Nokia’s newly released 6500 models (named the 6500 Slide and 6500 Classic) are focused on bringing technology that has only been available in the high-end market to the mid-range. The duo were announced in May this year, sharing many of the same features (with some exceptions), in entirely different form factors.
The 6500 Slide is the focus of this review, and as you may have already guessed – it’s a slider handset. The 6500 Slide is perhaps the more high-end (although still in the mid-range) of the two 6500’s, sporting functionality such as a 3.2mpx digital camera, extensive connectivity including 2G, 3G, Bluetooth and TV-out, and microSD expandable memory.
The feature list of the 6500 Slide is impressive, as is its stainless steel plated exterior – but how does it perform? Let’s find out.
The 6500 Slide includes several high-end features that have previously only been found in high-end handsets, such as the Carl Zeiss optics camera, dual-band WCDMA connectivity, TV-out support, and a 16.7 million colour TFT LCD. Most other features of the 6500 Slide are on par with other handsets in the mid-range.
Nokia have covered most bases when it comes to the 6500 Slide’s connectivity, providing support for all four GSM network bands (850/900/1800/1900MHz), and both WCDMA 850 and 2100MHz 3G bands. Although the high-speed 3G protocol HSDPA isn’t offered, there is the regular UMTS protocol and GPRS & EDGE for the 2G bands. USB, Bluetooth, and TV-out are supported for local connectivity.
The Carl Zeiss 3.2mpx digital camera is one of the 6500 Slide’s main attractions, offering stunning quality images that are just made to be shared with friends and family. The camera is auto-focus and includes a macro mode so shot are always in focus, and a dual-LED flash for image capture in low-light.
Last but definitely not least is the 6500 Slide’s brilliant 16.7 million colour TFT LCD panel. The display has a 240 x 320 pixel resolution, and until you’ve seen one of these LCD’s in real life, it’s hard to appreciate how good they look. It was not long ago that 16.7 million colour LCD’s were only being used in the highest of high-end handsets, but the technology has become cheaper and is now being used throughout the mid-range of the market.
The 6500 Slide’s exterior is crafted out of stainless steel with glossy black plastic in some areas. At 123 grams its weight is on par with other handsets of the same calibre, and it measures a total of 96.5 x 46.5 x 16.4mm. The design approach of the 6500 Slide is simple and professional.
On the front of the handset is the large 2.2” TFT LCD, 5-way navigational pad, two soft keys, and the pick-up and hang-up keys. The keys themselves are stainless steel, with coloured sections to indicate their functionality (green for pick-up, red for hang-up). The hang-up key also acts the on/off button when held down for a few seconds. Above the 6500 Slide’s display is the earpiece, with the forward-facing video call camera and the ambient light sensor neatly integrated in the sides of the mesh.
The back is mostly stainless steel, with a grill for the speakerphone towards the bottom, camera lens and dual-LED flash, and Nokia/Carl Zeiss branding tags. The camera lens and flash covers are embedded with the rest of the handset (not the back cover), preventing dust and other foreign material getting inside. The release button for the back cover is located at the top of the handset, where the Nokia Audio-Visual 2.5mm jack, microUSB, and charging ports can be found. The bottom of the handset is bare.
On the left hand side of the handset is the microphone port, which I feel is quite a peculiar position; although I had no complaints from callers saying they couldn’t hear me properly. The right hand side houses the volume up & down keys and the dedicated camera shutter key.
Sliding the 6500 Slide open reveals the 12-key keypad. The keys are the same glossy black plastic found at the top and bottom of the handset. A bright white backlight illuminates the keys when the ambient light sensor detects there is insufficient light, and prevents illumination (to save battery power) when it is bright.
I had two gripes with the physical side of the 6500 Slide. The first, and this may just be an issue with the model I received, is that the top section of the handset hung out over the edge on the right hand side. It did not sit flush with the bottom section of the handset like it did on the left hand side, and as the edge is quite sharp it does get uncomfortable in hand when using the keypad.
Secondly, the sliding mechanism does not spring open the handset until you have pushed it just above the 2nd row of numerical keys (counting from the bottom). This wouldn’t normally be an issue but because there is nothing for your finger to grip on when pushing the handset upwards (checkout the problems and issues section for more on that), it becomes difficult to open the handset with one hand.
User interface & display
The 6500 Slide has a 16.7 million colour TFT LCD display, and the Nokia OS Series 40 5th Edition Feature Pack 1 platform. Series 40 is one of Nokia’s most widely used platforms, and the version installed on the 6500 Slide is the most recent at time of printing. The Series 40 interface is simplistic yet effective, being adapted over the years for advancing technology such as colour displays, camera phones, and faster processors.
