Well it looks like it’s another offering from the XpressMusic branded line of Nokia phones. This time the mobile phone giant has hit us with a slider form factor version of the entertainment oriented handset. Keeping in-line with the style of its predecessors, the Nokia 5610 is styled with a black and red/blue combination of colours with the intent of bringing up the feel of a night club or rock concert. It has a younger target market that is interested in having comprehensive audio functionality in their mobile phones.
Nokia have continued the evolution by bumping up the range of connectivity options and have included more powerful camera and video recording features. The 5610 XpressMusic has been updated to keep in line with the current crop of mobile phone offering.
Let’s have an in-depth look at this handset.
It seems that Nokia’s 5610 XpressMusic is the most equipped handset out of the 5000 series phones. While it is clearly aimed at a younger audience, it fits snugly into the mid range end of the market. But Nokia have not skimped on the feature set either, enticing potential buyers with all the cutting edge features such as 3.5G network capabilities, a high resolution screen, a 3.2 megapixel camera, and a full complement of connectivity features. And all these features are packed into a funky black slide form factor chassis.
The 2.2 inch, 240 x 320 pixel, 16M colour main display which is prominent on the front of the phone is nothing to scorn about. It is quite bright and clear and manages to do an excellent job of displaying images, photos and text even in direct sunlight. The camera now has a bit more bite to it, capable of taking shots at 3.2 megapixels which is starting to encroach on digital camera specifications. It is a welcome upgrade from the 2.0 megapixel version used in most Nokia handsets currently released.
As per the rest of the 5000 series, Nokia have opted to stay with the Series 40 user interface for the 5610 XpressMusic as the front end of the phone’s Symbian operating system. This is a welcome choice as this version of the user interface is not as cumbersome as the Series 60 and hence provides a more responsive experience. Owners of recent Nokia phones will feel right at home in terms of the usability and standard features of the 5610. Nokia’s Series 40 operating system in the 5610 XpressMusic also allows multi-tasking, meaning that it is possible to have tunes playing on the music player while using Java applications or surfing the web. It is not as robust and sophisticated as Nokia’s Series 60 smart phones, but this is expected as it is designed to fill the mid-range market. The handset’s media player is able to play CD tracks ripped and transferred in compressed formats from a computer via USB using the Nokia PC Suite software. Nokia have included their own media player in this handset and is able to play a number of file formats too including MP3, MP4, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB and WMA formats. The 5610 features a superb loudspeaker and the sound quality is quite exceptional. Additionally Nokia have included a peculiar looking set of speakers in a shape of a black stick. These are of good quality for their size and are an alternative method to replaying music rather than use the inferior handset loudspeakers. However, they are of an awkward shape and are more suited for backpacks rather than trouser pockets.
What differentiates the 5610 XpressMusic from the current crop of phones is a seemly insignificant slider key located in between the screen and the directional pad. By sliding the button left and right it is possible to quickly flick through the media-centric menus such as the Media Player and Visual Radio screens. It is a simple yet very natural way to navigate through the various menus and it seems under utilized as it has so much potential to change the way we navigate through the menu options. However, Nokia have played it safe and tried to keep to the tried and tested formula with only small incremental changes.
The 5610 XpressMusic features subtle black and a dark grey casing and is available in two trim packages featuring a blue or red colour finishes. While the red version has a little more visual bite to it, most people will choose the safer blue option. I find the visual impact of this handset to be unattractive. While it looks a lot better then a lot of previous XpressMusic re-incarnations, the 5610 still looks like a big blob of black and there is nothing particularly visually appealing or elegant about this handset. That said it has not been designed to appeal to my demographic and its emphasis on the party/clubbing scene will have appeal to a younger audience. The 5610 XpressMusic is a slide form factor handset and is defiantly one of the larger phones out on the market measuring 98.5 x 48.5 x 17 mm dimensions and weighing in at 111 grams. The antenna is internal; there are no protrusions sticking out from the handset.
Positioned at the front of the handset is the large 2.2 inch 16 million colour 320 x 240 pixel TFT screen and just below the screen is the slider key. Below that is the directional pad surrounded by four buttons – two soft menu buttons, as well as pickup and hang up buttons. On the lower section of the slider, the typical twelve button keypad can be found. The entire rear of the handset doubles as back panel that hides the battery, SIM card and microSD compartment. It is firmly fastened and it is possible to take the panel off by pressing a clip button at the top of the handset. The back panel is difficult to get off, requiring a lot of fiddling around to pry it open. This is not very user friendly as the back panel hides access to the microSD card slot which may need to be frequently changed. This is an issue that is typical of the 5000 XpressMusic handsets.
