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Nokia Xpress Music 5700 review: Nokia Xpress Music 5700

Nokia Xpress Music 5700

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Kent German
Kent_German.jpg

Kent German

Senior Managing Editor / Features

Kent is a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and has 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).

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10 min read

8.0

Nokia Xpress Music 5700

The Good

The Nokia 5700 Xpress Music offers a user-friendly design, an impressive array of features, and admirable call and music quality.

The Bad

Some of the Nokia 5700 Xpress Music's controls were difficult to use and its photo quality was disappointing. Also, it doesn't support a U.S. 3G band.

The Bottom Line

The Nokia 5700 Xpress Music cell phone continues the trend set by the Nokia 5300, offering a satisfying combination of features, performance, and design.

It's no secret that we're big fans of the Nokia 5300 Xpress Music. In fact, we loved it so much when we reviewed it last year that we gave it a CNET Editors' Choice award. So you can imagine we were a bit excited when the new Nokia 5700 Xpress Music landed in our office. As the update to the 5300, the 5700 offers everything found on its predecessor but with a new design twist--literally--and improved features. On the performance side, calling and music quality shine, but photo quality was disappointing. At the time of the writing, no U.S. carrier has picked up the 5700 so it remains a bit pricey at $400. And unfortunately, because the 5700 supports only the WCDMA band used in Europe, it's unlikely it will land here in its present form.

Design
Instead of incorporating the 5300's slider design the Nokia 5700 Xpress Music offers a twisting base like that on the Nokia 3250. The keypad, camera lens, and dedicated music controls are located on different sides and each base position is used for a different function. With the keypad facing forward, you can make calls as normal and access all menu applications. Picture time? That's no problem. Just turn the base 90 degrees and the shooter kicks into gear instantly. A turn to the left activates the camera's normal mode, while a turn to the right lets you take self-portraits. Or if you're pining for some tunes, just rotate the base a full 180 degrees to the right to start the music player.

Nokia 5700 Xpress Music
The Nokia 5700 Xpress Music's twisting base activates the music player.

Though it all may sound rather complicated and gimmicky, it's actually none of the former and only a little bit of the latter. We like that you don't have to scroll through several menus just to get to the camera and music player, and we appreciate the comfortable ergonomics of not crowding too many controls on one side of the phone. Yet we also understand why some people might not like the arrangement. The joystick is a tad difficult to access when the base is in the camera position, and the rotating motion can become tedious if used constantly. Also, we're worried about the long-term durability of the mechanism.

Due to its alternative design the 5700 is bigger than its predecessor (4.26x1.99x0.69 inches vs. 3.8x1.9x0.8 inches). Though the extra girth is definitely noticeable, the phone isn't too heavy (4.06 ounces) and it has a comfortable and solid feel in the hand. It may be too big for smaller pockets, but it will slip into a bag with ease. The 5700 comes is available in three color schemes: black (our review model), red, and gray.

The 5700's 2.2-inch (320x240 pixels) display supports a brilliant 16 million colors. Vibrant and bright, it's great for viewing everything from text to graphics, and it's quite suitable as the viewfinder for the camera. The menus are user-friendly and attractive, and we love that Nokia provides a description of unfamiliar applications if you hold the cursor over the corresponding icon. You can change the font size, the backlight time, and the brightness. Our only complaint is that the display attracts fingerprints and smudges.

Nokia 5700 Xpress Music
The Nokia 5700 Xpress Music has dedicated music player controls.

Below the display are the spacious and tactile navigation controls. A five-way joystick doubles as a shortcut to four-user defined functions, but it was a little tricky to use. In the "up" direction, we kept selecting things by accident rather than moving the cursor. There are also two soft keys, which are programmable for one-touch access, and the Talk and End buttons. Menu access is through a dedicated button to the left of the array while a clear key sits to the right. Both are covered in a tactile, rubbery skin. Similarly, the large keypad buttons are raised above the surface of the phone so we had no problems dialing by feel. The backlighting was rather dim, though, and the text on the keys may be too small for some users to read easily.

