“The Nokia 5.4 hasn’t improved on its predecessor, but the price has gone up and there have been a few other issues. It’s not the phone to buy. ”

  • The build quality is excellent

  • Camera is sufficient

  • Poor quality screen

  • Mediocre performance

  • Android 11 not installed

The $ 249 price tag associated with the HMD Global Nokia 5.4 makes it jump off flagship smartphones that cost $ 1,000 or more during this time. But take a closer look and it’s actually $ 50 more than the Nokia 5.3 it is replacing. Now that it’s more expensive, it has to prove it’s worth the extra by improving the specs of the old model and fixing some of the issues it had too.

In reality, the Nokia 5.4 isn’t all that different from the Nokia 5.3, and that’s not good news. Let’s dwell on that in more detail.

design

From the back, the Nokia 5.4 looks very similar to the Nokia 5.3 and many other Nokia phones. There’s a circular camera module on top, a fingerprint sensor underneath, and on my test model, a lovely blue color scheme called Polar Night that looks great in the right light. The phone is made of plastic and can get quite greasy with fingerprints. While it should prove to be quite tough, it is not waterproof.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

At 181 grams it is not very heavy and the body is modestly large, but quite broad. I can almost use it with one hand, but my thumb barely extends across the other side of the screen. However, swipe entry is possible. In addition to the usual volume rocker and the on / off switch, Nokia has placed a Google Assistant button on the left side of the device. While it can be disabled if you don’t want to use it (or accidentally keep pressing it as I did), there is no way to reconfigure it. It’s unhappy and the button feels like a waste of space.

I’ve kept coming back to the question of desirability because the Nokia 5.4 (from the back) looks basically the same as the 5.3 and it was released around this time last year. It’s not ugly at all and I really like the Polar Night color, but it would have been nice if it wasn’t just a facsimile of the last one. From a materials and design perspective, the extra $ 50 you’ll be spending isn’t apparent here, and the recycled design makes it a little dated.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

No, this is not the newest iPhone. Since you’re not spending $ 1,000, design may not influence your purchasing decision. However, for a workhorse or a first phone for someone young, it’s a pretty and very solidly built phone.

screen

The extra $ 50 won’t get you a better screen either. It measures 6.39 inches, so it is slightly smaller than the Nokia 5.3, but has a resolution of 1560 x 720 pixels with the same pixel density. However, with a maximum of 400 nits, it is even less bright than the Nokia 5.3. It’s very dark and it’s really suffering from it. It is a waste of time to look at it in sunlight or generally outside at almost any angle except the front. It can also be turned off.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

In the real world, this means that taking photos is cumbersome because you cannot see the viewfinder. When used for Google Maps in the car, any hint of sunlight means the contents of the screen will go away and notification notifications on the lock screen will be essentially invisible. The screen is at its maximum brightness all the time, but you will be forgiven for thinking it was on the lowest setting.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Brightness is not an issue indoors, but the poor viewing angle of the screen is emphasized. It’s right with the Nokia 5.4 or nothing. Video performance is disappointing, with washed out colors and a lack of vibrancy. The only good news is that the teardrop cutout for the 5.3’s selfie camera has been replaced with a hole punch in the top left of the screen. This is a far better design choice and makes the phone look more modern from the front.

That small point aside, the Nokia 5.4 has one of the worst screens I’ve used on a smartphone in a while.

camera

Now we come to one of the areas where you will find a specification difference that may have resulted in a higher price. The main camera is 48 megapixels, up from 16 MP in the old version, but there is still a 5 MP ultra-wide camera and a pair of 2 MP depth and macro cameras. The 48-megapixel camera has a higher number of megapixels, but it still has the same aperture of f / 1.8.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

It’s not bad at all, provided you ignore the macro camera which, as always, is useless. The main camera takes pretty photos in good conditions, but it can lack color and pop, especially when lighting is poor. The wide-angle camera injects more color, but it lacks some dynamic range, which leads to more shadows. Portrait mode is decent too, with edge detection accurate enough to be used, and night mode brightens things up, provided it’s not too dark.

Overall, it’s a step up from the Nokia 5.3, and given the price of the phone, your daily casual shots won’t disappoint. However, the Pixel 4a’s excellent camera cannot be questioned.

Battery and performance

The Nokia 5.4 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 processor and has either 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM and an internal storage capacity of 64 GB or 128 GB. My test model has 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The battery has a capacity of 4,000 mAh. Frustratingly, the phone has Android 10 and not Android 11 on board, despite being an Android One phone. Many will consider purchasing the Nokia 5.4 in the hopes of timely software updates, so this is cause for concern. It really should be installed from the start with Android 11.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Performance is not great. The entire operating system is slow as some apps take several hits too long to open and even keystroke detection suffers from frustrating pauses. Playing Asphalt 9: Legends shows some slowdown and frame rate as expected, but it runs well enough to play. I found the Wi-Fi range to be quite short and the connection unstable at times, and had constant issues with WhatsApp video calls dropping out. The fingerprint sensor on the back is easy to locate with your finger, but it is finicky and does not respond well to wet or very dry fingertips. There’s also a face unlock that’s more reliable but a little slow.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The battery life depends on your activities. It takes two days with basic use, but play lots of games and take photos and it quickly drops to just over a day. There is no wireless charging and simple 10W wired charging. While I may have been indulged in high-end phones lately, the Nokia 5.4 quickly became frustrating for me due to its clumsy performance when used for everyday activities.

Price and availability

The Nokia 5.4 costs US $ 249 without a contract in the Nokia online shop or on Amazon. It costs £ 159 in the UK and is available through the same outlets. Both prices refer to the 4 GB / 64 GB model.

Our opinion

Looking back at how I felt about the Nokia 5.3, it was easier to forgive the phone’s drawbacks because of the low price in the US and that it was more than a year ago when I was using it. It’s much harder to forgive that a year later the Nokia 5.4 had essentially the same issues – poor performance and a bad screen. That it costs more and is still running Android 10 makes it worse. HMD Global has revamped its smartphone lineup for early 2021, and the disappointing Nokia 5.4 shows that a revamp was needed.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. If you want to own a Nokia phone, wait and see how the new Nokia G10 and G20 phones from HMD Global work. They are slated to be released in the next few months, and prices are similar to 5.4. Now, if you need a phone, consider spending a little more on the Google Pixel 4a for $ 350 or the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G for $ 399. Both have better performance, screens and cameras.

Alternatively, check out the Motorola Moto G Play for $ 170 or the Moto G Power for $ 250, depending on whether you want a big screen and long battery life, or whether you want to spend as little as possible on a new phone want. The Moto G Power is a better buy when $ 250 is your limit.

How long it will take?

The Nokia 5.4 is not waterproof, but the plastic shell should be durable and moderately protective in the event of a small fall. Android One should guarantee software updates, but since Android 11 hasn’t hit the phone yet, you should be prepared to wait for future releases. The phone will almost certainly outlast your patience in handling its problems.

Should you buy one?

No, while the Nokia 5.4 is cheap, the phone’s drawbacks will still be frustrating.

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