Nokia 5800 XpressMusic review: Young as you feel

GSMArena team, 14 January 2009.
Pages: 123456789

Phonebook hasn't changed too much

Nokia 5800 XpressMusic uses a phonebook that's identical to what previous versions of the UI have offered. Except for the whole touch thingy, that is. The phonebook itself has virtually unlimited capacity and functionality is among the best we've seen.

Contacts can be freely ordered by first or last name and can naturally be searched by gradual typing of any of the names. You can also set whether the contacts from the SIM card, the phone memory and the service numbers will get displayed.

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The phonebook hasn't seen much change

Editing a contact offers a great variety of preset fields and you can replicate each of them as many times as you like. You can also create new fields if you happen to be able to think of one. Personal ringtones and videos are also available for assigning. If you prefer, you may group your contacts and give each group a specific ringtone.

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Editing a contact offers a huge variety of fields

The Call log keeps track of your recent communications. The application itself comes in two flavors - accessed by pressing the Call key on the stand-by screen or from the main menu. The first one brings 20 call records in each of its tabs for outgoing, received and missed calls.

If you access the Log application from the main menu, you'll see a detailed list of all your network communications for the past 30 days. These include messages, calls and data transfers (even WLAN connections are included).

Telephony: smart-dial badly missed

We didn't experience any problems with the in-call performance of Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. Reception levels are good on both ends of calls, the earpiece is loud enough and there were no interferences whatsoever.

We guess however that we have just been lucky here. A disturbingly large number of users are having trouble with the earpieces of their Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. The symptoms are muffled sound during conversations (changing to extremely loud at times), making it almost impossible to have a normal call.

A 5800 user's poll at one of online forum we stumbled upon shows that every second Nokia 5800 XpressMusic user (52 out of a total 100 participating users) is experiencing the problem. Now that seems as a huge thing.

Luckily, the issue is quite easy to fix if you take the phone to your local Nokia dealer and most of them do it for free in a matter of 5 minutes. It's just that the earpiece loudspeaker has some loose contacts.

There's also a number of online tutorials for DIY fix but unless you really know what you are doing we wouldn't suggest you to try them.

It is really quite embarrassing for Nokia to allow such a thing to happen to one of the most important handsets in their portfolio.

Update, 03 Feb 2010: Luckily Nokia stepped in on that issue and all Nokia 5800 XpressMusic units in production after February 2009 have no earpiece issues whatsoever.

Now back to the Nokia 5800 telephony performance, we thing it's only fair that we point out that the built-in smart-dialing feature is a major absence in S60 5th edition.

Voice dialing is an option with the 5800 as with mostly any other phone. The voice dialing mode is activated once you press and hold the Call key. It is fully speaker-independent and doesn't require prerecording the names of your contacts. Bear in mind though, that if you have multiple numbers assigned to a contact, the first or the default one gets dialed.

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The dialling pad

Thanks to the built-in accelerometer you can silence an incoming call on the phone by simply flipping it over. Those feature was also available on the previous versions on the UI but only through 3rd party applications.

We also ran our traditional loudspeaker test on Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. The handset didn't perform too impressively but still scored a Good mark meaning we have seen (and heard) better. You might want to keep a closer look on it when you are in noisier environments.

Speakerphone testVoice, dBPink noise/ Music, dBRinging phone, dBOverall score
Apple iPhone 3G66.1 62.171.7Below Average
LG KC910 Renoir71.965.672.0Good
Nokia 5800 XpressMusic75.766.568.5Good
Samsung M8800 Pixon75.7 69.682.1Very Good
HTC Touch HD77.773.776.7Excellent

More info on our test can be found here.

Messaging is simple

The messaging menu is yet another part of the Symbian S60 UI that hasn't been greatly modified compared to earlier editions. There are a few changes here and there, mostly an attempt to simplify the interface even further and of course add new touch input methods. A minor facelift is noticed but looks are still pretty conservative.

Nokia 5800 XpressMusic supports all common message types - SMS, MMS and email. They all share a common intuitive editor which by this point should be quite familiar to everyone. When composing an SMS, a counter is displayed of characters left to the limit of 160. An indicator in brackets is showing the number of separate parts the message will be divided into for sending.

Once you insert some multimedia content, or an email address is inserted as recipient, the counter is replaced by a data counter showing the size of your email.

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The 5800 XpressMusic uses a common intuitive editor for all your messages

Nokia 5800 XpressMusic also features the dedicated editor for instant recording of audio messages. Much like with Symbian S60 v3.2 you can either record the message on the spot or use a sound clip from the phone memory. The interface of all the messengers is quite similar too.

Delivery reports can be turned on - they pop up once the message reaches the addressee, and are then saved in a separate folder in the messaging sub-menu. When you are exiting the message editor without having sent the message, you get prompted to save it in Drafts or discard it.

Here might just be the right time to mention the input options on Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. The handset offers a standard alphanumeric on-screen keypad in both portrait and landscape mode, as well as a virtual QWERTY landscape keyboard. The latter takes up about two thirds of the screen and is really nice to type on.

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The alphanumeric keypad is available in both portrait and landscape modes

It sure cannot be a match for any hardware keyboard but the 5800 XpressMusic full QWERTY fares pretty well. Typing is enhanced by nice and accurate haptic feedback and the keys are large enough so typos are reduced to a healthy minimum. Unfortunately there is no predictive typing like on the Apple iPhone or the Nokia E71 but we do not consider this much of a disadvantage.

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We are really happy with the full QWERTY keyboard

Unfortunately rotating the handset doesn't bring up the landscape QWERTY keyboard as a default input method, instead you have to pick it up manually from the menu.

Update, 03 Feb 2010: Another update brought by the latest firmware is the automatic switching between multitap and full QWERTY keyboard when you tilt the phone sideways. You no longer need to make two clicks to change the keyboard layout each time. That would be a real blessing for heavy texters.

There is also a mini QWERTY keyboard, which is only good for stylus or plectrum use but we doubt anyone will use it too often. Its main advantage is that it takes little space on the screen.

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The mini QWERTY has dubious use

Finally, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic offers handwriting recognition, which did a rather decent job, recognizing almost all the letters we scribbled in the box. You can improve its performance by taking the handwriting training - where you actually show the handset how you write each different letter.

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The handwriting recognition worked pretty well for us

The email client is really nice, able to meet almost any emailing needs. The easy setup we found in the latest Nokia handsets is also available with the 5800 XpressMusic. It has even been touched here and there, so it needs even less input.

If you are using any public email service (it has to be among the over 1000 supported providers), all you have to do is enter your username and password to start enjoying email on the go. The phone downloads all the needed settings to get you going in no time.

Besides, it now prompts choosing whether you prefer POP or IMAP access to mail providers that support both. With the previous version selection was automatic. Nicely done!

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The email client gives no reasons for grudges

Multiple email accounts and various security protocols are supported, so you can bet almost any mail service will run trouble-free on your Nokia 5800 XpressMusic.

The client can download headers only or entire messages, and can be set to automatically check mail at a given interval. A nice feature allows you to schedule sending email next time an internet connection is available. This can save you some data traffic charges since you can use the next available WLAN connection instead.

There is also support for attachments, signatures and generally, you can hardly think of something important that the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic lacks. Furthermore with a screen resolution like this reading your emails is a real pleasure.

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