capsule review

Nokia 5300 XpressMusic Phone

At a Glance
  • Nokia 5300 XpressMusic Cell Phone

    PCWorld Rating

At first glance, you may not realize that the Nokia 5300 XpressMusic Phone is a cell phone at all. With its boxy black-and-white case, prominent music controls, and large screen, you could easily mistake it for a digital audio player. And you wouldn't be wrong: The 5300 is, in fact, almost equal parts music player and cell phone, and the music features are some of the best that we've seen on a phone.

When closed, this slider-style phone looks squared-off and slightly bulky, but its gorgeous 2-inch display takes center stage. The music controls sit in the black rim around the display (a red-and white-version also is available); to the left are keys for scrolling through your music collection, as well as keys for playing and pausing tracks. Volume keys sit on the right side of the handset. Since the keys are rubbery, they're simple to locate by touch, and easy to push.

Basic controls below the screen make navigating the phone's many features a breeze. Sliding the device open reveals the one disappointing aspect of its controls: a phone keypad that feels overly plasticky. Still, the keys are nicely raised, so dialing is easy.

But the music features really make the phone shine. The music player, which is easily accessible through the unit's home page or via the external music controls, is very user-friendly. You can quickly scroll through your music library, which is organized by artists, albums, genres, composers, or playlists. The phone ships with Nokia's Music Manager software for organizing your library on your PC and a USB cable for transferring tunes to the phone, which includes a 1GB microSD card for storing them. While the desktop software isn't as intuitive as the phone's music player, it is still relatively easy to use. It scans your PC for audio files and lets you transfer any of them to your phone with one click. You can also use the Music Manager app to delete songs from the phone and to create playlists, which you can't do on the phone itself. T-Mobile does not offer its own music service with over-the-air downloads, so you'll have to obtain your music collection elsewhere.

The audio quality won't rival that of your iPod; but, whether the sound plays through the included 2.5mm headphones or the external speaker, it's better than what we've heard from most music phones. Songs occasionally sounded tinny when played over the speaker, but overall the audio was very good.

As a phone, the 5300 works well. Its rubbery exterior makes it comfortable to hold, and it slides open nicely with one hand. The unit is light enough to hold comfortably next to your ear during long conversations. Call quality and volume were quite good, but the talk-time battery life was only fair: It lasted 5 hours, 6 minutes in our lab tests.

The 5300 also includes a 1.3-megapixel camera that takes serviceable to very good snapshots. Still-life photos came out great, but like many camera phones, this model suffers from a significant shutter delay, so capturing moving subjects is hard. The phone also takes video clips, but they look pixelated and slightly grainy (typical for a camera phone).

Overall, the 5300, with its stellar music features, is impressive, especially when you factor in the price: T-Mobile is offering the phone for $99 with a two-year contract. That's less than you might pay for a dedicated MP3 player--so it's an excellent price for a device that makes calls, too.

Liane Cassavoy

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This handset offers excellent music playback features and works well as a phone, too.

    Pros

    • Music player is easy to use
    • Audio quality is very good

    Cons

    • Camera takes sub-par snapshots
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