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Nokia 6170 review: Nokia 6170

Nokia rolls out a functional flip phone with its 6170. Read our review to see if it's right for you.

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
4 min read
Nokia 6170
By now, we're no longer surprised to see Nokia churn out another flip phone, although we still largely associate the company with candy bar models. We've reviewed both the Nokia 7270 and the Nokia 6255i, and while they're far from perfect, both phones are a nice change, despite the fact they haven't been picked up by the major carriers. With the Nokia 6170, we encountered a similar situation. The phone has some worthy features, but the design can use some tweaks. Also, at the time of this writing, the only carrier that has picked up the phone is the regional Centennial Wireless. The phone also comes with a sky-high $389 price tag, but you'll find it cheaper with service.

Nokia uses the phrase steel appeal when describing the 6170, and for once, a marketing slogan matches reality. Both the front and rear flaps of the mobile are encased in stainless steel, and the material extends to the inside of the phone as well. The steel itself is attractive, but we weren't too impressed with the overall look of the handset. Like the 7270, it's much too boxy, and the oversize hinge is somewhat unsightly. You also have to deal with its hefty stature of 3.5 by 1.8 by 0.9 inches; plus, all that steel gives the 6170 a lot of weight at 4.3 ounces. On the upside, the construction is quite sturdy.


Nokia 6170

The Good

Sturdy construction; broad range of useful features; attractive displays.

The Bad

No Bluetooth; expensive; overall dull style; hefty.

The Bottom Line

The Nokia 6170 has a flashy exterior and some cool features, but its ergonomics can be improved.

Steely silver: You won't find much plastic on the 6170.

We did like the 1.25-inch-diagonal external display. It supports 4,096 colors, but that was more than adequate for viewing the usual information--the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID where available--and you can set the screen to show wallpapers. Below the display are a small speaker and the camera lens. There's no flash, but the external display acts as a viewfinder for self-portraits. On the left side of the phone is a pair of too-small volume buttons, while the infrared port and a voice-tag key are on the right side. The power button has been moved from its usual Nokia position on the top of the handset to the right side. The relocation wasn't a big deal, but we did find the button hard to press.

Smile: The 6170's camera lens is on the front flap.

Inside the 6170, you'll find the attractive 2-inch-diagonal internal display. With 65,536 colors, it's far more vibrant than most Nokia screens, and it's ideal for using the simple menus. It has a couple of drawbacks, however. You can't see the display in direct light, and you can't adjust the font size. The navigation controls are sparse, consisting of a five-way toggle, two soft keys, and the Talk and End buttons; only the left soft key can be set as a shortcut. The toggle and soft keys are adequately spaced, but because they are set flush with the surface of the phone, they aren't the easiest to use. The keypad buttons suffer the same fate. Although they're big enough, it's difficult to dial by feel.

The Nokia 6170 comes with a respectable set of features. You get a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, a street address, an e-mail address, a Web address, memos, and a voice tag (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts). You can assign contacts to caller groups or pair them with a picture for caller ID purposes. Only groups, however, can be paired with one of the 20 polyphonic ring tones or five message tones. Other goodies include a vibrate mode, PC syncing, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a speakerphone, a countdown timer, voice dialing and commands, a world clock, a temperature converter, a calendar, a to-do list, a memo pad, a stopwatch, instant messaging, and a 3-minute voice recorder. Unexpected finds were a rudimentary translator, which converts basic words into Spanish, French, or Portuguese, and Nokia's My Presence service. You also get the ability to wirelessly exchange business card information, a password-protected electronic wallet for storing credit card numbers and other sensitive information, and an infrared port. On the other hand, Bluetooth was a noticeable omission for a handset this expensive.

The VGA camera takes pictures in Standard, Portrait, and Night modes, and you can personalize pictures with a 4X zoom, three quality settings (High, Normal, and Basic), a shutter sound, and a self-timer. You can shoot videos up to 4 minutes in length with sound, and you also get support for streaming media. Keep in mind, though, that multimedia content is dependent on your carrier's network, and the mobile won't operate on a 3G network.

You can personalize the 6170 with a variety of wallpapers, color schemes, sounds, screensavers, and graphics. If you're craving more choices, you can download them with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Using the voice recorder, you can also record your own AMR audio clips, then save them as ring tones. For playtime, the phones comes with three Java (J2ME) games: Puzzle, Beach Race, and Backgammon II.

We weren't able to fully test the Nokia 6170 because Centennial Wireless was not available in our area. The rated talk time is 4 hours, and the promised standby time is 11 days. According to the FCC, the 6170 has a digital SAR rating of 0.61 watts per kilogram.