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Nokia 5800 Xpress Music (Unlocked)

Nokia 5800 Xpress Music (Unlocked)

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While some manufacturers (hello Samsung) rushed headlong into the touch-screen phone craze, other manufacturers were more cautious. For example, just look at Nokia. Though the cellular giant pumps out phones by the dozen, it wasn't until the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music that the company explored touch-screen cell phones with gusto (the Nokia 810 doesn't count). Positioned as a rival to the Apple iPhone, the 5800 is packed with a range of multimedia features. And it all comes in a sharp, slim package with an expansive touch screen.

Of course, we were very excited when we first heard about the phone, so when Nokia gave us the opportunity to look at a prototype, we jumped at the chance. Since it's not a production model, and it doesn't have final software, we won't have an official CNET rating, but we can report that the 5800 looks very promising. The design is attractive and easy to use, and the loaded feature set is impressive. And though we weren't able to test the Nokia Music Store, its music player should be top-notch. Indeed, we look forward to seeing a final version. Nokia has no plans to release it with a U.S. carrier, but you should be able to buy it unlocked for around $500.

The Nokia 5800 shares design characteristics with the iPhone and Samsung touch-screen handsets like the Omnia. The candy bar shape offers clean lines with rounded corners and a black and burgundy color scheme (there's also a thin red stripe). At 4.37 inches tall by 2.04 inches wide by 0.61 inch deep, it is relatively small as touch-screen phones go, though it is a bit thicker than average. Still, at 3.84 ounces it won't weigh you down. The 5800 also offers a sturdy, comfortable feel in the hand.

The touch screen measures 3.2 inches, which makes it almost as big as the iPhone's. It supports 16 million colors (640x360 pixels) and has an aspect ratio of 16:9. With that kind of resolution, colors are bright and vibrant and graphics and photos are sharp. You can change brightness, font size, and backlighting time. During a call, the 5800's display will go dark when you raise the phone to your ear. The brightness will adjust automatically to different lighting environments.

We may not have final software, but the 5800's menu system is already intuitive. It has a standard design, with icons in a grid format and pop-up sub-menus. Thanks to the accelerometer, you can change between landscape- and portrait-menu views simply by rotating the phone. The accelerometer works in most applications.

The display is relatively responsive; you can use your finger or the included stylus. Items opened quickly on our prototype model and we didn't have to press too hard on the display. Scrolling through long lists takes some acclimation--the scroll bar on the left side is rather narrow--but we got used to it. The experience isn't quite as fluid as on the iPhone, but since this isn't final software, things could change. You can adjust the calibration and have a host of choices for the handwriting option. The display has vibration feedback, but the intensity is not customizable.

On the home screen there are icons for the phone book and the phone dialer. You also can add a customizable shortcut bar or a favorite contact to the home screen for instant access. The phone dialer has large virtual buttons with larger numbers, yet the phone dialer does not show the corresponding letters on each numeric key. Yes, we realize the phone has a full keyboard for dialing, but you'll still need the letters to dial some phone numbers (like 1-866-402-CNET) and when spelling a person's name in an automated phone directory. We're not sure why Nokia left this out, so we're hopeful it will be there in the final model. Once you dial a number, onscreen shortcuts appear on the display for activating the speakerphone, muting a call, and placing a call on hold.

The 5800 offers several ways to type messages. The full QWERTY keyboard takes full advantage of the 5800's display. It should be spacious enough for most users; just be aware that the space for composing your message is rather small. There's a separate keyboard for numbers and symbols, and you can switch language alphabets and writing languages at the touch of a button. You'll also find dedicated shift keys, a large space bar, and back and return controls. You can scroll through text you've already written by tapping the chosen area on the display.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can type messages using a standard alphanumeric keypad. We're not sure why you'd want to compose texts with the multitap dance, but the option is there. The 5800 also offers handwriting recognition and a mini QWERTY keyboard, the latter of which is painfully small. Our only complaint is that the 5800 doesn't use its accelerometer to change keyboards. Instead you must press a button to do so.

The 5800 comes with a cool stand.

Below the display are three physical controls: Talk and End buttons and a menu control. The keys are thin, but they're tactile. On the right spine you'll find a volume rocker, a handset-locking switch, and a camera shutter. On the left spine there are slots for the SIM card and a microSD card. A dedicated power switch is located on the top of the device next to a 3.5mm headset jack (yay!), a micro-USB port, and the charger port. The 5800 has two camera lenses. The main 3.2-megapixel lens is located on the back of the phone above the flash, while a second VGA lens for self portraits is located just above the display.

The 5800 should come with a fair set of features in the box. You get a USB cable, a video-out cable, a 3.5mm headset with a separate adapter for making calls, a sturdy pouch, and a nifty stand for perching the phone on its side when watching videos.

