Announced in March, the Nokia 5.3 is finally landing on the Indian coast. A decidedly mid-range smartphone, the Nokia 5.3 once again champions HMD Global’s cause of a clean and secure Android experience.
However, with Xiaomi's grip on the spec-crazed mid-range segment, and Samsung taking steps to regain some ground as well, the ho-hum spec sheet for the Nokia 5.3 might not hold up.
Is the user experience of the Nokia 5.3 sufficient to outweigh the value for money offered by the competition? Let's find out in Android Authority's first impressions of the Nokia 5.3.
Design: more or less identical
The design of the Nokia 5.3 is absolutely not exciting. Unless you have a preference for simplistic and understated hardware, there are much better options. In fact, the materials used are not particularly inspired either.
The back of the phone is polycarbonate, which in itself isn't much of a problem. But the plastic doesn't look very premium and is a burr magnet despite the matte finish. Meanwhile, the competition is far ahead with its abundant use of glass and metal.
The circular camera module houses four sensors with an LED flash placed in the center. Meanwhile, a fingerprint scanner is available below. The phone unlocked quickly and a facial unlock option is also available.
The phone has basics like proper weight distribution, but there is better hardware to be tough. I found the unsegmented volume rocker a bit too small and had to mix it up to adjust the volume setting. Meanwhile, the power button is a little too high in the frame.
The notification LED hidden in the power key, however, is a very nifty addition that I'd like more manufacturers to embrace.
The power button notification light and the dedicated Google Assistant key are useful additions.
In my time with the phone, I really enjoyed the convenient access to Google Assistant with the dedicated hotkey placed on the left side of the Nokia 5.3.
Elsewhere, there's a headphone jack at the top and a USB-C port along the bottom edge for charging and data transfer. The single speaker sounds tiny and you wouldn't want to use it for anything other than phone calls.
Up front, the Nokia 5.3 continues its next-gen look with large bezels and a teardrop-shaped notch. Here is where things get a little confusing. Not only does the front look last-gen, Nokia has gone for a 720p panel with Gorilla Glass 3 here.
The 720p panel isn't particularly bright, and the default color setting leans too much towards cooler tones.
The default color setting is set to the cooler side and the phone doesn't get particularly bright either. I found myself squinting at the screen when I was in the sun.
In addition, there is heavy light bleeding around the edges. Basically, if multimedia consumption is a priority for you, I would consider checking out our list of the best mid-range hardware in India instead.
Of course, the Nokia 5.3 doesn't have an IP rating, but that is to be expected. Overall, the Nokia 5.3 isn't exciting, and the boring design, paired with a sub-par display, disappoints. Plus, the haptic feedback on the phone is exactly up there with the worst I've encountered in recent years.
Software: pure and secure
Nokia really wants to convey the idea that the near-stock version of Android 10 it uses is superior to the competition. There are a few tweaks to the camera app and a customer support app is included on the phone, but overall it's as clean as it gets.
As part of the Android One initiative, Nokia is promising two years of major updates and security fixes. However, with the Android skins from Xiaomi and Realme getting surprisingly good and offering quick updates, I'm not sure if this is such a big selling point as before.
Read more: Are there any really bad Android skins out there?
The lack of third-party bloatware certainly doesn't bother me.
The Nokia 5.3 is powered by a Snapdragon 665 chipset with 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM depending on the variant. This is backed up by 64 GB of storage which can be further expanded via a microSD card.
The octa-core chipset is definitely not competitive against the Snapdragon 720G used by the Poco M2 Pro and the Redmi Note 9 Pro. The difference in performance was noticeable not only in games, but even in everyday use.
Jittery frames and stuttering are very noticeable when navigating the interface.
This is due to a lack of optimization, but the jerky images and stuttering were very noticeable when navigating the interface. On the gaming side, the phone complements the HD setting in PUBG. The game runs smoothly for the most part, although I did notice a few dropped frames.
Elsewhere, there's a 4000mAh battery on board which is good for a full day of heavy use with some juice left to get you through the next day. Unfortunately, charging speeds are capped at 10W which is just deplorable these days. It took almost three hours to charge the phone from 0 to 100.
Camera: an average shooter
The four-camera setup on the Nokia 5.3 is comparable to the category. The primary shooter sports a 13MP sensor, which is paired with a rather lackluster 5MP ultra-wide camera. In addition, there is a 2MP macro sensor and another depth sensor.
The images from the main sensor appear dull, with limited contrast. The photo above has been overexposed and close inspection reveals smearing and a marked loss of detail.
Main camera Nokia 5.3 Nokia 5.3 Ultra Wide
Outside, things improve a bit and the primary shooter captures some vivid footage. The exposure, however, is still not quite correct and there are significant traces of noise reduction. The Nokia 5.3's 5MP ultra-wide shooter is just not competitive and captures dull shots with signs of over-sharpness and strong noise reduction.
The Nokia 5.3's dedicated night mode takes way too long to capture images, which means more often than not you'll end up capturing a blurry mess. I just wouldn't want to deal with it. Likewise, macro mode doesn't inspire much confidence, and cropping in a photo from the main camera works better than shooting a macro. I'm not a big fan of the selfie camera either. The 8MP camera adds a lot of retouching and makes the skin look unnatural.
You can view full resolution Nokia 5.3 camera samples here.
Nokia 5.3 specifications
6.55 inch IPS LCD Screen for Nokia 5
1600 x 720 resolution
2.5D Corning Gorilla GlassProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 665 Mobile PlatformGPUAdreno 610RAM4GB / 6GBStorage32GB / 64GBMicroSDYesCamerasRear:
13 MP, f / 1.8, PDAF
5MP ultra wide
8 MP, f / 2.0
4000 mAh battery
Load 10W GSM networks: 850/900/1800/1900
WCDMA: Band 1, 2, 5, 8
LTE: Band 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40 USB-C connectivity
Bluetooth 4.2 Software Android 10
Part of Android One Dimensions and weight 164.3 x 76.6 x 8.5 mm
180 gColorsCyan, Sand, Charcoal
Is the Nokia 5.3 worth buying?
Nokia 5.3 Nokia 5.3
The Nokia 5.3 is a lackluster option from HMD Global. The design is not inspired and the spec sheet is not competitive. The four-camera setup doesn't inspire much confidence either. The only thing going for the phone is the stock-Android version and the promise of two years of updates, but that might not be enough anymore.
The Nokia 5.3 is a lackluster piece from HMD Global. Android One aside, there isn't much that stands out here and the company would be well served by taking a long look at its hardware strategy.
The phone is priced at Rs. 13,999 (~ $ 187) for the 4GB RAM, the 64GB variant, and Rs. 15,499 (~ $ 207) for the 6GB RAM variant. In the UK, the price of the phone is £ 129.99.
That puts it squarely against vastly superior options like the Poco M2 Pro, Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro, and Realme 6. All three phones offer better designs with glass and metal construction, significantly better cameras, and, in some cases even a 30W fast charge.
I can forgive the lack of a newer chipset on the Nokia 5.3, but the lack of software optimization is inexcusable. A smooth, stutter-free experience at this price is a tabletop issue and the Nokia 5.3 just doesn't hold up.
Add to that dull cameras and uninspired design, there is little here to really recommend. Your money would be better spent elsewhere.