Nokia C6-01 review: Clear as black

GSMArena team, 17 November 2010.
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Nokia C6-01 unboxed

The Nokia C6-01 box is nothing out of the ordinary. All the basic accessories are included but there’s little in the way of extra features. You get a compact charger, a normal microUSB cable (not the short kind), a one-piece headset and of course some manuals.

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The Nokia C6-01 retail package

The only bonus feature is a 2GB microSD card – enough to get you started, but the C6-01 can take cards of up to 32GB.

The Nokia C6-01 supports USB On-The-Go and you’d need a male microUSB to female USB convertor to use that. Unlike the N8 package, the C6-01 doesn’t have it in the box.

Nokia C6-01 360-degree spin

At 103.8 x 52.5 x 13.9 mm, the Nokia C6-01 is a compact phone that fits snugly in your palm and is easy and comfortable to use in both single and two-hand scenarios. It is by no means a slim phone but you can’t really expect to shorten the C7 and keep the waistline. The C6-01 is the smallest Symbian^3 phone and if that’s not enough to set it apart, maybe the stainless steel rear cover and the ClearBlack display are.

The phone weighs in at 131 g – now, that’s more that you’d guess looking at it. Most of the load is obviously attributed to the stainless steel battery cover – it’s perhaps the thickest piece of metal we’ve seen on a phone. The combination of compact body and solid weight works great – the Nokia C6-01 looks hot and handles great.

Nokia Clear Black display is among the best in business

Nokia C6-01 has a 3.2” AMOLED display of nHD resolution (360 x 640 pixels). What makes it exciting is the fact that this is the first screen featuring Nokia’s ClearBlack technology. The ClearBlack screens are touted to provide superior contrast and sunlight legibility by incorporating a layer that works similarly to a polarizing filter.

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The ClearBlack AMOLED display is downright impressive

Having seen it in person, we are pleased to confirm that a ClearBlack display is indeed worth the fuss. Surprisingly though, there seems to be more benefit indoors rather than outdoors. Part of the reason might be that the Nokia N97, N8 and C7 were already stellar performers in direct sunlight and it would’ve been very hard for the C6-01 to be noticeably better in this respect.

The extra-deep blacks are easy to spot and that’s what makes a real difference, even compared to the already pretty crisp AMOLED screen on the N8. In fact, the CBD unit can rival the SuperAMOLED depth of blacks and, as far as we’re concerned, this is impressive enough already.

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The ClearBlack AMOLED display by Nokia is impressive as Samsung Wave's SuperAMOLED alright

Some might frown at the resolution: the Samsung S8500 Wave offers WVGA on a similarly-sized screen. But the truth is it doesn’t make that much of a difference here. On larger screens, nHD might be inadequate but it more than makes sense on the C6-01. At 230 dpi it takes some serious pixel-peeping to find faults with the display. Besides, the large portion of its market rivals are stuck on HVGA (320 x 480 pixels) so the resolution is actually higher than average for the class.

The sensitivity of the C6-01 display is also pretty good, as usual for a capacitive unit. It’s not quite as over-done as the iPhone 4 or the Galaxy S screens, where sometimes hovering a finger is enough for a click to be registered. On the C6-01 you will actually have to touch the screen, which might be the better option for some users.

All in all, we are more than pleased with the Nokia C6-01 display. The ClearBlack technology is a real step forward, putting image quality on par with the best on the market and the touch-experience is great as well.

Design and construction

The Nokia C6-01 is the touchscreen equivalent of the Nokia 6600 slide. Small but solid, friendly and reliable We’ve had no reason to complain about the looks of Symbian^3 smartphones so far. Both the N8 and the C7 are impressively built and good looking. But the Nokia C6-01 has the rare quality of being extra sharp and solid while in the same time kind and welcoming.

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Nokia C6-01 next to C7 and N8

This time Nokia has bet on the balance between high quality plastics, metallic glossy frame and metal rear cover. The whole front is black with the only exception of the Menu key. The whole combinations works fine and the C6-01 looks alone are able to seal the deal.

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Nokia C6-01

Below the display are the three hardware keys – Menu, Answer and Ignore – same as on the Nokia C7. All three controls are easy to hit with great tactile feedback.

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The three hardware keys

Above the display are the earpiece, the proximity and the ambient light sensors. Nokia C6-01 also features a secondary video-call camera on the right.

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The video-call camera and plus a couple of sensors around the earpiece

On the right-hand side, the C6-01 has the volume rocker, the screen lock slider and the dedicated camera key. The volume rocker is quite small with almost no tactility. The lock slider (which is really stiff) and the camera key weren't much better.

The camera key is also stiff and requires extra effort for a full press (it's especially hard if you have big fingers). This might result in some camera shake blurring when shooting at a lower shutter speeds.

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The volume rocker, camera key and the screen lock slider on the right-hand side

The top and the left side are completely bare.

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The empty top and left sides

At the bottom we find the uncovered microUSB port and 3.5mm audio jack, the Nokia proprietary charger plug and the mouthpiece.

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The charger plug, microUSB port, 3.5mm audio jack and a mouthpiece at the bottom

The Nokia C6-01 rear hosts the unprotected 8-megapixel camera lens, a dual-LED flash and the loudspeaker grill.

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The camera lens, the LED flash and the loudspeaker grill

The aluminum battery cover gets released by sliding and underneath is the 1050 mAh Li-Ion Nokia BL-5CT battery. It is quoted at 408 hours of stand-by and eleven and a half hours of talks in a 2G network, while connected on 3G it is supposed to last up to 272 hours of stand-by and four and a half hours of talking.

"Supposed to". We were terribly disappointed with the battery life on the Nokia C6-01. We ran two battery life tests both of them ended in just 24 hours with the battery completely drained.

The first test was pretty much real-world usage - 10 minutes talk time, 40 minutes of music playback (through the loudspealer), 10 photos, 30 minutes of web browsing (mixed Wi-Fi and 3G usage) and another 30 minutes of general tinkering. The Bluetooth was on for 8 hours (but not connected) and Gmail's Exchange ActiveSync account set to sync every 4 hours.

We decided we pushed it too hard so we conducted another test - we spent 50 minutes talking on the phone, took 10 photos and left the Bluetooth on for 3 hours (again, not connected). ActiveSync was off too. Within 24 hours, the Nokia C6-01 ran out of juice.

The SIM compartment is under the battery, while the microSD card slot is on the right side. It’s hot-swappable as usual, you’ll just need to open the battery cover every time.

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The battery, SIM bed and microSD card slot

The C6-01 is one of the best looking Nokia phones lately. It does stand out in the crowd of touch phones – with unique styling and shape. Nokia designers manage to impress us lately, and they surely deserve credit for this one too. Beyond the pure esthetics, the excellent finish and durability are sure to be appreciated by most users. The phone was built to last, handling is great and the looks are top notch.

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Nokia C6-01 held in hand

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