The Nokia 5610 XpressMusic, T-Mobile’s higher-end cousin to the Nokia 5310, forgoes the svelte candy-bar form factor for a chunkier slider design with a larger display. Adding easier-to-use music controls and a sharper 3.2-megapixel camera, the phone is more multimedia-friendly, but is it worth the extra $50?
We loved the original 5310 because it was super slim and pocket-friendly at 4.1 x 1.8 x 0.4 inches. The new white and black (also in red and black) 5610 is nearly twice as thick, measuring 3.9 x 1.9 x 0.7 inches. The 5610’s 2.2-inch display (larger than the 2-inch LCD on the 5310) is sufficient for surfing the Web and controlling tunes, and bright enough for viewing outdoors.
The back of the 5610 has a nice textured feel, so the phone doesn’t feel as though it might fall out of your hand. The front-and-center Play/Pause button was excellent for controlling music, and it doubles as a direction pad for navigating menus. A slider below the display let us easily jump among the home screen, radio, and music player.
Volume controls are on the right side accompanying the camera-launch key. Power, USB, the headphone jack, and a battery latch lock are all on top of the phone. However, the handset’s keypad is glossy and seems a bit chintzy; we felt like we were typing on miniature Chiclets, although the response was good.
We’re not fans of the small 2.5mm headphone jack on the 5610, especially since the thinner 5310 has a full-size 3.5mm headphone jack. On the plus side, the included 3.5mm adapter isn’t cumbersome, and the built-in mic allows you to take calls with your own earphones plugged in.
The home screen of the 5310 features T-Mobile’s five rotating myFaves icons. The main menu has shortcuts to applications such as Music Player, T-Zones, phone book, and IM and E-mail, among others. We thought the UI was ugly; icons have jagged edges, and the animation is sluggish. The music player was easy to use, however, and it looked much sharper than the home screen.
In addition to the 3.5mm adapter, the 5610 comes packaged with a 2GB microSD Card for storing music or videos (compared with 1GB for the Nokia 5310), headphones, and a headset. We found these plastic buds to be uncomfortable, so plan on using your own. Music sounded crisp, even through our iPod headphones. And we appreciated the FM radio tuner, which let us listen to Opie and Anthony on our walks to work.
Unlike other similarly priced multimedia phones on other carriers such as the Verizon Wireless LG Chocolate 3, you can’t download music over the air yet on T-Mobile, even though it has begun to build out its 3G data network. That said, this phone is a decent music device if you provide your own tunes, including MP3, AAC, eAAC+, and WMA files. WMA DRM support is also offered for purchased tracks and subscription services like Rhapsody.
We appreciated that when we launched T-Zones (T-Mobile’s Web browser), it gave us the option to type in a URL right away, so we didn’t have to wait for a WAP 2.0 deck page to load first. We loaded m.CNN.com in 20 seconds, m.ESPN.com in 15 seconds, and NYTimes.com in 18 seconds. Not bad for an EDGE phone.
Messaging and E-mail
The 5610 supports both picture and text messaging, and comes with AIM, ICQ, Windows Live, and Yahoo Messenger preinstalled. We logged onto our AIM account with ease but found that it shows only the buddies in your Mobile list and not your entire account. You can also set up the following e-mail accounts: AIM, AOL, Comcast, CompuServe, EarthLink, Gmail, HotPOP, Juno, Mac, NetZero, and Verizon. However, we really wish that we could set up our own IMAP or POP3 account. We logged into our personal Gmail account in less than a minute and liked that the phone notified us of new messages.
The 5610’s 3.2-megapixel camera is good enough for 4 x 6 prints. Outdoor shots of skyscrapers and the blue sky in New York City were not as strong as those from the Verizon Wireless LG Dare, which has a camera with the same resolution but costs $100 more. The Dare had much deeper blues and sharper edges. But shots taken of a white flower indoors with the 5610 were crisp; it had more-accurate colors and its autofocus was helpful when it locked on correctly.
Call Quality and Battery Life
We were impressed that the 5610 maintained a good signal indoors. Inside our offices we had two to three bars of service on average. With a full signal out on the streets of New York City, our friends sounded very clear without any static, and the volume was plenty loud. Our friend said we sounded excellent, but he could tell we were outside and heard noticeable background noise. Battery life on the 5610 was stellar: We left the phone idling for two days and didn’t see the power budge a bit. It’s rated for 4 hours of talk time and up to 10 days on standby.
There are two reasons to consider the Nokia XpressMusic 5610 over the 5310: snapping better pictures with your cell phone, and if you particularly like slider designs. It has great call quality and solid battery life, but overall we prefer the sleeker design and 3.5mm jack on the more affordable 5310.