The Nokia 5.3 is the second smartphone that HMD Global released this year, after the budget smartphone Nokia 1.3 that we reviewed last month. The smartphone is the successor to the 5.1 that came out two years ago. With the Nokia 5 series, HMD Global nestles itself in the middle class segment. It tries to do this with the Nokia 5.3 in a budget-friendly way, because the cost of the smartphone is a lot lower than competing brands in this segment. Is the Nokia 5.3 the cheaper alternative you are looking for? You can read the answer to that question in this review.
As usual, we start with the outside. Nokia 5.3 is available in three colors. We got the black version, but you also have cyan and sand color. You get a fairly sturdy case that should be able to take a beating (we would also be deeply disappointed if a Nokia could not). HMD Global always resolutely opts for strong integration with Google. You will notice this mainly in the software (more on that later), but you can also see traces of this in the hardware in the form of a Google Assistant button at the top left. If you use Google Assistant often, you can certainly find that button handy. But you can also find that button rather disturbing because it is at the same height as the on / off button and the volume button, so you will often accidentally push it. A nice touch to the design is the notification light that is incorporated in the on / off button. Not a necessity, but it does give the smartphone a stylish look.
What you will undoubtedly notice first when you take the smartphone out of the box is the size of the screen. That’s 6.55 inches a lot bigger than the 5.1 and most other smartphones within the same price range. The screen also takes up almost the entire front, with the exception of thin bezels and a notch for the selfie camera. For people with smaller hands, the smartphone may not lie comfortably in the hand, but it does make the smartphone suitable for streaming or gaming. However, the screen cannot provide impressive specifications. A resolution of 2160 x 720 pixels is not that special. It is less than the predecessor 5.1, and it had a smaller screen. The screen remains clearly visible when the sun shines on it, and we also had no problems with the brightness of the screen.
Typical for Nokia smartphones is that they run on the Android One shell. That is certainly a plus, because it makes the device run smoothly and it also makes the smartphone easy to use. An additional advantage of Android One is the reliable update policy, something HMD Global wants to make a feature of. The device now comes with the latest version of Android 10, and is ready to be upgraded to Android 11 as soon as Google launches its latest operating system. An update to Android 12 has been confirmed even now. In addition, you receive a security update every month, so you can feel fairly safe. All standard applications installed on your smartphone at the time of purchase are from Google. Android does offer a lot of freedom in downloading apps of your choice.
Good for games
The next part is the technical performance. Those are what you can expect from a mid-range smartphone; not exceptional but more than solid. Nokia 5.3 is therefore a smartphone that is aimed at daily use. The engine that runs everything is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor. This is a fairly new processor that makes the smartphone powerful enough to play regular video games, and as a whole ensures that the Nokia 5.3 responds quickly. The RAM is 4GB and the storage is 64GB, which you would expect for a smartphone of this price range. If you want to expand that storage memory, you can do that by inserting a memory card via the SIM card slot at the top left. The smartphone has a finger scanner and facial recognition to protect your smartphone, but these do not always work well. So it is best to use an old-fashioned pin code.
Furthermore, the battery also performs more than decent. The 4000 mAh battery can last for a day or two on one charge with average use. That too is about what you expect from a smartphone of this type. You should not expect fast charging or wireless charging. If you find these kinds of functions important, then you have to be prepared to put down a bit more for your smartphone. Charging is also not very fast, it takes about two hours to reach a battery level of 100%.
We kept the cameras to the end, because HMD Global wanted to use this. We see no fewer than four cameras in the impressive camera island. We can not imagine any other smartphone around 200 euros that has so many different cameras (not to forget the selfie camera on the front!). We go through them first, before discussing them. The main camera contains a 13MP lens, and then there is a 2MP depth sensor, 2MP macro lens and a 5MP wide angle lens. The selfie camera contains 8MP. The main camera is more than good for quickly making a leftover or a video, and the images themselves are of good quality. Zooming in is quickly associated with loss of sharpness, so it is best to take a close-up with the macro lens, although it sometimes has difficulty focusing on the object. The wide-angle lens convinced us least of all. The photos seem to lose their color and sharpness, which is a shame.
In addition to the five cameras, you also have many camera functions and AI applications to express your creativity. Night mode, for example, is suitable for adjusting the light in the late hours, and the portrait mode allows you to spice up your selfies. Even when you turn on the camera, Google is never far away. It’s definitely fun to play with Google Lens every now and then, and every photo you take is instantly saved in the Google Photos app.
All in all, Nokia 5.3 is a pleasant device to work with. And for a price of around 200 euros, the device also has a lot to offer, perhaps even more than many other smartphones that box in the same weight class. For those reasons, we dare to recommend the Nokia 5.3 to someone who is looking for a decent smartphone without spending a lot of money on it. That said, you must be able to forgive the smartphone its defects. You certainly do not get a perfect device when you buy this smartphone. But even the most expensive and most advanced smartphones are not.