Nokia 5250 Review - Symbian^1 stripped-down

By Cosmin Vasile on January 14th, 2011 15:49 GMT
Since Nokia 5800 XpressMusic was launched on the market back in November 2008, Symbian S60 5th Edition was the main mobile platform the Finnish manufacturer has focused on. Recently, however, Nokia has shifted its priorities to the latest Symbian^3 and MeeGo operating system, in a desperate attempt to recover the ground lost to the Android and iOS platforms.

However, Nokia 5250 can hardly be considered a smartphone, even though its spec sheet mentions that it runs the Symbian S60 5th Edition operating system.

There's almost no feature that could point to the fact the Nokia 5250 is a smartphone, as the device has been thoroughly stripped of everything that could have increased its low price.

Still, there's a target for every phone out there and Nokia 5250 is no exception. People who get confused by too many features or simply do not use smartphone capabilities because they don't need them, might find this handset suitable.

Announced in August 2010, Nokia 5250 was launched on the market in September 2010 and can be bought for about 170 US dollars without a subscription. Potential customers can choose from five available color schemes: Dark Grey, Blue, Red, Purple or White.Design

At first glance, Nokia 5250 strongly resembles a large chocolate bar or a small brick, especially when seen from afar. Even though Nokia's choice for cheap plastic might seem disappointing, the handset doesn't look that way at all.

Obviously, it is more prone to scratches and even the smallest drop can cause heavy damages to the plastic case. The only things I have to disagree with when it comes to the phone's design are the excessive thickness, as well as the large bezel surrounding the touch screen.
However, the phone fits perfectly in a common sized pocket. Nokia 5250 measures 105 x 50 x 14 mm and weighs 106g (battery included), which is almost exactly the same as its Nokia 5530 XpressMusic predecessor. The handset doesn't have anything that could make it stand out and features a minimalistic look.

Regardless of the color scheme chosen, the handset will always feature a black front case and only the back cover and the sides of the phone will have a different color. The left side of the phone has been left bare, with only a small gap at the middle that will help users pull out the battery cover. The right side of the phone features a dual volume key, the lock/unlock sliding key, as well as the dedicated camera button. On the top side there's a 3.5mm audio jack, a 2.5mm charging port, as well as the microUSB which is covered by a plastic stripe.The 2.8-inch display is surrounded by a pretty large black colored bezel, which makes it look smaller than it really is. At the base of the touch screen there's a set of three physical keys: Accept calls, Menu key and Reject calls. Above the display, a little bit to the right there's the usual Media touch key, which opens a quick media menu. There's also the earpiece and a proximity sensor above the screen, but the phone lacks an ambient light sensor.The 2-megapixel camera on the back of the phone lacks a LED flash and autofocus. Two loudspeakers have been embedded at the base of the battery cover, while a stylus can be found to the left corner of the phone.

Users will be able to insert a microSD card or the SIM card only removing the battery cover, as both slots have been placed on the right side of the phone. Fortunately, this doesn't require the removal of the battery itself.Overall, Nokia 5250 features a standard bar look with a solid and compact build that makes it more appealing than other low-tier handsets.

Display and Camera

Nokia 5250 features a 2.8-inch TFT resistive touchscreen that supports 16 million colors and a 360 x 640 pixels resolution, which can also be controlled with the stylus included in the sales package. Even though we're talking about a resistive touchscreen here, I have nothing negative to say about it, as Nokia tried to get the best it could from this technology.However, the bad thing is that this is a resistive touch screen after all and you'll have a hard time typing fast unless the stylus is used. Furthermore, the rather small size of the screen doesn't help either. Still, you will get a very nice and crisp image on the display with good contrast and brightness.

Unfortunately, things change radically when the screen is exposed to sunlight, which makes it almost unusable. The viewing angles could also be wider. Fortunately, you're blessed with the accelerometer function, which works smoothly.The 2-megapixel camera lacks autofocus, LED flash or any other advanced capability. Still, I was a little surprised to find that the camera's interface includes a wide range of settings such as: White balance, ISO, Contrast, Color tone, Exposure, Sharpness and more. This could be confusing for the common user, especially since these additional settings don't increase the pictures’ quality at all.The camera captures pictures with a maximum resolution of 1600x1200 pixels, while video clips can be recorded in VGA@30fps. Symbian touch screen smartphone owners will probably recognize the camera's interface immediately. After all, it hasn't changed much since 2008 when the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic was launched.The quality of the pictures is not that good, partly coming from the fact that it's only a 2-megapixel camera. Check out the samples below for a more accurate opinion about the quality of the photo snapper.Menu and Software

Nokia 5250 runs the Symbian S60 5th Edition operating system, but since Nokia decided to change the name of its various versions of Symbian, let's say that the device runs Symbian^1.

The good news is that this might be the most straightforward user interface ever embedded onto a Symbian smartphone. The bad news is that Nokia didn’t remove just hardware features to keep the price of the device as low as possible. They have also stripped the phone from a ton of software features, which I'm not sure would have affected the price in any way.Thankfully, the smartphone retains some of the Symbian^1 features that were introduced gradually through numerous updates.

