The assumption seems to be that people who want to listen to music using their mobile phone are also the people with the strongest attraction to gimmicks and quirky design. Nokia is no stranger to unusual design, as the XpressMusic 5700 is a testament to. The 5310 is a different kettle of fish to the previous, a subdued slim-line candy-bar form phone, and it's the minimal design that stands out as one of the phone's greatest assets.
With a shape and size very similar to a 2nd-generation iPod nano; the 5310 is just about the perfect size. Many times during testing we found ourselves patting the pockets on our trousers to double-check that the tiny 5310 was still in our possession. But even with its slighter profile Nokia hasn't compromised useability; giving the 5310 decent sized keys and a clear and colourful display.
On the top of the 5310 is a 3.5mm headphone jack; an absolute must on a music-focused device, and particularly important here since the stereo headphones bundled with the phone are not the best. On the left hand side of the screen are three dedicated music control buttons; play, back and forward.
The 5310 XpressMusic isn't a phone with a set of features to stand apart from the competition; in fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a mobile phone without a music player of some sort these days. However, the music player in the 5310 is very good, it's easy to use, plays smoothly in the background while you multitask, and the sound quality through headphones is fine. You'll be able to play most popular audio file types with the handset; MP3, AAC, WMA, but definitely no DRM protected music files, such as those you might buy from an iTunes music store.
If you get bored of listening to your own playlists the 5310 has an FM radio built-in, with an antenna attachment that plugs into the 3.5mm input, although it has to be noted that the FM reception we experience wasn't excellent. The 5310 also sports a 1.3-megapixel camera which produces reasonably low quality images in daylight; but, without a flash, is basically useless for snapping pics at night.
Anyone interested in browsing the Web needs to be aware that the 5310 is not a 3G phone, but instead a tri-band GSM phone capable of 2.5G browsing speeds. Cast your mind back to the days of dial-up Internet to get a feeling for what the Web experience on the 5310 is going to be like.
The most notable absence from the 5310 XpressMusic is substantial internal memory for storing music files. The phone comes bundled with a 1GB microSD storage card and the 5310 is capable of using up to 4GB cards, but this is, of course, an extra expense, and with Nokia's latest releases taking advantage of internal flash memory it would have been a major plus to have seen similar in the 5310.
As noted above, the 5310 XpressMusic performs well as a music player, not only playing good quality music, but also responding quickly to controls. However, the same cannot be said outside the music player. The 5310 runs on Nokia's S40 Symbian platform, a paired-down version of its sturdy bigger brother, the S60 platform, but without the necessary processing power using the 5310 is a tad clunky. Scrolling through menus, making selections and opening applications are all plagued by a plodding pace that is in definite contrast to the swift speed of other Nokia devices, and of other MP3 music players on the market.
Call reception was another departure from the high standard we expect from Nokia, with many of our test calls suffering noticeable interference. This doesn't make the 5310 unusable for voice calls, but it's none the less irksome. On the plus side; the 5310 is excellent for messaging, the keys and screen layout make it easy to punch out text messages with great speed.
Battery life is on the better side of average. We experienced up to four days between charges with moderate use of voice calls, messaging and music. Nokia predict 18 hours of music playback, which is excellent.
The 5310 XpressMusic is excellent value for money -- we've found them retailing for as little as AU$300 in online stores -- and is a handset we found to be very easy to use and easy to lug about with us. With a decent-sized internal memory the 5310 would have been a near-perfect music phone, but as it stands, people buying the 5310 will need to pay extra to increase the storage and to buy some good quality headphones.