Business Today

Music in a box

Nokia sends BT’s reviewer a briefcase full of tech goodies.

     Print Edition: January 27, 2008

Nokia XpressMusic devices
Nokia XpressMusic devices
Nokia recently sent a briefcase over to the Business Today office and the obvious joke was that it had stashed it with money to get favourable reviews; not that we condemn too many Nokia phones to the pit of bad reviews. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the briefcase, as you can see pictured above, had the two latest Nokia XpressMusic devices, the 5310 and the 5610, a set of headphones and two portable speakers, one from JBL and one from Altec Lansing.

To the phones first: the 5610 is a lovely device with a slider form format; those who like sliders will be drawn to the phone. The addition of quick access media buttons is becoming a hygiene factor on phones that claim to be music “optimised” and as such, the buttons do their job. The problem is that the phone cannot take a regular 3.5mm audio input jack, which is strange, since the cheaper 5310 has that ability.

The slim form factor and overall feel of the device made this reviewer make it his primary phone and music player for quite a while. The 5310 that was in the briefcase came with a twogigabyte memory card, instead of the standard 512-megabyte card that ships with the 5310 and 5610. But the large card— coupled with a low bit-rate MPEG-4 Audio (M4A) encoding (which you can do through Nokia PC Suite) that shrinks digital music files to around a fourth or a fifth the size of a standard 128-kilobit encoded MP3 file—ensures that you can really stuff the device with over 1,500 songs.

And audio quality, while nowhere close to perfect, is pretty good.

Nokia’s 5310 attached to an Altec Lansing speaker
Nokia’s 5310 attached to an Altec Lansing speaker
While filling up the memory card with music might have some drawbacks—such as not having space to shoot pictures—that is not a big problem on this phone, because the camera is ordinary, to say the least. The other drawback is the less than stellar battery life; not many phones with the slim form factor get battery life right, though some of Samsung’s new Ultra devices do.

Yet, that does not seem to have stopped people from buying the 5310, which has become one of the fastest moving handsets in December. Not bad for a phone that costs a shade above Rs 10,000. The 5610 is available in stores for around Rs 13,000.

JBL’s snug sound-dock
JBL’s snug sound-dock
But what was really interesting was the JBL ‘On Call’ Sound System developed specifically for the 5310. No matter what the press release says about the 3.5mm jack on the speaker system to allow other devices to work with it, the form factor makes that nearly impossible. That, plus the volume controls on the On Call are little plastic knobs that manipulate the 5310’s volume controls. Whining aside, this is a very pretty sounddock.

But, when it comes to sound quality, this little system really impresses, delivering a surprisingly full range, though bass reproduction could have been slightly better, but for its size, the system is remarkable. The On Call system costs Rs 6,000 and as far as mobile phone accessories go, this is one of the best we have ever tried.

— Kushan Mitra

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