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GadgetsSmartphonesNokia 5.4 Budget Smartphone Review

Nokia 5.4 Budget Smartphone Review

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Today we will get acquainted with a new product from HMD Global – an inexpensive Nokia 5.4 smartphone. The device replaced last year’s Nokia 5.3 and at first glance looks like a completely logical continuation of the 5th series. But during testing, it turned out that the smartphone is not as straightforward as it might seem at first. So what went wrong? Let’s figure it out.

Nokia 5.4

Full specifications of Nokia 5.4

NETWORK Technology GSM / HSPA / LTE
LAUNCH Announced 2020, December 15
Status Available. Released 2020, December 25
BODY Dimensions 161 x 76 x 8.7 mm (6.34 x 2.99 x 0.34 in)
Weight 181 g (6.38 oz)
SIM Single SIM (Nano-SIM) or Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
DISPLAY Type IPS LCD, 400 nits (typ)
Size 6.39 inches, 100.2 cm2 (~81.9% screen-to-body ratio)
Resolution 720 x 1560 pixels, 19.5:9 ratio (~269 ppi density)
PLATFORM OS Android 10
Chipset Qualcomm SM6115 Snapdragon 662 (11 nm)
CPU Octa-core (4×2.0 GHz Kryo 260 Gold & 4×1.8 GHz Kryo 260 Silver)
GPU Adreno 610
MEMORY Card slot microSDXC (dedicated slot)
Internal 64GB 4GB RAM, 64GB 6GB RAM, 128GB 4GB RAM
MAIN CAMERA Quad 48 MP, f/1.8, (wide), PDAF
5 MP, 13mm (ultrawide)
2 MP, (macro)
2 MP, (depth)
Features LED flash, HDR, panorama
Video [email protected], [email protected]
SELFIE CAMERA Single 16 MP, f/2.0, (wide)
Video [email protected]
SOUND Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
COMMS WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, hotspot
Bluetooth 4.2, A2DP, aptX Adaptive
GPS Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS
NFC Yes (market/region dependent)
Radio FM radio
USB USB Type-C 2.0, USB On-The-Go
FEATURES Sensors Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity
BATTERY Type Li-Po 4000 mAh, non-removable
Charging Charging 10W
MISC Colors Polar Night, Dusk

Nokia 5.4 Price and Positioning

The 4/64 GB version costs about $197 and at the time of the publication of the review it is the most expensive Nokia smartphone in many countries. Compared to its predecessor, Nokia 5.3, the initial cost has increased by $18.

In this review we will often refer to model 5.3 and compare it with 5.4. It’s only logical since last year’s model is still on sale and is much cheaper now. So let’s find out what work the manufacturer has done and what Nokia 5.4 has to offer.

What’s in the box

The set is similar to the one we saw last year with Nokia 5.3 and even Nokia 7.2. The brand has not changed this tradition and in the light of recent events, this is even good. In addition to a smartphone, the small thin cardboard box contains a 10 W power adapter, a simple USB/Type-C cable, ordinary wired earphones with a headset function, a SIM eject tool and some documentation.

Design, materials and build quality

The design of the front side of the smartphone has changed for once, and instead of the teardrop-shaped notch with the front-facing camera (of which we are all tired now) the Nokia 5.4 uses a hole in the upper left corner. Yes, also a tried and tested solution, but it’s better.

Nokia 5.4

On the other hand, Nokia stubbornly continues placing the logo on the front panel in every new smartphone. This is important for increasing brand awareness, but it looks a little old-fashioned and out of touch.

Behind, as always, everything is different, and this is a big plus of many Nokia smartphones. A round block with cameras in the middle looks quite interesting, I like this solution more than any rectangle in the upper left corner.

The design of the rear panel is also quite pleasant: darkened edges, a pattern in the form of diagonal lines that shimmer nicely depending on how the light falls on them.

My device is blue, which the manufacturer refers to as Polar Night. Also Nokia 5.4 comes in magenta. In both cases, you get the iridescent effect, and the matte plastic frame around the perimeter also has the main color. A dark blue color looks interesting.

Nokia 5.4
Color variants of Nokia 5.4

The design is fine, but the materials and the build quality are disappointing. The glossy plastic back creaks and crunches. In addition, it scratches on the bends.

