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Nokia 6500 Classic review: Nokia 6500 Classic

Nokia 6500 Classic

Kent German
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).
5 min read


Nokia 6500 Classic

The Good

The Nokia 6500 Classic has a functional feature set, a brilliant display, and good call quality. Its design is simple and sturdy.

The Bad

The Nokia 6500 Classic's keypad is rather cramped and it lacks a dedicated volume control. Also, its photo quality is just average.

The Bottom Line

The Nokia 6500 Classic is a simple phone for making calls, and it adds a couple of extra features, to boot. And for an unlocked handset, it's quite affordable.

The Nokia 6500 Classic is just what you'd expect from a Nokia phone. It offers a sturdy candy-bar design, a simple interface, a functional midrange feature set, and acceptable call quality. It's not flashy by any means, but it gets the job done as a communication device. Indeed, our only real complaints centered on the cramped keypad, the lack of a dedicated volume rocker, and the average photo quality. The 6500 Classic isn't offered by a U.S. carrier, but you can get it unlocked for just $279 from online retailers like Expansys.com.

The 6500 blends classic Nokia design with current styles. On one hand, it has a basic candy-bar shape with a durable metal skin. The phone feels great in the hand and we didn't worry about the occasional drop to the floor. On the other hand, it's got a thin profile. Nokia never jumped into the slim handset craze very deeply, but the effect works well here. At 4.32 inches tall by 1.77 inches wide by inches 0.37 inch deep, and weighing 3.31 ounces, the 6500 travels well.

The 2-inch display supports 16.7 million colors and 320x240 pixels. With such a high resolution, you can be sure that colors are bright and photos and graphics are sharp and vibrant. You can set the font color and size, but other options, like the brightness and backlighting time, are not customizable. The Series 40 fifth-edition menus are intuitive and easy to use.

The spacious navigation array consists of a tactile toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, and the Talk and End/power buttons. We had no trouble using the controls, though we'd prefer a dedicated speakerphone button and a back key. You can set the toggle as a shortcut to four user-defined functions, and you can activate shortcut icons on the display.

The keypad buttons were rather cramped, actually. Though they're tactile thanks to silver ridges, the black keys may be too small for users with large hands. What's more, the backlit numbers and letters on the keys are tiny. Users with visual impairments should definitely test this phone before buying. We fumbled at first when trying to dial and text quickly.

We were also disappointed that the 6500 Classic didn't have a dedicated volume rocker on its side. That means you have to control the audio with the toggle when you're on a call, which is rather inconvenient. The only other exterior features are the camera lens and flash, on the phone's back side, and a micro-USB port on the top end. Since the latter is also used for the charger and the included wired headset, you can use only one peripheral at a time and you must have an adapter to use your own headset.

Each contact in the 6500 Classic's phone book holds five phone numbers, an e-mail address, a URL, a company name and job title, a formal name and nickname, a birthday, a street address, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save callers to groups and you can pair them with one of 26 available 64-chord polyphonic ringtones. You also can pair contacts with a photo or video for caller ID.

Other 6500 Classic essentials include text and multimedia messaging, a vibrate mode, an alarm clock, a calendar, a to-do list, a notepad, a calculator, a speaker phone, a world clock, a voice recorder, a countdown timer, and a stopwatch. Higher-end options are respectable; you'll find stereo Bluetooth, voice commands, audio messaging, USB mass storage, an internal-search app, PC syncing, a currency and unit converter, and Web-based e-mail. The 6500 also supports Yahoo Go, for direct access to e-mail and Yahoo content, and it is equipped for 850 and 2100 3G (UMTS) bands. If your carrier supports the service, you can watch streaming video on the 6500.

The 6500 has a bright flash.

The 2-megapixel camera takes JPEG pictures in seven resolutions, from 1,600x1,200 down to 160x120. Other editing options include three quality settings, a self-timer, a digital zoom, a multishot mode, a night mode, five color effects, and an adjustable white balance. There's also a flash, which you can set to "always on," "always off," and auto modes. The camcorder shoots MPEG4 clips in two resolutions (176x144 and 128x96) and three quality settings. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 10 seconds, but you can shoot for longer in normal mode.

The 6500 offers average photo quality.

The 6500 Classic had decent photo quality, though we'd expect better from a 2-megapixel shooter. Colors were bright, but images were grainy, with a lot of noise. What's more, the flash tends to drown things out. Videos were about the same: good but not great. On the upside, the 6500 offers 1GB of internal storage. It doesn't have an external memory card slot, but you shouldn't really need one.

The music player on the 6500 is functional. Features include playlists, shuffle and repeat modes, stereo widening, and an equalizer with four settings and two customizable settings. The interface is simple and intuitive and you can choose from four themes. Getting music on the phone was easy. You can transfer tracks via a USB cable or Bluetooth. You also can play songs on a speaker or stereo headset via Bluetooth. The player supports MP3, MP4, eAAC+, AAC, and WMA files.

You can personalize the 6500 with a variety of screensavers, wallpapers, themes, and alert tones. You can download additional options and more ringtones with the Opera Mini browser. Gamers can select from four titles: Backgammon, Golf Tour, Snake III, and Sudoku. You can buy additional games if you wish.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Nokia 6500 Classic in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was quite good on the whole. Conversations were loud and clear and voices sounded natural. We could hear well even when we were in noisy environments, and the signal was relatively strong and had no static or interference. Our only complaint is that we had to use the toggle to change the volume level.

On their end, callers said we sounded fine; a few couldn't even tell that we were using a cell phone. A couple of our friends mentioned a fair amount of wind noise, but they said it was a minor problem. We encountered no issues when speaking to automated-calling systems. Speaker-phone calls were quite decent: we had enough volume on our end and the sound wasn't muffled. Callers could hear us, provided we spoke relatively close to the phone.

As mentioned previously, the 6500 accommodates both the 850 and 2100 UMTS 3G bands. That means that you'll be able to get a wireless broadband connection both in North America and Europe. Yet, since T-Mobile uses its own AWS 3G network, we weren't able to test the 6500's 3G connection. The GPRS and EDGE coverage was satisfactory, however.

The 6500's music quality was satisfactory. Like most music phones, the external speaker is a tad tinny and the audio lacks warmth. We recommend using a headset for the best experience.

The 6500 has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours talk time and nine days standby time. In our tests, the 6500 lasted 4 hours and 3 minutes of talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the 6500 has a digital SAR rating of 1.20 watts per kilogram.


Nokia 6500 Classic

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 8
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