Each contact in our 5800's phone book holds 10 different kinds of phone numbers, three video-calling numbers, three e-mail addresses, three URLs, a birthday and anniversary, a department and job title, an assistant name and phone number, spouse and child names, and notes. You can save an additional 250 contacts on the SIM card. You can add callers to groups, but on our prototype model only groups can be paired with a ringtones and photos. Hopefully, that will change when we see the phone again. The handset offers plenty of ringtones and you can use your own melodies, as well.

Other essentials, so far, include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging (with the nifty ability to delete multiple texts at once), a calendar, a calculator, an alarm clock, a world clock, a notepad, a currency and unit converter, a voice recorder, a speakerphone, and a notepad. We also found full Bluetooth with a stereo profile, file and application managers, speaker-independent voice commands, PC syncing for music and photos, instant messaging, USB mass storage, and a file manager. Best of all, however, is the integrated Wi-Fi. That is a must for a phone with a full HTML browser so we're very glad to see it here. You'll also find full GPS support with access to Nokia Maps. We were not able to test this feature on our sample model.

The 5800's music player promises to be comparable with most Nokia N-series models. At least for now, the interface is simple and it offers album art. Settings are plentiful. You can adjust the balance, use a bass booster, activate stereo widening, and select one of five equalizer settings. Other options include playlists, an airplane mode, and shuffle and repeat modes. What's more, the 5800 offers an FM radio and support for podcasts. It may not be flashy, but we like what we see so far.

Getting music on the 5800 is an easy process. We plugged it into our PC using the USB cable and synced our tunes using Windows Media Player. You also can choose USB transfer mode and simply drag and drop files using Windows Explorer. In both cases our computer recognized our phone instantly. Nokia should include software with the final production version, though we didn't get a copy with our advance model. Depending on your region, you'll also be able to buy tracks from the Nokia Music Sore. It's not available in the United States yet, so we couldn't give it a test run.

Music quality was satisfying. The sound was comparable with other Nokia Xpress Music phones. Our tracks had warmth and they didn't sound overly tinny or bass-heavy. The external speakers had a decent output and, unlike on voice calls, the sound wasn't distorted at the highest levels. As with most music phones, a headset will provide the best experience. The included headset does a decent job, but you can use your own headset, thanks to the 3.5mm jack.

The 5800 offers a full HTML Web browser. The interface on our initial model is pretty straightforward. There is a great set of options beyond the aforementioned Wi-Fi. We could search for keywords on a page, view photos by themselves, access an RSS feed, save bookmarks, and keep open multiple Web pages simultaneously. The 5800 supports only the 900 and 2100 UMTS 3G bands that are used in Europe. As such, it can't connect with any U.S. 3G networks for maximum data speeds. You can use GPRS and EDGE, and the handset is a quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) world phone. The browser experience was mostly satisfying. Even with initial software, it was better than some other recent touch-screen phones we've seen; we think Nokia can iron out any kinks. Yet, even at this point, we can't help but rate it against the iPhone's multitouch functionality. Pressing the Z button to zoom in isn't the same as pinching your fingers or tapping the screen.

The 5800's camera has a bright flash.

The 5800's 3.2-megapixel camera offers a Carl Zeiss lens that takes pictures in three resolutions. In a nifty twist, the settings menu explains the maximum printing size for each resolution and it tells you how many photos you can take using each choice. Other settings include four shutter tones, auto-focus, a 3x digital zoom, six scene settings (such as "night" and "macro"), a self-timer, and gridlines. You also can adjust the white balance, the ISO, the exposure setting, the color tones, the contrast, and the sharpness. The bright flash has four settings: automatic, red-eye reduction, always on, and off.

The 5800 has good photo quality.

The camcorder shoots clips in five quality modes. As with the still camera, the settings menu will tell you the ideal use for each setting and the available recording time. Other options include a night mode and an adjustable white balance and color tone. You can use the flash as a steady light and you can mute the sound.

Photo quality was quite good--colors were sharp and there was little image noise. Video quality was just OK, but better than on other 3.2-megapixel shooters we've seen. You can run videos out to a TV or monitor using the included video-out cable. The 5800 offers basic photo-editing features. Given the healthy 81MB of internal memory, you have a decent amount of space for storing your work, but you can use microSD cards up to 8GB.

You can personalize the 5800 with a selection of display themes, alert tones, and profiles. You can download more options, and additional ringtones, from Nokia using the Web browser. Our preproduction handset came with a few additional applications. There's a settings wizard, a menu for accessory setup, a shortcut to your "My Nokia" online account, an app for syncing contacts and calendar with other Nokia devices, RealPlayer support, and two games (Bounce and Global Race Racing Thunder). The latter uses the accelerometer to drive your car. It takes a few minutes to get the hang of the gameplay, but it's fun.

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