The top section of the handset features most of the connectors including a 2.5mm A/V connector, Micro USB and power connection. Nokia have thoughtfully included an adaptor for the 2.5mm port in order to plug in a standard set of headphones. However, the new Micro USB connector is now in fashion and while it has a thinner profile than traditional Mini USB, it is not popular yet so getting hands on USB cables may be a problem. At least it is not a proprietary connector. The left hand side does not have any buttons or connections while the right side (which also doubles up as the top section when the phone is turned off to take a photo) contains volume and camera buttons.
User interface & display
The most prominent interface between the user and the guts of the Nokia 5610 XpressMusic phone is the large 2.2 inch 320 x 240 pixel screen. Everything is incredibly clear, vivid and readable, even in bright sunlight. Supporting 16 million colours, the colour replication seems good and the high resolution accounts for the crisp lines around objects and text. There seems to be only one setting for managing brightness/backlight adjustments to optimise battery life and that is to toggle power save on/off. There are six preset themes that can be used to customise all menus’ looks, background, screensaver etc., and all are of a high quality. Up to four lines of menu items can be displayed at once, as well as six lines of text when composing a message by default. It is possible to cycle through three font sizes (small, normal and large) for messaging in the 5610 XpressMusic.
The Symbian Series 40, 5th Edition UI user interface on the 5610 XpressMusic is in typical Nokia fashion - clean and sharp. The 5th Edition is the latest iteration of the Series 40 operating system and first debut on the Nokia 7500 Prism. The Series 40 user interface has been a good choice for the 5610 as it is less cumbersome than the Series 60 system installed on Nokia’s N-series line of smart phones. This results in a much faster, more responsive system appropriate for a mid-range phone with less processing power. Yet the 5610 does feel rather sluggish to use when navigating through menus and especially when the camera is switched on. It feels as though the processor is struggling to keep up. The interface is well thought out in this phone and it is possible to make use of most of what the phone has to offer within minutes. Nokia users, as always will feel right at home, due to the similar layout over the entire Nokia range. There is multitasking available, meaning it’s possible to have the music player playing a tune while working on a message. Active standby is also supported which provides a level of feedback to the user on the desktop from applications running in the background. For instance, on the desktop, there is an active standby pane for the music player which displays which song is being played in the background and allows direct access to the music player from the desktop. Active standby is an equivalent to Window Mobile’s Today plugins and this feature is application dependent.
The main menu is accessible through the middle button of the directional pad and is displayed as a scrollable grid of icons. The menu options are Messages, Contacts, Log, Settings, Gallery, Media, Push-to-Talk, Organiser, Applications and Web. Number shortcuts are supported in the 5610 XpressMusic.
As mentioned previously, a new user interface is featured in this phone in the form of a slider button called the NaviSlide. This slide button is a joy to use and is predominately used to flick through the multimedia options (such as Media Player and Visual Radio). Using the slider button make accessing these menus a breeze. It is a shame that Nokia only stopped at the menu navigation – the slider has so much potential.
The user interface is neat and tidy in typical Nokia fashion. Even though Symbian S40 is not as remarkable as its larger S60 sibling, it is functional and adequate for its purpose.
Making and receiving calls
Call quality on the 5610 XpressMusic is excellent and it is possible to use the handset in conventional mode, as a speakerphone, plug in a wired headset or connect a Bluetooth headset. The 5610 XpressMusic loudspeaker is of particularly good quality as it has been designed specifically for music playback and is more than adequate for speakerphone voice calls. Calls were tested using the Bluetooth connection and this worked well in both an in-car system as well as through a Bluetooth headset. The 5610 XpressMusic reception was found to be reasonable even in the black spot I live in. Of note, calls can be recorded using the voice recorded and are limited to 1 hour of recording.
The phone book has been expanded to store 2000 contacts with multiple fields for details, such as multiple numbers, multiple emails, web address, picture ID, ring tone and other personal details. Contacts can be sent to other phones via MMS, Bluetooth or e-mail or synchronised with Microsoft Outlook using the Nokia PC Suite application.
Nokia has included heaps of sound files including ring tones, alerts and theme sounds, on the 5610 XpressMusic. A standard 64-tone synthesiser has been built into the unit and the ring tones sound very good even while set at loud levels due to the good in-built speakers. In addition to standard monophonic and polyphonic ringtones, the 5610 XpressMusic supports ringtones effectively of any format that the media player can play back (this includes MP3 and AAC files) and these do tend to be of better quality than MIDI files. There are seven profiles defined on the 5610 XpressMusic. All of the profiles are customisable and are not removable however there are two profiles which are specifically user defined. When customising profiles it is possible to set the incoming call alert (ringing, ascending etc.), ring tone and volume, manage incoming call video, toggle light effects, toggle vibrating alert, adjust Push-to-Talk settings, set SMS and instant message alert tones, adjust keypad tone volume, set end of list tone, and toggle application tones. Unfortunately, it is not possible to add new profiles.
