Mobile

Nokia 5.4 review: Well-priced but flawed

I had to do a double-take when I first read the Nokia 5.4’s specifications. A year after the launch of the previous model, the 5.3, it wasn’t immediately clear whether there were any significant changes this time around, which seemed a little bit cheeky since Nokia also decided to charge an extra £10 this year.

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As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and I was reserving my full judgement until the Nokia 5.4 arrived for testing. Now that it’s in my hands, though, I’m not convinced it does enough to elevate itself from the steadily increasing number of top-value budget handsets.

Nokia 5.4 review: What you need to know

Cheaper than most phones, the Nokia 5.4 has suitably low-end specifications. An entry-level Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 powers the phone and it also has 4GB of RAM with 64GB of onboard storage, which can also take microSD cards up to 512GB in size.

On the front of the Nokia 5.4 sits a 6.39in IPS display with a resolution of 1,560 x 720. A quad-camera array is on the back, which consists of a main 64MP camera, an ultrawide unit and a pair of macro and depth sensors. Finally, it runs Android 10 – with an upgrade to Android 11 due to arrive shortly – and it also promises at least three years of security updates.

Nokia 5.4 review: Price and competition

Priced at £160, the Nokia 5.4 costs £10 more at launch than its predecessor, the Nokia 5.3, but it still manages to charge much less than the majority of 2021’s smartphone launches so far. Should you be so inclined, you could buy almost five Nokia 5.4’s instead of a 64GB iPhone 12, for instance.

There’s plenty of competition at this price, though. Our current budget favourite is the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T which, for the same price as the Nokia, comes with 5G connectivity and a slightly larger Full HD+ display. Motorola’s Moto G9 Power and its long-lasting battery also costs the same as the Nokia 5.4, while the Realme 6 with its 90Hz screen costs a bit more at £199.

Nokia 5.4 review: Design and key features

The Nokia 5.4 comes in a choice of two colours: “Polar Night” and “Dusk”. Like previous Nokia phones, both colours are “inspired by Nordic nature” and what this means, according to Nokia, is that their shimmering rear panels are supposed to represent the multicoloured light patterns of the Aurora Borealis.

The phone’s screen-bordering bezels have been decreased slightly (the phone’s overall dimensions are a bit smaller too) and the new hole-punch selfie cutout is less obtrusive than the rather chunky centrally-placed teardrop notch on the last model.

All of this adds up to a phone that both looks and feels more premium than its bargain-bin price might initially suggest. You certainly don’t get the impression that it was cheaply made – it doesn’t flex or bend when you give it a good twist – and its appealing design is arguably befitting of a handset that costs twice the price.

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The same can be said about the Nokia 5.4’s thoughtfully placed buttons and connections. On the right edge of the handset, you’ll find the phone’s volume rocker and power button, as well as a dedicated Google Assistant button on the opposite side. The Nokia 5.4 charges via USB-C at the bottom, and there’s a 3.5mm audio jack at the top. Finally, flip the phone over and you’ll spot the small circular fingerprint sensor, which can be used for secure unlocks as well as authorising contactless card payments via NFC.

Nokia 5.4 review: Display

The Nokia 5.4’s IPS screen has reduced in size since the 5.3, but only by less than 3%. It now stretches out across a distance of 6.39in, which is still quite large, but it’s disappointing that it still only has an HD+ (1,560 x 720) resolution, with a piddly pixel density of just 269ppi.

It’s certainly not the best in the quality stakes, either. You can’t switch between display modes in the phone’s settings, so in many ways what you see is what you get. And, unfortunately, what you see isn’t that great. Colour accuracy is quite poor, with an average Delta E of 3.17, an sRGB coverage of 83.8% and a total volume of 93.6%.

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The Nokia 5.4’s contrast ratio of 1,270:1 isn’t too bad, though, and at least it gets plenty bright with a recorded peak luminance of 490cd/m2.

