I was very unenthusiastic about the Nokia 5.4 when it was first announced. But as time grew on, I also grew to really appreciate what this phone offers. You can check out the long term review in the video below:
I’ve covered how much I really like this dusk glossy finish in my full review, even if it also means that the back will gather fingerprints like crazy. Using a matte finish would have solved this issue, even though it would have made it a lot less nice to look at. I do have to address some of the complaints about the build quality of the 5.4. Yes, it does flex when you press on the backplate. And no, you won’t notice it when using the device regularly so it doesn’t affect my experience on a daily basis.
The rest of the hardware though is built very well, as this phone feels solid in the hand and will definitely not bend no matter how hard you try despite the plastic frame. It also handles heat management really well. Most of my usage has been with the TPU case, and I would recommend getting a screen protector for it to avoid micro scratches. Overall, the hardware doesn’t feel as special as devices from Nokia from yesteryears, but it’s decent when compared to the competition.
Performance and battery life
This is where things go in favor of the Nokia 5.4. As you know, the phone comes with a SD662 CPU coupled with the Adreno 610 GPU, and the phone runs on Android 10 as a part of the Android One program. Confusing I know, but what it means is that the phone completely lacks bloatware, aka duplicate apps, and completely relies on google services for all the basics such as a photo gallery, phone app, and so on. Now, this combination should in theory provide a relatively smooth experience, but this hasn’t always been the case with Nokia. Luckily, this phone’s biggest advantage actually comes from how well optimized this software is and how few the bugs are.
The phone is probably class-leading when it comes to day-to-day performance, with barely any hiccups or slowdowns. It’s not as quick as a flagship, but it’s quick and smooth enough for me to depend on it as my daily driver. This also brings us to the battery performance. It is excellent even though the battery capacity is nothing groundbreaking at 4000 mAh. You can get 8+ hours of screen on time, which should last you easily through a day, and pushing it very close to 2 days, depending on you. If you are a gamer though, you will get about 1 full day with this phone, no problem.
Sadly though charging speed is subpar, at least with the provided brick in the box, limited to 10 watts or about 2 hours and a bit for a full charge. But if you have a better charger, the phone will also charge quicker, although I don’t have the exact numbers. If you are a fan of games, this phone handles COD at very high setting and high frame rate very well. But it will struggle with very heavy games like Genchin Impact. My biggest disappointment with the software though is that it still hasn’t received the Android 11 update. It should really be out by now but I guess it should be close.
Camera and Video
Let’s get something out of the way. Even though this phone has 4 cameras, 2 of them are pure social media content at best, the 5mp ultra-wide, and the 2mp macro. Luckily, the main 48mp sensor is really capable of producing really good imaging. I would recommend turning off scene detection for more accurate colors, although the phone does tend to oversaturate images too much for my liking. Details captured though are decent. Not google camera levels, which definitely pushes the images way outside the realm of its price in a good way, but still decent. It’s the same with low light. When there is a bit of light in the scene, the phone does well. When it’s too dark, it struggles with contrast and colors, but gcam helps massively here. The selfie camera is average at best though. I will again recommend using gcam.
As for video… it’s also good. They fixed the autofocus issue in 1080p 30fps video and now it’s quick and smooth. Details are okay, and the sound quality thanks to OZO audio is excellent. Sadly, there is no 4k video supported, and 1080p 60 frames per second still has the horrible jumpy autofocus. The addition of Cinema mode and manual video controls continues to be a nice feature for the money, considering such controls were usually reserved for much more expensive devices in the past, even if the implementation can be improved.
Nokia might never be able to compete head to head with Chinese rivals when it comes to specs, but devices like the 5.4 show us a side I personally appreciate. It’s how much of a difference a device that’s well-optimized improves the overall user experience. For that, it’s easy to recommend it to people that want a very competent all-around smartphone that doesn’t break the bank and looks good too. I still aspire for better specs and hope we see something more from the future.