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Nokia 6110 Navigator review: Nokia 6110 Navigator

Nokia has followed up the success of its GPS-enabled N95 with a new sat-nav phone -- the small and light 6110 Navigator uses the easy-to-use Route 66 software, which has superb search functionality, and its screen is exceptional

Mark Harris Special to CNET News
5 min read

Nokia blitzed the market earlier this year with the GPS-powered N95, but the 6110 is its first handset to earn the name 'Navigator'. Using Route 66 software, it promises ultra-accurate positioning with online-assisted GPS technology, and is available now for a SIM-free price of £375, or from free with a contract.


Nokia 6110 Navigator

The Good

Well-integrated GPS; easy to use; pin-sharp screen.

The Bad

Still too small for in-car navigation; would love a touchscreen.

The Bottom Line

The 6110's super-fast searching and ability to text maps and routes to friends promises to revolutionise mobile navigation -- and it couldn't happen to a nicer phone. In fact, the only reason not to buy this powerful, user-friendly handset is that phones with GPS are improving so quickly it may be superseded within months

Given that they spend a large portion of every day in your hand or pocket, it's surprising how many mobile phones simply don't feel nice to the touch. The 6110 has the opposite problem -- its shiny, rounded plastic casing is so tactile you might find yourself rubbing it like a pleasantly fat, high-tech worry stone. And if you start snapping the classy spring-loaded slider up and down, hours can fly by.

Controls are plastic and flush, with a white backlight to help in the dark. The keypad is small and precise, with good action. The four-way pad and two soft keys help you slip through Nokia's ever-intuitive menus with ease, but there are also a couple of other buttons worth a mention.

The bright, sharp screen is superb, and it rotates to best suit your requirements

Beneath the pad is the Navi scroll key, which gives one-touch access to the Nokia Navigator GPS application. And on the left-side shoulder is My Own key, a customisable button that initially is set to read SMS messages out loud -- more on that later.

The other side has volume controls and a dedicated camera button. This is actually superfluous, as the 6110's 2-megapixel camera has a sliding lens cover that automatically flips the handset into camera mode. Hit the shutter without moving the cover down and you'll annoyingly activate the low-res front-facing video-call camera instead. 

Pride of place on the 6110 is its superb colour screen, which uses its 76,800 pixels to deliver some of the sharpest details we've seen on a mobile phone. It's also bright enough to burn clear through the inevitable fingerprints it collects. Packing all that visual information into a screen just 56mm across, however, can generate a touch of eye-strain, especially when trying to make out road names from across the dashboard.

Strangely, Nokia has chosen not to use the N95's Maps application in its second sat-nav phone, using the Route 66-based Navigator instead. We're not complaining -- Navigator uses the same Google Earth-style zoom in from the planet to your street, but the colour scheme and icons are clearer, and there are plenty more features on board.

For a start, the Search functionality is simply stunning. Use the Free Text option and you simply type in any postcode, street address, business name (with a town and category) or major destination (like an airport) and it comes back in seconds. Frankly, it's easier to use, smarter and faster than any search that TomTom has come up with -- and that's saying something.

You can also home in on nearby restaurants, petrol stations and shops, and even search from your Contacts -- a great option if you've synched your PC's address book (simple enough with the supplied software). However, this annoyingly only picks up the right address about half the time, especially if you've neglected to add postcodes.

Another revolutionary navigation option is the ability to send your current position as a map image via MMS, or as a standard text message with your street name or longitude and latitude. You can even ask your mates for their current location, set up a route to where you are, and then text them a detailed itinerary in moments. It sounds complicated but, trust us, you'll soon wonder how you ever found friends without it.

The 6110 ships with a Route 66 CD that has sync software and extra maps (you get the UK and Ireland free), safety cameras, more voices and global travel guides. Loading any of these to the phone takes just minutes, and you can unlock them over the air in moments if and when you want to buy them.

Apart from navigation, the 6110 is home to a decent media player (with a surprisingly competent stereo headset), a suite of office applications and Nokia's excellent Web browser. You should certainly rotate the screen into landscape mode to make full use of the superb display -- and note that blisteringly fast 3.5G (HSDPA) data access is available for anyone on a high-speed tariff.

Don't judge the 6110 by its sluggish first-time lock on time (about five minutes). After that, it reliably finds its position within a minute of activation, even through a window -- a feat we can only attribute to the smart 'assisted GPS' (AGPS) technology. This uses a packet data Internet connection to deliver pinpoint accuracy, without making a noticeable impact on your bill.

Route calculation is fast and pretty much faultless. In pedestrian mode, the display rotates to match your direction of motion, although the display of street names can be erratic. It's clearer and simpler in motorised mode, with bright, cartoony arrows and crisp, loud voice commands. Setting up a roadblock detour is simple enough, but don't expect advanced features such as being able to set multiple way-points.

The 2-megapixel camera on board is fine for amazingly sharp landscapes and natural-looking portraits, although its fixed-focus lens struggles with close-ups, and the lack of a flash means indoor and night-shots are a mess of noise and blur. The small video clips are fine.

Voice calling and messaging are well handled. You should definitely try the hilarious text-to-speech function, which barks out texts in the style of a 1980s Barrett Homes TV ad voiceover, with a digital edge. It's presumably been incorporated as a safety measure to pick up messages while driving, although we're not convinced that doubling up with laughter is significantly less dangerous than glancing at the screen.

Battery life is very good in normal use, although expect the sat-nav to make quite a dent in the quoted 265-hour stand-by time.

No sat-nav phone, however sophisticated, can rival even a basic dedicated GPS unit for in-car use. The screen lacks touch sensitivity and it's too small for really clear navigation.

Having said that, the 6110 does have real advantages: its portrait format LCD is well suited to pedestrian navigation; it's small and light enough to pocket easily; and the integration of phone and GPS is impressive. Above all, this Nokia is simply an attractive, powerful mobile phone, making it an ideal choice for anyone who spends more time on foot than behind the wheel.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield

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