The New Nokia 5.3 – Time to Ditch Expensive Flagship Phones?

Written by Martin Regtien on . Posted in Mobile Devices

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Today we’re looking at the recently launched Nokia 5.3, a large Android One phone with some outstanding features and priced like a budget phone: just 349 Aussie buckaroos.

For those of us old enough to have experienced the great Nokia phones of yesteryear it’s good to see the brand making a good comeback. And this time they’ve hitched their fortunes onto a very solid operating system: Android One, currently featuring the very latest Android 10.

So how did we fare in our evaluations?

To say I’ve always been a fan of the Nokia brand is probably not true. We’ve owned various models with the N95 and N8 being the best of the bunch.
In fact, up till recently I still had the occasional use for the N8. But the proprietary Symbian operation system could not compete with iOS or Android. The famous Finnish brand took a backseat in the market.
Time for a rethink and a reset.

HMD Global joined forces with Android to rescue and resurrect the brand from technological obsolescence.
And here’s how this is working out so far:

All Nokia phones run the pure Android OS – nothing added to it or taken away from all the features.
That means as soon as a new Android version is coming to the market, like Android 11, it will be implemented on your Nokia within a few days. Take that, Samsung!

The same applies to all the regular updates and security patches.
What’s more, Nokia promises 2 years of Android upgrades and 3 years of security patches.
So that keeps your phone secure as well as up to date and much less to be thrown out on the ever-growing e-waste scrapheap.

But how about your data?
It’s good to know that as a European company, Nokia complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). I had a look at these regs which basically amount to the highest, global security standards.
And any data is stored in Finland, giving even more security.

So with this background let’s look at the features of the Nokia 5.3.

First Impressions

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The description on the packaging already gave a good indication of the features and specs but I was slightly surprised at the size of the phone compared to my svelte Galaxy S10: it’s a 6.55” slab of elegance.

The scratch-resistant back is also impressive with an array of camera lenses around the flash with the fingerprint sensor below.
There’s a Google Assistant button on the left (not configurable) and a power button on the right with a built in notification button. Just above that the slot for the microSD card and room for TWO SIM cards if you have two numbers.
A headphone jack on top with headphones supplied in the box.
Glad to see that USB-C is standard as it should be.

Nice touch: a silicone cover was also included which prevented me accidentally testing whether the display’s Gorilla Glass 3 would sufficiently protect it.
The 2 day battery life from the 4000mAh battery is better than most high-end counterparts.

All in all, I was pleased to see that more than just the basics presented itself here in Nokia’s latest smartphone. This unit came in my favourite “colour”: charcoal black. Later on the cyan and “sand” colours will be available too.

Nokia 5.3 Emotional HS DS PNG

Start Up and Specs

This is one of the easiest phones to setup and to get going. Power on and the familiar Nokia start-up tune plays. A quick security update later and you’re in business.

The display looks good and vibrant in the 1600 x 720 specification, delivering 270 PPI and 450 nits. For comparison: a flagship phone like the Galaxy S10 has a display with 3040x1440 pixels but for general use the lower spec display is quite sufficient.

The processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 Mobile Platform coupled with 4GB of RAM in the Aussie model. You have to check under Developer Mode to check how much RAM your model has.

The WiFi specs are covering all the bases, just like all satellite options are represented (GPS/AGPS+GLONASS+Beidou).
Bluetooth is still BT 4.2, rather than 5.

I’ll get to the Camera specs in a sec when we talk about the video and photo capabilities of the Nokia 5.3.

Finally, this model (there are 4 variants in existence) is the TA-1234 and weighs in at just 180 grams, equally distributed over 164.28 x 76.62 x 8.5 mm.

Camera

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Back to the array of lenses on the back.
Here we find a 13 MP f/ 1.8 + 5 MP ultra-wide-angle lens + 2 MP macro and +2 MP depth as well as the LED flash.
The Selfie cam is a tiny spot surrounded by a fair bit of black border and hides an 8 MP lens. It looks to me the screen real estate taken up by that “saddle” border is a bit overly generous...

As a professional aerial photographer I’m used to some good (and very expensive!) gear but I’m continually impressed with what camera capabilities can be created with these tiny lenses and equally tiny sensors.

And because the best camera is the one you carry with you all the time, most phone manufacturers try to do a good job with the camera specs. Same here on the 5.3 which is a great smartphone considering its very affordable pricetag.

Picture quality is reasonably good for this price bracket as you can see below.
The first one is shot with the wide angle lens and the second one with the normal lens.

Keep in mind when you click on these photos that the images are very much compressed for this article.

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The next two are taken with the macro lens with and without flash. The flash washes out all colour.

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There are still a lot of photo and video features to be explored, like portrait, night modes and UHD 4k video.
We will update this review over time with our longer term experiences.

Who Should Buy the Nokia 5.3?

Is it indeed time for some of us to reconsider our need to upgrade to the latest and greatest phone every year?
If you hope to replace your flagship phone with the Nokia 5.3 and expect the same quality, you’ll be underwhelmed.
But, in its price range it’s an excellent contender for top honours.

It’s ideal if you don’t care to have top specs but would need to have a secure, reliable and large smartphone that has the latest software upgrades.

Here are the things we like:

* Nokia quality (but because it’s a BIG screen not as robust as the feature phones from yesteryear).
* Pure Android – no fluff added to it – which means speedy upgrades and updates.
* Great battery life.
* The price. It’s a lot of phone for just AUD349.

Here are the things we would have liked:

* Wireless charging.
* Always On Display/Clock (yes, Nokia was one of the first to implement that on the old phones...)

Seeing that Nokia has a huge range of phones, from the flagship Nokia 9 PureView with 5 cameras with renowned Zeiss optics, down to sub $100 Classic phones, the chance is great that’ll find the best phone for your needs on the Nokia site.

Over time we’d love to bring you more of the latest and greatest from the Nokia stable.

Stay tuned.

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