Nokia 5.3 review: something is missing to beat the competition

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Pau Monfort

Nokia 5.3 is the new Android One smartphone of the brand that finds itself facing the ruthless competition of Chinese brands. It comes in at 219 euros, a figure that does not make it easy for him in a very crowded segment. A battle made even more difficult by some flaws: photographic rendering to be improved, low screen resolution and not exactly recent processor.

The trump card could be upgrades. According to a report drawn up by Counterpoint last year, in fact, Nokia is the fastest brand in releasing updates. Also, as an Android One smartphone, the Nokia 5.3 is expected to receive updates for at least two years. Without forgetting that there is a stock version of the green robot system available which - for some users - could represent a strength against the heavy customizations performed by brands such as Xiaomi and Realme.

Design and display

Recognizable. This is the adjective I would attribute to Nokia 5.3. To be more original is the rear panel which houses a system of four cameras housed in a circle, whose protrusion is really irrelevant. The thickness of the photographic module often creates many problems on smartphones but not in this case. Below, there is the biometric sensor for fingerprint recognition which works well. There is also face recognition (less rapid). Vertically, finally, the large Nokia writing stands out. It is therefore impossible to confuse it with other devices.

The shell is made of polycarbonate and does not hold fingerprints very much which may be more visible in lighter colors. The model in our possession is in the Charcoal color variant (black) but is also available in Cyan and Sand colors. Although it is not glass, the sensation to the touch is pleasant.

The dimensions are not extremely small but not exaggerated. We are talking about 164,3 x 76,6 x 8,5 mm for a weight of 185 grams. The smartphone it is not particularly heavy thanks to an excellent weight distribution. On the right side, we find the volume rocker and the power key that integrates inside it a notification LED. A very nice and useful gem. On the left, however, there is the button dedicated to Google Assistant which unfortunately cannot be reconfigured as desired by the user. Such a pity.

The front instead is closer to the trends of the moment, even if the edges are still quite pronounced especially the lower one where the Nokia writing is engraved. The display is a panel 6,55-inch IPS LCD with notch for the 8 Megapixel front camera. The screen didn't particularly impress me.

To convince me less was the not very high maximum brightness. Also, I encountered one bad management of automatic brightness which tends to go down more and more than it should. I often found myself having to manually calibrate it. A behavior that can cause some annoyance. Where Nokia could do better is certainly on the resolution, which is HD + (720 x 1600 pixels), a choice that goes against the tide when considering the terminals of the same segment.

Performance and camera

The beating heart of Nokia 5.3 is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 665, the same processor that we find on board last year's Xiaomi Mi A3. The SoC is paired with 4 Gigabytes of RAM and 64 Gigabytes of expandable internal memory. Despite the passing of time, the chip is still reliable. You can safely use the device in daily operations and it does not go easily out of breath, unless you begin to demand too much with many background apps and long video or game sessions.

Unconvincing is the heat dissipation which is felt through the body when charging, while navigating with GPS and during gaming sessions. In short, the heat - especially on these particularly hot days - is not pleasant. It could have been handled better.

Discrete connectivity where Bluetooth is still 4.2 but we find NFC, jack audio da 3.5 mm (on the top edge) and FM radio. The audio is mono and comes out from the single speaker positioned on the lower edge (where there is also the Type-C port for charging). The quality is average.

As we said, Nokia 5.3 is based on the Android One platform (version 10). No customization. Everything is as Google conceived it. This choice contributes to making navigation smoother, even if we cannot call Nokia 5.3 a sliver. Every now and then it takes a few more moments before carrying out the requested activity.

Good news from the autonomy front. The 4.000 mAh battery allows you to cover almost two days with mild use, while with more intense use you will have to recharge your smartphone when you go to bed to be able to cover the second day. In my case, I managed to cover two full days compared to 4 hours and 40 minutes of screen on. Too bad for the absence of a fast recharge.

The photographic compartment of Nokia 5.3 consists, on the back, of four cameras. The 13 Megapixel main sensor is paired with a 5 Megapixel wide angle and two other 2 Megapixel sensors, one for macro and the other for depth of field. Overall, the cameras don't shine especially when compared to other competitors.

During the day and in excellent light conditions (preferably natural) it pulls out of the shots acceptable even if the level of detail is not very high. The colors, however, tend to bring back the natural shades. The wide-angle sensor, on the other hand, does not do its best: the colors lose their intensity and the scene is a bit mixed.

Like all smartphones, the result falls at night where there is a loss of detail and digital noise becomes very visible. In low light conditions, the wide-angle sensor struggles a lot. There is the night mode which - I must admit - behaves very well managing to better illuminate the scene and returning some more details, also thanks to the increase in contrast.

The front camera, on the other hand, is 8 Megapixel. In this case, the results obtained did not disappoint expectations. The quality of the shots is in line with the price range of belonging. Again, there is some problem with handling many details such as hair. Selfies taken in bokeh mode (with blurred background) are also acceptable. In short, it is certainly not a smartphone that is chosen for photographic performance and does not even pretend to be a "camera-phone".

Conclusions: who should buy it?

We just said it, Nokia 5.3 is not a smartphone that is chosen for photographic qualities. If you are looking for the best of the photographic experience at a price around 200 euros, you can turn your attention to other devices such as Redmi Note 9. This is probably the big obstacle that the newcomer has to face: the fierce competition. The alternatives in this price range are many and most of them under the Xiaomi and Realme brands.

If you are looking for a smartphone that can last over time and that it receives timely and rapid updates, Nokia 5.3 could be the right product for your needs especially if the selling price were to drop by a few tens of euros. I would recommend it especially to those users who do not make a particularly intense use of the smartphone and who are mainly looking for reliability and safety.

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