Review: Nokia 5

Today usually phone manufacturers send their devices few weeks after the announcement to press and start selling them on the market, but that wasn’t the case with the first series of new Nokia smartphones, including the Nokia 5 we had for review. Because of longer wait time, a month before the review unit came I bought the 5 for my spouse, but not because I find the 5 a bad device that’s not for me, but because she is more a type of user Nokia is targeting and probably a little more objective. The first time I took the 5 in my hands, I was surprised how good it looked and felt, that I had to say all the waiting paid off. In the meantime, the tempered blue variant was sent by HMD for review, that is even more attractive than my wife’s black 5. Of course, the 5 isn’t a perfect device, and for the price point there are surely more powerful options, but how it performance as a whole package check in our review down.

Specifications:

• Dimensions: 149.7 x 72.5 x 8 mm
• Display: 5.2”, HD (1280×720) IPS LCD
• SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 1,4 GHz
• CPU: 8 x Cortex A53 @1.4GHz
• RAM: 2 GB
• Storage: 16 GB
• Connectivity: WiFi, A-GPS, Bluetooth, NFC, USB OTG, USB 2.0, FM Radio
• OS: Android 7.1.1 Nougat
• Camera: 13 MP, 1.12 µm pixel, PDAF
• Front camera: 8 MP PDAF, 1.12 µm
• Battery: 3000 mAh
• Others: Fingerprint sensor
• Price: €189
• Model number: TA-1024

Pros

• Great design
• Build quality
• Battery life

Cons:

• Relatively small internal storage
• Camera AF and low-light problems
• No LED indicator or Glance for notifications

Summarized review

Nokia 5 was announced back at MWC2017 in February, together with Nokia 3 and Nokia 6 for the global market. It went on sale in mid-summer for a recommend average retail price of €189, including taxes.

The device comes in a aluminum 6000 series unibody, and is design-wise and build quality-wise – excellent. The 5 features a solid 5.3 inch LCD screen on the front, under which we find a fingerprint sensor. On the back we have a 13MP camera capable of good, if not great shots in daylight, but with not so great shots in lowlight.

Under the hood, the 5 uses Snapdragon 430 platform coupled with 2GB of RAM. That combo is enough for an average user’s everyday use of the device, and even is good enough to play most games. For powerusers, that SoC won’t be sufficient. HMD opted for a 3000mAh battery in the 5, which is enough for a day and half of usage, with the battery charging from 0 to 100 in about 2 hours.

The software used is pure Android 7.1.1, with Android 8 Oreo update coming by the end of the year.


Full Review


Unboxing

If we take a look back at the retail package of the last smartphone with the Nokia logo before HMD happened, the Lumia 830, the box does look similar in terms of shape and usage of white color. That’s where the similarities stop. Nokia 5 retail box comes with a beautiful “handshake” graphic with blue background and a big Nokia transparent Nokia logo on the front. When you open the box, on one side we have the device and paperwork, and on the other in a separate package we have the charger and WH-108 headphones. We also have a SIM key just like from Lumia 920 for opening the nano-SIM and MicroSD tray.

Design, Build quality

When first opening the box and taking the device in my hands, I was shocked how beautiful the 5 looks, especially in the Tempered Blue color we got. A lot of design elements from older Nokia devices with “Fabula” design can be found on the Nokia 5, that follows the “Scandinavian design” philosophy. The 5 loosk like a combination between Lumia 925 and Lumia 720, but with more gently molded sides. The unibody housing is made out of Aluminum series 6000, but on higher outdoor temperatures it’s harder to distinguish it from polycarbonate. When it is colder, you can really feel the cold metal in the hand. Alongside looking attractive, the 5 also easily attracts fingerprints.

Nokia 5 sits nicely in the hand, thanks to the rounded sides and corners. It’s comfortable when using for a longer period of time, thanks to the way it’s designed. It can be a little slippery, though.
Apart from the way it is designed, the different color options help Nokia 5 stand out from the usual crowd of lower end phones. The 5 is really a well built and attractive device, that puts in shame a lot of higher end devices in terms how it looks and feels in hand. HMD managed to hide the antenna lines on the housing by pushing them up and on the sides, making the aluminum unibody, especially in tempered blue, really feel seamless.

