Nokia 5300 XpressMusic Review

A package of fun

By Elena Balan on September 11th, 2007 15:00 GMT
Music phones surely make an important category in cellular developing. Sony Ericsson has split its handset production into specific areas of interest with their Walkman and Cyber-shot line of devices, making it easier to target specific types of users. It was just about time for Nokia, the leading handset producer, to pick up this efficient strategy and unveil its own music phones.

Nokia has definitely brought a breeze of fresh air in its phone offer with the launch of the XpressMusic line of handsets. The devices are just as full of life as its audience is, mainly made of young people. There are more innovative surprises behind these phones, leaving aside the way they look. With their plastic cases and colorful easy access buttons they look like toys and that's exactly what they are, ready to play with sounds and provide fun for hours and hours. Nokia 5300 is placed at the lowest end of the XpressMusic line of phones, when it comes to its performances, which makes it less capable than the 5700 or 3250 models, but more affordable.

Nokia 5300 XpressMusic has been announced for release in September 2006, which makes it a veteran of the market. The phone can be found at prices ranging from USD 265 up to USD 400, depending on the location and contents of the sales package (e.g. additional microSD card).

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Design

The main impulse when seeing this phone for the first time is that of picking it up and taking it out for some jogging. Nokia 5300 XpressMusic has a sporty look that will surely not suit those looking for a stylish handset. Surprisingly, the device is still fashionable, although in a special environment, where a sportive look has elegance. Its sizes make this phone no favor, as it has 92.4 x 48.2 x 20.7 mm and weighs 106 grams. These are large dimensions by any standards and give the phone a bulky look. Most mobile phones out there are struggling to reach slender cases and almost paper-thin slimness, which surely makes Nokia 5300 stand out, although not necessarily in a bad way.

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The back is covered in colored rubber, available in red, gray and blue. That's a nice touch to the phone's appearance, but also when it comes to comfortable handling, as the device perfectly sticks to the hand, making it easier to slide open and use. The smooth slider also adds to this impression. It is silent and that's a strong point, even though it is not perfectly locked in its sliding line and wiggles a bit.

The slider form factor suits Nokia 5300 XpressMusic perfectly and still allows the phone to feel naturally comfortable even when closed. There are some people out there annoyed by the excessive slimness of many mobile phones and who will instantly love the way this handset can be handled. Still, even they will have to admit the fact that it feels huge when carried around in a pocket and that it looks more like a toy and nothing near a "serious" phone.

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The plastic case considerably adds to that impression, as well as the large buttons and almost no smooth polish that many other high-end mobile phones have. The handset looks like it just waits for its user to drop it to show that thick plastic really pays off, as well as the rock shape with strongly rounded corners.

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Nokia 5300 XpressMusic has large navigation buttons, meant to be easy to use even without looking at the phone, when it is in the pocket. The handset has extremely useful side buttons on its rubbery area, for setting the phone's volume, playing or stopping one song or switching to the next or previous one. There is also one for turning on the camera. These buttons prove to be useful, although they are rigid and difficult to press. That has also the advantage of not making it easy to accidentally switch song settings every time the phone hits other objects in the user's bag or pocket.

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Display and Camera

The 2-inch TFT display is capable of supporting 262K colors and a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels. This basically means that images will look great, without those large pixels showing.

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Images and videos both look great on it, as this is the ideal performance for a screen of such sizes. The great advantage about it is that it looks just as good outdoors as it does indoors, without losing one bit of its display quality.

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The 1.3 megapixel camera can be a solution only for taking images of a rather poor quality. It has no flash, which means that lighting will always be a problem. Best performances are reached outdoors, in natural light. There is also a night vision mode, although its performances depend greatly on the lighting, as it is welcomed in any amount, even scantly. One feature that few people might not take into consideration at first but will highly appreciate later on is that the device is capable of being perfectly still when placed on its side to bring more stability when taking a capture.

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The phone's camera proves to be more impressive than first expected. Sure, its captures are of low quality and it has no flash, but this is compensated by the possibility of making a huge amount of settings for taking highly creative captures.

The camera offers you the possibility to set night mode, a self-release timer or image sequence shoot mode to later choose the perfect ones to keep. There are several effects that are applied both to image and video captures. They could be later added in image editing programs, but having them included right on the phone makes it incredibly easier for the user to have fashionable and edited-looking captures, especially when it comes to video recordings.

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The maximum resolution of the pictures is 1280 x 1024 pixels, a fairly good one. On the other hand, the 128 x 96 pixels video capture resolution proves to be quite low and definitely something that Nokia could have improved. The overall image quality is still poor, despite the cosmetic touch that these effects bring. Still, let's remember that Nokia 5300 XpressMusic is a music phone and not a camera phone, which leaves this type of performances on a background level.

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Menu and Software

Nokia 5300 XpressMusic runs on a S40 graphical interface and doesn't have any operating system whatsoever. Furthermore, users will be happy to find that the slider also integrates Feature Pack 1, which means that it includes updates such as: completely revamped music player, new interface, support for music library, Flash Lite 2 instead of version 1.1, OMA DRM 2.0 instead of version 1.0, A2DP-profile for Bluetooth which allows the use of wireless headsets, various security and trust services for Java, possibility of running all music-related applications (player, radio) in the background and miniUSB socket.

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One more thing that most users of the Nokia 5300 XpressMusic phone will surely appreciate is the huge number of customizing solutions that the phone brings. Forget about standard menus and rigid behavior. This phone is just as colorful on the inside as it is on the outside and allows its user to play with its configurations in a huge number of funny and surprising ways.

