When we tested Cricket’s Nokia C5 Endi last month, we were impressed, even if it was bent a few corners to reach the price of $169.99. The Nokia 5.3 ($199.99) is a better phone and only costs a little more. It is powered by a faster chipset and provides longer battery life, a little extra durability, and software updates guaranteed through the Android One program.
Design, display and durability
Nokia 5.3 is a beautiful mobile phone that retains Nokia’s unique design language. It is available in blue, gold or gray, measures 6.5 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.3 ounces.
The front of the phone is controlled by a 6.55-inch screen with tear marks from the camera. Although the bottom frame is still quite chunky and carries the Nokia brand, the top and side frames have been greatly reduced compared to previous years..
The frosted gray plastic rear panel has a soft slope and looks delicate, but it is a fingerprint magnet. Its weight is evenly distributed, so it feels good. In the center of the top, there is a round camera module that stands out a little. Below it, the fingerprint sensor is easy to operate and responsive.
The top of the phone is where the headphone jack is located, while the USB-C charging port and speaker grille are located at the bottom. There is a Google Assistant button and a dual SIM/microSD slot on the left, while the power button and volume keys on the right. The buttons are well placed and easy to reach.
The 6.55-inch LCD has a screen resolution of 1600 x 720 and a density of 267ppi. Its size is surprisingly clear, although you may not want to use it for extended reading time. Like the 5C, the Nokia 5.3 LCD tends to be cooler, but it does look brighter. We can use it in direct sunlight without any problems.
Like most low-cost mobile phones, the durability of Nokia 5.3 is hit hard. It does not have an IP rating or any type of splash protection, although we have no problem using it in the rain. The plastic body and frame can withstand bumps or drops without causing too much damage, but a hard drop may cause some problems. In other words, Nokia 5.3 does have the performance of Gorilla Glass 3, so it is unlikely to succumb to scratches from keys or other objects in the pocket. However, it would be a wise idea to invest in a robust chassis.
Network, call and audio quality
Nokia 5.3 should be available on all major US carriers. It supports LTE frequency band 1/2/3/4/5/6/8/12/13/17/28/38/66. It does not have frequency band 71, which T-Mobile uses to provide faster download speeds in rural America. If you belong to this group, think twice before buying a mobile phone.
The call quality is stable. The peak volume of the earpiece is 87dB, which is loud enough to be heard on busy streets without any problems. Noise cancellation works like a charm in all our test phones.
Verizon’s network connection in Philadelphia is strong. The average speed of 5.3 dropped by 48.2Mbps and rose by 18.9Mbps. Although this sounds unobtrusive, we believe that the network connection problems in the area should be blamed because we recorded similar speeds on Google Pixel 4a and iPhone 11 Pro with a six-block radius.
The speakers are loud, but the effect is not good, the maximum volume is 94dB. The conference call is good, but the sound is bright and you will notice some distortion in the midrange. It is strongly recommended to use headphones for Netflix binges.
The phone supports dual-band Wi-Fi and has Bluetooth 5.0 with wearable connectivity. There is also NFC for mobile payments and boarding passes, which are rare in this price range.
Nokia 5.3 has a 13MP main lens, 5MP super wide-angle lens, 2MP macro sensor and 2MP depth sensor. Although it sounds like there are many options, the camera ranges from ordinary to ordinary.
When there is sufficient light, the 13MP sensor will hit or lose. Many daylight test lenses look good, although they look a little flat, but they lack the details. However, about 20% of the time the lens will be completely overexposed. In addition to the consistent problems in depth mapping and excessive noise reduction, we also noticed the same problem in portrait mode.
The low-light performance of the main lens is good. In the test photos, the noise reduction again appeared too ambitious, resulting in blur around the eyes and glasses and insufficient color. The night mode helps to make the colors more vivid and reduces some light bursts, but the photos still look flat. This is not bad for a cheap phone, but if you often share night photos on Instagram, then you will need to save on Google Pixel 4a.
The ultra-wide-angle lens performed surprisingly well in good light, and we did not see an overexposed test lens. The full-size details are a bit fluffy, but even the depth of field seems more consistent with the ultra-wide-angle lens. The low-light photos of the lens generally perform poorly, with blurred backgrounds, soft colors, and obvious noise.
The macro lens is really missed. All our lenses are muddy and full of noise, and when we use tap to focus, nearly half of them seem to focus on the wrong object.
The clock of the front camera is 8MP. If the portrait mode is not enabled, it will perform quite well under sufficient light. The color accuracy is good, the depth of field is clear, and even background details can be recognized. This is inconsistent with portrait mode, which has poor depth mapping, and some of our test lenses have blurred ears, glasses and hats.
In low light conditions, don’t expect too much from the selfie camera. Our test lens was flat and muddy. Noise spreads around the edges, while noise reduction blurs the glasses and other facial features.
Nokia 5.3 uses Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor. Our review unit is equipped with 3GB of RAM, but 4GB and 6GB versions are also available. There is a total of 64GB of storage space, of which 52GB is available. You can use a microSD card to add an additional 512GB of external storage space.
In most cases, the performance of the phone is like a champion. The application will open without hesitation. We can easily use a dozen applications and open twelve Chrome windows at the same time. This is where it clearly stands out in the C5 Endi and more expensive phones (such as LG Stylo 6).
The game is also a victory. We tested the phone on Alto’s Odyssey for more than an hour, and there were no frame skips or delays during the game. Our experience with Asphalt 8 is almost the same-fast loading time and knotless gameplay.
On PCMark 2.0 (a set of tests that simulate the tasks of a smartphone), the score was 6,473 in 5.3. This is slightly slower than the $229.99 Moto G Power (6,758), but far exceeds the C5 Endi (4,983) and the $179.99 Samsung Galaxy A10e (4,562).
Nokia 5.3 is powered by a 4,000mAh battery. In our battery drain test, the phone streamed video at maximum brightness via Wi-Fi, and the phone lasted 10 hours and 48 minutes. Although this is not much compared to the 18 hours and 11 minutes we get from Moto G Power, it is enough for ordinary users to easily get a full day of service between charges.
Nokia 5.3 is part of the Android One program, which means it comes with the regular version of Android 10. There is no excessive software or personalized productivity applications, only pure Android, which is rare in this price range.
Android One also means that it will be one of the first phones to be upgraded to Android 11 and Android 12 later this year. You can also rest assured to use security, because Android One phones will get security patches and updates regularly.
Nokia is one of the few manufacturers that supports Android One almost wholeheartedly. Almost all of its phones are part of the plan and must be updated regularly for at least two years. With the exception of the more expensive Pixel 4a, this is the closest thing you will get when you update on the first day on Android.
Nokia 5.3 has a solid display, all-day battery life and excellent performance, and the price is $200. Priced at $230, we also like Moto G Power, which has longer battery life and faster performance. On the other hand, Nokia 5.3 has NFC and guarantees timely access to operating system and security updates within two years, so in the final analysis, which features are most important to you, both phones have won our editor’s choice. At the same time, Shutterbugs may want to extend its budget and buy the Google Pixel 4a for $349.