Nokia 5 review: Numb3r5 don't lie
Some makers have a dozen of series of smartphones, a handful of models in each - the new Nokia has just three models, with a 4th one allegedly on the way. But even with these three currently in existence, the reborn Finnish brand covers the low-to-mid tier quite efficiently.
We sort of established a couple of weeks ago, that you probably don't want the Nokia 3, but the 5? The 5 you can't really go wrong with, though it does inevitably come at a premium over the rock-bottom 3.
For the extra cash you'd be shelling for the Nokia 5 you'd get a chipset that can actually do some number crunching, a brighter and larger display, and a pair of cameras that are each better than the Nokia 3's. And all of that will be packed in a nice aluminum unibody. Sounds like a reasonable deal.
Nokia 5 key test findings
- The aluminum back may be slippery and the camera bump looks a bit out of place, but build quality is above the pay grade.
- The display is very bright at its maximum setting and color accuracy is decent. Contrast could have been higher, but sunlight legibility is actually pretty good.
- Battery life is excellent with more than 12 hours in both of our screen-on tests, the overall endurance rating is 84 hours.
- The software experience is close to stock Android 7.1.1, with minor Nokia touches in icon design for some of the (few) pre-installed apps. The Google suite is used for everything, there isn't even a Nokia gallery app or a music player. Overall, it's a really basic software package with no theme support or proprietary features.
- Benchmark performance is par for the course in its class, with the Snapdragon 430 delivering decent CPU performance and the GPU doing a respectable job with the 720p display.
- The single loudspeaker pumps out enough decibels for a Good rating in our testing, remains clean even at full blast.
- Audio output from the 3.5mm jack is clear, but rather quiet.
- Still images from the 13MP camera have no particular flaws - detail levels are good, noise is not an issue, colors are pleasing. Perhaps a little more dynamic range would have been nice, but at this price it's nitpicking, really.
- The 8MP selfies pack a lot of detail, though skin tones have a little more pink that ideal.
- 1080p videos from the main cam are on the soft side, though they have a natural, underprocessed look. Still, we would have liked some more pop out of them.
Of course, the Nokia 6 still has something to offer on top of the 5 - that's why there are three models in the lineup. For a nominal bump in price, the 6 delivers a larger and higher-res 5.5-inch 1080p display - the choice is clear if that's top on your list of priorities. It won't last as long on a single charge though, you can't have it all.
A Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017), which unfortunately we haven't had the chance to test yet, might be a worthy alternative, albeit a slightly more expensive one. Its 14nm Exynos 7870 chip should be more frugal and with a 3,000mAh battery and 5.2-inch 720p SuperAMOLED display, battery life could be in its favor - though that's just speculation at this point. The Galaxy does offer higher-resolution selfies, but looking at the specs alone, those are the only key differences.
You can pick up a Moto G5 for about as much as the Nokia 5 costs. That'll get you a FullHD display over the Nokia's 720p, though the diagonal of the G5 is smaller at 5 inches. The G5's primary camera is perhaps the superior one, but not the selfie shooter - the Nokia wins there. As for battery - the Nokia 5 will likely outlast the Moto G5 on a charge, but the G5's power pack is user replaceable. Having in mind how rare that is these days, it could settle things in the G5's favor for some users.
You could also look at the Sony Xperia XA1 for an alternative to the Nokia 5. The slightly more expensive Xperia has a more powerful chipset, more RAM, and twice the storage of the Nokia, plus a 23MP camera to the Nokia's 13MP. The Finnish smartphone wins in battery life, by a rather wide margin, and is, after all, more affordable.
If you want to be more adventurous, the Xiaomi Redmi 4 might be the way to go. After-sales support may not be stellar in all regions, but the Redmi is cheaper, and can be had with more RAM and storage than the Nokia. Regardless of which side you take in the stock Android/MIUI argument, there's no escaping the fact that the Redmi is running Marshmallow, while the Nokia is on the latest Nougat.
An affordable vanilla droid with solid build, great battery life, bright display, and camera output that won't leave you embarrassed - that would have been enough to seal the deal for any smartphone. This one? This one can claim all of the above, but adds something even sweeter - a Nokia badge. Yes, we kinda fancy the Nokia 5.