At first glance you'd never guess that the Nokia 6280 is a 3G handset. Yes, it's a little on the fat side and it's larger overall than other sliders, such as the lovely, but hey, it is a slider, and it doesn't look out of place sitting among of non-3G handsets.
3G might not even be the killer feature for you. There's an FM radio, a reasonably good camera and bundled PC synchronising software to take into account too. And the price is pretty attractive.
The 6280 should be available from several operators soon, but at time of publication 3 has it exclusively for free on a range of Pay Monthly tariffs including under £20 per month. We found it SIM-free online for around £280.
If you read our review of the Nokia 6111, you'll have already had a sneak preview of the look of the 6280, as the two share a similar screen-dominated outside and front-button design.
The 6280 feels chunky in the hand. One of the benefits of sliders is the saving on size from hiding the number pad. But that becomes a non-factor when the handset measures 46 by 100 by 21mm in your pocket, and stretches the 100mm to 135mm when you reveal the numberpad. This makes it taller than most handsets, including another Nokia 3G handset we rather like, the.
Still, the 6280 hardly ever needs to show off its full height as you can achieve a great deal with the sliding mechanism closed -- you can take calls, for a start. The front keys give access to the full range of built-in software via the central Select button within the navigation key, as pressing this takes you to the complete applications menu. And you can use any software listed on the Active Standby screen -- which we'll explain later.
The screen itself is vast at 33 by 44mm, and its 240x320 pixels and 262k colours combine to give a very positive experience.
A fair array of connectors and buttons sit around the edges of the Nokia 6280. The right edge has a volume rocker and camera quick-launch and shutter button. The lens, flash unit and self-portrait mirror are on the back.
The left edge has a covered slot for miniSD cards, which can be used to expand the built-in memory, a push-to-talk key, which is mapped to the built-in voice recorder out of the box, and an infrared port, which we're pleased to see. Yes, you can use Bluetooth for data sharing, but infrared is great for a quick, one-off beaming between devices -- for example, sending a picture to a friend's phone.
The slide mechanism is fairly smooth, and has enough resistance that it shouldn't activate by accident when you are carrying the 6280 in a pocket or bag. There's a ridge across the full width of the front of the handset that you can latch onto with your thumb to push the top and bottom sections apart, but if you find this awkward you're going to have to push against the screen and risk finger-smudges, because going beneath the ridged area means you'll hit a key.
The numberpad is reasonably large, but its top row of keys are far too close to the upper section, and anyone with large thumbs might find it difficult to hit them successfully.
The Nokia 6280 is a Series 40 device. We are much more used to seeing Symbian's operating system with Series 60 on top of it in Nokia handsets, but both the 6111 and the 6280 run on Series 40.
As a user you probably won't notice much difference, though, because the 6280 has a very familiar look and feel. It's equipped with a standard range of software that includes contact manager, calendar, to do list, alarm clock, note taker, countdown timer, stopwatch, MMS, SMS and email management, image viewer, music player with MP3 and AAC support and voice recorder. When it comes to adding extra software, Java is supported. And if you want to synchronise with a PC, you get both the software and a cable that allows you to do that.
As well as the music player there is an FM radio, and this has support for Visual Radio (you get to see content broadcast alongside music). It was easy to get to the spot where you set up a Visual Radio stations directory on the handset, but no stations are operating in the UK yet (seefor more information).
When it comes to standard radio we were miffed that we couldn't autotune the 20 station presets, and also that there's no support for RDS information, so you have to enter station names manually. In practical terms this means you need to know the frequency of your favourite stations to tune them rather than just scanning the spectrum, which is tedious.
We noted earlier a feature called Active Standby. You can configure the main screen to offer application shortcuts, calendar information and more, which you can access using the navigation key. It means you can personalise things just how you like them.
There are two cameras, as you'd expect from a competent 3G handset. The one on the front is VGA resolution and designed primarily for video calling. The one on the back shoots at up to 2 megapixels.
Following the current trend, when in camera mode the 6280 is meant to be used in landscape format. As soon as you tap the camera button it presents a sideways-on view, and you have to swivel the phone to frame and shoot.
The Nokia Web site says up to 10MB of memory is available for contacts, text messages, multimedia messages, ringtones, images, video, calendar notes, to do lists and applications. 3, who supplied our review handset, suggest a more conservative 6MB is available. Our memory check after inserting our SIM on the review handset showed that just 2.7MB was free for storing data. You will need to start using the bundled 64MB miniSD card straight away.
The use of Series 40 makes the Nokia 6280 noticeably zippier than its Series 60-based relatives, which is something you will appreciate if you often skip between applications.
We got a good couple of days of use out of the handset between charges, but were not overly heavy on music playing or 3G usage. Doing much either will deplete the battery more quickly, as will using Bluetooth.
The camera only rates as average in our book, as despite its 2 megapixels, there was a lack of colour definition and sharpness to our shots that left us unimpressed. For anything approaching serious shots, we suggest you look elsewhere.
On the other hand, the 6280 produced good sound output, both from the radio and the music player, and the equaliser had enough of an effect on sound for us to recommend it. Again we have a grumble, though -- there's not enough volume for listening through the handset speaker.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide