I’ve had the new Nokia 5.4 for a little more than a week now and while it’s actually been a long time since I last reviewed anything from Nokia. I’m really glad I had the chance to check this phone out. For $250 dollars there’s a lot to like, and I think if you’re in the market for a relatively affordable device that’s sort of a jack-of-all-trades with little to no major compromises, that’s pretty much what you’re going to get here. So I’m going talk about everything I like about this phone, the few things I thought maybe could have been done better and everything else you need to know about the new Nokia 5.4, and hopefully by the end this will help you decide if this device is right for you
Now if you’re relatively familiar with the Nokia brand already – maybe you had last year’s Nokia 5.3 – you’ll probably recognize that for the most part the look and feel of this smartphone mimics what we’ve seen before. But it’s actually not just the same old phone rebranded. Right off the bat, this new Nokia 5.4 is a little smaller now. It’s a 6.39 inch device and I say “smaller” not “small” – it’s obviously a fairly beefy phone in the hand but I think it’s about the right sort of balance of size and comfort for me.
Nokia went with a corner cut out for the selfie camera, slim bezels along the sides, you still get that sizeable bottom chin and big Nokia logo plastered across it but in general I don’t mind this setup here. Around back, the Nokia 5.4 is obviously all plastic – that’s not a big deal at this price point, and to me the glossy purple finish actually looks really great on this phone. It’s a super unique color with kind of a dark to light fade and has a bit of a pattern too. It’s a good looking smartphone, and the only real issue I came across actually was with durability. Even though I haven’t had this phone for too long I already see some scratches and abrasions along the very bottom of the rear housing and I believe this stems from just how the phone rests on a flat surface. It lays at an angle sort of propped up by that big camera bump and the bottom rear portion is what slides around on a table. That’s what’s taking all this damage. It’s not a big deal but I thought it was worth mentioning simply because I haven’t really seen any other plastic smartphones nowadays get as scratched as quickly as this one has.
Most everything else about the Nokia 5.4 physically at least is pretty solid. There’s nothing at all that’s missing: you get dual SIM and SD card support, there’s a headphone jack, USB-C charge port, and the single speaker is fine as it is – you can’t really expect much more at this price. The additional side mounted Google assistant button is kind of lame and I’m not sure why Nokia continues to offer that. You can’t even customize it at all either, you can only turn it off – but then the button just becomes completely useless. Around back, that massive camera setup is obviously something we’ll go more in depth with in a second, but I do want to talk about the fingerprint sensor on this phone as well. Unfortunately, unlocking this device takes a noticeably long time for whatever reason and it’s weird for me to say that because it’s still a fraction of a second, but compared to any other fingerprint sensor I’ve tried recently – even on some other cheaper phones than this one – the delay in locking is just something I really notice, and I haven’t been able to change that.
Now in regards to the display I’ll keep it simple and say that the viewing experience here is totally fine for what you’re paying for. It’s a 1560 x 720 IPS LCD panel pushing around 269 pixels per inch – and that’s about what you can expect for a $250 device. You still get a bright, relatively colorful display. The viewing angles aren’t great, but it’s not the worst case of dimming that I’ve seen, and from a normal viewing distance you get a decent looking screen that’ll be able to show your content really well. Again, nothing particularly special, but nothing too bad either Just a reasonable display for a reasonably priced smartphone.
I think one of the selling points on a lot of Nokia’s smartphones is that huge camera around back, and this is one of those things where I maybe had higher expectations than I should have given the $250 price. But at the same time, Nokia offers a lot with the shooting capabilities and the different modes that you really won’t find on many other devices in this price range. To get the specs out of the way, you get a 48 megapixel main lens, a 5 megapixel ultra wide, 2 megapixel macro lens and 2 megapixel depth sensor. The selfie camera is a 16 megapixel shooter up front and all that hardware is fine – you can’t get much from the spec sheet alone. Inside the app though, there’s definitely a lot to work with.
