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Nokia 5 Review: Slick design, flawed performance

3.5

The Good

  • Long battery life
  • Smart, Lumia-like design
  • Vanilla Android
  • NFC

The Bad

  • No Full HD
  • Limited performance
  • No Type-C USB

Our Nokia 5 review takes an in-depth look at one of Nokia’s trio of new affordable phones, freshly launched for 2017.

So far this year, Nokia has launched three new Android handsets. All of which are priced at the ‘affordable’ end of the smartphone market.

The Nokia 5 sits neatly between the Nokia 3 and the Nokia 6 in terms of size, pricing and specs. This 5.2-inch blower is reasonably compact and sports some respectable innards for the low £180 asking price here in the UK. On paper it seems to be a decent well-rounded device, although some aspects such as the limited memory raise concerns.

Of course, 2017 has seen plenty of great budget mobiles hit our stores, so the Nokia 5 has some tough competition to beat off. Its primary rival is the Motorola Moto G5 of course, and you can check out how these two stack up in our full Nokia 5 vs Moto G5 comparison review. However, for around the same price you can also pick up the Lenovo P2 (which boasts incredible three days of battery life) and the dual-lens camera packing Honor 6X.

So is the Nokia 5 a worthy handset for anyone on a tight budget, or should phone shoppers look to another of Nokia’s trio? Or perhaps an alternative manufacturer? Here’s our in-depth Nokia 5 review after using the device as our full-time personal handset.

If you’re after more affordable smartphones, check out our round-up of the best budget mobiles and the best budget camera phones.

Nokia 5 Review: Design

As far as budget blowers go, the Nokia 5 is one of the finer looking devices we’ve seen in 2017.

For a start, this phone boasts a full metal jacket, which looks sleek and proves reassuringly rugged. While competitors such as the Lenovo P2 and Moto G5 also sport an aluminium frame, Nokia’s design is a step above (in our eyes at least).

Unlike those handsets, the Nokia 5 offers a one-piece unibody design which wraps neatly around the edges and stops at the glass front panel. The matt surfacing doesn’t offer much in the way of grip, although repels scratches and scuffs with ease. Of course this phone isn’t water resistant, which is to be expected at this price point, so don’t go dunking it in the bath or anything.

That firmly rectangular finish is reminiscent of the old Lumia devices we used to love to bits. A pleasing heft gives the handset a premium feel when it’s sat in your palm, yet at 160g it’s only slightly heavier than most other 5.2-inch phones. Unfortunately the Nokia 5 isn’t too comfortable to use with a single hand, unlike the Moto G5. That’s thanks to the comparatively pointed corners. You don’t get any kind of built-in one-handed mode to help out, either.

Sadly you can’t pick this mobile up in a selection of vibrant finishes either, like those old Lumias; your choice is limited to black, grey, dark blue and a kind of salmony copper colour. That’s more of a sign of the times than anything else.

Your SIM card and microSD memory card slip into separate trays on the left edge of the Nokia 5, although they’re not marked up in any way. This lack of labelling helps the aesthetics, although proves a pain when you come to change the memory card. A first world problem of the highest order.

What works?

The Nokia 5’s metal frame provides an attractive and rugged finish, which looks and feels more premium than the asking price suggests.

What doesn’t?

One-handed use is hampered by the Lumia-style rectangular candy bar finish.

Nokia 5 Review: Screen and media

We were admittedly a little disappointed to discover that the Nokia 5 sports a basic 720p IPS panel. This 1280x720 pixel resolution means you get less sharp visuals when compared with many similarly-priced smartphones. After all, the Moto G5, Lenovo P2 and Vodafone’s Smart V8 all offer Full HD 1920x1080 visuals.

Still, images are reasonably crisp despite that drop in resolution. You’ll spy individual pixels if you look close, although HD video still looks pretty good, with enough detail to make the most of your shows and movies.

Brightness levels are strong enough to counter glare when outdoors too. You even get the same special ‘sunlight mode’ found on older Lumia phones, which is supposed to tweak the contrast levels when the sun shines. As always, we didn’t notice much of a difference at all, as the Nokia 5 is already easy to use in bright conditions.

Colours aren’t particularly punchy, yet they certainly aren’t muted either. On the whole, the Nokia 5 stands up quite well to rivals despite lacking the same detail levels, and is certainly fine for everyday use.

The rather limited 16GB of built-in storage is already half used up by Android and the pre-installed apps, so you don’t get much room for your own apps, media and files. Thankfully a microSD card can be pushed inside the Nokia 5, to boost up to a further 256GB when needed.

What works?

That screen is certainly bright enough for outdoors use and a respectable enough budget panel. Expandable storage is appreciated, given the seriously limited internal storage.