On the front we have the almost all black surface that consists of a 5.2-inch HD screen covered by Gorilla Glass and polarizing filters. The screen to body ratio is 69%, which is usual for the price point. Above the screen we have sensors, earpiece and the Nokia logo. Below we have the fingerprint sensor that is also the home button, and we have the back and multitasking buttons left and right from the sensor. On sides, following the Fabula, now Scandinavian design philosophy, we have just the volume and power button on the right, and nano-SIM and Micro SD card slots on the left.

The volume buttons and the power button have a silver accent color on the tempered blue variant, for easier visibility. They are a little higher up the sides than I personally prefer, and the distance between the volume buttons and power button should be a little bigger. The buttons can also be used for taking photos: double clicking the power button starts the camera and pressing volume down takes the photo. On the top of the 5 we have a 3.5mm headphone jack, while on the bottom we find a microphone, MicroUSB2.0 port and a speaker.
The back side reminds us of older Nokia devices, like N9, especially because of the camera housing. Another reason are the clean lines and good hiding of antenna lines, that the aluminum unibody looks like it is from polycarbonate, but upon holding the devices you notice it’s most certainly metal. Above mentioned camera is 13MP in size with Dual-tone LED flash next to it. Above the camera there is a microphone for sound recording. In the lower part of the back side, we also find the legal information about device, precisely: info about the manufacturer, approval from different agencies (FCC, EU), and country where the device is manufactured in.

Screen

Nokia 5 comes with a 5.2-inch display protected by Gorilla Glass with HD resolution (1280×720 pixels) that gives 282 pixels per inch. Even though 282ppi doesn’t seem much, the screen looks quite share and it’s hard to notice individual pixels. The screen is readable under sunlight and the color reproduction is precise. Compared to the competition, the screen is about average, with an above average sunlight visibility.

Hardware, Performance & Connectivity

Inside the 5 we have the Snapdragon 430 consisting of 8 Cortex A53 cores clocked from 0.7 to 1.4GHz, the same as on the Nokia 6. Compared to the 6 that comes with 3GB (or 4GB) of RAM, the 5 has a GB less, or 2 GB of RAM. The performance is all right and as expected in the price point. Lagging under normal usage is extremely rare, but a slowdown in performance is noticeable in power hungry apps. It’s capable of playing most games available on the Google Play store, with good performance in games like Clash of Clans, Clash Royal, Angry Birds, Subway Surfers and even Asphalt 8, but the loading times and navigation inside menus will depend on the app. Users that play a lot of games, that are power hungry, probably should look for a Snapdragon 6xx or 8xx device. System stability is also on the category level, with apps force-closing very rare. Pure Android HMD uses takes a lot of credit for the decent performance of the 5.

Another thing valid to mention is the bottom firing speaker that is loud and clear. Call quality on the 5 is really good, as confirmed from both sides of the conversations. Thanks to the rounded sides and corners, the device is comfortably to hold when doing long conversations.

From the connectivity side, we have a MicroUSB2.0 port on the bottom that is used as a charger or for data transfer. Included NFC, we know from Symbian devices, can be using for making payments or for simply connecting Bluetooth accessories, like the Nokia PlayUp speaker I still use. The 5, of course, has WiFi, LTE, GPS, but also a FM Radio. The 3.5mm headphone jack is also still here.

One of the biggest positive sides for me on the 5 was hot swapping the SIM cards. There is no need for restarts or turning the device off when changing SIMs or adding the second nano-SIM. Just put it in, and it works. HMD opted for a separate MicroSD card slot on the 5, compared to the hybrid on 6 and 8. That is because the 5 comes with “just” 16GB of internal storage, where half is taken by the OS. Buying a memory card is recommended, and it’s great to have a slot just for it.

Nokia 5 also features the standard set of sensors, like Accelerometer (G-sensor), ambient light sensor, Hall sensor, gyroscope and proximity sensor.

Software

Nokia 5, like the rest of the announced Nokia smartphones, comes with Android 7.1.1 out of box. HMD uses “Pure Android”, that doesn’t come pre-reloaded with any bloatware or HMD-made customizations, apart from some blue icons. HMD only made two custom apps for its Nokia smartphones: Camera app and Support app.

