around the corners. You also don’t get HD streaming on Netflix and Prime. Further, when checking photos shot from the phone, I found the pixelation to be apparent too. It’s not an excellent display, but it’s not completely bad either. But you don’t have to look so hard to find better displays in the price range, that’s for sure. 

Nokia has added the ambient sensor here, which was not available on 5.3. At least that’s some progress. Also, the adaptive display setting has improved, I had it turned ON almost all the time during my review. I always prefer using the phone at 50% brightness, but with 5.4 I had to crank it up to 100%.  

Nokia 5.4 – Hardware – Specs & Performance

The Nokia 5.4 comes with Snapdragon 662 SoC and 4/6GB of RAM with 64GB of internal storage with eMMC 5.1 speeds to go along with it. Further, you get an expansion slot for additional storage in the triple slot tray. Talking about the performance of SD662, it is a fairly decent chipset to get your daily tasks done. It was responsive to all my daily usage requirements. I kept it on toes by consistent usage of social media apps and plenty of consumption of web series over the weekend. The RAM management wasn’t aggressive either. 

Nokia 5.4 - Mr. Phone - 1

As for the gaming, it does a decent job of keeping up with frame loads. You can enjoy the casual gaming sessions like I did, but I wouldn’t approve of this for regular gamers. And of course, they would know the best. One thing it does well is that it doesn’t heat a lot, and we have Qualcomm to thank here. We played games like COD, Asphalt, and a bunch of other games and didn’t find any serious faults to report.

You can see the Geekbench benchmark score below. I’m not a fan of benchmark apps, you can draw your own conclusions from these scores. 

Nokia 5.4 – Software – Apps & UI

The One reason why I gravitate towards a Nokia smartphone is the Android One branding. With that, you get the satisfaction of barebones OS, no bloatware, and promised software updates for 2 years and security updates for 3 years. The last phone that I have reviewed was of Motorola, and with that said I’m spoiled with the stock Android experience. But speaking about the newfound finesse on skins like MIUI and One UI have made me rethink should I rise from the love of stock Android? Well, let’s keep that debate for some other time. 

Nokia 5.4 - Mr. Phone - 11

It’s all fine, but we don’t get why Nokia didn’t offer Android 11 out of the box. Also, if I’m not wrong, Nokia 5.3 hasn’t received the Android 11 update yet. We hope Nokia is listening to customer feedback. The promised software update is only as good as when delivered in time. This is a smartphone brand we would like to see offering great products and services on time. It has always been my favourite mobile brand alongside Motorola. 

Overall, the bloatware-free experience is liberating and there’s no denying that it will be a relieving experience for any new smartphone buyer in the market. 

Nokia 5.4 – Camera 

The Nokia 5.4 comes with a quad-camera setup on the rear. This stack includes a 48MP main camera, 5MP ultra-wide shooter, 2MP macro camera, and finally a 2MP depth sensor. This time around Nokia has offered a 16MP selfie camera compared to 8MP on the 5.3. Speaking about the improvement from the predecessor, you get the larger megapixel main camera, apart from that there’s no difference in camera stack. And that’s where we felt it needed to improve. 

Nokia 5.4 - Mr. Phone - 3

Nokia 5.3 was reviewed by Ershad and he compared the GCam shots from this phone with Nokia’s default camera. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do the same for the 5.4 review. The GCam port keeps crashing every time I fired up the app. After multiple attempts, we were not able to get it running. 

Let’s check and talk about the camera samples from Nokia 5.4 below. 

Starting with my pictures, this default camera offers good colour reproduction and is almost true-to-life. I sure don’t have complaints about it. But when you turn on the portrait mode as the camera suggests, you realise colours look whitewashed. A sudden increase, in contrast, brightness, and over-saturation makes it unappealing. But overall, the picture looks half decent as the depth sensor does a pretty good job. No big goof-ups as far as cutouts are concerned. 

