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Nokia 5 review: Is this the best sub-£200 smartphone?

Nokia 5 review – Since its announcement at MWC 2017, I’ve had my eyes on the Nokia 5. Its beautiful aluminium unibody design made it a real standout for a smartphone at this price. Now I’ve finally had the chance to try it out for myself, and discover whether it’s as good as it looks.

Nokia 5 review: What you need to know

The Nokia 5 is a 5.2in smartphone with an HD screen, a Snapdragon 430 processor, a front-mounted fingerprint sensor and a 13-megapixel camera.

The processor is able to handle intensive tasks, but is let down by the limited amount of RAM at its disposal, which means multitasking isn’t always smooth.

Its display is extremely bright, but the 720p resolution is a disappointment when competitors offer Full HD displays. Ultimately the Nokia 5 doesn’t bring anything special to the table. For a similar price, we’d recommend the better specified Vodafone Smart V8, or the Lenovo P2 with its phenomenal battery life.

Nokia 5 review: Price and competition

The Nokia 5 costs around £180 SIM-free, or it can be found on contract starting from £15 a month. It’s available in four colours – Copper, Blue, Black and Silver.

It isn’t short of competitors, such as the Lenovo P2 from around £170, the Smart V8 at around £159, the Moto G5 from £165, the G4 from £150, and the new Honor 6A from around £145.

Nokia 5 review: Design and build quality

Perhaps the best thing about the Nokia 5 is its physical design. It feels every bit as nice as much more expensive handsets. Its soft round edges make the device easy to hold, and with its aluminium unibody, the phone should survive a knock or two.

At only 8mm thick, the device is slender too, and it only weighs 160g too, which is rather lightweight for a 5.2in device.

A fingerprint sensor is integrated into the home button, with capacitive buttons to either side. The power and volume buttons are on the right-hand side. A nano-SIM tray and microSD card expansion slot are found on the opposite side. The latter lets you add an additional 256GB of storage on top of the internal 16GB.

At the bottom of the device is a micro-USB charging port, and at the top, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack. You’ll find an 8-megapixel camera at the front, and a 13-megapixel shooter with flash at the back.

The phone isn’t waterproof, water-resistant nor dustproof, and its 3,000mAh battery cannot be swapped out.

Nokia 5 review: Display

The Nokia 5 has a 5.2in HD (1,280 x 720) IPS display, topped with Corning Gorilla Glass. That’s a lower resolution than you’ll find on the Vodafone Smart V8 and Lenovo P2, and it results in a low 282ppi pixel density, which makes text look a little less sharp than on rival devices.

On the plus side, the screen is extremely bright. Tested through the i1Display Pro, it reached a searing 578cd/m2. It’s one of the brightest displays I’ve laid my eyes on, so even in the mid-day glare you won’t have any viewing problems. For comparison, the Lenovo P2 achieves a maximum of only 326cd/m2.

The IPS display also has good colour coverage, hitting an impressive 92.8% of the sRGB gamut colour space; colours look vibrant and pop to life, and colour accuracy isn’t half bad either with an average Delta E of 2.89. Its 1,028:1 contrast ratio and 0.56cd/m2 black level are fine, but on the low side for an IPS display; if you’re watching a film with dark scenes, things might look a little on the grey side.

Nokia 5 review: Software

Unlike other manufacturers that insist on customising Android and preinstalling a bunch of their own apps, Nokia has gone the purist route. The Nokia 5 runs a completely stock version of Android 7.1.1 Nougat, so there’s no bloatware or unfamiliar overlays to deal with. We like that very much.

Nokia 5 review: Performance

Inside the Nokia 5 there’s an eight-core 1.4GHz Snapdragon 430 CPU and 2GB of RAM. I’d have liked to see more RAM included to better deal with multitasking: if you’re playing Pokemon GO with a few tabs open on Chrome in the background, you’ll find the phone struggling to keep up.

When it comes to single tasks, though, the Nokia 5 can cope with anything you throw at it. In the multi-platform Geekbench 4 benchmark, it outpaced almost all of its competitors, and was only marginally beaten by the Lenovo P2, which features a more powerful Snapdragon 625 processor.

^ Nokia 5: Geekbench 4

Like most budget phones, the Nokia 5 isn’t really up to handling intensive games. You’ll be able to play Candy Crush and Temple Run perfectly smoothly, but in the GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 onscreen test it managed an average of only 14fps.

^ Nokia 5: Battery life

Battery life is fantastic. The Nokia 5 lasted 14hrs 53mins in our video rundown test, so it’ll get you through a day of use. For comparison, the Moto G5 lasted 11hrs 51mins in the same test, while the Lenovo P2 that leads the way with a staggering 28hrs 50mins.

Nokia 5 review: Camera

The Nokia 5’s rear camera is a 13-megapixel model with a f/2.0 lens. Detail is good, and there isn’t any noticeable smearing, but with default settings, things can come out looking rather drab. For example, see the image below of an overcast day: the building looks dark, there are lots of shadows around the trees to the right-hand side of the image, and the glass room on the left-hand side is quite hard to distinguish.

^ Without HDR enabled, colours are rather dark, but image detail is good

Happily, when you toggle HDR on, images suddenly come to life: everything becomes a lot brighter and colourful. Comparing the image below (with HDR) and the image above (without HDR), you’ll see the trees are a lot greener, the building at the foreground has a lot less shadows and the glass at the left-hand side looks a lot better.

^ With HDR enabled, the image is a lot more vibrant and accurate

Unexpectedly, the Nokia 5 camera does suffer a little from lens distortion, which isn’t something I’ve noticed in other sub-£200 smartphones. In the HDR image below, you’ll be able to notice the BT Tower is almost like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. If you’ll be taking a lot of landscape shots with the Nokia 5, you might need to use an app to correct them after the fact.

^ Lens distortion occurring on the BT tower to the right-hand side of the image

Low-light performance isn’t the best either, with a lot of image noise obscuring detail. Turning on the flash improves the lighting, and gives you much sharper pictures, but unfortunately, it also gives everything an unwelcome blue tint.

^ In low light, the camera struggles to keep image noise down^ Shot taken with the flash can come out with a blue cast

Nokia 5 review: Verdict

The Nokia 5 is an attractive phone, but it lacks a standout feature that would justify choosing it over other phones in this price range. Its biggest strength is the extremely bright screen, and its impressive battery life, but that’s not enough to swing the deal.

Instead, we suggest you stick with the Lenovo P2 that offers better battery life or Vodafone Smart V8, which is speedy – both great sub-£200 phones that really do stand out from the crowd.

Hardware
Processor

Octa-core 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53 Snapdragon 430

RAM 2GB
Screen size 5.2in
Screen resolution 720 x 1280
Screen type IPS
Front camera 8 megapixels
Rear camera 13 megapixels
Flash LED
GPS Yes
Compass Yes
Storage (free) 32GB
Memory card slot (supplied)
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.1
NFC Yes
Wireless data 4G
Dimensions
Weight 160g
Features
Operating system Android 7.1.1
Battery size 3,000 mAh
Buying information
Warranty 1 year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT) £179

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