The right spine features a speaker, the Infrared port, and a large rubber flap that covers the MicroSD card slot, the charger jack, the and mini-USB port. Having everything so accessible is a big plus, especially since the 5300 stashed the memory card slot behind the battery. The camera lens and a speaker sit on the right spine on either side of the volume rocker. We had no trouble using the latter when we were on a call since it's also covered in the aforementioned rubbery skin. The music controls on the rear of the twisting base consist of a play/pause buttons and fast-forward and rewind keys. They're of a decent size, but they're relatively level with the surface of the phone and are a tad slippery. On the other hand, we liked that the music control doubles as a camera shutter. Finally, the dedicated power control sits squarely on the 5700's top end while a 2.5mm headset jack rests on the bottom end.

Features
Running on Nokia's Series 60 OS, the Nokia 5700 offers a wide variety of features and applications, but we'll start with the basics first. The 5700's phone book is limited only by the available memory. Each entry holds a wide range of fields, including as many as 15 types of phone numbers including a push-to-talk number; several e-mail and Web addresses; a job title, a work department and a company name; work and home street addresses; a birth date and anniversary; a nickname and a formal name; names for an assistant, a spouse, and children; and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 entries). You can organize callers into groups or pair them with a photo for caller ID purposes. The polyphonic ringtone selection wasn't huge--just 18 64-chord tones--but you can use MP3 files to identify callers. What's more, the 5700 offers video ringtones and a selection of ringtone effects.

Other standard offerings include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a voice recorder, an alarm clock, a calendar, a unit and currency converter, a notepad, and a calculator. The 5300 offered a few additional options such as a countdown timer and a stopwatch, but we don't consider those applications a huge loss here. Work time offerings include IMAP4 and POP3 e-mail, PC syncing, an Infrared port, Bluetooth 2.0 (with a stereo profile), voice commands, and a speakerphone. The 5700 also brings instant messaging and support for push-to-talk networks, but keep in mind those two features are carrier dependent. As a result, you may not be available to use them in the United States on an unlocked model. For the chronically lost, the 5700 also comes with GPS support for mapping, landmarks, and point-to-point navigation.

With so many diversions, we were glad to see the 5700 increase the measly 5MB of internal memory that the 5300 offered to a more robust 128MB of flash storage and 64MB of RAM. That gives you a lot more space to keep a big phone book and store lots of pictures and applications. And for even more storage the MicroSD slot accommodates card up to 2GB in size.

As a Nokia Xpress Music phone, the 5700's highlight is its music player. Like the 5300, the 5700 has everything we look for a in a music handset: there's stereo Bluetooth as well as a large selection of features; it's easy to transfer files to the phone with the Nokia Music Manager software; it's user-friendly with a simple interface and well-designed controls; it has few restrictions; it offers plenty of memory; and last but certainly not least, it offers exceptional sound quality over stereo speakers. The player supports, MP3, AAC, AAC+, and WMA files.

Though the player's design is minimalist, it's still attractive and easy to use. It displays the track name and length, artist, and album name, while an icon mimicking the music player buttons indicates each control's function. The 5700 also supports album art, and you can choose from several player visualizations. Player features are solid and include shuffle and repeat modes, stereo widening, loudness and balance effects, an equalizer with five settings (two are customizable), and an airplane mode. To personalize your collection of tunes, you can save them to playlists and group tracks by artist, album, music genre, and composer. When listening to tracks, you can minimize the player so you can access other functions and the player automatically pauses when you receive a call. Please see below for an explanation of the player's performance.

Nokia 5700 Xpress Music
The Nokia 5700's camera comes with a bright flash.

For your imaging needs, the 5700 offers a 2-megapixel camera that takes JPG pictures in four resolutions (two fewer than the 5300): 1,600x1,200; 1,152x864; 640x480; and 320x240. You get a variety of camera settings including three quality modes, three color effects, a panorama mode, a self-timer, a sequence mode for shooting six photos in rapid succession, an adjustable white balance, and a 4x zoom (half that of the 5300). There's no brightness setting, but the flash works remarkably well as camera phones go. The camcorder shoots videos in three resolutions (320x240, 176x144, and 129x96) with sound. Other options are similar to those of the still camera, and you can mute the sound if you wish. The short mode lasts about 30 seconds, but you can also shoot longer clips, depending on the available memory. The 5700 includes a Movie Director application, in case you want to channel your inner video artist.

