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Nokia 5 review
What we like
What we don't like
For a budget-friendly phone, the Nokia 5 looks and feels rather premium. But for many, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and that’s where the phone’s lower price starts to become evident. The question with any budget phone is what compromises had to be made in order to achieve the price – and whether those compromises are ones you can live with.
Find out if this budget-friendly device is right for you in our full Nokia 5 review!
The Nokia 5 is sleek and doesn't feel 'cheap' at all in the hand.
The Nokia 5 is sleek and doesn’t feel “cheap” at all in the hand. Like many more premium models, it’s made entirely from metal (precision-milled aluminum) and has rounded corners for a very ergonomic feel. It’s just the right amount of weighty too, giving the impression of quality as a result.
The look is also distinct, with nods to the design language of old Lumia devices. The metal chassis gives it a two-toned finish and a kind of ‘jacket’ that surrounds the front panel. My test unit has a matte chrome finish that looks very nice across the back. The device is also available in black, dark blue, and the in-vogue rose gold.
All in all, the Nokia 5’s aesthetics are not going to win any pageants against the likes of the Galaxy S8, but it’s definitely a looker.
Speakers are located on the bottom of the device and are pretty loud, though not without occasional distortion when cranked up. They’re also located just where you don’t want them for gaming. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the home button (which is an indent rather than a button) and it’s quite fast. Additionally, the phone is ‘drip’ resistant with IP52 certification, which means you won’t be able to take it swimming.
The Nokia 5 sports a pretty basic 720p IPS display. If you love crisp white web pages and photos that pop on the screen before you upload them to the PC, you might be disappointed here. Watching media is acceptable but not the best experience for gaming or watching YouTube. If you use your smartphone as a primary media consumption device, then it might be worth looking for something with at least a small bump up in resolution.
This probably isn't the best phone for people that watch a ton of YouTube videos
At 5.2 inches, you theoretically get a lot of screen real estate but this is somewhat neutered by the lower resolution. For instance, when you use Android’s multitasking feature (which does work fine in terms of performance), you won’t be able to resize apps and will be forced to stick at a 50/50 screen share. Likewise, apps feel a little squashed and claustrophobic at anything less than 100%.
Performance and hardware
The Nokia 5's performance depends heavily on which task you're trying to accomplish
Powering the Nokia 5 is an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor clocked at 1.4 GHz with an Adreno 505 GPU. We’ve seen the Snapdragon 430 perform well in other low-cost handsets, though the Nokia 5’s performance depends heavily on which task you’re trying to accomplish.
For instance, we rarely ran into any issues when multitasking, despite the device’s low 2 GB of RAM. However, we did notice a ton of lag when browsing web pages and gaming, and dropped frames became somewhat normal.
It’s all perfectly serviceable, it’s just not the most pleasant experience. Whether this is acceptable to you will likely depend on whether browsing and consuming media on your phone is something you do often or particularly enjoy. If not, you may not need this to be the most polished experience.
Call quality, signal strength, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi all work just fine and I experienced no dropped calls or other worrying issues. I will say that YouTube seemed to occasionally downgrade my resolution even on home Wi-Fi, though I’m not sure if this was just a glitch for me or not.
You'll probably want to invest in a microSD card
What’s more likely to be a problem for the average user is the tiny amount of internal storage. You get just 16 GB, which will fill up fast if you take a few photos and install a few apps; especially as only half of that will be available when you first boot up the device. Fortunately, there is expandable storage (microSD up to 128 GB) but personally I find that to be a poor substitute and would much rather have both. I’m sure other users would feel similarly.
Battery life here is just fine. The device tends to last me all day, and I even consider myself to be a power user. In one day, I used Google Maps to navigate with the screen on during an hour-long journey, watched several YouTube programs, played Transformers: Forged to Fight, and had two long calls and it still made it well into the evening.
The device tends to last me all day, and I even consider myself to be a power user
It’s no workhorse though, and when you consider the 720p display, one might expect better battery performance. It only has a 3,000 mAh battery, so any longevity here is likely coming from the innate software optimization found in Android. Quick Charge 3.0 is a nice addition for a budget phone, which will be able to get you around a 50% charge in an hour.