Nokia 5.4

For some reason, the glass covering the camera protrudes above the ring, which is why small scratches have also appeared on it. Moreover, for the first time taking the smartphone out of the box, I saw a gap with a latch between the display module and the frame. It can be corrected by simple pressure, but it’s not nice, isn’t it?

Nokia 5.4

In fact, the whole approach to the selection of materials and finishes is very strange. Nokia 5.3 also has a plastic rear panel, but at least it is not glossy and hardly collects prints and smudges. Here we have exactly the opposite. It is insanely difficult to keep a smartphone clean, and various dust particles seem to be magnetically attached to it. So if 5.3 could be used without a cover, then in the case of 5.4 it will be problematic for the reasons described above.

Nokia 5.4

In short – in comparison with last year’s model everything is downright sad.

The layout

In front we have a selfie camera, above it is the earpiece speaker and light and proximity sensors. Below there’s only the Nokia logo.

The combined volume button and power key are located on the right. On the left side there is a triple slot for two nanoSIM cards and a microSD card. Below the slot is a separate button for calling the Google Assistant.

Again we are faced with a simplification – the power button has lost its LED. And I would not be very upset if it were simply moved somewhere, but the trouble is that there is simply no LED indicator anywhere.

An additional microphone and a 3.5 mm audio jack remain on the top edge. At the bottom is a multimedia speaker, main microphone and a USB Type-C port in the center.

On the back there is a round block with four cameras, a flash to the left of it, a vertical Nokia inscription in the middle and technical information at the very bottom.

Ergonomics

The overall dimensions of the device are quite familiar: 160.97 × 75.99 × 8.7 mm (180 grams). It feels quite fine in the hand, the buttons are well placed. The fingerprint scanner is also at an okay height.

Nokia 5.4 display

Nokia has a 6,39″ IPS LCD screen. Its resolution is HD+ (1560×720 pixels). The aspect ratio of the screen is 19.5:9, the pixel density is 269 ppi, and the refresh rate is standard, 60 Hz. The characteristics, again, are not impressive, but it’s all fine overall.

Nokia 5.4

The color rendition here is really good, judging by the saturation and contrast of the image. But the viewing angles leave much to be desired. Yes, there are no serious distortions at a linear angle, but with diagonal, dark tones acquire some kind of yellowish tint. This, in turn, indicates that this panel is not of the best quality.

Nokia 5.4

The resolution is also not the highest, and if we compare the clarity of the display of Nokia 5.4 with other smartphones. The icons are not smooth, and the low resolution is noticeable in some elements of the UI. Again, it’s all in comparison. An inexperienced user is unlikely to notice anything, just remember that it is not Full HD+ we’re dealing with here.

Nokia 5.4

The brightness of the screen is fine, but it is hard to read the information on the street on a bright sunny day. This is the norm for many displays of this type and Nokia 5.4 in this regard is neither better nor worse than others. Although certain doubts creep in, because while here the maximum brightness is 400 nits, its predecessor had 450 nits.

Nokia 5.4

In terms of settings, everything is pretty standard: a dark theme with the ability to work on a schedule, night mode, white balance adjustment and other standard options (font size selection, system scaling, etc.) are available.

Read also: Nokia 7.2 review – Stylish smartphone with PureDisplay

Nokia 5.4 performance

The hardware platform of Nokia 5.4 is represented by Qualcomm SM6115 Snapdragon 662. It is an 11nm 8-core chipset with 4 Kryo 260 Gold cores running at a maximum clock speed of 2.0 GHz and 4 Kryo 260 Silver cores with a clock speed of up to 1.8 GHz. The graphics accelerator is Adreno 610. It turns out that in this regard, the Snapdragon 662 is no different from the Snapdragon 665, which was installed in the Nokia 5.3, and the processor and graphics should be identical.

In benchmarks, the Snapdragon 662 only slightly outperforms the Snapdragon 665, and in general we can say that the differences in the test results are almost nonexistent. The same cannot be said about the results of the throttling test. If Nokia 5.3 with 665 Snapdragon lost up to 7% of the maximum performance, then Nokia 5.4 with Snapdragon 662 has lost as much as 20-25%.

There can be either 4 or 6 GB of LPDDR4x memory. It’s sufficient for this price. My phone has 4 gigs and this is enough so that 5-10 applications do not restart when they are used simultaneously.

