The Nokia 7610 Supernova gave us deja vu when it first arrived in our offices, and it wasn't due to its common slider design. Instead, we remembered that we had reviewed a Nokia handset with that same model number almost five years ago. We thought perhaps the Supernova was a long-delayed upgrade to the earlier phone. We couldn't think of another reason why a manufacturer would repeat a model number. But a quick look showed that the Supernova is nothing like its candy bar predecessor with the quirky swirled keypad.
After a shakedown, we overcame our initial skepticism. The Supernova doesn't deliver a blinding flash of feature or power, but it's a respectable phone in its own right. The minimalist slider design is attractive and the midrange feature set includes a respectable camera and a music player. Call quality is good, as well. The Supernova sells for $197 from importer Web sites like Expansys.com.
Where the original 7610 was stocky and a bit overdesigned for our tastes, the Supernova is slim and unassuming. The slider design is attractive, but it doesn't go out of its way to catch your eye. The front face is glossy silver, while the back cover design is up to you. Nokia includes red and black interchangeable covers in the box, though actually prying them off isn't easy. The handset measures 3.86 inches by 1.89 inches by 0.59 inch, which is thin by Nokia standards. It weighs 3.48 ounces, which is nice for traveling.
As we mentioned, the Supernova's display area is reflective. Though that means it attracts smudges and fingerprints, it also catches the light and doubles as a mirror. The 2-inch display is attractive as well. With support for 16.7 million colors and a decent resolution (320x240 pixels), it's bright and vibrant with sharp graphics. The Series 40, third-edition menu interface is easy to use, though you may want to limit the busy backgrounds. You can change the font size and color.
The Supernova's navigation array is composed of a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, and the Talk and End buttons. Though only the toggle is raised, the array's spacious design makes it quite easy to use. The toggle and right soft key double as shortcut controls, and you can populate the screen with shortcut icons.
The slider mechanism is sturdy without being stiff. We could open and close the phone with one hand and it clicks into place on either end. Behind the slider is the keypad. Unfortunately, it's the weakest link in the Supernova's otherwise satisfying design. Similar to many other slider phones, the keys are flat, but they're also shiny and slippery. Even with the spacious layout it took us a while to get used to dialing and texting. The numbers and letters on the keys are rather small--people with visual impairments should take note--but the backlighting is bright.
A Micro-USB port sits on the Supernova's right spine and a volume rocker, music player shortcut, and camera shutter sit on the right spine. On the top of the phone you'll find the charger port, power button, and the 2.5mm headset jack. We'd really prefer a 3.5mm headset on a music phone. The rear face of the Supernova is designed to mimic a standalone camera--besides the lens there's a flash and a small speaker. The MicroSD card slot is located inconveniently behind the battery cover.
Each contact in the Supernova's 1,000-name phone book has room for five phone number types, an e-mail address, a URL, a company name and job title, a nickname, a street address, a birthday, and notes. You can save callers to groups and you can pair contacts with a photo and one of 20 polyphonic ringtones. The SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts.
Essential Supernova features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a world clock, a to-do list, a notepad, a calculator, a countdown timer, a voice recorder, a speakerphone, and a stopwatch. On the higher-end, you get GPS with support for Nokia Maps, PC syncing, USB mass storage, full Bluetooth with a stereo profile, a clothing size converter, Flickr and Yahoo Go applications, a unit and currency converter, and Nokia Sensor.
The 3.2-megapixel camera takes pictures in six resolutions, from 2,048x1,536 pixels down to 160x120 pixels, and three quality settings. For editing options you'll find three color effects, a self-timer, a digital zoom, and brightness and white balance controls. The dual LED flash is bright and you can choose an automatic setting.
Photo quality was quite decent. Colors were bright--almost a bit too bright and there was little image noise except around the edges. The flash was enough to enlighten dim settings. When you're finished shooting, you can get photos off the phone using a number of methods, and you can store them directly on the Supernova's 64MB of internal memory. That's a healthy amount of storage, but you can use a memory card as large as 2GB if you need more room.
The camcorder records in four resolutions at 15 frames per second. You can mute the sound and select a similar set of editing options. The default recording length is 14 seconds, but you can shoot for longer in standard mode. The Supernova supports a TV-out option, though considering the average VGA quality we're not sure why you would want to watch cell phone videos on a standard TV set.
Music fans will appreciate the Supernova's MP3 player, which is similar to the players on Nokia's Xpress Music phones. The interface is nothing special, but the controls are simple and intuitive, and the player supports album art. Features include an equalizer, shuffle and repeats modes, stereo widening, and an airplane mode for listening to tunes while you fly. What's more, you can create playlists and listen to your tunes via Bluetooth. The player supports MP3, MP4, AAC, AAC+, and WMA files, and you can use tracks as ringtones. Getting music on the phone is easy through Bluetooth, a USB cable, or the memory card. The Supernova also offers an FM radio. The sound quality for both features was about average--we suggest using a headset for optimal results.
You can personalize the Supernova with a selection of message tones, wallpaper, animations, and screensavers. You can even compose your own wallpaper using the color palette from a photo of your choice. The Supernova's display will flash when you get a call, but you can turn the functionality off. If you'd like more options, the handset comes with an Opera browser and a standard WAP browser with access to Nokia.mobi. The Supernova comes with four Java games: Golf Tour, Seaweeper, Snake II, and Sudoku.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) Nokia 7610 Supernova world phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was quite good on the whole. Conversations were clear, the signal was strong, and static and interference were at a minimum. Callers' voices sounded relatively natural, though some voices were a tad breathy at times. On the downside, the volume was rather low; we had trouble hearing in noisy places.
On their end, callers said that we sounded quite good with a few not even knowing that we were on a cell phone. A few callers reported the low volume level and others said they heard a lot of background noise during calls. But even with those issues most of our friends said they were satisfied with the call quality. We had decent luck when calling automated systems, though we experienced the best results when calling from a quiet place. Speakerphone calls are fine, though you need to be close to the phone. Bluetooth calls were satisfactory, though quality can vary by headset.
The Supernova has a rated battery life of 5.4 hours talk time and 12.5 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 42 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Supernova has a digital SAR of 0.81 watts per kilogram.