The phone features a single homescreen that can be customized to display four Shortcuts. Widgets have been removed, so we won't be able to add any to the homescreen. Kinetic scrolling is also present and works just about anywhere inside the phone's menu: web browser, main menu, gallery, contacts. “Clicking” on the clock near the signal icon, on the upper left corner of the homescreen, will give you quick access to the clock and alarms. Connectivity settings can be quickly accessed by clicking on the battery icon, while Profiles can be selected from the icon displayed right under the operator’s name.

To bring up the Main menu key, click the middle key under the screen; choose Options/Organise, to rearrange the menu as you see fit. Because of the low number of icons, the main menu has been organized on two rows, unlike more advanced Symbian smartphones which feature a 3-row main menu.Under the Application menu, one can find a handful of apps, which are not categorized in any way: clock, notes, camera, Games, Office along with RealPlayer, Video center and Ovi Sync.

Other applications that come pre-loaded with Nokia 5250 include: calendar, calculator, converter, file manager, Amazon, Facebook, Friendster, Hi5, and MySpace. Under the Music sub-menu you'll find a few media-dedicated apps, such as: music player, Stereo FM Radio with RDS support, Podcasts, Ovi Music and Shazam.

A single game has been bundled with the smartphone, Guitar Hero 5, but more can be installed.The device supports two input methods: stylus and finger touch support for text input and UI control, but the best, by far, is the stylus.

The interface is snappy when you're not running more than one application in the background, otherwise you'll experience sudden lags when opening other apps or browsing through the menus. I have also noticed that using a close to full memory card (regardless of its size) slows down the phone.Communication

Nokia 5250 is a quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900) handset that features GPRS and EDGE class 32 as the only options for data transfer connections. Nothing else has been added, like Wi-Fi or a built-in GPS receiver.The integrated browser has been improved and it features full Java and Flash Lite 2.0 support, which are working quite nicely. Other features included in the browser: auto fill-in, RSS reader, download manager, password manager and pop-up blocker.Other connectivity tools include Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP and EDR support, and microUSB for PC synchronization (no charging).In terms of messaging, the phone offers a complete solution, accepting all available message types. I strongly recommend using the stylus when typing, for a smoother experience. The messaging client works with the POP3, SMTP, and IMAP4 protocols, and supports more than one email account. Furthermore, it can download headers or full email, and supports attachments.The quad-band smartphone has a good GSM signal reception. Sound during phone calls is also above average.

Processor and Memory

The bar smartphone is powered by the same ARM11 family processor running at speeds of up to 434 Mhz that has been embedded in Nokia 5530 XpressMusic model. The device works pretty smoothly, but I have noticed some lag when using other applications while the browser is open or when the memory card storage space is close to full.

The smartphone also features 76MB internal memory, with only 51MB available to users. Storage space can be expanded up to 16GB, thanks to the hot-swappable card slot.Multimedia

The smartphone features the same standard-looking music player as Nokia 5530 and Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. There are five pre-installed equalizer modes: Bass booster, Classical, Jazz, Pop and Rock. Other settings are: Balance, Loudness and Stereo widening.The device features Radio FM with RDS function as well, but lacks the FM transmitter for broadcasting your own music. Reception is very good, and sound quality is above average. Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support enables users to listen to the music wirelessly.The 3.5mm jack port is a good addition, as it enables users to change the earphones that are coming with the phone (WH-102). The included video player lacks DivX and XviD codecs, so you'll need to find yourself a third-party application to play these movie files.Speaking of quality, Nokia's 5250 music sound is above average in all aspects, including the loudspeakers.Battery

According to the manufacturer, The 1,000 mAh Li-Ion (BL-4U) battery has an impressive life expectancy of 450 hours for standby mode and 7 hours and 40 minutes for talk time mode. Nokia also claims a play back autonomy of almost 24 hours.

For what it's worth, Nokia 5250's long battery autonomy is something that won't fail. To no surprise though, as the device lacks any advanced features that might drain the battery faster than it should. Overall, I would say the phone has an excellent battery, which is exactly what the manufacturer wanted.Impressions

Nokia 5250 is definitely the less featured Symbian smartphone ever built by the Finnish manufacturer. Even though Nokia stripped the phone from all the “expensive” features specific to Symbian smartphones so it can fit the device into the low-end category, it made the 5250 almost unusable for other than calls and a little bit of web browsing, if you're not annoyed by the slow data transfer speeds offered by the EDGE connectivity.


The Good

In addition to its low price, the smartphone features good audio quality and loudspeaker performance, as well as an excellent web browser, which is only dragged down by the slow EDGE connectivity. The high battery life is also something worth mentioning among the positive things, as well as the microSD card slot.

The Bad

Dubbed as a Symbian^1 smartphone, Nokia 5250 is inferior to many feature-phones in terms of performance and capabilities. There's no document viewer, no YouTube client, no Wi-Fi connectivity, no 3G or GPS. The 2-megapixel camera is also not something that should be included in a 2010 smartphone anymore. The sales package is also very poor for a smartphone, as you don't get an USB cable or a memory card bundled.

Sales Package

Nokia 5250 handset
Nokia Battery Li-Ion 1000 mAh BL-4U
Nokia Stereo Headset WH-102
Nokia High-Efficiency Charger AC-8
User guide
Nokia 5250
96 photos
   Nokia 5250

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