Imagine if the first-generation iPod nano could make phone calls. Nokia's 5310 XpressMusic is just a hair bigger than Apple's diminutive music player, making it one of the slimmest mobile phones out there. We wonder, then, how Nokia stuffed so much functionality into such a small package, including dedicated music controls, a 2-megapixel camera, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The 5310 may not have 3G, but it makes up for that loss in music-friendly features and a low $49.99 price (with a two-year contract). It's easily one of the best music phones of the year.
Measuring a scant 4.1 x 1.8 x 0.4 inches, this thin, music-centric GSM phone, available from T-Mobile, can roam among the U.S., Europe, and other overseas networks. It weighs a mere 3 ounces, making it barely noticeable in a shirt pocket or your jeans. Following the design of the Nokia 5300, the 5310 has two aluminum side panels on either side of the screen, where external controls for Rewind/Fast-Forward, and Play/Pause are located. You can choose among red, orange, and purple to accent the black phone. But where the 5300--which had only soft keys and Send/End buttons on its face--slid open to reveal a keypad, the candy-bar 5310 features Send and End buttons and two soft keys surrounding a D-pad. Below them is a fairly small keypad for dialing numbers, but it wasn't too scrunched as to make for sore thumbs while dialing or even shooting off some short texts. The 2-inch QVGA screen is nice and bright.
The 5310 runs the Series 40 operating system, which is a capable platform and even lets you download and install applications from T-Mobile's deck and the open Internet. The user interface is simple to figure out and certainly doesn't get in the way of using the phone. The home screen is basic, but using the D-pad will take you to the phone's main menu, made up of a nine-icon grid. The selections are easy to figure out and take you where you need to go quickly.
Listening to Music
The 5310 focuses on providing a great mobile music experience. Despite its slimness, on the top of the phone you'll find a full 3.5mm headphone jack. If you prefer to go untethered, the 5310 also offers stereo Bluetooth. We paired the 5310 to a pair of wireless stereo headphones easily, and music sounded crystal clear. Music playback is very good for a phone and rivals standalone music players. The 5310 has a dedicated sound processor, and it shows when rocking out to your tunes. The rich graphic equalizer helps customize the sound to suit your personal taste.
The 5310 comes with a 1GB microSD Card and supports cards up to 4GB, so you can load plenty of music onto it, either directly to the card or via the micro-USB port. (Unfortunately, you have to remove the back cover to insert the card.) The phone supports MP3, AAC, and WMA music files. We appreciate that the 5310 displays album art. The 5310 also includes an FM radio. Reception was decent but not stellar. There was some noticeable fading in and out on a few stations.
Other Multimedia and Browsing
Music is not all the 5310 has up its sleeve. It also packs a 2-megapixel camera that does a solid job of taking pictures in daylight conditions. In low-light conditions, not so much; shots were grainy and full of noise, and the lens tended to lose focus. Video captured with the 5310 is decent for sending as an MMS file but won't be YouTube-worthy. It captures at QCIF resolution in the H.263 format at 15 frames per second. Nokia's media management software is capable and lets you transfer photos to other devices without too much fuss.
The 5310 offers WAP 2.0 for browsing, and it does a decent job of connecting via T-Mobile's EDGE network. We wish this phone offered 3G or Wi-Fi, but EDGE was sufficient for light browsing. The addition of Flash Lite 2.1.1 support, however, makes for a much-improved experience over a standard WAP browser.
Call Quality and Battery Life
The quality of voice calls was good over T-Mobile's network, but we expect nothing less from a Nokia device. We didn't notice any noise issues or experience any signal problems when testing the phone. The 5310's battery did reasonably well: Rated for 5.4 hours of talk time, it held up for three full days, even with frequent music usage. Using Bluetooth for stereo music playback, however, drains the battery much faster.
The 5310 XpressMusic lives up to its name. It doesn't offer over-the-air downloads or 3G data speeds, but if you're looking for a sleek cell phone that doubles as a music player, we highly recommend this handset.