Review: Nokia 5.3

The strategy of Nokia Mobile is to make smartphones better with every new model, and the latest result of their strategy is Nokia 5.3. Or we could write it Nokia 5dot3 for the sake of social networks and hashtags. This review could share with you some insights on the device I got and help you decide whether it is for you. Nokia Mobile did a nice job of bringing the design of much pricier devices to the affordable level and refined it in the process. Now we also have a more powerful processor, larger screen, and four cameras, which is trendy in the affordable smartphone range where Nokia is still trying to dominate. But, the competition is pretty tough and not making it easy for Nokia, so the 5.3 has a pretty hard task to do. Without further ado, let’s see whether Nokia 5.3 could serve you well or not.

 

Plus

  • Design
  • Capable main camera
  • Large screen
  • Ergonomy
  • Battery life

 

Minus

  • No fast charging
  • Earpiece sound not clean
  • Underperforming wide and macro cameras
  • Slow Face Unlock

 

Here is the list of the specifications:

  • Name: Nokia 5.3 (#Nokia5dot3); TA-1234 (TA-1223, TA-1227, TA-1229)
  • Dimensions: 164.3 x 76.6 x 8.5 mm
  • Mass: 185 g
  • Display: 6.55 inches, FullHD+ 720×1600 (268 ppi), 450 nits, Gorilla 3, Teardrop notch
  • Processor: Snapdragon 665 (11 nm), Octa-core (4×2.0 GHz Kryo 260 Gold & 4×1.8 GHz Kryo 260 Silver),
  • GPU: Adreno 610
  • Memory: 4/64 GB, MicroSD
  • Connectivity: BT 4.2, WiFi b/g/n/ac, NFC, USB-OTG, GPS (A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS)
  • Sensors: Fingerprint, accelerometer, proximity
  • Extras: FM Radio, 10W charger, Face Unlock, nano SIM, USB-C 2.0
  • Color: Cyan, Sand, Charcoal
  • Price: approx. €200

 

The box

Nokia 5.3 is coming in a new box where the biggest change is the new print on the front and a bit of different internal assembly. After three years the en-framed handshake is gone, and now you get a clear view on the device you are buying with a bolder reminder that it is a Nokia smartphone. We got a Charcoal version of the device even though the box is showing it in a gorgeous cyan. Unfortunately, Nokia Mobile isn’t showing a sand color version, which some might also find attractive. When you slide out the cradle you see the device wrapped in plastic with a black print and some Google Assistant promotion on it. Below the device, you’ll find a (two nano) SIM door pin, user manual, and next to it a compartment holding 10W charger, a meter long USB-A/USB-C cable, and very basic HS-34 earphones. The retail box contains a jelly protective case, which we didn’t get due to some misfortune with a Royal Mail. Probably they needed it for their official 5.3.

 

Design & Build quality

Nokia mobile brought back to life a circular camera module with the Nokia 6.2 and Nokia 7.2, and the similar one found its place on the back of 5.3. Actually, Nokia 5.3 shares a lot with 6.2/7.2 design lines, which are now being perfected. While the back glass of Nokia 7.2 was flat, Nokia Mobile added a bit of curve at the polycarbonate matted back of Nokia 5.3, which looks better and feels better in hand. The phone is pretty large with the measures 164.3 x 76.6 x 8.5 mm, larger than 7.2, but it feels so light thanks to the substantial reduction of an aluminum frame beneath the polycarbonate outer shell, and it is sleek and elegant in hand or on the table.

 

 

The front of the device is occupied by a 6.55-inch polarised display, which you can hardly distinguish from rather thin bezels. Well, the bezels are quite thin on the sides and top of the device, but below the screen, there is a slight chin that is carrying the Nokia logo. On top of the screen, there is a teardrop notch, which holds a quite good 8 MP selfie camera. I really got used to the notch, so I’m not even noticing it there, but you can hide it through the settings. Just above the selfie camera, there is a pretty long metal speaker grill. 

