Finding the perfect mid-range phone is a hard job. It’s easy to get attracted by a great camera or a premium design, but no one tells you about whether the phone will get regular software updates and how secure the device really is. That is where Nokia smartphones come in. HMD Global’s new Nokia 5.3 tries hard to get across the message that regular Android upgrades do really matter. In fact, the company is differentiating the Nokia 5.3 from the rest of the competition on the promise of software updates and stock Android. So while the Nokia 5.3’s marketing pitch is centered around a clean Android experience, what about battery life, performance and camera? Here is our review of the Nokia 5.3.
I personally like Nokia phones for their simple designs. They are easy to look at and the build quality is generally solid. The Nokia 5.3’s design is very much identical to the Nokia 7.2, though the company has cut some corners to keep the price of the phone low. The Nokia 5.3 has a plastic body and feels budget all through. The circular camera housing reminds me of the Nokia 7.2, with four camera lenses and flash grouped in the circular form.
From a size and weight perspective, Nokia 5.3 is 8.5mm thick and weighs only 185 grams. This is a large phone with a 6.5-inch screen, but it’s easy to hold and won’t slip from the hand.
For connectivity, there is the modern USB-C connector on the bottom. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top, and a fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone. The fingerprint scanner is very fast at unlocking the phone. You will also find the power button that sits below the volume rocker. It illuminates when a notification comes or when you have plugged the phone in to charge. A single speaker can be found at the bottom of the phone. It gets really loud, but lacks bass.
The Nokia 5.3 uses the Snapdragon 665 processor. This isn’t a particularly powerful chip, and it’s the same one used by the Redmi Note 8. That said, the Nokia 5.3 isn’t an underpowered phone by today’s standards. Throughout the testing, I didn’t face any issues when the phone froze or stuttered. In fact, the phone is also fast enough to run even quite demanding games, including Call of Duty: Mobile. The phone seems fine for browsing the web, watching YouTube videos, running apps and games, and streaming music on the go. The 4GB RAM and 64GB storage should be enough for average users, plus a microSD card slot for adding more space. Though I wished to see 6GB RAM and 128GB storage on the base model.
Like other Nokia smartphones, this one is an Android One device, which means no bloatware or data draining apps, plus at least two years of updates straight from Google. The fact that the phone runs on Android One also helps the Nokia 5.3 to deliver lag-free performance with just 4GB RAM. The user interface is simple and there are no third-party apps preloaded on the phone. It’s close to what you get on a Pixel smartphone. A Google Assistant button is on the side of the phone.
The Nokia 5.3’s 4000mAh battery consistently lasted more than a day in my testing, with lots of notifications, browsing, video watching, gaming and music streaming. If you are a light user, I think the Nokia 5.3 will easily get through two days. The phone ships with a 10W charger, which is a shame. It takes close to two hours to refill the battery from zero to 100 per cent.
The Nokia 5.3’s 6.5-inch display has a resolution of 720p HD with a small teardrop notch up top. It’s surprising to see that a phone like the Nokia 5.3 does not feature a 1080p resolution display in 2020. It’s a decent size for watching web series or movies, but it isn’t the sharpest screen out there. In fact, I found the display dull. Every time, I had to adjust the brightness to read an email or message outdoors. I am okay with a 720p display but at least it should be bright enough.
The phone’s camera is a mixed bag. On paper, the Nokia 5.3 has four cameras: a 13MP primary camera, a 5MP ultra-wide lens, a 2MP macro camera and a 2MP depth camera. Yes, there are four cameras built into the device. But sadly, the Nokia 5.3 turned out to be an average performer the way it takes photos.
The camera takes nice shots in regular daylight scenes, though not every photograph offers detail and solid colours. Shooting in portrait mode, the Nokia 5.3 struggles with depth estimation, especially indoors. I wasn’t too impressed by the Nokia 5.3’s camera when shooting in low-light conditions even with a dedicated night mode. The photos you get out of the Nokia 5.3 are fairly average. The 8MP front-facing camera performs well outdoors.
Starting at Rs 13,999, Nokia 5.3 is unlikely to impress those looking for some specific features. Its camera is mediocre, the display is large but lacks sharpness, and it ships with a 10W charger (Hello, it’s 2020). That said, Nokia 5.3 isn’t a disappointing phone. The build quality is excellent, the phone’s performance snappy, and the promise of regular software updates is a perk. The problem is there are better phones out there in the market.
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World news – US – Nokia 5.3 review: A rare mid-range phone that promises regular software updates