Nokia 5.4

The storage in a smartphone can be 64 or 128 GB. eMMC 5.1 type is not very relevant, but its speeds are fine still. The 128 GB version is not available in all markets, of course. We have a test device with a 64 GB drive, of which 47.49 GB are available to the user. The storage is expandable – there is a slot for a microSD memory card up to 512 GB.

The device works well overall. Of course, not super-fast or smoothly and periodically some kind of slowdowns of system animations do happen, but I did not observe any serious freezes. You can play games, but due to the fact that it has average hardware, heavier titles work best on low or medium graphics. Here are your average FPS measurements as per Gamebench software:

  • Call of Duty: Mobile – medium, depth of field and shadows are on, ~ 39 FPS; Battle Royale ~ 28 FPS
  • PUBG Mobile – balance with anti-aliasing and shadows, ~ 25 FPS
  • Shadowgun Legends – ultra graphics, ~ 30 FPS

These are not the worst indicators possible, but the graphic settings were set to the maximum that is only available for this smartphone. Playable, but in such demanding games it is better to disable some effects. With arcadey titles, there are no problems at all.

Nokia 5.4 cameras

The main camera unit of Nokia 5.4 has four sensors, but if we compare them again with those in 5.3, ther’s only one difference – the main wide-angle module. It is 48 megapixels (compared to 13 megapixels of its predecessor) module with f/1.8 and phase detection autofocus PDAF. The other three eyes are essentially the same: a 5 megapixel ultra-wide-angle module (f/2.2, 13 mm), a 2 megapixel macro camera (f/2.4) and a 2 megapixel depth sensor.

Nokia 5.4

The main module is better overall. It has no problems with exposure, photos have good details and color reproduction for a smartphone level, but it’s hard not to notice the insufficiently wide dynamic range. In difficult conditions, all the usual shortcomings become more obvious. There is a night mode, it works okay, making pictures lighter, but does not try to hide digital noise at all and a certain oversharping is noticeable.

EXAMPLES OF PHOTOS IN FULL RESOLUTION FROM THE MAIN MODULE

There is not much to say about the ultra wide-angle lens. This is actually the same module and it hasn’t gotten any better. It differs significantly in color from the main one, the noise is visible even during the day, so.. it just exists and in some cases it can be used, but there is nothing special about it.

EXAMPLES OF PHOTOS IN FULL RESOLUTION FROM THE ULTRA WIDE-ANGLE LENS

The macro camera is the same. It’s low quality, there is some kind of greenish tint, color rendition is very different from the other modules and that’s about it. It might be good for something, but really, you will rarely use it.

EXAMPLES OF PHOTOS IN FULL RESOLUTION FROM THE MACRO CAMERA

With video filming, the situation is interesting, and the new product, unlike its predecessor, is no longer able to record video in 4K resolution. You only get 1080p at 30 or 60 FPS. The culprit is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 662, which does not support ultra-high-definition video. As for the quality, it is, as expected, average; there also electronic stabilization. The ultra wide-angle lens can write in the same resolution, but macro supports only 720p. But both are kinda weak.

The 16 megapixel front-facing camera with f/2.0 aperture is slightly better than the Nokia 5.3’s front camera, but it has the same issues. What I mean is the photographs are a little blurry and for some reason all the sharpness is directed to the background, which is why the selfies should be made with a fully extended arm. There’s is support for Full HD and 30/60 FPS.

The camera app hasn’t changed much. It has a range of modes: portrait, night, panorama, manual for video, slow and fast motion, as well as built-in Google Lens and “live” photos.

Unlocking

Nokia 5.4, like most other smartphones, can be unlocked in two ways. You have the capacitive fingerprint scanner and face recognition. Unfortunately, Nokia still has problems with the speed of these methods. The fingerprint scanner in this smartphone lags far behind the scanners in competitors’ smartphones when it comes to speed. But at least it makes no errors.

Nokia 5.4

With regards to the second method, there’s nothing new. Unlocking is very slow by default. From the moment you press the power button to the successful recognition of the owner’s face it takes at least 5 seconds, and on average about 7 seconds. Trust me, this is too slow for a modern smartphone in 2021. Now instant recognition is considered the norm, not only on flagships, but also on budget devices. And smartphones of the Nokia brand are still not good enough.

