Reviews Technology

Nokia 5310 XpressMusic Edition Review

Nokia 5310 XpressMusic
Creative Commons License photo credit: theowl84
Nokia 5310 XpressMusic Edition
My rating: 8.1 / 10
Pros: One of the slimmest Nokia phones in the market which isn’t a business phone (like the 6300 / E-series) nor a phone-for-chicks (like the Nokia 9700 Prism).
Cons: It’s a music phone, so compared to ‘dedicated’ camera phones, it isn’t that good in the camera department.

Was able to check out the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic Edition phone today, courtesy a friend who’s bought it. I won’t be a giving a ‘full’ review, simply because I believe that to actually test a phone properly you need to at least work on for a week. Still, as far as first impressions go, here’s my viewpoint.

It’s slim, no doubt about that – compared to Nokia’s standards, that is. Nokia is quite rightly written off in the form factor department because its phones tend to be quite bulky, compared to other brands. It has been trying to rectify that image for some time now; first with the Nokia 6300, which was a more general phone, then with the comparatively slim E-series phones, and finally the Nokia Prism, which, quite frankly can only be used by girls because of the incredibly tiny buttons it has (I was never able to successfully navigate its menu when I’d used it for a while, again from some other friend who’d bought it). The Nokia 5310 is a stab in that direction, considering that the earlier music phones like the 5700 were quite bulky.

Nokia 5310
Creative Commons License photo credit: Virgile Fontaine
The phone is slim (again, by Nokia standards), doesn’t really wow you. The 6300 has that brushed metal look, and the Prism has funky geometric designs and sharp angles – the 5310 looks singularly bland. Very plasticky and flimsy, although I didn’t get the permission to drop-test it. It sports quick controls like stop/play, fast-forward/rewind on the side, so you don’t need to navigate via the software interface for that. They feel weird though, because they don’t give much of a tactile feedback on pressing. The normal keypad buttons are smooth, and quite pleasant to use.

Nokia 5310 uses the Symbian Series 40 operating system, the look of the interface being much like that of any other Nokia phone; except that this one’s default deep-red theme looks a lot better than most Nokia themes. ‘Series 40’ means that it’s a lower version of the operating system than phones like the Nokia E-series, N-series – and ones like the Nokia 3230. The phone wasn’t sluggish – but that’s probably because it was brand-new, with hardly any media present in the memory card apart from the 50 pre-loaded songs which come in the XpressMusic editions these days. BTW, don’t factor in “I’ll get 50 pre-loaded songs, yay!” into your purchase decision, simply because you can load anything on it later yourself.

The other thing which I checked out was the (2 MP) camera. As is with most Nokia phones, the auto white balance is quite sluggish – which means that in scenes with a lot of motion you’ll get a lot of blurry streaks. Photos taken indoors had considerable amount of noise in them. I guess some people might not be familiar with this term ‘noise’ in the context of photos – it simply means that the photo is ‘grainy’ and off-color. Using the night mode setting rectifies that, but make the white balance correction even more sluggish. Moreover, most Nokia phones – including the 5310 – don’t allow you to change the ISO settings (the sensitivity level of the camera). Also tested the Java engine (by running a game, and Opera Mini) – it’s OK; again, nothing different from other Nokia S40 phones.

Now, the music bit. I liked the fact that the audio port is at the top, which makes the earphones wire stay a lot less untangled. On the other hand, having it at the top – instead of the side as is usual – also means that it’s quite easy for the earphone jack to get disconnected if it gets tugged at. The music quality – I won’t comment on that because the bundled music files aren’t exactly 320kbps MP3s – and therefore it would be wrong for me a pass a judgement on that without eliminating the factor of lower bitrate. Still, I hazard a guess that the music capabilities are quite on par with other Nokia phones (because I haven’t come across one with bad music output yet), the only thing differentiating this as a ‘music edition’ being the dedicated control buttons.

One thing I didn’t like AT ALL about the phone is that apart from the 3.5mm earphone jack, even the mini-USB is at the top – utterly ludicrous! I can understand that for the audio port, but not the other. Effectively, that means you either need to keep your phone upside down on the table (if you use the front-USB ports on your computer), or connect it to the USB-ports at the back of your PC cabinet (which nobody does these days, except for always-on-use devices like mice). Simply because your phone is connected via USB doesn’t mean you’ve to stop using it, and this design decision was pathetic. Other Nokia phones generally stick to the convention of keeping those ports at the bottom.

Can’t comment on the battery life. I haven’t tested it. It doesn’t have 3G support, but don’t let that influence you since Indian cell networks don’t support 3G. Hell, they don’t even support EDGE properly in most places. I find it amusing at times when salespeople try to con people in buying ‘3G-capable phones’ when it’s useless in India. And it works too – throw around a lot of hi-fi sounding acronyms, and gullible people shell out extra bucks for ‘features’ they can’t even use.

On the whole though, I would say that for a price of around Rs 9000 in the current market – and that’s expected to drop after a weeks because this is a newly launched phone – it’s a good buy if you want a music phone. It really isn’t that good-looking (except for the slimness), but with dedicated music controls it’s a good convergence device if you don’t want to lug around a personal music player. Nokia never really got the camera right in most phones (except for some in the N-series), but that shouldn’t influence your decision much because most people overestimate how much they’ll be using the camphone. When people really need to snap photos they use their digicams – and it isn’t worth to shell out extra bucks for those elusive Kodak moments when you don’t have your digicam. Seriously, most people use the camera in their for the first few days, and then goodbye to it. If music is all you want, and you want a phone which is less bulky than the earlier Nokia music phones, the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic edition is the one to go in for.

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