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Aside from the vivid themes with bright colors, there are also some features that let the user customize the phone and make it feel more personal. The standby screen's text color can be changed by choosing from a wide range of bright and joyful shades. This is not available for the entire menu, although it would have been a good idea to use it at a larger scale. The text’s font can be modified too for the phonebook and messaging. People can adjust this depending on their eyesight, one feature that is highly useful many times. Moreover, the main menu can be displayed too, according to the user's preferences, as a list, a 3 x 4 grid matrix or as a 3 x 3 grid matrix and as horizontal tabs.

The phonebook allows a huge number of 1000 entries which is supposed to satisfy anyone. The user can customize each contact with notes, a picture, a ringtone and can even set a video recording as an incoming alert. Nokia 5300 XpressMusic also has voice control function that goes further than voice dialing with 16 additional preset phone functions, such as radio, voice recorder, Web etc.

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Communication

This tri-band GMS phone sounds great, but not during a conversation. The noise canceling effect works perfect, but the volume is low and there is no possibility of modifying it on the spot. This is terribly annoying especially under circumstances when the surrounding noise is quite high.

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The fact that Nokia 5300 XpressMusic is not 3G-enabled can be seen as a major drawback. It does bring some other connectivity solutions to compensate, such as Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP, Infrared and a miniUSB too. The phone also includes WAP 2.0 support and a xHTML browser. Still, it works best with the classic WAP sites and has some drawbacks in handling the general HTML sites. Bluetooth data transfer speeds exceeded any expectation as you can see from the screenhots (132 KB/s).

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GPRS and EDGE technology also add to making a more complete pack of communication technology. This is supposed to be capable of providing data transfer speeds of up to 236.8 kbit/s and nothing more. Unfortunately the handset only attains half of its maximum speed with 132 Kbit/s download and 67 Kbit/s upload. The slider is also capable of connecting to the PC through a miniUSB cable for transferring its images, videos and any type of files from one device to the other.

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Processor and Memory

Nokia 5300 XpressMusic is powered by an ARM9 family processor running at speeds up to 237 MHz. This is a very powerful CPU considering that the phone is simply a toy. I see no reason to include such a high energy consumption processor in a music phone that should conserve battery life, especially that it doesn't feature any operating system.

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Furthermore, the slider has only 5 MB of internal memory, which definitely asks for a mandatory memory boost through a microSD TransFlash card that can go up to 2 GB of additional space. In order to take advantage of all the capabilities that this phone has to bring and be able to store a large amount of media on it, the memory card should have the maximum storage capacity, although that too will prove to be insufficient in time, when it fills up.

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Multimedia

Nokia 5300 is on of the first models of the XpressMusic lineup, so don't expect too much from it. The phone comes with wired stereo headsets (HS-47), which are not that good for a music phone. As a matter of fact, Nokia only managed to match Sony Ericsson's earphones quality with the older N91, which seems to have the best headsets that Nokia can bring out. Anyway, if you're a music freak this slider will only satisfy you partially.

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The external speaker placed on the back of the phone sounds surprisingly clear, supposing you're not covering it by mistake with your hand. The music player is not out of the ordinary, but has been packed with reasonable setting features such as: playlist, equalizer (Normal, Pop, Rock, Jazz, Classical), Stereo widening, as well as the possibility of playing songs over the Bluetooth connectivity. It can read MP3, SpMidi, AAC, AAC+ format files and can be set to run in the background. If you use the stereo headset that comes with the phone you'll experience a rather dull sound with no bass vibes. The sound is simply much lower than any of the Sony Ericsson's Walkman series handset. The equalizer presets don't have any impact on the sound, even with superior headphones (Sennheiser HD200) the sound is under average.

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The FM radio can memorize up to 20 stations, but the signal reception is rather faulty. It seems that this is more like a low-end music phone that will mostly satisfy those that cannot afford to buy themselves a more expansive Sony Ericsson Walkman handset.

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Battery

Nokia 5300 XpressMusic proved to be extremely disappointing when it came to battery performances. It dropped dead after only two days of testing with minor player using. It is supposed to last up to 3 hours of talk time, 9 days of standby time and 12 hours of music playback. That might work just fine, but when combined, all the functions that this phone is capable of performing drain the life out of its battery at rocket speed.

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Impressions

Nokia has designed this phone with a special target in mind, for young people who enjoy listening to music and care less about taking top quality pictures with its camera. It’s fresh, it’s hip, but it’s also pretty expensive. For the performances that Nokia 5300 XpressMusic has to bring, there are other phone models with even slimmer and more elegant designs. The only thing that might grasp the youngsters’ preference is the highly personal touch that this phone offers. It looks friendly, fun and colorful, some pretty basic attributes that can work only in a market segment that looks to stand out.

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The Good

It is extremely fun to use this phone. Its large number of customizing possibilities surely makes it feel fresh and perfectly adapted to its target represented by young people. Some might like it especially because of its large sizes and toy-looking design. Moreover, the external music buttons are also an advantage, although they are sometimes too hard to press. The display screen with its high resolution is also a strong point worthy of consideration.

The Bad

Nokia 5300 XpressMusic certainly has some important weak points that will make people think again before choosing it over other similar devices. The phone's poor sound quality during calls might be a less important one, but the music sound will surely not be overlooked either. Another problem is that it has a rather bulky design and a form that will not quite fit in any youngster's pocket. Also the battery has a too low life autonomy, which cannot be understandable as we are speaking of a music phone that needs high playback times.

Sales package

Nokia 5300 XpressMusic
Nokia Battery Li-Ion 860 mAh (BL-5B)
Nokia Stereo Headset HS-47
Universal headphone adapter
microSD card (size varies by region)
Software CD-ROM
User guide

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Photo: Tudor Raiciu for Softpedia.com
  
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