Nokia Prism - 7500 (unlocked) review: Nokia Prism - 7500 (unlocked)

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Nokia 7500 Prism has a gorgeous display and a broad range of features, including Bluetooth. The music player is quite nice, and music quality is respectable.

The Bad The Nokia 7500 Prism had clunky navigation controls and keypad buttons. Also, battery life was weak and call quality was uneven with low volume.

The Bottom Line The Nokia Prism is an attention-getting phone with fine features, but its performance and usability were underwhelming.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 6.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 5.0

Though it has largely sat out the thin-phone mania of recent years, Nokia long ago established a reputation for daring cell phone design. Granted, that bold spirit was sometimes a little , but other times it resulted in a lovely product. Nokia's latest entry in the mobile fashion show is the Nokia 7500 Prism. Undeniably unique and unquestionably striking, the 7500 is a powerful phone with a broad range of features. On the other hand, call quality wasn't up to par and the unique keypad wasn't terribly user-friendly. The Nokia 7500 is $279 and is available with Dynamism.com. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.

Design
The 7500 isn't called the Prism because it's made of glass, nor is it called the Prism because it refracts light into a rainbow. It has that name, at least we assume, because of its triangular-shaped keys. Nokia is no stranger to irregular keypads, having produced phones with buttons arranged in a circle, so this arrangement doesn't come as a surprise. Yes, it's eye-catching, but usability was another story (more on that later).

Fashioned in basic black, the candy bar Prism has a sleek and stylish look. And at 4.29 inches by 1.72 inches by 0.57 inche, it's relatively compact and trim. There's no distracting external antenna and, except for the plastic rear cover, the phone has a solid feel. The pattern on the keys extends to the phone's rear face, where triangles in two shades come together in an attractive design. The rear-facing flash is also triangular, while the camera lens is shaped like a diamond. There's also a small speaker on the rear face; we've never been fans of rear-facing speakers since they direct sound away from you.

The Prism's 2-inch (320x2,540 pixels) display is up to usual Nokia standards, being both bright and vivid. What's more, the 16.7-million-color resolution means that graphics, photos, and games are a delight. You can change the font color and size, but we wish the backlight time and brightness level were customizable. Then again, you're given a selection of color themes that reflect the Prism's overall design.


The Prism has an unusual, but not very useful, keypad.

As we mentioned earlier, the 7500's navigation controls and keypad aren't ideal. Though the five-way joystick is raised above the surface of the phone, the mechanism was rather stiff and it's hard to get a good grip on the control. Yet we like that you can set it as a shortcut to four user-defined features. There are also two soft keys, which are located on the very edges of the phone, and the Talk and End controls. The latter two aren't marked by their usual green and red color. Though the keypad buttons are certainly distinctive, they're quite slippery and have a somewhat cheap feel. Also, the multiple intersecting lines can be a tad overwhelming to the eyes.

The remaining exterior controls on the Prism also leave something to be desired. The volume rocker is located on the right spine (it's on the opposite spine on most cell phones) and is completely flat. As a result, it wasn't easy to use when on a call. Below the rocker is a camera shutter, but its position at the bottom of the spine is rather inconvenient. The bottom end of the Prism has three ports for the charger, headset, and a mini USB cable. There's also a microSD slot for cards up to 2GB, but it's located behind the battery so you must turn off the phone to swap out the card.


The Prism comes with a carry bag and customizable accessories.
The 7500 does allow a dose of personalization. You can replace the blue plastic ring that encircles the phone's sides and top bottom ends with a choice of other colors. Green and fuchsia rings come in the box. The phone also comes with a cloth carrying bag.

Features
The 7500 Prism has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, a push-to-talk number, an e-mail address, a Web address, a company name, a job title, a nickname, a street address, a birthday, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can organize contacts into groups and pair them with a photo or one of 17 polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a to-do list, a notepad, a calculator, a countdown timer, and a stopwatch.

On the higher end, the Prism offers a voice recorder, full Bluetooth with a stereo profile, e-mail, PC syncing, USB mass storage, instant messaging, voice dialing and commands, call recording, and support for push-to-talk (PTT) networks. Just keep in mind that the last feature is carrier-dependent, so even if you use an unlocked 7500 with AT&T, you won't be able to use the PTT feature. Globetrotters can take advantage of the world clock, a nifty size converter for changing between U.S. and European clothing and shoe sizes, and support for Nokia's Sensor application, which is a quasisocial-networking feature that scans nearby Bluetooth users.


The 7500 has a bright flash, but it lacks a self-portrait mirror.
For your imaging needs, the 7500 offers a 2-megapixel camera that takes JPEG pictures in six resolutions, from 1,600x1,200 down to 160x120. You get a variety of camera settings including three quality settings, five color effects, a night mode, an adjustable white balance, and an 8x zoom. There's no brightness setting, but the flash works remarkably well as camera phones go. On the other hand, there's a self-portrait mirror for vanity shots. The camcorder shoots videos in two resolutions (176x144 and 128x96) with sound. Other options are similar to those of the still camera, and you can mute the sound if you wish. The short mode lasts about 15 seconds, but you can also shoot longer clips, depending on the available memory. Photo quality was mostly good; colors were bright and objects were distinct, but our pictures were slightly grainy. For saving your work, the handset offers 30MB of shared memory.


The Prism has decent photo quality.
The Prism's music player is similar to those on other Nokia phones, so it has a fairly minimalist design. Yet it does support album art and a fair amount of features, including shuffle and repeat modes, an equalizer, and stereo widening. Loading music tracks (MP3, WMA, and ACC formats) on the phone is easy; you can connect it to a computer with a USB cable and transfer your chosen tracks. Alternatively, you can play music that you're streaming from another device over the Bluetooth connection. The Prism also has FM radio, which can identify what song is playing, who sings it, and other artist information (if it's connected to the wireless Web). The radio offers seven presets, but keep in mind that you'll need the included stereo headset to act as an antenna.

You can customize the Prism with a variety of wallpapers, color themes, screensavers, and alert tones. You can download more options using the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Gamers should be satisfied with four titles; City Bloxx, Snake III, sudoku, and Music Guess. The latter plays tracks from your music player and asks you to identify the song.

Performance
We tested the triband (GSM 900/1800/1900) Nokia 7500 Prism in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was uneven and ultimately not very reliable. The volume was much too low, and we had a lot of trouble hearing in even marginally noisy environments. The phone also has a sensitive sweet spot, which exacerbated the problem further. When holding a conversation on a downtown street we had to strain to hear our callers, and even when we were in a quiet room it wasn't very loud. Callers reported a similar issue, though they said their experiences weren't as bad. On the upside, voices sounded natural and calls were free of static. You should definitely test the phone before buying it, as the low volume accompanied with occasional audio fadeouts made for a sometimes-challenging listening experience.

Fortunately, the Prism's speakerphone was louder and the audio remained clear, even at the highest sound levels. The rear-facing speaker means that the sound will be facing away from you if you rest the phone on a table, but even that wasn't much of a problem. Calls using a headset also were satisfactory.

Music quality on the 7500 is also quite solid, even if it was somewhat tinny. Like most MP3 phones, it's fine for short stints but not good enough to replace your standalone MP3 player. The sole speaker also provided decent output, but on the whole we'd recommend using a headset.

The 7500 has a rated battery life of just 2.8 hours talk time, which is quite low for both a Nokia and a GSM phone. And unfortunately, our tested talk time came to just 2 hours. Standby time is promised at 11.6 days and music playback time should be nine hours. According to FCC radiation tests, the Prism has a digital SAR rating of 0.61 watt per kilogram.

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