The Nokia 5.4 is an iterative mid-range smartphone. You do not find all the bells and whistles of high-end smartphones here. However, some including AI processing and relatively complex imaging technologies are part of the Nokia 5.4. Of course, at its Dh699 price tag, sacrifices have been made too. But are those sacrifices deal-breakers?
Design and build quality
Even from afar, the Nokia 5.4 maintains the company’s design DNA. The Nordic design looks great with a textured look to the back of the smartphone. However, we wish the texture was noticeable in the hand rather than just being visual. Moreover, the back has a glossy finish to it, which is not something we are a big fan of. As for the smartphone’s overall build quality, it is decent. With our usage, the back of the smartphone has been scratched whereas the front remains relatively protected thanks to the out of the box screen protector. Otherwise, the phone’s display does not seem to have Gorilla Glass protection, with Nokia opting for another hardened glass substitute.
Around the device, you find the usual selection of ports and buttons, in addition to one that stands out. There is a dedicated Google Assistant button here which is handy however we would have liked it better if it could be remapped to any other feature or application. On the same left edge, you also find a 3-in-1 hybrid SIM tray, where you can store 4G dual-SIM cards and a microSD card simultaneously.
The right edge of the smartphone has the volume and power buttons which are well placed. And on the overall, the smartphone at 181g and 8.7mm feels comfortable for extended use in the hand. So, kudos to Nokia for that. While the top edge of the Nokia 5.4 has a secondary microphone, an earpiece flanking the display and a 3.5mm headphone jack, the bottom edge houses the primary microphone, Type-C USB port and a speaker grill.
Rounding up on the smartphone’s design, you find a circular quad-camera bump on the back, the flash unit and a fingerprint scanner. Contrary to smartphones now widely adopting in-screen scanners, Nokia has retained the more traditional approach. It is comfortable to use thanks to its position however performance is quite slow, especially if don’t wake up the phone prior to using the scanner. As for the camera bump, we are just glad the bump is subtle.
Display and multimedia
There are two main aspects to the Nokia 5.4 in this department. Firstly, you find a 6.39-inch IPS LCD panel here. It is far from revolutionary however it gets the job done. Bezels around the display are relatively thin and their size is decent. However, with only an HD+ resolution, you quickly start to notice imperfections. When viewing text, there is a distinct haziness to the edges of the letters on screen. This applies to any content as well, on top of the display’s below par contrast levels and brightness. There is also no high-refresh rate option found on the Nokia 5.4 and this combination of specifications just makes for a below par experience.
You can still use the display just as you would any other panel however flaws will be much easier to point out. And with longer usage durations, we did find situations where the display became unresponsive for a few seconds. So, for hardcore movie buffs or gaming enthusiasts, the Nokia 5.4 might be a pass. To top it off, the smartphone does not come with any stereo speaker experience. Audio from the single speaker sounds tinny and if you were to listen to music or watch content on the Nokia 5.4, we would recommend you use a pair of wired or wireless earphones.
User experience and performance
With a mid-range smartphone, you cannot expect high-end performance. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 processor on the device can just about keep up, registering a single-core score of 315 and a multi-core score of 1415 on Geekbench 5. It can handle a few social media applications, a couple of browsing instances and one lightweight game. But to fluidly multitask between these with 4GB of RAM is asking a bit too much.
Taking this one step further to gaming, the experience is not very good. Lightweight games can run fine on the smartphone but heavier titles like PUBG will struggle. You may be able to get smooth performance but this would mean a serious downgrade to visuals. When playing this games, the smartphone does become warm to touch however it is nothing unbearable.
Countering the hardware on the device though, the Nokia 5.4 does have an enticing Android One experience. Currently, it has Android 10 running with a vanilla user interface mimicking a Pixel device. This means no additional bloatware out of the box, which is great for users especially with the smartphone’s restrictive 64GB of on-board memory. Nokia does bundle in a few gestures of its own to use on the 5.4, with us particularly enjoying interacting with the fingerprint scanner to access notifications.
The biggest selling point of the Nokia 5.4, above all of this has to be Nokia’s constant software support. With the Nokia 5.4, you are promised up to 3 years of security updates and 2 major Android OS upgrades, which means the Nokia 5.4 is due to not only see Android 11 but also the software version after that.
We referenced the quad-camera setup earlier on in the review, but it is now time to dive a bit deeper. You find a 48MP primary camera on the Nokia 5.4 alongside a 5MP ultra-wide lens, a 2MP depth sensor and a 2MP macro sensor. Right off the bat, we think the primary 48MP sensor should be your go-to choice for 90 per-cent of your photos. It can do a good job with detail and dynamic range if given the right conditions. Although, pictures start to look a bit softer towards the edges in less than ideal lighting conditions. Also, you should keep in mind that pictures when seen on the viewfinder look much worse than they are after the phone processes them.
The 5MP ultra-wide angle lens should only come into play for a more expansive view of the scene. But because of its low megapixel count, the detail captured by it is not the most impressive. The 0.6x view is nice at times, but only if you also do not mind the deviation in color compared to the primary lens. With this being the case, users who want to seamlessly switch between the wide and ultra-wide lenses will face some trouble. Plus, the switch is quite slow too.
When it comes to the 2MP macro camera, it is fun to have. By no means should this be your primary lens, as the quality just is not there. But in our case, taking minute details of the flowers seen in the picture samples was a good convenience. We would have liked Nokia to implement the macro feature with the higher resolution 5MP ultra-wide sensor though. Lastly, we have the 2MP depth sensor, which seems to come into play for portraits. One of the night time portraits we captured seemed to impress us and perhaps in the back-end, it may be doing its work. But, it is not very consistent at delivering results.
The more we have used the cameras on the Nokia 5.4, the more we know about its processing. It seems to lean towards over-sharpened images, especially when using its night-mode feature. In some case, this may seem handy but in most cases, it makes the picture look fake. Likewise, the front 16MP hole-punch selfie camera is similar. For non-portrait images, it seems to work fine with decent dynamic range but with portrait mode enabled, the processing is too over the top. The Nokia 5.4 also supports up to 1080p 60fps footage although without any optical image stabilization, it is not the best quality with various instances of focus hunting.
Where we have no doubt about the Nokia 5.4 is when it comes to its battery. Under the hood, there is a 4,000mAh cell which is capable of lasting up to 2 days according to Nokia. Given the smartphone’s mid-tier processor and low resolution display, this is definitely possible. Stand-by times on the Nokia 5.4 are also excellent, with a full charge giving you at least 2-4 days of backup. This goes to show the phone is greatly optimized. If there is something to complain about though, it is the smartphone’s 10W charging speed. We would have liked to see it come with 25W+ charging, something that is now regularly seen at this price tag.
At Dh699, the Nokia 5.4 seems like a smartphone that does not fully justify its purchase. A few of its camera features, its battery life and software experience is excellent. However, it is not up to the mark when it comes to its display or processing power. For a smoother experience at this price point, the Realme 6 is a viable choice but that means having to forego a clean user experience.
|Battery life||Only HD+ display|
|Stock Android experience||Stutters in performance|
|Primary 48MP camera||Average ultra-wide camera|
So, the choice for the Nokia 5.4 comes down to personal preference. We think it could be an ideal product for a school-going individual, perhaps as their first smartphone. Or even a backup second smartphone for busier professionals.