Nokia 3.4 - Budget price with a trade off

Written by Kevin Cheng on . Posted in Accessories

Nokia 3.4Not everyone needs a top end phone, especially at some of the asking prices. Here at DRN, we got our hands on the Nokia 3.4, a low-cost phone that won't need you to break the piggy bank to purchase outright. Should you been spending your money on it? Let's find out.

First Impressions
Coming from the Nokia 8.3, the Nokia 3.4 is more conventional and feels so much smaller in comparison. But looks can be deceiving, because the Nokia 3.4 (157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm) features a 6.39" HD+ screen and is a smidgen difference in dimensions between that and the Pixel 2XL (161 x 76 x 8.7 mm) which I have consider to be a large phone.

Auto Mode: GundamGoing into reviewing the Nokia 3.4 straight from the Nokia 8.3, I am instinctively putting my finger on the power button expecting it to unlock the phone. Alas in this model, the fingerprint is in a much more convention spot - on the back of the device below the camera module. With the exception of this change, the button layout is otherwise the same - power button on the right, volume rocker above the power button, dedicated Google Assistant button on the left opposite the power button. A 3.5mm headphone jack is available at the top.

The build quality is the typical Nokia excellence, despite being a budget phone it still feels solid. It certainly does not have the premium feel of the Nokia 8.3 but that is hardly surprising at less than one-third of the cost. Instead of metal, the back of the phone is plastic with ever so faint ribbed texture.

Just like the bigger brethren, Nokia has thoughtfully include a clear phone case, officially denoted as "jelly phone cover".

 

Getting started
I have to admit that I am getting pretty used to hearing the Nokia start up tune, memories of a different era. The pure Android experience is here just like it is with the Nokia 8.3. On start up there was the October 2020 security update ready to be download and install. It is a minor quibble, but I was a little disappointed that the November 2020 security update was not available already given that the Nokia 8.3 has already received it.

 

In Use
The heart of the Nokia 3.4 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 octa-core CPU clocking in at 1.8GHz and is paired with an Adreno 610 GPU. My review unit comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB of internal storage, which is expandable up to 512GB with a micro SD card. There is a 32GB internal storage variant that comes with 3GB of RAM.

Connectivity is limited to 4G only, however it does have full LTE support. On top of that there is support for dual physical SIMs, and no sleight of hand the same way the Nokia 8.3 did. This is done with two SIM slots as well as a dedicated micro SD slot on the same tray.

The fingerprint reader is not the fastest one around but it is accurate though and will take about a second to unlock the phone.

 

Auto mode: HotpotScreen
It sports a 6.39" HD+ screen with a resolution of 720x1560, offering a pixel density of 267 PPI. Statistically unimpressive but bearing in mind this is very much a budget phone, it is on point. Colour rendering and contrast are both good, even under direct sunlight, the screen at maximum brightness is surprisingly clear to read.

There is no HDR support, which is hardly surprising given the price point.

It is interesting to note that the bezel is pretty thin here, more akin to a high end phone.

 

Imaging
The main imaging module has three sensors: a 13MP primary camera at f/1.8 with phase detection auto focus (PDAF), a 5MP ultra-wide lens and a 2MP dedicated depth camera. The selfie camera is a 8MP at f/2.0 in a hole punch configuration in the top left of the display. And this is where I go down a rabbit hole (briefly).

The PDAF system is considered to be much faster than the contrast-detection system, which relies on changing focus back and forth until focus is achieved. There is a lot of image data analysis happening the image sensor level for this to occur, and with a lower end CPU and limited RAM to play with, Nokia has made the smart choice for the camera focusing system.

Auto mode: Close upIn actual use though, the resultant image is of average quality across the board. The camera app can be slow to start, slow to react to capture and a variable auto focus. If you are trying to capture a fleeting moment then you may end up with a badly blurred image or worse case scenario, miss it completely. Even a well-lit scene, the Nokia 3.4 camera can struggle for clarity and sharpness.

The night mode images has excessive noise from post processing to lighten up shadows. Excessive force sharpening and high ISO tends to introduce artefacts and noise, and I am seeing these with the Nokia 3.4 in night mode.

