Nokia 5310 Xpress Music review: Nokia 5310 Xpress Music

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The Good The 5310 Xpress Music has an attractive design with a brilliant display and easy-to-use controls. It also offers a solid feature set and satisfying performance.

The Bad The 5310 Xpress Music has a pitifully small internal memory and poor photo quality; also, it's not a quadband world phone.

The Bottom Line The Nokia 5310 continues the fine Xpress Music tradition by offering a satisfying blend of features and performance in an attractive design.

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7.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

Ten months after announcing its new 5310 and 5610 Xpress Music phones, Nokia finally has released them to a U.S. carrier--well, at least one of them. Last week in New York City, T-Mobile added the 5310 to its lineup, and from what we understand, it will soon pick up the 5610 as well. The 5310 offers everything you'd expect in an Xpress Music phone, but it sports an attractive candy-bar design that is more than a hair trimmer than T-Mobile's previous Xpress Music phone, the Nokia 5300. It passes the performance test as well, and it's a bargain at $49 with a two-year contract. Alternatively, you can buy it unlocked for around $200. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.

Nokia doesn't blindly follow trends, so it wasn't surprising that the company didn't rush to copy the thin-phone success of the now-ancient Motorola Razr. But with the eye-catching 5310, Nokia is giving slim design a go. And we can report it comes together quite nicely. At 4.1 inches by 1.8 inches by 0.41 inch, the 5310 is the trimmest Nokia we've seen, if not one of the thinnest phones ever. It is a world's difference from the relatively bulky 5300 and 5700 Xpress Music handsets; in fact, if it weren't for the external music controls on all three models, you wouldn't know that they're related. We're not afraid to admit that the 5310 is one stylish, even sexy, cell phone.

Though compact and portable the 5310 is no wispy phone. At 3 ounces it has a comfortable, solid feel in the hand and we felt confident that it could take a few drops to the floor, even with the plastic rear face. T-Mobile sells the 5310 in three versions: purple and black, orange and black, and red and black (in case you haven't heard, purple is the new pink). We examined the purple version, but all features are the same on each model. Meanwhile, the unlocked version comes in red and black and blue and black.

The 5310's 2-inch display supports a full 16.7 million colors. It's a brilliant display by all accounts, with rich graphics and sharp text. The default font size may be a bit small for some users but you can change the size and the font color. The 5310 uses Nokia's Series 40, third-edition user interface. The menus are user-friendly, even if the main feature icons are somewhat dull.

Below the display is the easy-to-use navigation array. The square toggle is raised above the surface of the phone, so it's tactile. You can set it to act as a shortcut to four user-defined features, while the center of the toggle functions as an OK button. You'll also find two soft keys and the Talk and End buttons. These controls are flush, but they're also fairly big. Like many Nokia phones, the 5310 lacks a dedicated back button.

The keypad buttons have a relatively spacious design, though the numbers on the keys are quite small. As such, users with visual impairment should test this phone before buying. On the upside, the keys are raised slightly and they benefit from a bright backlighting. We didn't have any issues with misdials.

The 5310's music controls are conveniently placed.

The signature Xpress music controls sit on the 5310's left spine. They're flat with the surface of the phone, but their large size makes them quite user-friendly. On the right spine is a thin volume rocker, which is easy to find when you're on a call. The camera lens sits on the back side of the phone. Though it's well situated for taking photos, vanity shots are tricky without a self-portrait mirror. The least remaining exterior features are a charger jack on the left spine and a power button, a mini USB slot and a 3.5mm headset jack on the top of the 5310. The 3.5mm jack is especially welcome. The 5310 also offers a microSD card slot, but it's located behind the battery cover.

The 5310 offers a solid midrange feature set with an emphasis on music. The phone book holds a healthy 2,000 contacts with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, a URL, a company name and job title, a formal name and nickname, a street address, a birthday, and notes. You can organize contacts into groups or you can pair them with a picture and one of 28 polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging alarm clock, a calendar, a to-do list, a notepad, a calculator, a countdown timer, and a stopwatch.

Though the 5310 is far from being a smartphone, it offers a few work-friendly features. There's full Bluetooth with a stereo profile, PC syncing, a voice recorder, a world clock, a unit converter, and instant messaging. E-mail is onboard as well, but only for POP3 accounts such as Yahoo and AOL. Also, you must log onto the Web browser to access your messages. It's not the slickest experience, but it works in a pinch.

Like other Xpress Music phones, the 5310 is all about its music player, and here again Nokia succeeds. As we've said before, the Xpress Music handsets offer everything you want in a music phone, including ergonomic controls, few restrictions, and satisfying audio quality. The interface is nothing special, but the controls are simple and intuitive, and the player supports album art. Features include an equalizer, shuffle and repeats modes, and an airplane mode for listening to tunes while you fly. What's more, you can create playlists and play music via Bluetooth. The player supports, MP3, MP4, AAC, AAC+, and WMA files, and you can use tracks as ringtones.