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Nokia 6301 (T-Mobile) review: Nokia 6301 (T-Mobile)

Nokia 6301 (T-Mobile)

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
6 min read


Nokia 6301 (T-Mobile)

The Good

The Nokia 6301 has a simple, easy-to-use design with a brilliant display and well-designed navigation controls. Its functional feature set includes Wi-Fi for VoIP calling, and its call quality is top-notch.

The Bad

The 6301's microSD card and headset jack are in inconvenient places. It has poor photo quality as well.

The Bottom Line

The 6301 is a great choice for a T-Mobile HotSpot @Home cell phone. Just don't count on its camera.

T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home is a unique and convenient service that allows T-Mobile customers to ditch their landline service completely. The premise is so simple that we're surprised more carriers haven't adopted it. With just a Wi-Fi-enabled phone you can use most hot spots to make VOIP calls that don't cut into calling minutes. You don't need to buy a wireless router--though T-Mobile will gladly sell you one--but you will need a compatible Wi-Fi phone that's branded for HotSpot @Home. Up until a week ago, customers were limited to the Nokia 6086, the Samsung Katalyst, and the Samsung SGH-T409, but now they can choose from the Nokia 6031 and the Samsung SGH-T339 as well. The 6301 has the more traditional design of the newbie handsets. This silver candy bar screams "Nokia," and the charging stand is something we haven't seen for a long time. Features are solidly midrange--there's a music player, a 2-megapixel camera, and Bluetooth--and its call quality is solidly reliable. It is $179 if you pay full price, but you can get it for $79.99 with service.

The Nokia 6301's designs puts function over form. The silver candy bar shape is a cell phone classic and the ergonomic controls and vibrant display are exceedingly easy to use. At 4.2 inches by 1.7 inches by 0.5 inch and only 1.4 ounces, the 6301 is compact and portable but it's big enough to mimic the feel of a home cordless phone. We love the charging base that is included in the box (you don't have to use it). It's a convenient way to keep your phone in one place when you're at home--no more hunting around for it when you get a call--and power it up at the same time.

The 6301 comes with a convenient charging base.

The 6301's display measures a generous 2 inches and supports 16.7 million colors. Graphics and photos look fantastic, the text is readable, and the Series 40 (third edition) menu interface is intuitive. You can change the font size if you wish. The well-designed navigation controls consist of a square toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, and the Talk and End buttons. All controls are tactile and their arrangement is spacious. You can set the toggle to act as a shortcut to four user-defined functions.

The keypad buttons are equally easy to use. The individual keys are raised above the surface of the phone and they give a firm, tactile feel when pressed. Though the buttons feel a tad cramped, we had no issues dialing or texting. The numbers on the keys are small but the keys are brightly backlit.

The only remaining controls are a dedicated browser button on the top of the handset and a volume rocker on the right spine. The camera lens sits on the back of the phone, next to a small speaker. The lens is exactly in a place where we wanted to place a finger when taking a photo, but we got used to it eventually. The charger port, mini USB, and the headset jack port are located on the bottom of the phone. We weren't crazy about the latter; not only is it 2.5mm instead of 3.3mm, but we also find downward-facing jacks to be inconvenient. The 6301 also offers a microSD card slot, but it's located behind the battery cover.

The 6301 has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, a URL, a company name and job title, a formal name, a nickname, a street address, a birthday, and notes (the SIM cards holds additional names). You can save callers to a group and pair them with a photo or one of 15 polyphonic ringtones. The 6301 also supports T-Mobile's myFaves service.

Other essentials include text and multimedia messaging, a vibrate mode, an alarm clock, a calendar, a to-do list, notes, a calculator, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, a notepad, a currency and unit converter, and a world clock. But the 6301 doesn't stop there. You'll also find full Bluetooth, PC syncing, USB mass storage, instant messaging, a voice recorder, POP3 e-mail, speaker-independent voice dialing and commands, and a speakerphone.

Of course, the 6301's integrated Wi-Fi is the main reason you buy the phone. Wi-Fi calls are exceedingly easy to make. After turning on the feature, you just need to scan the available networks and make your choice. As mentioned previously, you can buy a special wireless router from T-Mobile or you can use an existing network. We connected successfully and quickly with both the Wi-Fi network we use at home and with the router used with T-Mobile's @Home service.

The 6301 doesn't offer a flash or a self-portrait mirror.

The 2-megapixel camera takes pictures in six resolutions and three quality settings. Other features include night and panoramic modes, a self timer, a multishot mode, five color effects, brightness and white balance controls, and a digital zoom. The camcorder shoots clips in two resolutions with sound. Editing features are similar to the still camera. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 20 seconds; otherwise you can shoot for as long as the available memory permits. The 6301 offers about 30MB of internal memory but you'll also find a 512MB microSD card in the box. Photo quality was pretty poor for a 2-megapixel camera. Images had a lot of noise and colors were washed out.

The 6301 had disappointing photo quality.

The 6301's music player is standard for a Nokia phone. The spartan interface is limited to a couple of wallpaper options, but features include repeat and shuffle modes, an equalizer, an airplane mode, playlists, and stereo widening. You'll also find an FM radio, but you must use a wired headset as an antenna.

You can personalize the 6301 with a selection of wallpaper, color themes, screensavers, and alert tones. You can download more options with the 6301's WAP 2.0 Web browser. The phone offers Macromedia Flash Lite 2.0 for your surfing. The 6301 offers two games: Pac-Man and World Series of Poker.

We tested the tri-band (GSM 850/1800/1900) Nokia 6301 in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was quite good on the whole; voices sounded natural, and the volume level was satisfactory. We didn't encounter any interference, but we noticed it could take a few minutes to get a signal when we came out of a subway station. On their end callers said we sounded fine, though a few people said the phone picked up some background noise. Automated calling systems presented us with few problems.

Wi-Fi calls were excellent with crystal clear audio. It sounded as if we were using a landline phone and our friends couldn't tell we were using a cell phone either. We picked up a slight conversation lag during Wi-Fi calls but that's typical on other HotSpot @Home phones. It almost sounded as if our friends were speaking haltingly, but it was very minimal.

Speakerphone calls were fine, though quality was diminished from regular calls. The volume was fine but we had to place the phone upside down to get maximum output from the rear-facing speaker. Callers could understand us most of the time, but we had to be in a quiet place in order to be heard.

The 6301 has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours talk time and 14.5 days standby time. We had a tested talk time of 5 hours and 11 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the 6301 has a digital SAR of 0.71 watts per kilogram.


Nokia 6301 (T-Mobile)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7