Nokia 5700 Xpress Music
We weren't impressed with the Nokia 5700's photo quality.

Though the 5700 offers a higher resolution camera than the 5300 we didn't notice a corresponding jump in photo quality. In fact, images from the 5700 almost looked worse under certain circumstances. Many of our shots were relatively grainy, with fuzzy object outlines and muted colors. They're not terrible by any means, but we'd expect more from a high-resolution camera like this one. Video clips were fine--a bit grainy, as expected, but suitable for short clips. Besides saving photos to the phone, you can also send them via Bluetooth or a multimedia message, or use the USB cable to transfer them to a computer for printing.

Gamers get Java (J2ME) support, and our test phone came with two Symbian titles: Marble and City Bloxx. Our 5700 also offered a number of additional multimedia applications including a Flash player, RealOne player support for watching videos, and an FM radio. The latter needs a wired headset to act as an antenna, but you can save as many as 50 station presets and listen to the radio in the background while you use other phone functions. Support for visual radio is also onboard, so you can view the name of the song and artist while it is playing. Lastly, the 3G support means streaming video is a possibility as well, but that functionality will be network and carrier dependent.

You can personalize the 5700 with a large variety of screensavers, wallpaper, color themes, animations, menu styles, and alert sounds. Remember that if you're bored with what's on the phone, you always can download additional applications, ringtones, games, and personalization options using the xHTML Web browser. Even better, you also can use the browser to buy music tracks from online stores.

Performance
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. As a world phone, the 5700 is optimized for making calls in many regions but at present it supports only the 2100 WCDMA (3G) band that is used in Europe. Since the United States uses the 1900 WCDMA band, 3G coverage will be nonexistent here, so we weren't able to test streaming video or video calling. But if you're hoping to use the phone in all its glory somewhere across the Atlantic, you should be good to go.

Call quality was quite good overall, with exceptional voice clarity and plenty of volume. We encountered no static or interference from other electronic devices. We noticed the phone picked up a bit of wind noise, but in an improvement over the 5300, voice-response systems had little trouble understanding us. On their end, callers reported few problems. They could understand us clearly, though they could tell we were using a cell phone. Also, a couple of callers said we sounded a bit robotic. We couldn't test push-to-talk calls because T-Mobile doesn't offer such a network.

Speakerphone calls were also admirable. The sound didn't become muffled at the higher levels, and there was little of the bass-heavy effect found on other speakerphones. Callers weren't quite as pleased, however. We had to stand rather close to the phone in order to be heard clearly. For Bluetooth, we made a few calls using the Nokia BH-501 but we weren't always happy with the results. The pairing process was painless, however.

The 5700 follows the 5300 by offering fantastic music quality. The output from the stereo speakers was much better than almost any other music phone, and it offered plenty of volume for an impromptu party. Deep bass was a little lacking, but otherwise we had few complaints. Not surprisingly, though, our tracks sounded the best over stereo headphones. At first we tried the wired earbud headset that comes in box. For a generic model, it did a great job, but you can attach your own headphones using the 3.5mm adapter. And no matter which headphones you use, the adapter includes a remote control for interacting with the music player, making calls, and adjusting the volume. Or if you're a Bluetooth buff, you can listen to music without the tangle of wires. We used the BH-501 here again and but this time we enjoyed a more satisfying experience.

Getting music on to the phone was a breeze with the included Nokia PC suite. Transfer time was quick, and the software was easy to install and use. You can sync tracks via a USB cable or a Bluetooth connection, but keep in mind that you can't transfer protected files. Alternatively, you can use a PC-based Windows Media Player to transfer files, or you can use the 5700 as an external hard drive. For best results, you should use a microSD card for storing music.

The 5700's promised battery life is rather short for both a Nokia handset and a GSM phone. Ratings include 3.5 hours of talk time, 4 hours of video playback time, and 10 hours of music time. Only the promised standby time was about what we expected, at 12 days. We managed to get a decent 4 hours and 3 minutes of talk time in our tests. The 5300 has a digital SAR rating of 1.33 watts per kilogram.

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