Nokia 5800 XpressMusic review

£250
Price when reviewed

Mobile phone manufacturers the world over have been producing iPhone copies what seems like an age now. Some have done so with great success – we love the HTC Touch HD – while others have failed spectacularly. Nokia, however, has preferred to plough its own furrow, continuing to build solid, usable phones to its own tried and trusted recipe.

Now, at last, it has a response. The 5800 XpressMusic is the firm’s very first phone to feature a touchscreen – and a tweaked-for-touch version of its S60 operating system – but is it a worthy competitor to Apple’s finest?

Alas, we’d have to reply in the negative. For, though its vital statistics speak of a worthy competitor to the iPhone – there’s 8GB of storage included on a microSD card, a 3.5mm headphone jack for standard headphones, 3.5G, assisted GPS, Bluetooth, FM radio, accelerometer, proximity sensor and a 3.2-megapixel camera with video capabilities – it doesn’t come together in the way that the iPhone and the fabulous Touch HD do.

Let’s start with the screen. It has a high-enough resolution at 360 x 640. It’s bright and viewable from all angles too and the aspect ratio of 16:9 is unusual, but it falls short of the competition in several key ways. For starters, it’s not as big at 3.2in as the iPhone’s 3.5in and the Touch HD’s 3.8in diagonals. This, coupled with a browser that can’t quite match the Safari and Opera browsers on its competitors, means that browsing the web isn’t quite as pleasing an experience.

The other key problem is the touchscreen technology. As with the Touch HD it’s a resistive screen, which means you have to apply pressure to the screen physically to get it to respond. Nokia attempts to compensate for this by introducing haptic feedback response – it buzzes lightly whenever you tap the screen – but this isn’t as sensitive as the Touch HD’s and requires too firm a tap for our liking.

The operating system’s implementation of touch is another hindrance. The on-screen Qwerty keyboard feels cramped and few concessions have been made to finger-friendliness beyond the addition of a couple of context-sensitive buttons at the bottom of the screen and a quick launch key for media functions above it to the top right.

As if to acknowledge S60’s unsuitability for touch, the 5800 comes with a stylus, stowed away in the device’s bottom right corner. The only positive is that the resistive touchscreen and stylus allows text entry by handwriting recognition, though we’d prefer keyboard entry over Nokia’s effort any day of the week.

We’re not big fans of the phone’s accelerometer. It’s over-sensitive, flicking between landscape and portrait with only the slightest encouragement, and when it does so the screen goes black momentarily before redrawing – an annoying foible that will hopefully be solved with a firmware update.

And neither does this phone have the looks to compete with the Touch HD and iPhone. To put it bluntly, the XpressMusic 5800 is ugly. A black slab with a rubberised back and a thick rim enclosing the screen, the only nod to style is a thin red band wrapped subtly around its base. Yes, it is narrower than the iPhone and Touch HD, but its dull practicality failed to get our pulses racing.

It’s not without its good points. It’s a highly capable media phone, for instance, with music sounding punchy through headphones, while video is impressively smooth and engaging on that bright screen; even the built-in stereo speakers sound okay. The FM radio also works brilliantly, the camera is good for a phone and with a double LED flash to go with it produces acceptable snapshots both indoors and out.

Details

Cheapest price on contract

Battery Life

Standby, quoted 3 days

Physical

Dimensions 51.7 x 15.5 x 111mm (WDH)
Weight 147g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 128MB
ROM size 81MB
Camera megapixel rating 3.2MP
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 3.2in
Resolution 360 x 640

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Symbian

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