The UI is responsive, colourful and easy-to-use, but its default menu settings make it a little hard to find some popular applications and functions quickly. The menu can be arranged in a list, grid, grid with labels, or a new format: tabs. There are 10 icons to begin with: Messaging, Contacts, Log, Settings, Gallery, Media, PTT, Organiser, Apps, and Web. While the most commonly used functions can easily be found (messaging, gallery, and so forth) getting to things like Java applications, the calendar, Bluetooth, and many other functions, you will need to go 2-3 (possibly more) menus deeper.
Active Standby is included in the 6500 Slide, but it doesn’t include all the Active Standby applications found on Series 60 devices. Active Standby places small widgets on the standby screen, which can display things such as upcoming appointments, timers, and music player status. Up to four of the following widgets can be placed in Active Standby: Calendar, Countdown timer, General indicators, My note, Notifications, Radio and Music, Search web, or Shortcut bar.
The standby screen font colour can be changed to suit personal taste, as well as the background wallpaper. Items that cannot be removed from the standby screen are the reception level, battery level, and indicators such as Bluetooth, new messages, alarms, etc. The time can be displayed in digital, analogue, or hidden completely. Most of these items remain at the top of the screen while browsing the menu system and in many applications.
Themes can be used to modify the look of the 6500 Slide’s UI, including the wallpaper, screensaver, font colours, and more. Six themes are pre-installed, but they are just simple colour variations of the same base image set. More exciting themes can be downloaded direct to the 6500 Slide via the web browser, or downloaded from the Internet to a computer and then transferred via Bluetooth or USB.
The 16.7 million colour 240 x 320 pixel TFT LCD is a joy to use, offering great brightness and colour reproduction. The display perfectly compliments the 3.2mpx Carl Zeiss camera, acting as the gateway to the images and video. As the display is transflective, it is viewable even in direct sunlight – the perfect companion for outdoor image and video capture.
Making and receiving calls
The 6500 Slide can take calls in four ways: via the earpiece, the loudspeaker, the (included) wired headset, or through a separately purchased Bluetooth headset. Video and voice calls are supported, with a dedicated video camera located above the display for face-to-face video calling.
The usual dedicated pick-up and hang-up keys are included, making it easy to quickly deny or accept an incoming call. The right soft key can be pressed when a call is coming through to mute the ring tone. By default, sliding the handset open will answer the call, and closing the slider will hang-up the call. Because there is some lag between sliding the handset open and the handset actually accepting the call, you will need to remember to wait a second or two before greeting the caller.
Pressing the green pick-up key when hovering over a number or after entering a number will initiate a voice call. Video calls can be made by selecting the number you wish to call (or entering it at the standby screen), pressing the Options soft key and then selecting Video call. Of course, video calls can only be made in 3G coverage areas and are subject to provider support. The video-calling camera is of QCIF resolution and streams at 15 frames per second.
Pairing a Bluetooth headset with the 6500 Slide is relatively easy (after you find the Bluetooth menu buried deep in the UI…), and in next to no time you can be making wireless calls. If you haven’t got a Bluetooth headset, the stereo headset found in the sales package can be used. The loudspeaker can be enabled at any time during a call, and offers great quality and volume. The volume from the earpiece of the 6500 Slide is adequate, and can easily be increased or decreased via the volume buttons on the left hand side of the handset.
In the Call Settings menu of the 6500 Slide there is an option called “Voice clarity” which Nokia say will “enhance voice intelligibility especially in noisy environments.” The feature is disabled by default, but when I enabled it and made calls in the car or in a shopping mall, callers did say that there was in improvement in audio.
As a side note, some who have reviewed the 6500 Slide have noted that the handset suffers from reception troubles, constantly dropping out or dropping out while in a call. I didn’t experience any of these issues while testing the model I received for review, which was set to dual-band mode (roam between 3G and 2G networks).
From plain-old SMS messaging to image- and video-based MMS messaging, the 6500 Slide has you covered. Push e-mail is also supported, with T9 predictive text to top it all off.
The Series 40 messaging interface has remained mostly unchanged in recent revisions of the platform, with SMS, EMS, and MMS stored in shared folders, and e-mail handled by a separate part of the application. Message composition is guided for all types of messages, including, to some degree, e-mail. Selecting “create message” will pop up a menu asking for a selection of either “message,” “e-mail message,” “flash message,” “audio message,” or “templates”. The first option is used for SMS/EMS and MMS messages, with the others fairly self-explanatory.
By default, SMS and MMS messages begin as SMS and are converted to MMS once an object such as an image or video clip is added. The create message window has the recipient box at the top where numbers, names, or e-mail addresses can be added, and a text box below it for the message content. Underneath that are icons to add an image, sound clip, calendar note, business card, text field, text template, or video clip.
