Editors' note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluation of the Nokia 5800 Navigation Edition, since they share a similar design and feature set.
Everyone loves a great deal, and Nokia and T-Mobile are serving up one heck of a value with the Nokia 5230 Nuron. Available starting March 24 for just $69.99 with a two-year contract, the Nuron is a full touch-screen smartphone that offers 3G support, access to the Ovi Store, and free maps and voice-guided, turn-by-by navigation via Ovi Maps. The latter is really what makes the phone such a great deal. With Ovi Maps, you're getting maps for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico as well as other premium content such as weather forecasts and Lonely Planet guides, all without the monthly subscription fee that's often attached to this kind of content. Of course, to get the cheaper price you give up a few features, such as Wi-Fi and a high-end camera, but the Nuron isn't meant to be that top-of-the-line, high-performance device. It's really about giving consumers an affordable option when shopping for a smartphone. If you're on a budget, we certainly think the Nokia Nuron will give you a lot of bang for your buck.
The Nokia 5230 Nuron's design is a familiar one, taking after the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music and Navigation Edition models. The white-and-silver chassis refreshes the look a bit, but the Nuron keeps the same candy bar shape and dimensions (4.37 inches tall by 2.03 inches wide by 0.61 inch thick) as the 5800s' do. At 3.98 ounces it is just a hair heavier than the other 5800. Overall, it's a very compact and lightweight handset that doesn't feel fragile. However, unlike the 5800 Navigation Edition, the battery cover doesn't have a soft-touch finish, thus it's a bit slick.
The sides on the handset house several controls. On the left spine, you'll find the SIM card and microSD expansion slots, both of which are protected by covers. Its right side has a volume rocker, a lock switch, and a camera activation/capture button. There are also Talk and End keys and a main menu button just below the display, but you'll use the Nuron's 3.2-inch resistive touch screen for most of your interaction with the phone.
With a 640x360-pixel resolution and support for 16 million colors, the Nuron's display is clear, bright, and satisfying. The screen washes out a bit in bright sunlight, and is on the small side, making typing the onscreen keyboard feel a bit cramped. Still, Nokia does a better job at maximizing the screen to the phone's size, unlike the Motorola Cliq XT, which is bigger but has a smaller screen. It also has a proximity sensor and built-in accelerometer so you can rotate the phone and view maps, Web pages, photos, and so forth in landscape mode. The transition when switching screen orientations isn't the smoothest; there's a slight lag and it almost feels like it catches halfway.
The Nuron's touch screen is fairly responsive. It uses grid and list menus that are laid out well, so that you can easily navigate using your finger. Launching Web links can get a little dicey, but you can double-tap in the browser to zoom in on a page and tap a link. Still, we prefer having a capacitive touch screen rather than a resistive one since it's more sensitive and offers a smoother scrolling experience; it also eliminates the need for a stylus.
Also, with Symbian 3 operating system and its single-tap user interface still a few months away, you're going to have to deal with the clunky interface of the S60 5th Edition platform. As we've said many times before, the extra steps and inconsistencies of the interface make the device a bit frustrating to use when compared with other touch-screen devices. Tip: Just remember that icons only require one tap whereas list items need two.
Finishing out the Nokia 5800's design is Micro-USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a power connector, and a power button on top. Also, above the display, there's a small touch-sensitive XpressMusic button, which will bring up a launch bar for the phone's various multimedia options, including the music player, photo and video gallery, Web browser, and online services such as Flickr, Vox, Ovi. The Nuron's camera is located on the back of the phone, as usual, but unfortunately, there's no flash.
T-Mobile packages the Nokia 5230 Nuron with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a 4GB microSD card, a wired stereo headset, a plectrum stylus, and reference material. For more add-ons, please visit our cell phone accessories, ring tones, and help page.
Though its core functions are largely the same as its 5800 series siblings, the Nokia 5230 Nuron's sacrifices a couple of features to keep costs down but it also has a couple of notable enhancements. Starting with the latter, the Nuron includes the new Ovi Maps application, so you get free turn-by-turn, voice-guided navigation right out of the box.
Also, the Nuron is the first smartphone from a U.S. carrier to come preloaded with the Ovi Store, where you can browse and download free and paid apps, audio, video, themes, games, and more. T-Mobile is also simplifying the process of purchasing apps from the store by letting you bill purchases to your monthly statement or via credit card. This streamlined process definitely makes it easier to get apps, but the Ovi Store could use a little makeover. The store is not particularly easy to navigate or search. Also, don't expect to find much in the audio and video section. It's not a true music store and, unfortunately, Nokia's Music Store isn't available in the United States.
Ovi Maps is a much more useful tool and even provides several advantages over its competitors--namely Google maps. You can view maps even if you don't have a data connection. The maps are downloaded to device, so you can continue to use them even if you're offline. In addition, Nokia uses a hybrid vector mapping technology that helps maps redraw quickly and gives you the ability to zoom in and out of maps with little delay. Google Maps, on the other hand, requires that a new map be downloaded every time you want to zoom, thus taking up more bandwidth and time. Another plus: you can use Ovi Maps in 74 different countries and in 46 languages.