Product Review: Nokia music phone

29 Apr 2008

The design and technology of the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic phone is bang on.

It is a beauty to behold: small as anything on the market and thin enough (less than 1cm) to ensure you barely feel it in your pocket.

Beside the display screen are coloured aluminium side panels with dedicated music keys, showing that this handset means business and ensuring it will get noticed in a public setting.

Its smooth exterior matches its functionality. It has the usual trimmings which come with mobile phones these days: photos, video, organiser, games and web browsing. The camera quality is fairly typical of camera phones, ie best for clandestine use. The video recording capability too is extremely basic.

The web browsing experience is as annoying as we’ve come to expect from a mobile phone and unless you’re prepared to stump up for a smart phone or PDA, that’s unlikely to change soon. This phone works on the EDGE network, by the way.

But the biggest draw of this device is its music capability.

The phone lets you download your music collection (up to 4GB) and listen to it on the go. The set-up process is simple: install the client on your PC and it will scan your PC for tracks to transfer to your phone. Avoid optimising them for mobile, however, as the sound doesn’t so much suffer as become traumatised.

But done normally the sound is superb and comparable to any portable MP3 player I’ve heard. Within a few minutes of hearing Pearl Jam rock through the earphones, I’d forgotten the sound was coming from a mobile.

The equalisation settings give you ample opportunity to customise how you hear your music, although dub reggae enthusiasts won’t find the bass any improvement on other MP3 players.

Devices like this are going to sound the death knell for the lower-storage, stand-alone MP3 player. Why would you bother having a separate device with 2GB to 4GB of memory when your phone will do this for you?

Radio, something I’d gotten out of the habit of listening to, also came back on my radar with this device.

Happy extras include email and instant messaging clients, and battery life is good.

The Nokia 5310 XpressMusic phone does what a phone is supposed to do, looks great, fits neatly in your pocket and doubles as a robust music player. If web browsing isn’t a priority, this is a cost-effective alternative to the iPhone.

By focusing on music, Nokia have gotten it right. To me, this is the killer app for mobile phones, easier to deliver than mobile internet, video or TV and not offering inferior versions of what people are used to.

Pros: Looks great, sounds great
Cons: Basic camera and video
Price: Available from Vodafone for €199

By Niall Byrne