 

 

The transition from the Gorilla glass to the polycarbonate sides of the device are smooth. On the right side of the phone, you’ll find a volume rocker and a power button below, which are plastic, but with a nicely defined click. The power button has a LED notification light, which will glow in a breathing matter when you get a new notification from all the apps that can notify you. The left side contains a MicroSD card and a Dual SIM card tray just on the opposite of the volume rocker, and useless Google assistant button below it. It is a shame that you can’t disable this button, which I would quite often mistake for the power button, and you can not remap it. On top of the device, you’ll find the hole with a microphone on the left and a 3.5 mm jack on the right. On the bottom of the device, you’ll also find the second microphone hole on the left, then a USB-c port, and after it a loudspeaker grill which is protected by a mesh so the dirt won’t be getting in, and small droplets also.

 

 

The back of smartphones nowadays is something that is differentiating them the most. That is the case with Nokia 5.3 which has such a nicely designed back. Although some might mistake it for Nokia 7.2 due to the similar camera module, some differences make 5.3 unique. I must say I would like to get it in Cyan or Sand which are a bolder color option, but charcoal does look elegant too. The feature that dominates the back is the camera module that has four cameras and a bit elongated LED flash in the middle. The module is protected by a metal ring, which will be the first to touch the surface you are leaning your phone on, so you won’t be scratching the camera glass. The top left camera when looking at the module is the main 13MP camera, just below it is the 2 MP depth sensor. On the top right there is a 5MP camera with wide lenses and a 2MP macro camera below it. 

Going down from the camera module there is a rather small fingerprint reader, which is easily reachable with your index finger. It is not the quickest one out there, but it doing its job precisely. In the middle of the back, you’ll find a Nokia logo and at the bottom almost invisible the usual print that is coming with every Nokia smartphone. So, the print does not have an Android One logo, but it does inform us that 5.3 is designed by HMD Global, which is situated in Espoo, and that the TA-1234 was made in China, as half of the things we use in our daily lives. 

The build quality is a big differentiator of Nokia smartphones, and when you take the phone to your hand, you can see that the final finish of the phone is done perfectly, with smooth lines when going from the back to the sides and on the screen. There are no sharp edges except on the buttons, which is nice, so you can better find them, click them, and make a difference between them.

If you want to know more about the internals of your 5dot3, check out the disassembly video.

The ergonomy of the device is nice, as expected from a Nokia device. The body of 5.3 is in balance, and it feels nice on touch. Thanks to the polycarbonate layer, the phone feels warm, unlike classic aluminum phones, which are cold during winter times or hot during summer. The 6.55-inch screen is too big to be used by one hand, but you won’t be needing another hand to control it since with gesture controls you can easily bring the drop-down menu by swiping from the middle of the screen. There is also a swipe fingerprint for notifications option so you can use that also to check the notifications or click some tiles on the menu. Double-tap can wake your screen up, but I would like to see the Face Unlock option working better so you don’t need to type a pin code or swipe to unlock. Maybe the quickest way to unlock 5.3 is by grabbing it and unlocking with the print of your index finger, but that is up to you.  When you are increasing your screen time when your phone is rested on the table, the same device won’t be rocking since the camera module is placed so high so the phone is stable.

 

Screen

When you are making a sub €200 smartphone, you need to do some compromises to keep the price low. Nokia Mobile decided to stretch the screen maximally possible but keep the resolution down, and the result is not so sharp but large and usable 6.55-inch IPS LCD of Nokia 5.3. The screen is protected by Gorilla 3 glass, which is one of the best performing glass protections in the smartphone industry.

The screen is HD with the resolution of 720 x 1600, but due to its size, the pixel count per inch is just 268, which is something that you’ll notice but definitely won’t mind. The screen emits 450 nits, which ensure good visibility on the bright sunlight, but I would recommend using a light theme instead of a dark one during the day to have better visibility. 

