The popular dialogue from the movie Chennai Express where Shahrukh Khan says "don't underestimate the power of a common man", many could relate. If anything, Nokia 5.4 reminded us of that dialogue, as the smartphone builds on decades-long legacy that comes with the brand name of Nokia. HMD Global, the Finnish manufacturer, is milking the brand's popularity to its advantage and why not?
Nokia 5.4 is the latest smartphone in the company's humble portfolio of entry-level and mid-range smartphones. There are a lot of things going for Nokia 5.4 and some that don't woo consumers as much. So if you're thinking it's all nostalgia play here, you've got a lot to explore and you'll read all about it in this review.
For the unversed, Nokia 5.4 costs Rs 13,999 for 4GB+64GB and Rs 15,499 for 6GB+64GB and we are betting our money on the Polar Night colour variant, but the Dusk variant has a very rich feel to it.
Design and display
As noted in the first impressions of Nokia 5.4, we'd like to reiterate that the design element is something consumers are going to love in the phone. There's a big, bright display that lets you get your daily dose of entertainment and productivity.
We loved Nokia 5.4's weight distribution, which made it incredibly easy to hold and use with a single hand. For a change here, a light-weight phone was something of a refresher to the hands' muscle memory. The rear polycarbonate panel, with those fine stripes that radiate with reflection of light, display a premium look at its mid-range price range. It surely looks greater than it feels, but don't be disappointed by the plastic body as it is more durable than glass if you're one with butter-fingers.
The 181-gram Nokia 5.4 is incredibly light and you'll feel the difference while binge-watching your favourite web series for hours together. The rear design is all in good symmetry - the circle camera module, fingerprint scanner and Nokia branding vertically aligned at the centre. The volume and power buttons are well within reach and quite responsive. Same for the Google Assistant button, which is on the left. There's a 3.5mm headphone jack to make sure you don't throw out your old earphones and contribute to e-waste - something brands are focusing on more now.
Nokia 5.4 has a large 6.39-inch LCD display with 720p screen resolution and 60Hz refresh rate. If you go by today's standards, this feels like a major let down. But if you're coming from a basic smartphone that didn't have either feature, you won't miss a thing. But at least, Nokia should have gone with 1080p, especially when there are competitions offering more for less.
But on practical terms, we were able to use the Nokia 5.4 with ease as it is quite bright even to be used under direct sunlight. The IPS display does a fair job of rendering accurate colours and offers good viewing angles too. But if you put a 1080p display side by side, you'll know what you're missing out on. You can adjust the display's White Balance to your liking, but that's about it. Given the screen's brightness, the dark mode sure comes in handy and puts less strain on eyes.
Overall, we felt the Nokia 5.4 is a good looking phone with a good enough display to carry out your day-to-day tasks without complaints.
Nokia 5.4 packs four cameras - a 48MP primary sensor paired with 5MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro and 2MP depth sensor. Each of these sensors are useful in different scenarios and consistently good in well-lit surroundings. The primary 48MP is the absolute best of the lot, which kept the colours natural during daylight shots. But there's the issue of overexposure while shooting subjects against a light source, which can be fixed by angling your shots differently.
For a stock UI camera, we did notice some lag. Surprising, but not something that cannot be fixed with a software update. The primary camera shots retain details and manage to keep the crispness. The macro shots also perform well under good lighting and absolutely kills the urge to shoot in low-light settings. The ultra-wide-angle shots are also the same. The 2MP depth camera, however, helps a lot with those Instagram-worthy bokeh shots.
On the front is a 16MP selfie snapper, which could have been better given the demand for selfies these days. But one thing that stood out is the Cinema mode, which lets you shoot in 21:9 aspect ratio.
Few samples of different modes included below:
Performance + software
Nokia 5.4 packs a seasoned Snapdragon 662 processor with 4GB/6GB RAM and 64GB expandable storage. A microSD card slot is a rare offering and good to have it for those who hate the idea of limited storage. For our day-to-day tasks, we didn't feel Nokia 5.4 broke a sweat. And our daily tasks included WhatsApp messages, social media browsing, video streaming, regular amount of calls - all with either 4G or Wi-Fi.
But it's not the performance that won us over. It is the promise of stock Android and living up to the expectations. Who doesn't love a clean UI experience and it is a strong USP for Nokia phones. The average performance can be compensated with stock, bloatware-free software. Nokia 5.4 is soon to get Android 11, but that's not the end of it. Nokia's software game is strong, so strong that it will receive security patches even when phones launched alongside Nokia 5.4 will have reached end-of-life software support.
Nokia 5.4's rear-mounted fingerprint scanner is something of a great addition once you get used to it. This is keeping in mind the necessity to wear a face mask all the time and looking at a failed to unlock error using facial recognition.
Nokia 5.4 packs a 4,000mAh battery, which brings us back to the first point about solid weight distribution. it sure doesn't feel as heavy. But more than that, it is how long the phone lasts. As expected, Nokia 5.4 easily lasts well over a day and can even extend to close to two days depending on your usage. This isn't surprising given the HD+ display and SD662 processor.
Nokia 5.4 supports 10W fast charging via Type-C. This is again a bit underwhelming considering the competition. It easily takes two hours to fully charge the 4,000mAh battery, but our usage showed charging it for an hour can get you past a busy day with 50 percent charge. We found it useful to leave the phone to charge overnight.
Nokia 5.4, like other Nokia phones, has its own pros and cons. The brand loyalty paired with a refreshing design, strong battery, bloatware-free Android experience, and software support will give you enough reasons to order this phone on Flipkart. But this phone has a better chance in offline sales, given the brand's popularity.
Nokia 5.4 isn't a bad phone, but it easily gets overshadowed by the better offerings in the market by rival brands such as Realme, Poco and Xiaomi. But if someone is looking for a simple phone that gets the basics right and is easy to use right out of the box, Nokia 5.4 might just be it. If you're an avid gamer looking to test the limit of the graphics, we'd recommend you look elsewhere. Also, if you recently bought a new phone of a similar budget or even Nokia 5.3, you are better off skipping this upgrade. But if you've had an upgrade long overdue and performance isn't your top priority, Nokia 5.4 is the comfort choice.
Promise of latest software updates
Punch-hole selfie camera
Reliable main camera
Fast fingerprint sensor
10W charging not fast enough for 4,000mAh
Low-light camera performance
Average spec-sheet by comparison