Nokia has had its hands full ever since the brand came under HMD Global’s umbrella. In fact, in an attempt to stand out, the company has been launching smartphones with a focus on delivering a clean, stock Android experience to end buyers. That said, the market for affordable smartphones has matured over the years and consequently, Nokia has had to work double-time to fend off the competition. On that note, the company recently launched the Nokia 5.4 at a price point of Rs 13,999 in India and in this review, let’s see if the smartphone is worthy of your bucks.
The Nokia 5.4 is the latest mid-range contender from the company which scores high on aspects like the clean, bloatware-free interface, and decent performance. However, it misses out in a few other departments. Given the strong competition in its price range, some of its rivals appear better.
From a distance, the Nokia 5.4 draws a lot of parallels to its predecessor, the Nokia 5.3 in terms of design. In fact, unless you’re familiar with the new colourways, you’d be hard-pressed to tell one from the other – from the company’s branding to the circular camera module, the two smartphones look near-identical from the back. What’s more, while both the devices have been constructed in their entirety using plastic, I feel the company has taken two steps backwards with the build quality of the newer model. You see, while the Nokia 5.3’s chassis feels relatively sturdy, the Nokia 5.4’s plastic back leaves much to be desired as it flexes and creaks without applying any pressure. That’s quite disappointing, especially from a Nokia-branded phone, as the company is known for its robust offerings.
Moving on, the Nokia 5.4 does right some wrongs by offering a gorgeous gradient finish that emanates different patterns under the sun. The handset is featherlight too and weighs in at just 180g. Unfortunately, the smartphone’s glossy back is prone to smudges, so you might have to wipe it down a couple of times a day to keep it squeaky clean. As for the rest of the design elements, the handset ships with a dedicated Google Assistant key on its left spine. The smartphone also comes equipped with a headphone jack and can house two SIMs as well as a microSD card simultaneously. For biometrics, the device gets a speedy capacitive fingerprint sensor towards the back, which can also be used to bring down the notification pane via gestures. There’s face unlock on board too, but I wasn’t sold on the accuracy of the same during my stint with the handset and therefore, relied on the fingerprint sensor to get me into my home screen for the most part.
In terms of display, the Nokia 5.4 features a 6.39-inch HD+ LCD panel with a refresh rate of 60Hz. The display in itself is fine and compared to its predecessor, ships with a more tactfully-positioned punch-hole notch too. However, the panel pales when pit against the competition, which not only offers pixel-dense Full HD+ screens, but ones that either refresh at 90Hz, or are backed by AMOLED technology. I’ll reiterate – the display on the Nokia 5.4 isn’t all that bad and the smartphone even comes with Widevine L1 certification, ensuring you can stream content in HD from OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. However, seeing how the mid-range segment is laden with a wealth of enticing offerings, I expected Nokia to do better here.
Specs-wise, the Nokia 5.4 ships with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 662 processor which works alongside either 4GB or 6GB of memory. For storage, the handset ships with 64GB of built-in, user-expandable eMMC storage. So, how does the smartphone perform? Well, while the Nokia 5.4 will not set any benchmarks on fire, it performs well and will be able to handle the basics quite efficiently, including web browsing, messaging, etc. The smartphone is held back by its relatively slower storage, which increases app load times by a bit. Consequently, you might not be able to jump in and out of apps swiftly. However, barring that, I didn’t run into any issues pertaining to the handset’s performance – resource-hungry applications like Twitter and Snapchat didn’t reload whenever I jumped into them via the multitasking carousel and the smartphone didn’t exhibit any major spikes in temperature whilst gaming either. Speaking of which, I could comfortably run Call of Duty Mobile on High graphics and High frame rates, and that’s with other visual features like ragdoll effects, anti-aliasing, etc enabled. The gaming performance was to my satisfaction too, and the smartphone offered excellent ergonomics for long gaming sessions as well, so no complaints here.
