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Nokia 5800 Xpress Music: The first S60 Touch phone


She has arrived at last, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is the first touchscreen Symbian S60 phone from Nokia—a surprising fact considering how prominent touchscreens have quickly become over the last few years. And instead of rolling out the new touch-specific Nokia S60 Fifth Edition on a flagship N-series phone, Nokia has decided to position the 5800 as a music phone for the kiddies, packaging it with their all-you-can-eat (and keep) Comes With Music service. This choice is probably a brilliant one, because after our quick demo, this thing needs a bit more time in the oven before it can stand with the big guys for a touchscreen-only device.

The Nokia 5800 shares design characteristics with the iPhone and Samsung touch-screen handsets like the Omnia. The candy bar shape offers clean lines with rounded corners and a black and burgundy color scheme (there's also a thin red stripe). At 4.37 inches tall by 2.04 inches wide by 0.61 inch deep, it is relatively small as touch-screen phones go, though it is a bit thicker than average. Still, at 3.84 ounces it won't weigh you down. The 5800 also offers a sturdy, comfortable feel in the hand.

The touch screen measures 3.2 inches, which makes it almost as big as the iPhone's. It supports 16 million colors (640x360 pixels) and has an aspect ratio of 16:9. With that kind of resolution, colors are bright and vibrant and graphics and photos are sharp. You can change brightness, font size, and backlighting time. During a call, the 5800's display will go dark when you raise the phone to your ear. The brightness will adjust automatically to different lighting environments.

Each contact can contain up to 10 different phone numbers, 3 video-calling numbers, 3 e-mail addresses, 3 URLs, a birthday and anniversary, a department and job title, an assistant name and phone number, spouse and child names, and notes. And as usual you can add callers to groups.

Best of all, however, is the integrated Wi-Fi of Nokia 5800 Xpress Music. That is a must for a phone with a full HTML browser so we're very glad to see it here. You'll also find full GPS support with access to Nokia Maps.

The 5800's music player promises to be comparable with most Nokia N-series models. At least for now, the interface is simple and it offers album art. Settings are plentiful. You can adjust the balance, use a bass booster, activate stereo widening, and select one of five equalizer settings. Music quality was satisfying.

The sound was comparable with other Nokia Xpress Music phones. Our tracks had warmth and they didn't sound overly tinny or bass-heavy. The external speakers had a decent output and, unlike on voice calls, the sound wasn't distorted at the highest levels. As with most music phones, a headset will provide the best experience. The included headset does a decent job, but you can use your own headset, thanks to the 3.5mm jack.

The Nokia 5800 offers a full HTML Web browser. The interface on our initial model is pretty straightforward. There is a great set of options beyond the aforementioned Wi-Fi. We could search for keywords on a page, view photos by themselves, access an RSS feed, save bookmarks, and keep open multiple Web pages simultaneously. The Nokia 5800 supports only the 900 and 2100 UMTS 3G bands that are used in Europe. As such, it can't connect with any U.S. 3G networks for maximum data speeds. The browser experience was mostly satisfying. Even with initial software, it was better than some other recent touch-screen phones we've seen; we think Nokia can iron out any kinks. Yet, even at this point, we can't help but rate it against the iPhone's multitouch functionality. Pressing the Z button to zoom in isn't the same as pinching your fingers or tapping the screen.

The 3.2 megapixel camera focuses well and takes great pictures in daylight -- indoors is likely a different story, as with most cameraphones, but there's a rather powerful dual LED flash to help out with that. The 3.2 megapixel Carl Zeiss lens that takes pictures in three resolutions. In a nifty twist, the settings menu explains the maximum printing size for each resolution and it tells you how many photos you can take using each choice. The 5800 offers basic photo-editing features. Given the healthy 81MB of internal memory, you have a decent amount of space for storing your work, but you can use microSD cards up to 8GB.

It’s S60, so if you were hoping for something else you'll be sorely disappointed. Nokia's done "just enough" to turn the traditional interface into a touchable one with version 5.0, sizing up icons, adding finger-friendly buttons in lieu of traditional menu items and so forth. What Nokia hasn't quite figured out is consistency, requiring double taps in some places, single taps in others. Scrolling through most lists requires dragging a scroll bar, pulling down as the list flies up, but the browser has touch and drag scrolling. Nothing's too frustrating or unreasonable, but this is no seamless experience.

For text input you have four options: handwriting, mini QWERTY keyboard, full screen QWERTY and alphanumeric keypad. The first two are stylus-based (that mini QWERTY is truly mini), while the other two are only available in landscape and portrait modes, respectively. Like we said in the hardware end of things, the resistive touch means using the tips of your fingers instead of the pads, which we find a tad frustrating, but the keyboard in landscape mode is truly gargantuan, and after an hour or two of learning we're guessing you could rattle off some pretty lengthily emails or Great American Novels. Luckily, if you're a T9 fan there's nothing stopping you from keeping the phone in portrait mode and rattling off text messages with the touchable alphanumeric keypad, and the phone is frankly too narrow to work well with QWERTY in portrait. The handwriting recognition looks good enough, but we revert to a 2nd grade writing level whenever we pick up a pen, so that stylus is staying firmly in its holster.


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