What doesn’t?

It’s a shame that the Nokia 5 doesn’t offer Full HD visuals, to truly compete with the best sub-£199 smartphones out there.

Nokia 5 Review: Features

Nokia has wisely decided to offer a clean, vanilla version of Google’s Android OS on the Nokia 5. That means no unnecessary tweaks or software overhauls. Which in turn, means this phone should enjoy an update to Android O ahead of many rival budget blowers.

This is the latest 7.1.1 Nougat version of Android, so you get all of Google’s essential updates built in. A lot of the changes happened behind the scenes for this version, such as the resource management tweaks and other bits to improve general efficiency. As usual you can populate the desktops with widgets and shortcuts to your favourite apps, while a bit of gesture support allows you to reject calls by flipping the phone onto its screen, for instance.

We’re pleased to see the Nokia 5 comes with full NFC support, for contactless payments. That’s something missing from the Moto G5, presumably to cut costs, which seems something of an oversight given the rising popularity in tap-to-pay solutions.

Security is solid too, with a narrow fingerprint sensor built into the home button beneath the screen. This scanner doesn’t always work first time, although it’s generally responsive and still beats entering a PIN every time you wish to unlock your phone.

What works?

The inclusion of a fingerprint sensor and NFC support is appreciated for sure, while the Nokia 5’s tinker-free Android OS is a pleasure to use.

What doesn’t?

The fingerprint scanner is occasionally a little temperamental, although not to any troublesome degree.

Nokia 5 Review: Performance and battery life

So far, we can easily forgive the little quirks that the Nokia 5 has thrown at us. However, when it comes to performance, this handset really does struggle.

A basic Snapdragon 430 chipset is stuffed inside, backed up by just 2GB of RAM, which is a similar setup to the Moto G5. In fact, these two mobiles also offer a clean version of Android, and score roughly the same in our AnTuTu benchmarking tests (around the 45k mark, if you’re interested).

Yet despite this similarity, the G5 is clearly the superior performer. Nokia’s mobile stutters and stammers with reliable consistency, whether you’re unlocking it or opening apps or browsing the web. We also saw a fair few little quirks, such as widgets mysteriously disappearing when flipping through our desktops.

Thankfully battery life is a better story. We easily made it through a solid day and a half of regular use, on a single charge. That includes plenty of web browsing, messaging, camera use and even some gaming and video streaming. Plus if you do find yourself running low, you can always activate the usual Battery Saver mode to stretch out your remaining time.

With Quick Charge 3.0 support, the Nokia 5 also recharges quite quickly. You can expect close to a full battery after just an hour at the plug, using Nokia’s bundled charger.

The only thing that disappointed us in this area was the old-school USB port. You don’t get a reversible Type-C USB connection, which has the added drawback of slower transfer speeds when connected to a computer.

What works?

Battery life is great and Quick Charge support means it fills back up fast.

What doesn’t?

The Nokia 5’s hampered performance means you’ll see stutters and stammers a-plenty.

Nokia 5 Review: Cameras

On the back end of the Nokia 5 you’ll find the 13-megapixel f/2.0 aperture camera lens, positioned centrally on a slender bar which juts ever so slightly from the surface. Complete with Phase Detection Autofocus tech, this smartphone snapper certainly sounds on paper like it’s up to the task of everyday snaps and home movies.

Around the front of the Nokia 5 you’ll also find an 8-megapixel secondary camera, for shooting selfies. It’s a wide-angle lens and like the rear camera, you can again record up to Full HD resolution video.

So are the Nokia 5 cameras any good? Check out our full Nokia 5 camera review for photo and video samples and our full analysis.

Nokia 5 Review: Verdict

The Nokia 5 certainly gives a good first impression, with its shiny metal unibody, nostalgic design and low asking price. Boot it up and you’re presented with a clean version of Android Nougat, along with expandable storage for filling the phone with your apps and media collection. You even get full fingerprint security and NFC support for contactless payments.

However, while the battery life is pleasingly long, the Nokia 5 suffers from frustratingly stilted performance. Rivals boast sharper screens and more capable camera tech too, although this handset will satisfy anyone wanting to stream YouTube clips on the go and generally produces good-looking photos.

Check out our Nokia 3 vs Nokia 5 vs Nokia 6 comparison to see how the three new Android Nokia phones stack up.

Key Specs

  • 5.2-inches
  • 1280x720
  • 160g
  • Android 7.1.1
  • 13-megapixels
  • 8-megapixels
  • Snapdragon 430
  • 2GB
  • 16GB + microSD
  • Yes
  • NFC, fingerprint sensor

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