Nokia 6230 - black (AT&T) review: Nokia 6230 - black (AT&T)

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The Good VGA camera; video recorder and player; MP3 player; FM tuner; Bluetooth and Infrared support; expandable memory; speakerphone.

The Bad Dull design; plastic construction; poor keypad.

The Bottom Line Nokia spared no expense with the 6230's laundry list of features, but it dropped the ball with its dull design and shoddy keypad.

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7.6 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8

Review summary

Nokia's candy bar-style 6230 isn't pretty or particularly well designed, but it's stuffed to the gills with useful features. Boasting an integrated camera and video recorder, an MP3 player, an FM tuner, Bluetooth and IR support, and an expandable memory slot, there's not much this plain-Jane phone can't do. Hard-core road warriors who can put up with the handset's so-so looks and flawed keypad should give the 6230 a serious look. With a $300 price tag, the phone gives you what you pay for, but once a carrier picks up this mobile, it might be offered at a discount. The Nokia 6230 has the looks of a sleeper, which is to say it doesn't look like much. Sporting the usual Nokia candy bar shape, the handset measures 4.1 by 1.7 by 0.8 inches and weighs about 3.4 ounces. Overall it feels a little heavy for its size, but it fits in a jeans pocket, albeit snugly. Available in black and silver, the mobile's straight, sensible lines make it blend into the background. If you want to make a call without drawing attention, this is the phone for you.

No frills: The 6230 has an understated design.

The 65,000-color display is bright and crisp, and is a far step above the dim 4096-color versions on even the most recent Nokia models. Moreover, you can read the screen even in harsh sunlight, and its ability to display rich, high-resolution backgrounds helps gussy up the handset's sometimes old-fashioned interface. Another plus: The intuitive menus are easy to use. Navigation buttons consist of a five-way toggle and two soft keys with shortcuts to a variety of user-defined functions.

For a phone with such a safe, pedestrian design, the 6230 is unfortunately saddled with a would-be stylish keypad that's needlessly difficult to use. The middle column of keys is almost twice as wide as the left and right columns, which makes for tough dialing. The middle keys match the width of the square, five-way toggle, which works well when you're navigating menus but falters when you need to select items. Too often, we nudged it one way or another while trying to push it straight down.

Flip the phone around and you'll find the camera lens, which is embedded in a shiny, black plastic strip that stretches around to right side of the phone--the perfect place for a dedicated camera button. Alas, there isn't one. With the phone in standby mode, you activate the camera by nudging the navigation toggle up--a shortcut we discovered by accident, as it isn't labeled. A small, single volume control sits flush on the left side of the phone, and while it's certainly unobtrusive, it's hard to find when you're on a call. In typical Nokia fashion, a dedicated power button is located on the top of the phone, and its large size made it easy to press. While Nokia may have skimped on the 6230's design, it didn't spare any expense when it came to features. The bottom line: This phone is loaded. The 1,000-contact phone book has space in each entry for five numbers, three addresses, and a note (an additional 250 names can be stored on the SIM card). You can pair contacts with a picture for caller ID, and assign one of 20 polyphonic or 10 monophonic ring tones to a caller group. All the other basics are present and accounted for, including a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser; e-mail access (IMAP4, POP3, and SMTP), a speakerphone (but no dedicated speakerphone button), text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a to-do list, a note pad, a voice recorder, a calculator, a data wallet (which stores credit card and login info for supported wireless services), nine speed-dial numbers, voice dialing, and five-way conference calling.

The phone's generous memory includes 6MB of shared RAM and space for an included 32MB MMC card, though it's annoyingly hidden behind the phone's battery. Mobile professionals will appreciate the Bluetooth; the infrared (IR) port; and the ability to sync with a PC, a laptop, or other mobile devices by downloading the Nokia PC Suite from the company's Web site.

All alone: There's no flash or self-portrait mirror with the 6230's camera lens.

The Nokia 6230's camera takes colorful, if somewhat fuzzy shots, although that's to be expected with even the best VGA-quality camera phones. You can snap photos at three resolutions (160x120, 320x240, and 640 x 480 pixels). The snapshots average about 35K in size, and you can take smaller portrait shots or switch to Night mode. A self-timer gives you 10 seconds to dart into the frame for group shots, and you can even shoot 15-second video clips with sound. Unfortunately, there's neither a flash nor a mirror for self-portraits, and a multishot function would have been nice given the phone's extra memory. You can use the pictures as the phone's wallpaper or screensaver, and you can send them to your friends via an e-mail, a multimedia message, the IR port, or Bluetooth.

Snap it: The 6230's photo quality was better than that of other Nokia camera phones.

When you're done snapping photos, you can take a break with the 6230's robust media player. The phone plays MP3s and unprotected AAC files, which you can listen to using the included headset; the music mutes for incoming calls, which is a nice touch. You can tweak the sound using the onboard equalizer, which includes four presets (Pop, Rock, Jazz, and Classical) and two user-defined modes, and play your tunes in repeat or shuffle modes. Done with your own music? Try the FM tuner, which boasts 20 presets and automatic tuning (although we wish it would program the presets automatically). Finally, the phone's video player will stream short, low-quality clips.

The 6230 comes with a choice of five Java (J2ME)-enabled games: Space Impact, Train Biker, Beach Rally II, Chess Puzzle, and Golf. The Beach Rally racing game was especially fun--you can set the handset to vibrate when you bump another car, or you can compete with your Bluetooth-enabled pals in the two-player mode. There are plenty of customization options.You can pick your own wallpaper and screensaver using either the pictures that come with the phone or snapshots from the camera. You can also switch between the eight available color schemes. And you can toggle the menu display mode between list and icon styles. We tested the triband Nokia 6230 (GSM 850/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) in New York City using T-Mobile's service. Call quality was excellent--we heard our callers loud and clear, and our friends on the other end couldn't tell we were using a cell phone.

We were also impressed with the speakerphone and included headset, especially when we were listening to the 6230's MP3 player. Music was warm and detailed, with a decent amount of bass. That's a good thing, considering you can't use your own headphones with the phone.

Nokia promises 5 hours of talk time on the 6230. We were pleased with the results of our tests, beating the rated talk time by an additional hour. For standby time, we managed just over a week. While that's a few days short of the promised 12.5 days, it's still a good time. According to the FCC, the digital SAR rating for the 6230 was 0.59 W/kg.

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