Concatenated (long) SMS messages of up to 1,000 characters are supported. Flash messages are short SMS messages with the capability of “flashing” certain words or letters. Some phones these days do not support flash messages, as they were mostly used back in the days of handsets such as the Nokia 33xx-range. Audio messages are MMS messages with audio recorded from the internal microphone.
POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail servers can be used by the 6500 Slide for e-mail messaging. The setup wizard can download popular e-mail provider settings for easy configuration (data charges will apply), or you can choose to manually setup mailboxes if you know all the required information. E-mail messages with attachments can be sent and received, and with 3G data speeds, downloading and sending messages is reasonably quick.
Three font sizes are available for messaging: small, normal, and large. 10 lines of text can be displayed in the small font, 8 at normal, and 7 at large. Normal is selected by default.
I’m happy to report that there is no lag while messaging, and the interface as a whole is very quick. T9 predictive text dictionaries in English, Filipino, and Vietnamese are pre-installed to speed up messaging.
World-wide 2G and 3G connectivity is supported by the 6500 Slide, as well as extensive support for local connectivity protocols. 2G networks GSM 850, 900, 1800, and 1900MHz are supported with EGDE and GPRS data protocols. The handset has WCDMA 850 and 2100MHz compatibility with UMTS data for 3G connectivity.
The 6500 Slide doesn’t support 3G HSDPA, but there’s little reason why it would need such data capabilities. The handset is not particularly multimedia oriented, and its feature set cope fine with regular UMTS data speeds. HSDPA is however becoming exponentially popular, and will be seen in more and more mid-range handsets in the near future.
Two web browsers are pre-installed on the 6500 Slide – Nokia’s own proprietary Series 40 browser, and the Java-based Opera Mini. Nokia’s browser can be found in the main menu under “Web”, while Opera Mini is hidden off in the Applications section. Both browsers support mobile-oriented WAP pages and HTML coded pages designed for regular internet browsers. The Opera Mini browser has a much nicer user interface but its font size may be too small for some users.
A Bluetooth 2.0+EDR compliant radio is built-in to the 6500 Slide, with the following profiles: Stereo Audio (A2DP), Audio-visual Remote Control, Dial-up Networking, File Transfer Protocol, GAP, GAVDP, GOEP, Hands free, Headset, OPP, SAP, SDAP, SDP, and Serial Port. Bluetooth can be used to connect to another mobile device or a computer for data transfer.
The new microUSB port standard is starting to be adopted by Nokia, after making its debut with the N81 & N81 8GB. The port is smaller than a miniUSB plug but offers all the same functionality. A microUSB data-cable is included in the sales package along with all the software necessary to transfer data and synchronize the handset with compatible applications. The 6500 Slide supports the USB Mass Storage Device profile, so the memory can be accessed almost immediately without the need to install additional drivers.
Nokia’s Audio-Visual 2.5mm Connector can be to connect wired headsets or a TV-out cable, both of which are included in the sales package. The TV-out cable allows you to hook up the handset with a TV via its RGB ports so you can share video and images with friends and family on the big screen. The output is at VGA 640 x 480 pixels.
The JBenchmark 1.0 score, which tests performance of MIDP 1.0 applications, was average. MIDP 2.0 applications are tested by the JBenchmark 2.0 test, in which the 6500 Slide performed reasonably well. 3D performance (tested by, you guessed it, JBenchmark 3D) is less than desirable, and 3D Java apps will struggle on the 6500 Slide.
A music player and video player are installed on the 6500 Slide for playback of popular multimedia formats. The handset also includes a stereo FM radio and special equaliser and stereo widening functionality.
The multimedia applications are located under the “Media” folder of the main menu. The Music Player application supports the following audio formats: AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, MP3, MP4, WMA, AMR-NB, Mobile XMF, SP-MIDI, MIDI Tones (poly 64), and True tones. The media application organizes all compatible files found on the internal and external memory into lists based on artist, album, or genre. Playlists are also supported, and there is a tie-in with the video player for instant access to video clips stored in the memory.
The playback window has received a revamp, and among other changes now supports themes. All the important information is displayed: track time, current position, title, artist, album name, album art (if available), and controls for volume and playback (pause, play, rewind, fast forward). Shuffle and repeat functions can be found under the Settings menu, where options for the stereo widening and equalizer can be found. The equalizer contains pre-sets but also supports two custom-built models. The loudspeaker offers great playback quality, especially with stereo widening enabled.
The 6500 Slide supports DRM technology so copy-protected music files downloaded via the web browser or transferred from a PC can be played back on the 6500 Slide. With Bluetooth A2DP support, music can also be played back in stereo with a compatible audio headset. By default music is output through the loudspeaker even when a Bluetooth headset is connected – just hit the “play via Bluetooth” menu in the Options menu to switch.