While using Pure Android allows the 5 to perform remarkably well for a low to mid range device, it also lacks some features that are standard on other Android skins that competition uses. Of course, for everything, you can install an app from the Play Store. For example, there is no gallery app, music player or file manager (even though it can be accessed through settings), and instead Google Photos and Google Music are used. We recommend activating the System UI Turner by holding the settings icon in the notification center, because with UI turner you can add the percentage mark for the battery on the status bar and customize other things as well.

As a standard Android experience, the 5 features Multi-Window, that allows you to use 2 apps simultaneously on the screen, app shortcuts by long pressing an icon or Google Assistant, that I, for performance sake, recommend turning off.

A segment were the 5 outshines the competition and can hardly be matched by more powerful Chinese devices retailing for the same price are updates. Apart from receiving regular monthly security updates, that also bring improvements for the device, HMD promised to deliver major Android upgrades in the next 2 years of a device’s lifetime. In fact, Nokia 5 should get the latest Android 8 Oreo update by the end of the year, and not much sub €200 device can be found with latest Android.

Camera

The 5 comes with a rear 13MP camera with f/2.0 aperture and 1.12µm pixels, that’s an increased pixel size compared to Nokia 6 (1µm), but the number of pixels is 3 millions less. In daylight condition, Nokia 5 gives great results with pictures being good in sharpness, contrast and details. A problem in general is focusing, so I recommend to focus first and then take a photo to get really good daylight shots. In low-light conditions the lack of details and sharpness is noticeable, coupled with a lot of digital noise. The LED flash works fine, so with turning the flash on it’s a lot better in doing lowlight shots. Most of the focus and lowlight issues can be fixed by software I think, so hopefully HMD will do that. It’s fair to mention that the camera app lacks a more feature rich manual mode, that could (negatively) surprise some Lumia owners.

The front camera comes with the same aperture but is 8MP in size, and can use the screen as a front facing flash while taking selfies. The photos are good enough to be shared on social media, with low-lights shots being a little richer with digital noise.

Down below, you can look at some photos made by Nokia 5, that are reduced in size for faster loading. You can check the full resolution shots and more pictures on our Flickr profile here.

Nokia 5 is capable of recording video up to 1080p, but without OIS (optical image stabilization) you have to have steady hands for good results. The quality of the video is good, sound recording too, but overall nothing special. Take a look at some videos recorded with the 5 down below.

YouTube

YouTube

YouTube

Battery

HMD equipped the Nokia 5 with a 3000mAh battery, just like the Nokia 6. Thanks to its smaller and lower resolution screen, the 5 has a better battery life than the 6, and is capable of achieving almost 2 days of battery life. If you use the device more, like more inboxes synced, more gaming, calls, internet, chat and similar, it will go through a whole working day with about a 3rd of battery left. Of course, if you are a poweruser, you will have to charge it every day, but the customers the 5 targets will be content with the battery life. Nokia 5 does not support fast charging, but goes from 0 to 100 in less than 2 hours.

Conclusion

Nokia 6, 5 & 3

At the end of the day, the only question that needs to be answered is do we recommend buying it or not. At a price point of €189, it surely is one of the best looking and best made phones in its segment, but for the same amount of money, you can find devices of less known vendors that offer better specifications. Nokia 5 stands out form them thanks to HMD excellent software support.

Between the 3, 5 and 6, the 5 is the device I would mostly recommend to an average user, because it has a good enough hardware to handle everyday tasks normally, looks great and is fair to say affordable. Considering that my wife uses it for quite some time and doesn’t have any problems with it, as well as some other folks that bought it after seeing it from me, it’s a device that won’t disappoint if you are an average smartphone user. If you want more power, better camera, and more features, the sub €200 price point is not where you look for it, at least not in the Nokia camp.

  • Stinger

    Awesome review!

    • Glad you like it. Nokia 5 is a great looking and capable smartphone.

      We also finished the review of the Nokia 3 and 8. Will translate them and push them soon.

      • Stinger

        I’ll be waiting for sure. The Nokiamob Team’s English is great by the way.

        • He he, we are trying our best, and correcting each other every time we push something. That is the secret.

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