Nokia 5 Review: The tricky middle child

Alex Kidman 27 July 2017

Nokia 5 Review

The Good...

  • Stylish design for a budget phone
  • Uncluttered Android install
  • Reasonable fingerprint sensor

The Bad...

  • Camera is slow to launch
  • Mediocre performance
  • Ordinary battery life

Quick Verdict

While its status as the middle child of the new Nokia family might make it an also-ran, the Nokia 5 is arguably the best of the new Nokia phones. That being said, you're spoilt for choice in the budget space, so unless the Nokia name entices you, consider your options carefully before laying down your cash on the Nokia 5.

Nokia's mid-range Android handset might be the best of the bunch, but it's fighting in a very crowded budget space.

HMD Global made quite the splash this year at Mobile World Congress 2017, relaunching the Nokia brand with a range of 4 mobile handsets produced by Foxconn in China. We won't see the reborn Nokia 3310 here in Australia at all thanks to the death of 2G services, although HMD's CEO won't rule out a possible 3G version.

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The other 3 new Nokia phones launched at MWC, the Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 are set to appear for outright sale in Australia in late July and we've already put the somewhat disappointing Nokia 3 through its review paces.

That puts the Nokia 5, the middle-tier Nokia next in our reviewing pile. Middle children in a series often have a tough time of it, because they're not the absolute budget option, but equally, they often lack the features of the "hero" phone of the series. Against that context, how does the $329 Nokia 5 actually fare?

Nokia5_1_738

Design

HMD Global has clearly taken the Nokia branding in mind when designing the Nokia 5, because classically Nokia was known for producing phones with distinctive design notes. That led to the rather plastic but eye catching Nokia 3, but for the Nokia 5 you instead get a phone carved out of a single block of aluminium. Aluminium body phones are nothing new in a real sense, but it's quite unusual to see them at this kind of price point, and that does make the Nokia 5 stand out. It looks, essentially, like a much more expensive phone than it actually is, and that's a big plus.

At 149.7x72.5x8.05mm with a carrying weight of 160g, the Nokia 5 is also quite a comfortable phone to hold in the hand, thanks to rounded corners and all that polished aluminium, although this does mean that it is somewhat slippery too. The right-hand side volume and power buttons only just jut out from the side of the phone, and while this is aesthetically pleasant, it can make them a little hard to accurately hit in a hurry.

Like the Nokia 3's camera, Nokia's taken a less-is-more approach with the Nokia 5's camera bump. It does extrude just a little, but not so much as to make the Nokia 5 notably unstable if placed down on a table. While the Nokia 5 is produced globally in a range of colours, in Australia we'll only see the Matte Black and Silver variants.

Nokia5_3_738

Camera

The Nokia 5 features a rear 13MP f/2.0 camera, with a 8MP f/2.0 selfie camera around the front. That's mostly par for the course in the budget space that the Nokia 5 occupies.

Like the Nokia 3, the Nokia 5's camera app is a very generic experience and one that isn't notably quick to launch, although it was a little faster to actually take shots than the woeful performance of the Nokia 3.

That being said, the Nokia 5 still struggled with anything more complex than a well lit, static shot. If you're a frequent smartphone photographer wanting anything fast, or in less than ideal lighting conditions, the Nokia 5 is likely to frustrate with uneven exposure, wobbly focus and average photos at best. Here's some sample photos taken with the Nokia 5:

Nokia5SampleShot1 Nokia5SampleShot2 Nokia5SampleShot3 Nokia5SampleShot4

Performance

The Nokia 5 comes with a 5.2 inch 720p display that's adequate but (again) unexciting for this price range. Predictably very bright sunlight isn't its friend, but for most mobile apps it's adequate.

Underneath the display lurks Qualcomm's Snapdragon 430, alongside 2GB of RAM. The low-cost Snapdragon 430 really hasn't been seen on too many phones in the Australian market, although it's quite common for a range of Chinese-produced phones sold elsewhere worldwide. It's definitely a step up from the MediaTek 6737 found in the Nokia 3, and when you consider that there's only a $30 price difference between the two, that marks the Nokia 5 out from its lesser sibling. Interestingly, it's the same essential configuration found in the $399 Nokia 6, although that phone also has 3GB of RAM.