Right away, low light shooting with Night Mode is not something usually offered on these cheaper phones so that’s already something that’s great to see. You’ve got the full 48 megapixel shooting mode for pictures along with high efficiency image files and HDR. There’s no 4K video recording here but you do get a fairly unique cinema video mode which is sort of a combination pro video setup paired with additional filming formats like h-log, and I’ll talk about the actual video quality and everything in a minute, but just having this kind of control over your shooting on a phone like this is really impressive – even if it doesn’t necessarily rival actual pro shooting modes on mid-tier or flagship devices. Now even with all that great stuff I think there are certain instances where the end result of your picture or video still gives away the fact that this is a budget phone. For example, like a lot of cheaper devices, the phone has trouble with overexposing very bright scenes and washing out relatively dark scenes and even though that night mode is offered it sometimes misses the mark, though I’m still glad it’s at least here. In ideal lighting conditions though this phone does take a great picture. The wide angle is obviously super useful – way more useful than the macro lens, though it’s quite a bit darker and duller than the main lens. With video, I think this is where this phone struggles the most with both focus hunting issues and stabilization and that’s kind of unfortunate. It’s something I have a hard time looking past and it’s probably what I wish was better on this phone more than anything else. More stable, more consistent video recording would have really made this the complete package, but all in all even with those critiques I still think there’s enough to be happy with with the camera for this price. It just maybe isn’t the over-the-top super capable setup that I think Nokia likes to advertise given how much they highlight the massive over-the-top camera setup.
I think more than anything the main reason this phone is worth considering is because of the software experience and overall performance it’s an android one device which means you get essentially a stock os experience there’s nothing on this phone you don’t want Nokia didn’t bother with their own skins or add-ons and that means not only do you get a seamless android user experience you get a phone that’s relatively snappy and responsive given its lower level specs and actually the specs here aren’t too terrible even you still get a Snapdragon 662 chipset inside paired with the Adreno 610 gpu four or even six gigs of ram if you want to spec it up in either 64 or 128 gigs of internal storage altogether i’d say this phone is powered by a decent combination of stuff and in my time using this device i haven’t had any issues in fact i’d argue that the Nokia 5.4 performs even better than you’d expect at this price point the only thing that tripped this phone up a bit is more graphics heavy stuff like games you do get some extended load times when you first launch some apps but playability is not an issue at all and i didn’t come across any titles that didn’t run well and when it comes to updates and support right now this phone is stuck on android 10 i don’t know when Nokia will push out android 11 but this device will get it and perhaps even another android update in the future as well so you don’t necessarily have to worry about that either while the updates are maybe a little slower they’re coming for this phone actually i did receive a security update already this month for this device which was nice to see all in all i think this is a great performing smartphone and it’s absolutely the kind of device android purists will appreciate obviously but also folks who just want a clean simple and stock feel with no extra junk in the way this phone can handle most anything you throw at it and that’s what makes it a solid value
Also, powering this phone is a decent sized 4 000 milliamp battery which isn’t too over the top but paired with the optimized stock android os and less power hungry specs for me this phone has lasted a day and a half or more on a single charge with ease i can get 12 to 14 hours of screen-on time sometimes more and i’m sure you could stretch that out even further if you aren’t as addicted to your phone as i am the downside is that this device supports just a 10 watt charger a crazy slow setup by today’s standards but i suppose if you don’t need to plug it in to charge too much anyway it’s not a huge deal i just would have liked for Nokia to put a little more emphasis on the power setup here
All in all while i certainly have my critiques about the Nokia 5.4 i still consider this device to be a really solid option in that sub-$300 price point it’s a great looking phone with nothing important missing you get some great camera add-ons a fantastic software experience obviously with solid performance there are a few compromises here and there like i said but nothing i would say that sets this phone back Nokia seems to just quietly release solid reasonably priced smartphones and i think more and more people myself included are starting to take notice this is a phone that i really have no problem recommending even up against the likes of some similarly priced Samsung, Motorola or even Xiaomi phones outside the U.S., and if you’re looking for a device in this price range this is absolutely something you should consider.