Additionally, the decision to go with a MicroUSB port over USB Type-C does feel pretty backwards, and means you can expect slower transfer speeds than other Android devices out there.
Another area where corners seem to have been cut is the camera.
There was a time when cameras were Nokia’s ‘thing’, but you’ll be disappointed if you were expecting anything exciting here
There was a time when cameras were Nokia’s ‘thing’ (Lumia 1020 anyone?), but you’ll be disappointed if you were expecting anything exciting here. The megapixel count is respectable at 13 MP, but the main problem here is lighting. Most photos come out too dark, even in good lighting conditions. There is a hefty flash on the back, though it mostly leaves things with brilliant white spots and long shadows.
Daylight shots look fairly washed out most of the time, and other times they’ll appear overexposed or blurred – especially when shooting moving subjects. HDR is present and the autofocus works well enough, so you can get some nice shots with a little work and patience. Just know that you’ll want to take another camera with you on holiday and that your Facebook albums aren’t going to be the most dynamic among your friends.
Camera software is disappointingly basic too, with no fun or unique features to explore. For example, you won’t find any fun filters to play with, nor will you have the option to change settings manually. It really does feel rather stripped back.
Nokia 5 camera samples
The 8 MP front-facing camera is capable of recording video in 1080p. This ironically means you can’t play them back at full resolution until you get them home and onto the computer!
The Nokia 5’s software experience is something that will make many of our readers happy though, and that’s because it’s basically running stock Android. With no bloatware or crazy customizations, things run as quickly as possible.
It’s also running one of the latest versions of Android, 7.1.1 Nougat, which means you’ll get access to the latest features from Google, such as Google Assistant. As long as the device is on or plugged in, you can summon Google at any time to offer you conversions in the kitchen, or to start navigation while driving. That’s a pretty great feature in such an affordable device.
With no bloatware or crazy customizations, things run as quickly as possible.
While a lot of people love the bare-bones Android experience, it’s not going to be perfect for every user. For instance, to do something simple like displaying the battery percentage in your status bar, you need to navigate to the well-hidden System UI Tuner to do so. It’d also be nice to have a tethering shortcut in the quick settings panel. Things like this demonstrate that customizations aren’t always a bad thing – and you may actually miss some of them when they’re gone. Many people won’t notice these things are missing though, and there are apps to handle most of it. As it is, stock Android can sometimes feel a little empty.
5.2-inch IPS LCD display
1280 x 720 resolution
2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass
Octa-core 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 Mobile Platform
Yes, up to 128 GB
Rear: 13 MP sensor with PDAF, 1.12 μm pixels, f/2.0 aperture, dual-tone flash
Front: 8 MP sensor with AF, 1.12 μm pixels, f/2.0 aperture, 84-degree field-of-view
WCDMA: Band 1, 2, 5, 8
LTE: Band 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40
Micro USB (USB 2.0)
Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Dimensions and weight
149.7 x 72.5 x 8.05 mm
Tempered Blue, Silver, Matte Black, Copper
Pricing and final thoughts
I always find it tricky to review budget devices like this. When you spend this little – €189 to be exact – you know that you’re not likely to get the very best design, specs, and camera. Instead you need to choose which of these things matters most to you and where you want the limited budget to go. The Nokia 5 is for those people to whom looks matter more than specs and performance. If you want a phone that will serve as a bit more of a fashion statement and look good when you use it, then this might be a solid choice.
If you want a phone that will serve as a bit more of a fashion statement and look good good when you use it, then this might be a solid choice.
But if you’re someone who loves mobile gaming and consuming media, then something with a better screen and a little more oomph may be your preference. Either way, you’ll want to invest in a microSD card and you’ll probably still need to bring a camera with you when you travel.
Like the Nokia 5’s look but want a little more screen resolution and maybe some stereo speakers? Then check out the Nokia 6. Because it’s, well, that.