HMD has stated that it expects to offer 2 years worth of upgrades across the new Nokia lines, and that's playing out faster on the Nokia 5 and Nokia 6, both of which were running on Android 7.1.1 during our test period, while the Nokia 3 was still using Android 7.0.

The Nokia 5 does feature a reasonably adept fingerprint sensor for unlocking purposes, although it is a little thin, making rapid unlocks a sometimes frustrating prospect.

The Nokia 5's anecdotal performance was much what you'd expect out of a budget phone. HMD Global has made a lot of noise around its choice to bundle essentially pure Android with few specified "Nokia" apps, and that does mean that the Nokia 5 isn't notably cluttered up with apps that could hit its basic performance.

Still, basic is the word to describe the Nokia 5's overall performance, because it doesn't exist in a vacuum against other budget and mid-range competitors. Here's how it compared using Geekbench 4's CPU test:

HandsetGeekbench 4 CPU Single Core (higher is better)Geekbench 4 CPU Multi Core (higher is better)
Moto G5 Plus8424180
Motorola Moto X Force13523581
Huawei GR5 20178143398
Huawei Nova Plus8432985
Nokia 56622833
Nokia 66642832
Moto G56302605
Nokia 35521527

It is interesting to note that the Nokia 5 ever so slightly pipped the Nokia 6 in pure benchmark terms, even given the extra GB of RAM on the larger handset. Benchmarks don't tell the entire story, though, with both phones very much relying on what are ultimately low-end processors.

In the 3D space, the same story played out. Here's how the Nokia 5 compared using 3DMark's Ice Storm Unlimited test:

Handset3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result
Huawei Nova Plus13969
Moto G5 Plus13753
Huawei GR5 201711859
Moto G59532
Nokia 59483
Nokia 69435
Nokia 33676

Nokia5_4_738Battery life

One of the benefits of using a low-spec processor should be improved battery life, because you're simply not churning as many bits all at once. Nokia provides a 3,000mAh battery in the Nokia 5, which is a reasonable size at this price point, and a good match to run a display of this size.

In day to day use, single day recharges are workable, but only just, with the battery often hovering into perilous territory if I was too busy with the Nokia 5 on a given day. That's borne out by the Nokia 5's battery life figures using the older Geekbench 3 battery test, where it very much sat low in the pack:

HandsetGeekbench 3 Battery Test DurationGeekbench 3 Battery Score
LG X Power14:50:305714
Huawei Nova Plus13:21:208013
Huawei GR5 201711:33:506938
Motorola Moto G5 Plus11:15:406756
Motorola Moto X Force9:46:503914
Nokia 58:42:305044
Nokia 68:19:104833
Nokia 37:34:103028
Motorola Moto G56:32:503833

Again, that smaller display makes the Nokia 5 the standout in the Nokia pack if you're very brand-conscious, but there are many other budget options with better overall battery performance.

Nokia5_5_738

Verdict

The Nokia 5 is a very nice looking phone at its price point, and that's easily its best selling point. If your budget is limited but you don't want to be stuck with a phone that appears to share its DNA with at least half a brick, it's a solid enough proposition, but not a truly exciting one.

In some ways, Nokia's use of essentially stock Android mirrors the approach that Google itself used to have with its Nexus phones. Google has shifted over to the premium space for Pixel, leaving a gap in the market that's being filled with phones like the Nokia 5.

The most obvious competitor products that largely do the same thing would be Motorola's Moto G5 or Moto G5 Plus, but there are also options from Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei or Oppo if the prospect of "clean" Android doesn't appeal to you. The Nokia 5 is reasonable value for money, but outside the design, there's not much here to get overly excited about.

Specifications

Product Name
Nokia 5
Display
5.2in
Resolution
720 x 1280 pixels
ppi
282ppi
Software
Android 7.1.1
Storage
16GB
RAM
2GB
Battery
3000mAh
Front camera
8MP f/2.0
Rear camera
13MP f/2.0
Processor
Snapdragon 430
Size
149.7 x 72.5 x 8 mm
Weight
160g

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