Nokia 5300 XpressMusic Unlocked GSM Cell PhoneNokia’s design team must have been spending quality time with their kids lately, because the 5300 has the look of a grown-up toy. Measuring 3.6 by 1.9 by 0.8 inches, the handset is all rounded corners and boldly marked rubbery buttons. The black-and-white color scheme immunizes it from the insulting Fisher-Price comparisons lobbed at the LG Fusic, but if anything, this phone looks even more childlike. On the upside, it’s very clear what buttons do what, which isn’t always the case with phones today.

The 5300 XpressMusic opens in a unique way to reveal hidden keypad and controls!Slide the 5300′s keypad down and the screen lights up. The 320-by-240, 16-million-color screen is positively gorgeous, almost too nice for a phone in this price class. The new Series 40 Version 3 software also supports both animated Flash wallpapers and a serious, businesslike home screen with a convenient application launcher and calendar information at your fingertips.

Nokia’s phones generally have solid reception and sound quality, and this one doesn’t break the mold. The earpiece is loud, and sounds even louder because of the cell’s very trebly voice quality—some might consider it harsh. There’s a bit of background hiss, which is common on T-Mobile phones. The speakerphone is decent, if not very loud. Transmissions sound a little scratchy but otherwise okay, with quite good background-noise cancellation. The voice dialing, which supposedly lets you select names from your phone book, didn’t work very well on tests using a Plantronics Bluetooth headset. Battery life was fine for calls but could have been better for music, squeezing out 7 hours of continuous talk time and 11 hours 4 minutes of music playback from the device.

The 5300 is a Music Phone, First and Foremost!The 5300′s true strength is its music player, which syncs with Windows Media Player or other MTP-compatible music services such as Napster. The 5300 stores music on a MicroSD card of up to 2GB in size. Unfortunately, you have to take the back cover off to replace the card, so it’s a good thing that it also connects to PCs and Macs with a standard mini-USB cable. Songs take about 5 seconds each to copy, and you can assign them as ringtones. The 5300 doesn’t sync as easily with iTunes and doesn’t support iTunes-purchased songs. But you can drag and drop non-protected iTunes AAC files onto the phone and they’ll play without any hassles.

Nokia could make it a touch easier to get to the music library menu. Once you get over that quirk, you can sort MP3, AAC, and WMA music by artist, album, genre, and composer and sync playlists with your PC. Music through the mono speaker on the back of the phone sounds loud, but you’ll really want to plug in the included converter to change the phone’s 2.5mm headset jack into a jack for regular music headphones. Even better: use Bluetooth headphones, which the 5300 supports. The converter, unfortunately, hangs off the side of the phone like a tiny periscope. If you don’t actually own any music, the 5300 also has a built-in FM radio.

Given the quality of the music player, you can forgive the 5300′s mediocre camera. Daylight photos were about average for a 1.3-megapixel camera phone, with whites tending toward blue. Indoor and low-light shots have a serious color noise and graininess problem. Videos were the usual 176- by 144-pixel resolution, 15-frame-per-second stuff.

The 5300 also comes with the OZ instant-messaging program, supporting AIM, ICQ, Yahoo! and Windows Live Messenger. A WAP browser, a Flash Lite player, and an organizer that syncs with PCs using Nokia’s free PC Suite software are also included. WAP browsing uses EDGE, which putters along at 80 to 100 kilobits per second. Notably, there’s no bundled e-mail client. The Nokia 5300 XpressMusic will play a wide variety of music, and it has a great screen and bold, easy-to-use buttons.

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