The 5610 XpressMusic includes all the regular messaging standards including SMS, MMS and email. Nokia now use one messaging program to handle all the messaging styles instead of having say, a separate application for email. The editor has three font sizes available with the smallest size displaying up to 10 lines when reading and 9 when typing a message. As with all Nokia phones, the T9 predictive text system is available for quick text input on this handset. Of particular note is the fantastic keypad. Due to its size, the 5619 XpressMusic keypad is a joy to use as it is tactile and it is difficult to press a wrong button.
The 5610 XpressMusic is capable of composing SMS messages of a limit of 1000 characters, meaning that multiple linked messages will be automatically sent for messages over 160 characters. Comprehensive MMS is also available and messages can be sent to phone numbers or email addresses. MMS on the 5610 XpressMusic allows receiving, editing, and sending videos and pictures with AMR voice clips up to 300 KB in size. An email client has been included which can be configured to download email from POP3 and IMAP4 servers to be viewed on the phone. The email client allows notification and downloading of incoming emails on multiple accounts. It is possible to specify whether whole or only headers of emails are downloaded.
Text input speed is good on the 5610 XpressMusic due to its T9 support and intuitive menu system. The keypad on the 5610 XpressMusic is also very good as it is tactile making SMS typing a breeze.
Nokia is up to scratch in terms of cellular network connectivity as the 5610 XpressMusic is a quad-band GSM device so there shouldn’t be any trouble connecting to most GSM networks around the world, provided the operator has roaming available. The 5610 XpressMusic supports the 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz GSM bands and 850, 2100 MHz WCDMA bands. In terms of data access, GPRS Class 10 for internet access between 32 - 48 kbps is supported, EDGE Class 10 provides 236.8 kbps access and 3G at 384 kbps is supported.
In terms of connectivity Nokia offers the full range including USB 2.0, Bluetooth 2.0 minus the infrared. Nokia have chosen to keep their handsets up to date with the latest connectors and hence, the 5160 XpressMusic features a standard micro USB connector to connect the phone for data transfer to a computer. This is a welcome choice, as users now don’t have to remember to take a proprietary Nokia USB cable on their trips but can now use standard connectors which are readily available. Currently the only issue with micros USB connectors is that they are new and not yet popular. To transfer files between the PC and phone, the 5610 XpressMusic supports the USB Mass Storage Driver which means that it is possible to use the handset in Windows XP without any driver installation. Also available for download is the unified (covers all Nokia phones) mobile connectivity suite which provides more features like a media library and an internet connection utility. One nice feature of the software is that it’s able to synchronise contacts in Microsoft Outlook and the Windows address book. The Nokia PC Suite is constantly being updated and it is starting to be a rather elegant, if not cumbersome, system.
The Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity was tested to make phone calls with a Nokia wireless headset. The transfer of data between the phone and a computer was also tested and no problems were encountered with either of these features. The Bluetooth support seems to be reliable and can also be used to send pictures or documents to Bluetooth enabled printers. The A2DP profile is also supported so it is possible to stream music from the phone to stereo headphones or speakers.
While the Nokia 5610 XpressMusic has just about every connectivity option under the sun, the score is a tad lower as it does not have a standard 2.5mm plug to attach a pair of head phones. Instead, the 2.5mm plug requires adapters to convert the plug to standard formats for devices such as the included speaker set.
While the 5610 XpressMusic does only have a mediocre 20MB of internal memory, Nokia have taken an emphasis on storing media on the external memory card slot. Nokia have included a generous 1GB microSD memory for data storage. The XpressMusic media player is able to operate in minimized mode in the background and its status can be displayed on the desktop when active standby is activated. The handset does come with a set of head phones, if you want to plug in a better pair, you will need to invest in a converter as the handset is not equipped with a specialized 2.5 A/V jack. To keep up with the times, a microUSB slimline plug has been chosen for this phone which makes peripheral selection a pain as this format is not very popular just yet. FM radio is available on this phone and is accessible though the Visual Radio application. It is necessary to have a wired headset plugged into the 5610 so that it can act as an antenna while listening to radio.
It is possible to download music and video to the phone via the USB data cable provided in the retail package. Once connected, the phone will prompt to define the type of connection choosing between the PC Suite application, Printing & Media and Data Storage profiles.
The Data Storage profile mode is the fastest way to transfer media to the phone with a 6MB file transferred in approximately 8 seconds. The PC Suite profile connects the phone to Nokia’s PC suite software allowing synchronisation of PIM functions (discussed in next section).
