My thoughts about the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music

5800 XpressMusic_front.jpgFleishman-Hillard sent me a Nokia 5800 Xpress Music phone to review a couple weeks ago (thanks Lisa, Olga and Co.). I am uncharacteristically late with this review and I think it is partly because I am not as enthusiastic about this device as I am about other Nokia devices. There are a couple reasons for this and I’ll tell you about them before I tell you what I do like about the 5800.

Thumbs down

For starters I was disappointed in the build quality of the device compared to my E71. Granted they are in completely different classes and intended for very different target markets but I was expecting the 5800 to be a little more substantial and not as plasticky. It is a pretty lightweight device and seems to be about as big as a Nokia N73 Music Edition. In fact, when I first saw the device at the launch a while ago (Nokia’s General Manager, Mathia Nalappan, showed it to me and Saul Kropman before the event began), I thought it was an N73 from the back. When you turn it around you quickly realise this is like no other Nokia device you’ve used. As you have read (and noticed from the image to the right), this is a touchscreen device. Saul is ambivalent about the touchscreen (read his excellent review) but I like touchscreen devices. My wife as an iPod Touch and it is a pleasure to use (that being said, you can’t compare the 5800 to an iPod Touch or even an iPhone for that matter, Apple trumps Nokia when it comes to the 5800).

Another aspect of the device I don’t like is the battery cover. It is a flexible piece of plastic that extends over the whole of the back of the phone. Unlike other Nokia devices that have a release of some kind, you have to pull the battery cover away from the phone. The stylus is recessed inside the battery cover and that gives it some rigidity but I still felt like I was going to break the cover just pulling it away from the phone to get to the battery.

I watched a video (embedded below) the other day with footage from the phone’s launch in London about a month ago and roughly halfway through the video a Nokia store employee demonstrates the phone and comments that you can access the SIM card through a slot in the side of the phone. That isn’t really true. You can insert a SIM card through the slot on the side of the phone but you can’t remove it without opening the back of the phone and removing the battery like usual (there is a gap to use the stylus or similarly shaped device to push the SIM card out the slot). That being said, you probably won’t remove the SIM card very often so this isn’t a significant issue.

Thumbs up

For starters, here is the video from the London launch. The demonstration begins about halfway through the video and shows off some of the cool features of this phone:

Nokia 5800 ‘Tube’ Launch at Nokia’s Regent St flagship store from Ben Smith on Vimeo.

I like the touchscreen because I like the possibilities for touchscreens as input interfaces. The 5800 makes use of the touchscreen in a number of ways include a variety of input options (mini-qwerty, full sized qwerty, handwriting recognition and the stylus/plectrum). Unlike the button press sensation on some devices and the lack of any feedback on the iPod Touch/iPhone, the device vibrates when you access the touchscreen on the 5800. I’d rather have a localised sensation where I touch the device but some kind of feedback is better than none. At least I know when the device is registering something.

Web browsing on the device is more pleasant that on my E71. Being able to switch to landscape mode means more screen space for web browsing and less squinting. On that subject, the phone switches pretty smoothly between landscape and portrait modes when you turn the device around. I do a fair amount of web browsing on my E71 so using the 5800 for this was a pleasure.

I didn’t use the 5800 as my day to day device (I only had it for a week and couldn’t bring myself to stop using my E71) so I can’t comment on its utility day to day. I do have a strong sense that is not a device designed for people like me who use their phones for a lot of messaging and business stuff. This is a fun device, not a business and messaging device even though it supports pretty much the same services I use on my E71.

As its name suggests, this is a music device. It has a decent camera (3.2 megapixels with autofocus and Carl Zeiss optics) which is much better than my E71’s. Below are two images I took to give you an idea how the two cameras compare:

5800 test photo 1

Nokia 5800 Xpress


E71 test photo 1

Nokia E71

I also shot video clips using both devices to compare their relative qualities. The first you will notice is that their aspect ratios are different:

Nokia 5800 Xpress


Nokia E71

The E71 has this terrible blue tinge to imagery taken with its camera and that makes it a distant 2nd choice when I need to take photos or shoot video. The 5800 at least takes decent photos and video which makes it a viable option for casual stuff. There are a couple photos of the E71 alone and with my E71 for comparison purposes here.

Where the 5800 does well is its music player. The player itself is pretty basic but the sound quality is fantastic, especially for such a small device. Its little speakers put out quite a bit of sound and it barely distorts when you turn up the volume.

The 8GB card it comes with places it on a par with an iPod nano in terms of storage space and I thought about taking the phone along to gym with me instead of my iPod a couple times (I didn’t because I was a little nervous about losing/damaging it. The 3.5mm headphone jack it has should be in every Nokia device that has a music player. The half-assed 2.5mm headphone jack in my E71 rules it out as an optional podcast/music player when I am out and about. This isn’t a problem with the 5800 and I can easily see the 5800 becoming its users’ all-in-one choice largely for this reason.

I haven’t gone into a lot of detail here so I recommend that you read Saul’s review too. If I were a casual user who saw his phone as a phone and likes the idea of having a decent music player built into it, this device would be an excellent choice. It is light, flexible, has pretty good media capability and is a pretty funky looking device.

This is not a device for me, however. I was a better built device that feels solid in my hands and which will be better suited for messaging (a keyboard is a good start). I would like to have a bigger screen than my E71 gives me for all my Web-based activities and I see the N97 as being closer to what I ideally would like to have in a mobile device. At the same time Nokia never said the 5800 is for someone like me but it may well be the device for you.

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