For those people who take up a somewhat active lifestyle, trying to find a mobile phone that suits your needs may not be all that easy. From the top of my head, I can only count a handful of handset models that you or I would take trekking, climb cliff faces with, or just simply take out to the beach or park without having to worry about it getting knocked around or possibly damaging it.
Nokia was one of these manufacturers who came out with a model to satisfy such a need, with the 5210. It was truly something unique at the time, although there are many of us that may just favour the traditional mobile phone design.
And now, with the 5100, Nokia brings its updated set of features and functionality to people who would like some level of durability from their mobile phones. Its design is somewhat provocative, and again is not a handset for the masses. However, after having used it for a while, there’s no denying that the 5100 certainly offers something unique from the rest! :)
The Nokia 5100 can be considered as a major upgrade for those users who are currently using the 5210, or even other brand models that possess some levels of durability and protection. It is the first model in its class to come with a colour screen, to support tri-band compatibility (GSM 900/1800/1900), and being capable of sending and receiving multimedia messages (MMS).
Based very much on some of the other recent Nokia models with colour screens, the 5100 provides a very similar feature set - including support GPRS data connectivity, the ability to link up the phone with other PC devices via either data cable or infrared (IR), handsfree speakerphone feature, and possibly attaching a variety of accessories to the handset (such as a camera). This is, of course, in addition to the above features.
You know… at the beginning when I first saw the 5100 on the Nokia web site, I was like going “what’s that?!” I could not really accept how such a design actually made it to market - even the 7210 wasn’t as unbelievable, especially when they showed off the pastel blue and orange colours which made it even more challenging to accept.
But over time, I actually found the design to be quite interesting and certainly provocative enough for me to show off to people and hear what they have to say about it. “Fresh” and “striking” would be the word I would use to describe the 5100’s overall design, especially when you consider the keypad area. However, most people didn’t seem to share such sentiments… :)
Getting to the nitty-gritty, I certainly found the 5100 to be a worthy successor to the 5210. What comes first, apart from styling of course, is the phone’s ability to handle possible “rough” situation where torture from the elements (and possibly from its user too) can be a reality. I can confidently say that the 5100 should pass such tests with flying colours - thanks to the excellent Xpress-on shells design providing sufficient protection to internal components, integrated seals within exposed parts (microphone and speakerphone), and a cover over the base connector and battery areas (on the inside) providing protection from the possibility of water seepage.
However, for most new users of the 5100, you will find that the Xpress-on shells are not as easy to remove in the beginning. I found that I had to press down really hard on the sides to remove the bottom shell, where then I could subsequently pop the top one off by simply nudging it left-to-right (or vice-versa). Putting it back on is as easy as click-clack top-and-bottom!
Another thing I found with the 5100 was its improved ergonomics, specifically in terms of its hold-ability. Alike those other new colour models from Nokia (6610/7210), it seems that the Finnish manufacturer has realised that good ergonomics has precedence over smaller, more compact handsets.
User Interface & display
The 5100 adopts a similar interface used on the current 6100/6610/7210 models, named Series 40 by Nokia. In essence, it is colour-enabled and comes with improved screen resolution - resulting in sharper display of graphics and the possibility of more text being displayed on a single screen.
Although the 5100 uses a similar display as the 6100/6610/7210, I have found the actual display used on this model to show improvements in terms of display quality. Physically, the screen is actually larger than the 6100/6610/7210, but it does a better job at displaying text and graphics. For those people who have had a personal encounter with a 6100/6610/7210 may have realised that there is an inherent problem with the LCD when a high definition graphic is displayed (for example, as a background or wallpaper). However, don’t expect the quality of the screen to be as fantastic as that of the 7650.
Another difference of the Series 40 interface is the 4-way navigation capability. This two-dimensional movement can become quite useful in functions, such as messaging, where moving around the screen is not simply restricted to scrolling front and back only. For those people who love writing SMS essays will find the 4-way key of great value and practicality.
Making and receiving calls
Alike other Series 40 phones, the 5100 allows its user to conduct phone conversations through one of three ways - using the handset itself (earpiece/microphone), via the handsfree speakerphone or using the included stereo headset (which can double as an FM radio headset/antenna). One is probably never short of options here…
Nokia has added a new feature to enable better voice call performance on the 5100. Appropriately named as “automatic volume control”, this feature will adjust the volume levels in the phone’s earpiece based on the environmental noise level. For example, if you commenced a call in a very quiet area and you proceeded out to a very noisy one, this function will automatically raise the volume of the earpiece to an appropriate level and lower it back when it has detected a drop in noise levels. It saves its user having to muck around with the side volume buttons.
However, you can still adjust the volume during a call if you found the sound coming through the earpiece is insufficient.
Lastly, I must say that the many times that I held the 5100 up against my ear was never the most comfortable, when compared to most other Nokia phones. It’s probably because of the phone’s width, being somewhat wider than the 6610/7210 and narrower than a 7650, that caused this slight discomfort. But I guess this is more of a personal opinion and really depends on how each individual has their mobile phone up against their ear.
The 5100 offers its user a choice of basic text messaging through SMS, the ability to send and receive simple graphics (picture messaging) and photos (MMS).
But being able to compose messages is probably the most important ability of all, and having a keypad with good levels of usability is vital. The 5100 offers large-enough keys for virtually everyone, but found that these same buttons can be a bit hard to press.
In the beginning when I first got hold of the phone, I found that I really needed to have muscular fingers so that I could compose messages on the 5100. When compared to other phones, each of the keys on the 5100 seemed to be quite stiff and required that extra “umph” to have the keypress register successfully. This issue becomes slightly more apparent if you are quick at the keypad (for example, when using T9) or when you’re just feeling tired physically.
No complaints here! The 5100 is definitely well-built and will survive most mishaps (or intentional durability tests!) whenever one surfaces. Some of the things that I did with the 5100 included dropping it off a bunk bed onto a concrete floor, throwing it against a wall, and briefly putting it under a tap with running water. Surprisingly, the Xpress-on shell’s exterior suffered only minimal scratching/damage after the brutal exercise!
Even with the cover off, the internal housing has been well put together, following its design being orientated towards protection from the elements.
The BL-4C lithium-ion battery used for the 5100 should provide sufficient talk and standby times in most usage scenarios. On average use, the phone should provide for up to 2-3 hours talk time and 3-4 days standby. Prolonged usage of the FM radio and flash light feature can relatively lower these times, while using the screen saver function can save precious battery power when the phone is not used for prolonged periods.