I should also add that the Nokia 5.4 features a loud mono speaker towards the bottom, along with a 3.5mm headphone jack slot. Consequently, you can choose to game with much better acoustics by connecting a wired headset to the smartphone. As for connectivity, I didn’t run into any network-related issues when using the Nokia 5.4 with my Airtel 4G SIM, as tested in Dwarka, in Delhi. That said, I can’t for the life of me figure out why the company opted for a chipset that doesn’t support 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. What’s even more bizarre, the Nokia 5.3 which is backed by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 665 processor and precedes the Nokia 5.4 does in fact, support 5GHz Wi-Fi networks.
As for software, the Nokia 5.4 is among the handful of devices to boot stock Android in India. What’s more, the device is part of Google’s Android One project and correspondingly, will get assured updates down the line. That being said, as of writing this review, the Nokia 5.4 is still stuck on Android 10, which is a bummer. I do hope the company addresses this in the near future as it directly rebuts the handset’s USP of offering the latest, clean stock Android experience to buyers.
Camera-wise, the Nokia 5.4 ships with a quad-camera setup at the back, comprising a 48MP main sensor that works alongside a 5MP ultra-wide angle shooter, a 2MP depth sensor and a 2MP macro lens. For selfies, the device gets a 16MP front camera which is nestled inside the smartphone’s punch-hole notch. Coming to the picture quality, the Nokia 5.4 does get a few things right, especially when clicking images during the day. For one, the photos exhibit natural colours and the Nokia 5.4 doesn’t spruce up the saturation in the shots in an attempt to make the images appear more tasteful. Secondly, the handset also keeps the exposure in check and even under harsh sunlight, I didn’t notice any highlight clipping in the compositions. That said, at a closer crop, the images do appear a tad oversharpened, but for the most part, you will be able to click share-worthy photos from the Nokia 5.4’s main sensor during the day.
Unfortunately, that’s more than I can say for the smartphone’s other sensors. Take the device’s macro lens, for instance, which takes awfully long to properly focus on the subject and even then, rarely outputs a passable shot. Then, there’s the 5MP ultra-wide angle sensor which introduces a lot of noise around the edges of the shot. As for selfies, while I was quite happy with the level of detail captured by the handset’s 16MP front camera, I couldn’t help but notice that my skin tone was a tad pale in the photos. Lowlight photos too lack polish and even with the night mode enabled, the smartphone struggled to output a noise-free image.
With that said, Nokia did introduce two unique camera-centric features with the Nokia 5.4 including OZO audio and support for H-log videos. In a nutshell, the utility lends budding videographers more flexibility in post and lets them edit the footage as they deem fit. You can enable H-log videos from the smartphone’s cinema mode and once done, you can head on over to Google photos to edit the final footage. Here, you will be able to choose from a bunch of different colour profiles and apply any one of them to your H-log clip. All said and done, the feature works as advertised however, you can only apply a colour profile preset from the phone itself and will have to rely on your PC for any other edits. Then, there’s OZO audio which captures spatial audio and adds a whole new dimension to your video clips. I found the feature to be quite nifty, so no complaints here.
So, does the Nokia 5.4 make for a good buy, given its starting price of Rs 13,999? To answer that, allow me to quickly recap the smartphone’s hits and misses and here, the device offers reasonably good performance, a day’s worth of battery backup and a capable 48MP sensor. Unfortunately, the smartphone still boots Android 10, doesn’t offer a robust chassis and ships with an HD+ screen. What’s more, the device is a let down in the connectivity department too, as it doesn’t support 5G, or 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. Consequently, unless you’re an ardent Nokia fan and want a stock Android phone, I would suggest you look elsewhere. The Nokia 5.4 is a decent smartphone but as things stand, you can get a much better bang for your buck by opting for devices like the POCO M3 (review)… or if you can stretch your budget a little bit, the POCO X3 (review) or the Narzo 30A (review).
Editor’s rating: 3 / 5
- Good-looking design
- Decent performer
- Unique videography features
- HD+ display
- Limited connectivity features
- Still boots Android 10