Bluetooth A2DP is included for stereo communication with compatible devices. The multimedia capabilities are exceptional and the 5610 XpressMusic has a competent media player. The interface of the media player however could be a little more sophisticated and modelled on current digital audio players especially when this is marketed as a media oriented phone. The media player and radio applications can be quickly flipped though using the slider button and this really makes it easy to access your media.
There is also a selection of games included in the 5610 XpressMusic and these include “City Bloxx”, “Snake III”, “Rally 3D” and “Music Guess”. All of the games are of good quality and will keep you entertained in your idle time. It is also possible to download additional games and applications from the web or via the PC Suite software
As is clear from these results, the Java performance on this handset is mediocre and nothing to get excited about. However that said it does handle the included games well.
The Calendar, Alarm Clock, To-do List, Notes, Calculator, Countdown timer, Stopwatch and Dictionary have all been thoughtfully put into the Organiser menu. The Calendar supports entries as reminders, meetings, calls, birthdays and memos and editable fields include title/subject, start and end time/date, location and an alarm can be set.
It is only possible to set one alarm which is sub-par compared to other handsets out there. There are however, detailed settings for the alarm allowing setting repeatability, on which day it should go off, the tone and snooze time. One feature is that the 5610 XpressMusic Classic will auto power-on at a set alarm, if the unit has been powered down.
The other PIM application such as Notes is capable of taking notes limited to 3000 characters and the To-Do List can have title, priority (high/medium/low), due time/date and an alarm. A voice recorder application is included and is located in the Media menu. The recordings are limited to a whooping 60 minutes and it is also possible to record phone conversations. A World Clock, a unit Converter, Search application and Sensor (a social network application) are also included in the package.
Nokia PC Suite software is used with conjunction with the 5610 XpressMusic and a compatible PC to transfer files and synchronize the handset. Nokia PC Suite is able to connect with a host of connection options (including USB, Blue-tooth etc). It can sync notes, calendar entries, to-do/task entries, the contacts database and e-mails with Microsoft Outlook. The PC Suite is a reasonably good piece of software and has been through enough versions to make it very reliable. USB Mass Storage is also supported for quick and easy transfer of data – the handset memory shows up as a hard drive in Windows Explorer.
The 5610 XpressMusic also has a built in modem, which can be used with a PC over Bluetooth or USB cable to provide a PC with internet access. Using the UTMS protocol, the connected PC will be able to access the internet at broadband-like speeds (up to 384Mbps).
Java is also supported on the Nokia 5610 XpressMusic and all the Java programs can be found under the Applications submenu. Installing applications is simple: transfer the file(s) to the memory, browse to them using the 5610 XpressMusic’s file manager, and open them. Several Java applications come pre-installed including an Opera web browser however the rest of them are only PIM applications. The following benchmarks were achieved with the 5610 XpressMusic using the JBenchmark application suite:
||LQ: 252, HQ: 128
The build quality of the 5610 XpressMusic is good and all the panels on the review handset were tightly fitted. The sliding mechanism feels very comfortable and solid. Generally, the handset does have a good quality build and seems like it can withstand a bit of bad treatment and the exterior is one of the better versions in the XpressMusic line.
One problem with the 5610 XpressMusic is that the back cover is very difficult and fiddly to remove. This will be frustrating to users who wish to change or remove their SIM cards or microSD cards frequently. It’s a shame, as many other phones already available, have a secure back plate but also provide easy access should the need arise. It’s a design problem that should not be seen in phones today and seems to be inherent in the XpressMusic line of phones.
Also of note, the glossy black front panel is prone to smudge marks and will need to be cleaned regularly. And last but not least, there is no protector for the camera or flash so if you are carrying the phone without a cover this is another weak point of the phone which will get scratched.
The Nokia 5610 XpressMusic ships with a decent 900 mAh battery and the official claim is that the handset is able to stand-by for 13.3 days and provide up to 6 hours of talk time. Also what is impressive is the 22 hours of music playback claimed. The figures quoted are just about right although the battery life does drop significantly with the use of the MP3 player, Bluetooth connection or Java games. So with heavy phone usage expect to get about 3 - 4 days worth of charge before you make a grab for the battery charger again which is excellent battery performance compared to other phones out there. The phone takes about an hour and half to fully recharge but despite Nokia putting in a standard mini USB connector into the 5610 it is not possible to recharge the handset via a USB port, which is a shame.
The battery life for the 5610 XpressMusic is excellent and despite having a high resolution screen and all the connectivity options which have a significant impact on battery life, the 900mAh handles the power requirements very well. As a result battery performance gets a good score only being reduced by the fact that there is no USB charging.