 

 

Anyway, you will be able to enjoy watching taken photos and videos, movies and series through Netflix of PopcornTime, and browsing the internet over the 5.3. The notch won’t be in the way because it is not so protruding in the display and the 16:9 orientation is not using the whole screen.

 

Performance and usability

Nokia 5.3 is an affordable mid-range smartphone that is bringing a more powerful processor than the Nokia 7.2 currently has. This means that Snapdragon 665 accompanied by the Adreno 610 will provide a solid and stable smartphone experience during standard usage of the phone or when gaming. Snapdragon 665 is built in an 11nm process, which means it more power efficient than SD660, and what is more important, it doesn’t heat up so much.

The model we got for a test is a 4/64GB version. The RAM is DDR4, which means it will run smoothly, and there is no need for more, even though Nokia Mobile is making a 6GB version too. Internal 64GB of memory is quite enough, but there is a dedicated SD card slot that will extend the memory up to 512GB, and I do recommend buying a class10 card. 

When I got the phone, I wasn’t so happy with its performance, but Nokia Mobile released an MR Android Build which fixed all the bugs and made a phone more usable. Even the Geekbench result improved slightly for the multicore. 

The WiFi is also now running smoother, and the speeds achieved are normal now. besides the wifi, I like the idea that I have NFC installed, which is rather convenient for the quick connection with BT headsets, my JBL PlayUp, and Google Pay service. The one thing I don’t like is the position of the NFC, and that is between the fingerprint reader and a Nokia logo. That is not a big deal, but it is strange to have it there.

Bluetooth connection is working well, and I haven’t experienced any the problem when listening to music over the BT headset or while connected in my car. The Face Unlock option is still rather slow, but the fingerprint reader is working well, so you’ll probably be using that way to unlock it. 

Nokia 5.3 is a phone that will definitely make you connected with people, and what better way to stay connected than talk with someone. The call quality is quite good, but the earphone speaker could be of better quality. The other side told me that I can be heard clearly even on loudspeakers, but I would experience a cranky voice through the ear speaker, but the sound is not muffled and you’ll be able to hear the conversation even in a busy street. I like that the earphone grill is wide, so you don’t have to be precise when leaning the phone to the ear.

The loudspeaker isn’t the loudest out here but does give you a nice sound reproduction which is dominated by the mid-tones. 

 

Software

Nokia mobile is dedicated to Google, and that dedication is bringing us Android One on numerous Nokia phones. Nokia 5.3 is also an Android One member, even though the logo isn’t printed on the back. But, when you turn on the phone, you’ll first see the Android One logo and then the Nokia logo. Android One brings clean UI design, two years of OS updates, and three years of security patches. You can expect Android 11 and 12 on the 5.3, and that is nice for the price.

While Android One means clean Google Android, closest to the stock Android, the system takes about 17GB of internal memory, which is super high. Don’t think you are free of bloatware since many Google apps come pre-installed on Nokia 5.3, and that you will probably not going to use. Nokia Mobile is only preinstalling MyPhone app, which is quite useful for finding info and checking your device performance, and the camera app. 

 

 

Android 10 is performing well on 5.3. I am using gestures that function well and make this large-screen device pretty easy to use. By swiping from the middle of the screen down you can get a drop-down menu and check notifications. By swiping left or right in the bottom you can easily switch the running apps, and from the bottom up you can call the app manager. by swiping on the left or right edge of the screen you go back or close the app, which is convenient. I do recommend trying the gesture-based controls. You’ll get used top it quickly.

 

 

Camera

The trend of having five cameras on a smartphone is not strange to Nokia Mobile, which made Nokia 9 PV with six cameras (selfie included). That trend was brought down to a more affordable smartphone level, and Nokia 5.3 is also a part of the trend. There is a 13 MP main camera with the aperture of f/1.8, which is a standard these days for capturing great daylight and low light photos. This camera is not coming with ZEISS lenses nor the pro camera settings in the app, which is a shame since the camera is performing well. The daylight photos are sharp, with nice color representation and a dynamic range. You will be able to save some of the most important events in your life, and also capture a nice photo to make your wallpaper a happier place. It is nice that you can enable in gestures the double click on power button to open camera when the phone is locked.

