Nokia 5.3 review
In many ways, the Nokia 5.3 defies expectations for what a budget device can be, proving once again that if you look around, there's always a gem to be found in the sea of ever so expensive smartphones out there.
A teardrop notch above the display holds its 8MP selfie camera, while a small chin houses a second Nokia logo. The display features smooth curves all around, making for an appealing, modern look.
The volume and power buttons are placed on the right side of the device, in a similar fashion to most other smartphones, so there's no learning curve needed there. A smooth, breathing notification light is uniquely embedded in the power key. On the left, the phone has an extra button dedicated to Google Assistant, unfortunately non-customizable.
The fingerprint on the back gets the job done, although it's not perfect in terms of accuracy and speed. It can additionally be used to bring down the notification shade by swiping down on it.
The phone's 6.55-inch 720x1600 IPS screen is far from the sharpest, but it impresses with its contrast and high brightness, making it well visible even in sunlight. Black shades always look surprisingly solid, and viewing angles are perfect. For its price class, the Nokia 5.3's display is generally very good, and it's ultra-widescreen 20:9 aspect ratio makes this smartphone a good choice for watching movies.
From a technical standpoint, while the display achieved high scores for its maximum brightness and contrast, it's performing poorly in our color temperature benchmarks, and appears noticeably more blue than the average smartphone display. The good news is, color temperature can be tweaked in the phone's Display settings.
A defining feature of this smartphone's look is its circular camera module on the back, containing four cameras and a flash.
The Nokia 5.3 appears to have a great focus on portrait mode photography, with portrait shots taken on both its selfie shooter and back cameras often turning out quite impressive, with nice blurred backgrounds. Subjects generally look crisp and sharp, as long as there's enough light available, preferably natural.
In addition to Portrait mode, the Nokia 5.3's camera app includes a Night mode for low-light photography, which delivers generally decent results by processing the photo and boosting its brightness after it's taken. Night mode on the Nokia 5.3 is available on the main, and wide-angle cameras.
Video recording from the main 13MP camera can go up to 4K, with its default resolution being 1080p. Videos come out satisfyingly sharp from the main camera, albeit a bit shaky and sometimes with too strong contrast.
For photos and videos, the phone's 5MP ultra-wide camera and 2MP macro camera are also accessible, and deliver good, although softer results.
Audio and Call Quality
For media consumption, the smartphone has a single bottom-firing speaker. Although it doesn't offer much in terms of bass or lower-midrange frequencies, the speaker makes up for it by having significantly high peak loudness, and remaining fairly crisp, at least to a point. A welcome alternative is available too - the phone has a headphone jack.
Call quality on the device is well above average, with voices sounding crisp and clear on both ends.
Software and Performance
Coming with the Android One version of Android 10 (and a promise of Android 11), the Nokia 5.3 offers a pure software experience with basically zero bloatware. 2 years of Android upgrades and 3 years of monthly security updates are guaranteed.
Performance from the on-board mid-range processor, the Snapdragon 665, is smooth and snappy. Casual games run great, with even the more demanding and large titles such as PubG Mobile performing smoothly at medium settings.
In addition, Android 10's gesture navigation works great on this device. A double-tap to wake the screen gesture can also be activated and works reliably. Having the option to remap the extra Google Assistant button would have been nice, but currently, it can only either be used as intended or be disabled.
Nokia promises a good two days of battery life on a single charge, and that has proven to be true in my usage. Thanks to the phone's 4000 mAh battery and lack of bloat, light users can easily get it lasting even longer.
The Nokia 5.3 lasts through 11 hours and 53 minutes of continuous web browsing, 9 hours and 47 minutes of YouTube playback, or 7 hours and 27 minutes of 3D gaming on a single charge, according to our benchmark tests. It outperforms the likes of iPhone 11 Pro, Galaxy S10+ and Pixel 3a.
Best Nokia 5.3 alternatives
Motorola Moto G8 Power - Motorola's new budget battery king is a great alternative to the Nokia 5.3 for those who need reliable battery life above all else.
Google Pixel 3a - Although higher priced, Google's budget Pixel offers unrivaled camera quality for the sub-$400 phone category, and it too impresses with strong battery life. If quality photography is what matters to you the most, shedding a few more dollars for this smartphone is the better move.