The inclusion of an ultra wide lens is always a good move. Again the images are ordinary, but regardless it is a feature that is better to have than without.

There is no dedicated macro sensor with the Nokia 3.4.

The 8MP selfie camera provides a respectable image. The inline processing softens images that is not well-lit which is of no surprise. It does do a decent job of in a video conference.

Speaking of videos, capture options is basic with up to 1080p and 30fps. There is no image stabilisation so all your handheld footage will be just that - amateur videos.

 

Performance
I mentioned before the beating heart of the Nokia 3.4, it is an entry level CPU with the minimum amount of RAM to get by for Android 10. Unfortunately I have to say, you can feel just how baseline the specifications are. Swiping around the home screen and app drawer is almost buttery smooth, but the struggle is real when the interactions increases. The keyboard may take a few moments to pop up, various app elements come up slowly.

Multi tasking puts a heavy strain on the device. Backing up photos to Google whilst trying to take new photos resulted in the camera app just spinning its wheels in despair for ages. It did recover in the end, although I didn't take note how long it took because I was tucking into the dinner that it couldn't photograph. Nokia seems to be using the internal storage as a swap file as well, when it runs out of system memory to perform a task.

 

Night mode vs Auto mofdeSounds
The overall sound profile for the Nokia 3.4 is fairly one dimensional. The speaker is loud even in my testing (in a quiet house for a change), but the sound is without depth.

 

Battery Life
Apart from the screen, the 4000mAh battery in the Nokia 3.4 is a real highlight. Paired with the low powered chipset and a lower resolution screen, the battery goes the distance. To be perfectly honest I never made this one my daily driver, it was too much of a step down for a power user. I did delegate a a whole bunch of tasks over to it, as well as let the kids go to town playing games on a rainy day. The battery life always performed.

Nokia claims two days battery life, and with light usage which is most suited for this phone, the claim should stand. It is a shame that it is only paired with a 5W charger which means all that 4000mAh is going to take a bit over 3 hours to charge from flat.

 

Conclusions
Overall using the Nokia 3.4 feels like me ... without my coffees. Everything is a little slower, more lethargic and takes a little longer. I have given it to my kids to play with in their screen time, in between their games, YouTube and Googling they have not complained about the experience, bearing in mind they have had access to my Pixels as well. For the simpler games they play it runs perfectly fine as they are not into FPS.

At a RRP of $249 though, it would be worthy of consideration for people who just need a communication device without all the bells and whistles, or the encumbrances of an expensive contract. The screen and battery life are both attractive winning features, the camera is less so but not everyone chases DSLR quality photos. If you are an influencer then impression management dictates that a budget phone will not be in consideration anyway.

It does come with Nokia's 2 major OS and 3 years of security updates promise. Their speed in response in this arena would make me consider it as a first phone for the younger ones in my care.

The Nokia 3.4 is available from JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, The Good Guys or Amazon.

There is a cheaper deal on at the moment on Amazon, buying through Amazon helps DigitalReviews so we appreciate you considering making your purchase there.

Specifications
Colors: Fjord, Dusk, Charcoal
Size: 160.97 x 75.99 x 8.7 mm
Weight: 180g
Operating system: Android 10/ Android 11 ready
RAM: 3 GB
CPU: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 460
Cable type: USB Type-C™
SIM cards: Dual SIM
SIM card type: Nano SIM
Sensors: Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer (G-sensor), Gyroscope, Biometric face unlock, Rear fingerprint sensor
Other: NFC
Keys: The Google Assistant Button
Rear cameras: Dual 13 MP + 2 MP depth sensor + 5 MP ultra-wide
Rear flash: LED
Front-facing camera: 8 MP
Other: AI imaging
Battery type: 4000 mAh
Charging: 5V 2A compatible
Internal storage: 64 GB
MicroSD card slot: Supports up to 512 GB
Other: Google Drive
Size and type: 6.39” HD+ punch hole display
Display ratio: 19.5:9
3.5 mm headphone jack
FM radio receiver (headset required)
Qualcomm® aptX™ audio adaptive
Network bands GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 | WCDMA: 1, 2, 5, 8 | LTE: 1,
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth® 4.2
GPS/AGPS+GLONASS+BDS+Galileo

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