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Nokia 5140 review: Nokia 5140

Nokia 5140

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
5 min read
It is believed that only three things will survive a nuclear war: Volvos, cockroaches, and Twinkies. But with its 5140 cell phone, Nokia might have added another item to the mix. Wrapped in rubber and solidly constructed, the 5140 is a sharp departure from the common mobile form factor. The black-and-blue candy bar-style handset looks like it could stand up to any manner of abuse. It also has an assortment of oddball features--including a thermometer, a compass, and a flashlight--that would benefit anyone lost in a post-apocalyptic world. The 5140 camera phone promises push-to-talk (PTT) capability, but its weirdness may in fact work against it by limiting its appeal to a mass audience. At the time of this writing, the GSM and EDGE-enabled mobile is not offered by a carrier, so its $249 price tag isn't cheap. But that could change if a carrier decides to pick it up. Most mobiles--particularly your average silver flip phone--wouldn't qualify as durable. Nokia, however, has endeavored to design mobiles that can take a few blows. The company's latest attempt is the Nokia 5140, which supports GSM and EDGE networks. The black-and-blue 5140 has a signature style that incorporates rubber padding on its side and bottom, as well as a rubber covering for the controls and the keypad. To be sure, the 5140 survived a few drops on the floor, and the casing is designed to resist dust and water, though that doesn't make it waterproof. While those elements may appeal to fitness fanatics and the outdoorsy set, the phone is bulky (4.1 by 1.7 by 0.9 inches; 3.3. ounces), and it won't win any design awards. On the other hand, you can choose from an assortment of changeable faceplates.


Nokia 5140

The Good

Quirky features; sturdy design; speakerphone; solid call quality; support for EDGE.

The Bad

Small display; buttons are not very tactile.

The Bottom Line

The Nokia 5140 wins points for originality, but its design will stymie frequent cell phone users.

Wear and tear: The 5140's rubber casing protects against bumps.

The 5140 has a 4,096-color display that measures a rather small 1.5 inches diagonally. Though it's easy to see in most lighting, the low-resolution screen has an overall washed-out appearance, and you can adjust contrast but not brightness. On the plus side, you can specify the backlight time, but the unchangeable text size may be too small for users with visual impairments. The menus are easy enough to use, but we aren't pleased with the navigation keys. Due to the rubber covering, the controls are difficult to manipulate, and we often misdialed. A five-way toggle provides shortcuts to four user-defined functions, but its small size also makes for some misdials. Other controls consist of two soft keys and dedicated Talk and End buttons.

Though they are also covered in rubber, the keypad buttons are easier to use. A raised profile makes it easy to dial by feel; our only complaint is the backlighting is too dim. On the left spine is a volume rocker, on the top is the power button, and the PTT key sits on the right spine. Though they're easy to find when you aren't looking, pressing them was another matter. The volume rocker requires an especially firm push, which is difficult to do while on the phone. We like the rubber door on the bottom of the mobile that covers the charger and headset ports, but we're puzzled as to why the rubber doesn't extend to the phone's backside. There you'll find the camera lens, but there's no flash or self-portrait mirror.

The Nokia 5140 has a customary complement of features with a few extras thrown in. The 250-name phone book holds five standard and one push-to-talk numbers; e-mail, Web, and street addresses; and notes for each entry, while the SIM card holds an additional 250 names. Contacts can be organized into caller groups and paired with a picture for photo caller ID; you can even add a voice tag to each entry. There's also ring tone caller ID, but the 6 monophonic and 24 polyphonic ring tones can only be assigned to a caller group. Additionally, you can send an electronic business card to other callers.

Other features included a vibrate mode; text, multimedia, and instant messaging; a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser; an alarm clock; a calendar; a calculator; a to-do list; a notepad; a voice recorder; an infrared port; and support for PC syncing via wireless means or a data cable. A speakerphone is included, but it can be activated only after a call is made. The 5140 also is the first Nokia handset that we've seen with push-to-talk capability, but be advised that it's network dependent.

The most memorable goodies on the 5140 go hand in hand with the mobile's sturdy form factor. There's a thermometer (in both Celsius and Fahrenheit), a stopwatch, a countdown timer, a decibel meter, and a tiny flashlight that will do in a pinch. There's also a compass, and the miniscule leveler bubble on the front face will help in calibration. Though fun, the compass and the flashlight aren't necessarily useful, so we doubt they will appeal to many people. Also, the thermometer's accuracy depended on how close you hold the phone to your body.

The VGA camera wasn't the most user-friendly we've seen. You can take pictures in 640x480 or 176x144 resolution and select from three quality settings. There's also a night mode, a self-timer, and a multishot option. There is no zoom or adjustable brightness setting, however, and the only shutter-sound choices are on and off. The Nokia records video with or without sound, but you can't edit the clips in any way. When finished, you can send your work via a data cable, the infrared port, or a multimedia message. You can also save shots and footage to the 5140's 4MB of shared memory.

The low-resolution camera on the 5140 produced poor quality shots.

Like the Nokia 5100, the 5140 has an FM radio with 12 station presets. Remember, though, that you'll need a headset to act as the antenna. Another oddity was the handset's fitness coach, which gives you a personalized exercise program after you plug in your height, weight, and so on. True to form, the handset has one Java (J2ME) fitness-themed game called Adventure Race, though more are available for download. The 5140 can be customized with a variety of wallpaper, sounds, colors, and menu styles. Alternatively, you can get more options from Nokia's Web site.

We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) Nokia 5140 in San Francisco on T-Mobile's network. Call quality was good, with callers only occasionally being able to tell we were on a cell phone. We also made calls through the included stereo headset and encountered few problems. We especially liked the comfort of the headset--it fits over both ears--and the controls, which allow you to toggle between the radio and normal and PTT calls. On the speakerphone, audio quality was somewhat patchy, but that's to be expected. We wanted to test the push-to-talk capability, but at present, T-Mobile does not support that feature.

Battery life was admirable. We managed six hours of talk time on a single charge, beating the rated time of five hours. For standby time, we met the promised time of 10 days. According to the FCC, the Nokia 5140 has a digital SAR rating of 1.26 watts per kilogram.


Nokia 5140

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 8