While the main camera is performing well, that can’t be said for the 5 MP wide and the 2 MP macro camera. It would make sense to just bring Nokia 5.3 with the main and depth camera and give it a pro camera settings inside the camera app for the enthusiasts. This way you have an ultra-wide camera that can do nice photos only during the daylight, but with not so accurate color representation, and a lot of software distortion on the edges of the photography.

The 2 MP macro camera did get better with the latest Build update, but don’t expect much of it. I would rather use the main camera and zoom the photo than go for a macro shot and use a dedicated camera. 

The selfie camera is performing well during daylight, but at night or low light, your photos will be a bit grainy. But, selfie can also do a nice shots for example this one below of my Kona.

The flash is not a quick pulse but will illuminate the space nicely. For selfie shots during the night, you can use LCD as an illumination. 

Do check our Flickr profile for more shots in full resolution!

Nokia 5.3 can film a 4K videos with the main camera, but those saved in 1080p are also quite good if you are using the main camera. You can film with the rest cameras, but the result is not the best. There is no software or optical stabilisation so do expect it to be a bit shaky, but in general the videos are of decent quality. While the dynamic range could be better, the camera focuses rather quickly, and the recorded sound is also nice, except when windy, since there is no noise cancellation.

Main camera video examples

4K video example

 

Main and wide camera example

Slow Motion video is great for social network sharing and can be a great tool for capturing some nice or funny moments.

The camera app is pretty basic but covers the most needed features that users require. From the main screen, you can easily change the cameras, or change the features (Portrait, Video, Night). By clicking on four squares, you get some extra options like square photography, panorama, time-lapse, and slow motion.

In case you want to improve the quality of the photos, you can use GCam which is working well, but only for taking photos and videos. Also, you can edit your shots a bit with a Snapseed app and then share it with others.

You can check the full resolution of the photos at our Flickr profile.

 

Battery

The battery is quite large in the 5.3. The 4000 mAh will make your Nokia 5.3 run the whole day if you are really pushing it to its ends, but with moderate use, the battery will last two days. Unfortunately, Nokia Mobile didn’t enable fast charging or provided fast charger in the box, which means you’ll be charging it for two hours till max capacity. It will take 30 minutes to charge between 15 and 20% of the battery. But, if you charge it when you got to bed every night as I do, you won’t be noticing that. 

 

Final thoughts

Nokia Mobile once again demonstrated it can design and manufacture a beautiful and affordable smartphone. Nokia 5.3 might seem light but is a very durable phone, and a polycarbonate cover surrounding aluminum frame will make it less sensitive to sudden drops since polycarbonate covers its scars better than aluminum. The phone has all it needs nowadays, four cameras, relatively large battery capacity, a large screen, a capable processor, and great looks. 

The phone will serve you well as a smartphone, won’t stutter, do the demanding operations as much costlier smartphone, and even be able to snap a nice photo. But, the wide and macro cameras are not as usable as the main, and the large the battery could use a fast charger.

The phone is running Android One, which gets you a clean and simple look of Android OS, which is preloaded with all the Google apps we might use. This will ensure you will be getting monthly security patches and two major OS updates, which is great for the price range. But, the competition isn’t falling behind here, and many are offering more for a similar price.

With the price of around €200, or less at some markets, Nokia 5.3 might be considered by many, but Nokia Mobile needs to improve the cameras so the new owners could fully enjoy its potential. The speed of releasing MR updates does sound like Nokia Mobile can do just that.

 

Thanks to Nokia Mobile for sending us a review unit! We appreciate it!

 

Do check the video review of our Abdulla Zaki below.