Nokia 5.4 review: Performance and battery life

The Nokia 5.4 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 processor, which is paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, with space to add a microSD card up to 512GB in capacity. We last saw this chipset inside the Moto G9 Power, a phone which coincidentally moved on from the Snapdragon 665 powering its predecessor, just as the Nokia 5.4 did.

Despite the chipset change, however, you won’t notice any differences between the Nokia 5.4 and 5.3 in terms of performance. The single-core and multi-core Geekbench 5 processing speeds are identical, returning scores of 303 and 1,396 respectively. It doesn’t feel sluggish to use, but there’s definitely a noticeable dip in responsiveness compared to the comparatively speedy Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T.

As for gaming, it’s a similar story. With an average on-screen score of 34fps in the GFXBench Manhattan 3 test, the Nokia 5.4 is a capable gaming phone if you’re an avid Candy Crush player, just don’t expect it to run high-fidelity games like Call of Duty: Mobile and Genshin Impact at high frame rates.

Sadly, the Nokia 5.4’s battery life isn’t good. Lasting for 14hrs 38mins during our video playback test, the Nokia 5.4’s 4,000mAh capacity battery isn’t anywhere close to the smartphones in our best phone battery life article, and it’s pretty much the same result as last year’s model. By comparison, the Moto G9 Power shares the Nokia 5.4’s Snapdragon 662 chipset but its beefed-up 6,000mAh battery lasted 12 hours longer in the same test.

Nokia 5.4 review: Cameras

The Nokia 5.4’s performance and stamina might be identical to the Nokia 5.3, but things have changed slightly on the camera side of things. The Zeiss-branded primary camera is now a 48MP number (an increase from 13MP), but it’s still backed by the same 5MP ultrawide as well as a pair of 2MP macro and depth sensors.

Further upgrades include 60fps video recording at 1080p resolution (the Nokia 5.3 was limited to 30fps in this mode) as well as new Ozo-certified spatial audio recording and improvements to wind noise cancellation. You can also add a custom watermark to your images in the phone’s settings and record via a new “Cinema” shooting mode, which stabilises your footage at 24fps at a 21:9 aspect.

The quality of the Nokia 5.4’s images are a bit hit and miss, though. On the positive side of things, I was a big fan of the portrait mode shots, which had plenty of detail and nicely blurred backgrounds, and the phone’s night mode is also pretty good, with not much visual noise.

Sadly, the Nokia 5.4’s shooting experience falls flat as soon as you switch to the normal shooting modes. My biggest complaint here is that the Nokia 5.4’s colour balance is off-kilter in the default shooting mode, with outdoor scenic images applying an unnatural orange hue. Take a look at the comparison image below, which looks more like a still taken directly from a Mad Max film, rather than a pre-apocalyptic picture of the River Thames:

The macro camera continues to be a fun addition, although you can only take so many close-up pictures of a pillow or houseplant before getting a bit bored.

Nokia 5.4 review: Verdict

It’s no surprise that my closing thoughts aren’t exactly positive. The Nokia 5.4 is a decent enough budget phone, but it doesn’t really do anything especially interesting, and the Redmi Note 9T is simply better value according to every single metric.

The Nokia 5.4’s price is low enough that a lot of these issues can be excused slightly, but if there’s a much better phone for the same amount of money, you ought to be buying that one instead. You might want to give the Nokia 5.4 a miss.

Nokia 5.4 specifications
Processor Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 (4x2GHz, 4×1.8GHz)
RAM 4GB
Screen size 6.39in
Screen resolution 1,560 x 720
Pixel density 269ppi
Screen type IPS
Screen refresh rate 60Hz
Front camera 16MP (f/2.0)
Rear camera 48MP (f/1.8), 5MP wide, 2MP macro, 2MP depth
Flash LED
Dust and water resistance No
3.5mm headphone jack Yes
Wireless charging No
USB connection type USB-C
Storage options 64GB
Memory card slot (supplied) microSD
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.2
NFC Yes
Cellular data 4G
Dual SIM Yes
Dimensions (WDH) 161 x 76 8.7mm
Weight 181g
Operating system Android 10
Battery size 4,000 mAh

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