The video playback window is identical to that of the music playback, but offers additional features such as full screen view. 3GPP variations, H.264/AVC, and MPEG-4 video formats are supported by the handset. Streaming video over 2G or 3G data connections is also supported.
Files stored on the internal or external memory of the 6500 Slide can be browsed using the Gallery application. There are three view types: list with details, list, and grid. The snazzy (but painfully slow) slideshow-like view found on several older Nokia handsets is gone, but this is perhaps for the best. The browser is quite fast, even when rendering a heap of 3.2mpx thumbnails in the camera capture folder.
Java MIDP 2.0 applications are supported by the 6500 Slide, with the handset achieving the following results with the JBenchmark testing suite:
||LQ: 128, HQ: 247
Nokia pre-install several Java applications on the 6500 Slide, including Backgammon II, Golf Tour, Highroller Casino, Rally 3D, Snake II, Converter, Download!, Opera Mini, Presenter, Search, World Clock, and Yahoo! Go. Additional Java applications can be installed by transferring the appropriate files to the handset via Bluetooth or USB – those transferred via Bluetooth are automatically installed, the USB-transferred ones need to be opened by accessing them through the file browser.
The 6500 Slide has several non-multimedia applications built into the operating system, as well as additional Java-based PIM and productivity applications. Converter, Opera Mini, Download!, Presenter, Search, World Clock, and Yahoo! Go are all Java-based, with the alarm clock, calendar, to-do list, note taker, calculator, countdown timer, and stopwatch part of the Series 40 operating system.
Converter is an easy to use converter for measurements of temperature, currency, cooking-related measurements, weigh, length, area, volume, and lifestyle-relate measurements. Download! is a Nokia application that is used to download content for the handset such as add-on applications. The service requires an internet connection to download the catalogue from Nokia’s servers as well as the application, so data charges may apply. Opera Mini is the mobile version of the well-known browser for PCs, which some may find offers more functionality than the built-in web browser from Nokia.
Presenter is another Nokia application that is used to control PowerPoint and several other Windows applications via the 6500 Slide and its Bluetooth functionality. For the functionality to work the PC you wish to control must have Bluetooth support, as well as the Nokia Wireless Presenter software, which is included on the CD in the sales package (or downloadable from the Nokia website). World Clock is, just as the name suggests, a world clock. Up to four time zones can be displayed on the home screen, with others accessible through the menu system.
Nokia Search will search through the handset (messages, contacts, music, and other files) as well as the Internet (using regional providers) to find results for keywords. Yahoo! Go is a similar application, searching Yahoo!’s database for local information, news, sports info, weather, Flikr photos, and Internet search. The application displays the results in a mobile-friendly format for improved readability.
Under the Organiser menu tab are the 6500 Slide’s PIM applications. The calendar hasn’t changed much in previous version of the Series 40 platform, but none-the-less can manage reminders, meetings, calls, birthdays, and general memos. The organiser can be tied into the Active Standby system of the 6500 Slide, allowing you to view calendar entries straight from the idle display.
The usually plain calculator has had a re-vamp, now sporting a scientific calculator function and an integrated “loan calculator” function. All currency conversion is handled through the Converter application.
Nokia have included quite a good range of applications that should satisfy most user’s needs while out-and-about.
The 6500 Slide is a solidly built handset, but it does suffer from some drawbacks. The right hand side of the top section of the slider does not sit flush with the rest of the handset, leaving a sharp edge where the stainless steel folds around. This is a superficial issue more than anything, and may have just been an issue on the 6500 Slide I received for review.
Secondly, the 6500 Slide is hard to slide open as Nokia have not added any physical aids for your finger to grip onto when pushing the top section upwards. One handed opening or closing is practically impossible. The face of the 6500 Slide is almost entirely flat, and most users will find themselves pushing down (hard) on the display when trying to open the handset. The plastic protecting the display is hard, but with the force required to push the 6500 Slide open, the plastic will more often than not touch the LCD panel, which is less than desirable.
As a side note, although the stainless steel casing of the 6500 Slide looks great, it does become very hard to keep clean. Anyone with stainless steel appliances will already know how hard it is to keep them finger-print free. The black plastic sections of the 6500 Slide are semi-gloss, so they are also prone to collecting fingerprints.
A 900mAh lithium-ion battery back powers the 6500 Slide for up to 320 hours standby time or 6 hours talk time.
During my time with the 6500 Slide I could go around 3-4 days without charging the handset. I would mostly be using the SMS, MMS, and voice call functionality, with some web browsing and camera use. As always, use of the camera drains the battery more than any other function on the handset, and when the battery gets to a certain level the handset will prevent the viewfinder from opening.