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Nokia 5.3 review: a reliable mid-range phone

On: September 13, 2020

After a long absence in the smartphone market, Nokia made a comeback in 2017 under the aegis of HMD Global. Since then, the company has been evolving and carving a name for itself in the industry once again. Today, Nokia is known for offering no-frills stock Android-powered smartphones.

Also readRealme 7 review: the new mid-range king

The latest launch from the phonemaker in India is the Nokia 5.3, which features the Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 SoC, a quad-camera setup, and a stylish design. I have been using the Nokia 5.3 for a while now to find out if it can take on the likes of Realme, Xiaomi and Motorola in the Indian market.

Design and display

It’s not uncommon for budget phones to have a polycarbonate construct, and the 5.3 is no exception. The phone features a frosted finish on the back with intricate diagonal pinstripes. The polycarbonate build means that the phone is quite light at just 180g, but despite that, it has a solid hand feel. Nokia is offering the smartphone in Cyan, Sand, and Charcoal colours. I received the Cyan variant and it looks super stylish with a darkened gradient in the middle.

The good looks of the Nokia 5.3 are accentuated by minor details like the pulsing white LED notification light embedded in the power button and the symmetrical circular camera module on the back. Just below the camera module is the circular fingerprint scanner and Nokia branding.

The fingerprint scanner is fast and accurate, as is expected from a capacitive biometric sensor. I also find it useful that you can swipe on the fingerprint scanner to conveniently pull down the notification shade, making it easier to operate with one hand.

The right edge is home to the power button and volume rocker, whereas the left edge houses the ejectable SIM card tray. The SIM tray has dedicated slots for two nano-SIM cards and a microSD card, which is a plus. Below this is a dedicated Google Assistant button. At the bottom, there’s a USB Type-C port and speaker griller, whereas the 3.5mm audio jack is placed on the top edge.

Coming to the display, the Nokia 5.3 is equipped with a 6.55-inch LCD panel with HD+ resolution and thicker bezels by today’s standards. To give you an idea of the thickness, there’s enough room for a Nokia logo on the chin. The display itself is pretty sharp and punchy for an LCD panel. There’s Widevine L1 support, which means the Nokia 5.3 can stream videos in HD quality on Netflix and Prime Video. Coming to the cons, the viewing angles are not as impressive and I found the brightness to be on the lower side.

Cameras

The Nokia 5.3 comes across as an underwhelming offering on paper, compared to the 64MP and 48MP camera-toting devices at this price point. However, the phone pleasantly surprised me with its imaging prowess. Let’s get the specifications out of the way first. The smartphone has a 13-megapixel main camera, a 5-megapixel ultra-wide shooter, a 2-megapixel macro lens, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor on the back. The waterdrop notch on the front houses an 8-megapixel camera.

The 13-megapixel camera captures impressive images during the day time. The pictures are sharp, have a balanced dynamic range and pleasantly saturated hues. I also found the focus lock and shutter speed to be pretty snappy during my usage. The AI scene-recognition is spot-on as well, with accurate scene detection.

However, things are not the same when the sun goes down. Since there’s no pixel-binning, the low-light shots are noisy and lacking in detail. The smartphone does have a dedicated night mode, but all it does is bump up the exposure slightly. 

Moving on to the wide-angle lens, it works as intended but the images are not as vibrant or sharp as the pictures taken from the main camera. The depth sensor accurately detects edges to produce aesthetically pleasing bokeh images. However, there’s a slight delay after capturing a bokeh shot while the camera processes the image. On the other hand, the 2-megapixel macro lens has a fixed focus and is not the best when it comes to details and colour reproduction.

Coming to the 8-megapixel camera on the front, it gets the job done. The selfies have a natural skin tone and a decent amount of details. There’s a portrait mode and dedicated night mode for the selfie camera as well, but those are below par and I’d advise against using them.

Performance, software and battery

As for the performance, the Nokia 5.3 is fitted with the Snapdragon 665 SoC, which is over a year and half old at this point in time. The processor is underpowered compared to the Snapdragon 700 series and MediaTek Helio G series, but is no slouch in day to day usage either. The Nokia 5.3 is being offered in 4GB + 64GB and 6GB + 64GB variants, of which I received the former.

The Nokia 5.3 handles daily usage and heavy multitasking with ease thanks to the clutter-free software. However, the processor does show its age when you push it to its limits by playing heavy games like PUBG Mobile (this was installed before the ban came around). The game opens in low graphic settings by default, and even then I found the gameplay to be slightly jarring and came across a few instances of frame drops as well.

The main attraction of the Nokia 5.3 is the stock Android 10 interface with two years of assured updates. As is expected, apart from the stock Google apps like Photos and Chrome, there are no other apps on the device. This will appeal to Android purists, however, those who prefer a custom interface with added features might find it too barebones for their liking.

The Nokia 5.3 is fitted with a 4,000mAh battery with no fast charging support. The phone charges completely from 20 to 100 percent in over 90 minutes with the bundled charger. During my stint with the smartphone, I was able to get a day and half of usage out of the battery on a full charge. My usage included heavy Instagram and YouTube browsing, and a lot of WhatsApp.

The competition

The Nokia 5.3 starts at Rs 13,999 for the base variant. At this price point, the device competes with the likes of Redmi Note 9 ProPOCO M2 Pro and Moto G9. The Redmi Note 9 Pro features a larger 6.67-inch with FHD+ screen resolution. It offers the more powerful Snapdragon 720G processor, higher resolution 48-megapixel quad-camera setup on the back and a 16-megapixel selfie camera. There’s also a bigger 5,020mAh battery with 18W fast charging. The POCO M2 Pro also comes with the above-mentioned specifications, while adding 33W fast charging to the mix. Both these smartphones start at Rs 13,999.

If stock Android if what you’re looking for, the Moto G9 comes with higher resolution 48-megapixel quad-cameras on the back. The phone also ships with a bigger 5,000mAh battery and has support for 20W TurboPower fast charging. There’s a newer Snapdragon 662 SoC powering the device, but according to benchmarks online, it performs the same as the Snapdragon 665. That said, The Moto G9 is more affordable at Rs 11,499.

Bottomline

The Nokia 5.3 will definitely appeal to Android purists who are looking for an affordable yet stylish smartphone with decent cameras and performance. However, if you are looking for a smartphone with a better spec sheet, there are other options available from the likes of Xiaomi, Realme, and POCO.

Pricebaba’s rating:  7 / 10

What works:

  • Stock Android 10
  • Stylish design
  • Good battery life
  • Decent performance

What doesn’t:

  • Poor low-light imaging
  • Average display
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Abhiman Biswas

Abhiman is obsessed with all things tech. His hobbies include reading on his Kindle and clicking random pictures on his phone. His secret superpowers happen to be mixing great cocktails and lip reading. In his spare time, you are likely to find him cleaning his aquascape, researching new species of aquatic fishes and planning which aquatic plants to buy next.