Nokia 5.4

To be fair, let me remind you that there is Activity detection in the settings. I have no idea what it does, but the whole point is that turning it off significantly speeds up the face recognition process. Yes, it’s still slow, but that way it’s much better. So I would recommend disabling it, not only on Nokia 5.4, but also on other Nokia smartphones, where this thing is available.

The scanner can open and close the notifications curtain, and with face recognition, it is possible to stay on the lock screen after successful recognition.

Nokia 5.4 battery life

The battery in Nokia 5.4 is slightly above the average capacity by modern standards – 4000 mAh. But mediocre display resolution and average hardware massively help with the battery life. The results are about the same as last year’s Nokia 5.3.

Nokia 5.4

The battery will definitely last for a whole day. On average, it was enough for me for one and a half to two days of use with at least 7 hours of active screen. These are quite pleasant results, and personally I am more than satisfied with this. The PCMark battery test at maximum display brightness yielded excellent 7 hours and 52 minutes.

When charging from the bundled power adapter (10W) and a USB/Type-C cable, the smartphone, obviously, is not very speedy; it takes more than two hours to fully charge, here are the exact measurements:

  • 00:00 — 10%
  • 00:30 — 40%
  • 01:00 — 66%
  • 01:30 — 85%
  • 02:00 — 97%
  • 02:15 — 100%

Sound and communications

The sound of the earpiece speaker is normal, the voice is clear and you should not expect more from it. The multimedia speaker is loud but average. The sound in the headphones is also fine but unremarkable. There’s enough volume, but there are some issues with the quality of the smartphone’s connection with some wireless headsets.

Nokia 5.4

For example, the Realme Buds Air Pro TWS paired with Nokia 5.4 often stutter, periodically there is some kind of out-of-sync between the two earphones, and this is the first time I encountered this behavior. The Mixcder E10 also has similar issues, but they happen a little less often.

What is the problem is not clear, but there are different issues with wireless modules. Everything is there: Wi-Fi 4, Bluetooth 4.2 (A2DP, aptX Adaptive), GPS (A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS) and NFC. For some reason, the smartphone does not support 5 GHz networks. The predecessor Nokia 5.3 supports it though, but the new Nokia 5.4 does not. Explain this, please.

Firmware and software

What makes Nokia smartphones stand out now is the software. Nokia 5.4 is a member of the Android One program, which means it will receive regular monthly security updates and at least two major Android OS updates over the next two years. The thing is, Android 11 was released in September last year, but Nokia 5.4 is originally based on Android 10. Guess what other smartphone came out of the box with Android 10? That’s right, Nokia 5.3. What I am saying is that even in terms of software, Nokia 5.4 dies not have any clear advantage over the previous version – they are identical.

Verdict

The Nokia 5.4 is a very strange, sometimes illogical and incomprehensible update to Nokia 5.3. The predecessor has better quality overall, and I had no issues with it at all. But what went wrong here?

Nokia 5.4

The smartphone offers worse build quality and boasts impractical materials. Nokia saved on the LED built into the button, which was a feature of Nokia smartphones, and now it simply does not exist. Maybe the productivity has been improved? Nope, this is actually the same average level and the battery life is also basically unchanged. But where is 4K video and support for 5 GHz Wi-Fi? Maybe at least Android 11 is here out of the box?

There is an insane amount of questions, but the verdict is that Nokia 5.4 is an unsuccessful sequel. There is simply absolutely nothing to praise. It just can’t complete with phones from the other brands, and in many ways it’s even worse than the previous version.

Nokia 5.4

The quality of the main and front-facing cameras is a bit better, and the design of the front panel is a bit more modern, but otherwise, last year’s version is not worse, and sometimes even better. And what is important: cheaper. Better take another look at the Nokia 5.3.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW

Design
8
Materials
5
Build quality
5
Ergonomics
7
Display
7
Performance
7
Cameras
7
Sound
7
Battery life
10
Software
7
The Nokia 5.4 is a very strange, sometimes illogical and incomprehensible update to Nokia 5.3. The predecessor has better quality overall, and I had no issues with it at all. But what went wrong here?
Dmitry Koval
I write detailed reviews of various gadgets, used Google Pixel smartphones and interested in mobile games.
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