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Better Late Than Never: Nokia 5800 XpressMusic Phone Review

July 8, 2009 in Nokia Phone Reviews
The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic: A Review

The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic: A Review

The 5800 XpressMusic is Nokia’s first real touch-screen handset. You know it as one of the cheapest touch smartphones around. But how does it fare in real-world use? And is it worth the low price, or should you hold out for something better?

Get down and dirty with the Nokia 5800XM inside.

Quick Summary

The 5800 XpressMusic is a cheap way to get a fully-fledged touch-screen smartphone with all the bells and whistles in one little package. Overall, it’s a solid phone that needs a more intuitive, user-friendly interface and a decent collection of software before it really comes into its own. And if you’re a Symbian-experienced enthusiast, you won’t have much of a problem adjusting.

Build Quality

Even though the 5800 XpressMusic is pretty much 100% XpressPlastic, it’s heftier and thicker than previous XpressMusic offerings, and doesn’t feel too cheap. The front and sides are strictly smooth plastic, while the back has a rubberized surface that prevents the phone from sliding. Overall, I like the weighting of the device – it’s not too light, and not too heavy.

Aside from the battery cover being strangely difficult to pry off, I have no real qualms about the phone’s build quality.

Screen and Display

The 5800 has a 360×640 touch-screen. It’s resistive, and nowhere near as sensitive as the iPhone or any other capacitive touch surface. I personally found that it could be a little bit more sensitive, and more like the N97 in that regard. The touch-sensitivity is really noticeable when attempting to type on the on-screen keyboard – it’s extremely easy to mess up letters (see my E75 vs 5800 vs N97 keyboard shootout for more). You can, of course, use the stylus that is conveniently tucked away in the battery cover for better performance.

Music and Media

With a name like XpressMusic, we’d expect some great things from this device in the music department. And it doesn’t disappoint. The onboard speakers are simply awesome. I would go so far to say that they are the best speakers I’ve ever heard from a mobile phone – they are that good. They blow the N97′s tin can speakers out of the water.

The 5800 does have a 3.5mm jack, but this actually proved to be more of a pain than anything else. The placement on the top of the phone makes it a real drag when doing anything in landscape mode – typing, browsing, etc. It’s just not comfortable. However, I don’t really know how Nokia could remedy this – put the jack on one of the sides?

So it’s sort of a lose-lose situation.

In terms of storage, the 5800 comes with an 8 GB microSD card in the retail package. Good thing, because the phone only has a mere 81 megabytes of internal memory.

Battery Life

Nokia rates the 5800XM’s talk time at 8.8 hours on GSM. With light/medium use (email syncing every hour over 3G, sporadic phone calls, random web browsing/ebook reading), I was able to get around 2.5 days of battery life. Even with heavy use, I never really came close completely draining my battery. Battery life is a winner here.

Interface and OS

There isn’t any nice way to put this: the Symbian S60 Fifth Edition interface is lousy. The touch interface has been described as “tacked-on”, and that pretty much fits the bill. If you took the previous S60 Third Edition operating system, made the icons bigger + slightly more touch-friendly, and threw in a rough touch keyboard, you’d get S60 Fifth Edition.

The problem here, at least for me, is that instead of looking at touch from a user’s perspective, Symbian more or less plopped the technology on top of an existing, and decidedly not-too-touch-friendly operating system. It’s a good thing that the 5800XM is a mid-range handset, because there is absolutely no way that this phone could ever compete with the iPhone, Pre, Storm, or G1 on a user experience level. The interface is just not there yet.

And while we’re talking about things that aren’t there yet, it’s a good time to mention that neither is the software – applications, games, or whatever. Nokia’s Ovi Store is still in its infancy and there’s just not enough content to excite me, or anyone else, for that matter.

The Browser

I can’t say I was blown away by the 5800′s WebKit-based S60 browser. It’s still relatively slow, and lacks a quick switch to fullscreen mode as well as kinetic scrolling. Also, while you’re in fullscreen mode, you can’t manually open another web page unless you exit fullscreen and click the “Go” button. Web pages do look true-to-life for the most part, they just need to load faster.

Final Conclusions

Despite my misgivings about the Symbian operating system and the touch-interface, I do like the 5800 XpressMusic. It combines all the features that you would really want into one small smartphone that has the competition pretty much beat when it comes to price. And it’s a capable phone. Just don’t expect too much touch-friendliness.

The Good

- Battery life is excellent
- One of the cheapest touch-screen smartphones out there
- Onboard stereo speakers rock
- XpressMedia shortcut key is a great idea – too bad you can’t customize it

The Bad

- Not enough S60 Fifth Edition software
- S60 Fifth Edition is just S60 Third Edition with touch tacked-on
- Touch UI is not intuitive
- Home screen is lacking




The Nokia Phone Blog » Blog Archive » 10 Ways to Improve the Nokia N97
5:08 pm

[...] 5800 XpressMusic speakers on the N97. The 5800XM’s stereo speakers were, quite simply put, awesome. The N97’s, on the other hand, kinda suck. They certainly sound puny and tinny by [...]

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