Now during noon, I took some camera samples of the in-house plants and I noticed they turned out pretty good. You can see the camera sample of the primary lens, which is directly compared with an ultra-wide lens. There’s are big noticeable differences. The colour detailing is missing in the ultra-wide shot. Further, notice how the ultra-wide capture is much softer with poor sharpness and detailing. 

Speaking about the daylight shots with plenty of sunlight, it struggles a lot and gives whitewashed images like this. If you take a closer look at leaves, it’s full of noise, no proper details visible. 

Again talking about primary and wide lens comparison, you can see for yourself the huge differences in terms of colour reproduction, saturation, and general tones of the pictures. I love capturing wide shots, and it’s one of my favourite sensors in any smartphone these days. Unfortunately, the ultra-wide captures on this phone failed to amaze me. 

Now it’s time you look at some food shots! Taken in the fully lit environment, these shots have come out well and looks delicious. I went all out for the desserts! You can see colours look fantastic and they are true-to-life, I can vouch for that. I’d give you a few seconds to pause and fulfil your hunger! 

Moving on to the night shots, I was rather impressed with the controlled brightness increase in night mode as soon as I was done with shots. But when I later went on my system to check out the pictures, they weren’t as impressive as I earlier thought when viewing from the phone. While the visibility increased in the night mode, the camera failed to process them without the extra grains in many corners. Fortunately, the object details did improve in the night mode shots. 

Coming to the front, selfies are huge improvements compared to the predecessor. The 16MP sensor makes a huge difference with better colour details and nice contrast levels. Further, the single beauty mode was enough for me, there are no plethora of options unlike other brands offer. And that’s how I prefer the default camera app on my phone.  

Full Resolution Camera Samples LINK

Nokia 5.4 – Connectivity & Battery Life

I used the Nokia 5.4 on a Jio 4G network for the duration of my review. And, it was fairly rock solid. But I have my concerns regarding Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The 5.4 doesn’t come with a 5 GHz Wi-Fi band support, which was available on the predecessor. Not sure, what happened there. Further, when everyone is sitting at Bluetooth 5.0, they are at 4.2 version. We are not happy with these decisions. 

Now, about the battery department, it has a 4000mAh capacity battery, which might not be considered large anymore. But we believe that’s more than sufficient for all types of usage. With 10W charging speed, it took close to 2 hours to charge from 20% to 100%. It is not ideal when other brands in the same pricing category are offering 18W and more fast charging. Further, the battery capacity norms have been improved, as you can see many handsets coming with a 6000mAh battery. 

Regardless of the low battery capacity and charging speed, we don’t have any strong complaints in the battery department. It’s because Nokia is known to optimise their software experience accordingly. The barebones UI doesn’t consume much power anyway. We consistently got a screen on time of more than 5 hours throughout our review. And that is less than an average SoT of a smartphone user in India. Do you know what’s the average screen on time of Indian smartphone users? Comment below.  

Verdict – Should you buy Nokia 5.4? 

There are much better options out there in the market with a budget of around Rs 15,000 than Nokia 5.4. The brands like POCO, Xiaomi, Realme, and Motorola enjoys the attention among the smartphone buyers in India in this price range. The market is currently flooded with Snapdragon 662 SoC based phones, and POCO M3 is probably the best example. 

I feel Nokia 5.4 might not be able to sway the tide in favour of the Finnish mobile maker in 2021. While it’s a delight that 5.4 is entirely Made in India, just like its predecessor 5.3, but it is unlikely to change the fate of Nokia in India. I still have high hopes from the brand which once ruled our hearts.  

What do you guys think of the Nokia 5.4? Let me know in the comments section below.

Pros

  • Elegant design
  • Stable performance
  • Good battery life 
  • Assured security updates for 3 years

Cons

  • HD+ display
  • Average cameras
  • Slow charging

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Vishal Toshiwal
vishal.toshiwal@u2opiamobile.com

Vishal is the Swiss-knife at Mr. Phone, he takes pride at his behind the camera skills of shooting poor portraits. He’s a creative thinker who comes up with the weirdest ideas. You can find him posting on Instagram or tweeting his thoughts on south Indian music and cinema.