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 Nokia 5800 XpressMusic Review

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2009 08 04
PostNokia 5800 XpressMusic Review

Hello! Are you a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic owner? Please take the quick survey here!
I ran the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic to a lot of stress
test to dig beyond the touchscreen hype and found some surprisingly
great features as well as shortcomings. Let me share with you why I
thought the Nokia 5800 falls short of expectations but will remain on
top of a lot of people’s must-buy list.

Make and Construction
When I first read that the Nokia 5800 has a 3.2 inch (360×640 pixel)
display screen. The three buttons at the lower part of the screen serve
as shortcuts (Call knob, App Launcher and Cancel/End button — from left
to right.) The other keys on the side include a dedicated camera button
and volume controls. The SIM card slot (usually placed inside the
battery compartment) is found on the left side along with the microSD
card slot for easy access.
There’s a well placed slider-lock at the center-right side of the
device that serves as a screen lock/unlock mechanism (easily reached by
the right thumb or the left middle finger when holding the phone).
Aside from the glass screen, the entire device is made up of plastic
so it feels light for its size. It’s a little thick at 15.5mm. I think
it would have been nicer to the grip at 12mm or 13mm. The phone’s
casing feels solid but battery cover suffers from the usual creaks
(pretty common with NSeries phones). The hard-rubber carrying case is
nice and the plectrum, which doubles as a stylus, can be attached to
the case to avoid being misplaced.
Connectivity and Mobile Web
The Nokia 5800 comes with all sorts of wireless connectivity -
3G/HSDPA, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS — so it’s all set in that department.
Nokia’s built-in browser is generally good, especially on smaller
screens especially that of the E63 and E71. Of course, they had to do
something different for the 5800’s bigger screen but I felt the
real-estate wasn’t maximized so you don’t get a great surfing
experience. The browser is fast and displays flash files, but doesn’t
render pages with javascripts well. The all-important back/forward
buttons are also missing. Despite that, the pages load fast and the
scaled images and texts are crisp (almost as good as on Opera Mini).

Usability and UI
The phone came with a stylus (with an extra one) and a plectrum
(guitar pick) which gives you an impression that you will be using them
more often that just your fingers when navigating the touch screen UI.
Personally, I have an aversion to stylus as they remind me of the old,
clunky PDAs. There’s haptic feedback which I think is a necessary
feature for resistive touchscreens.

Fortunately, with the 5800, you are still able to make a phone call
and send text messages with one hand, though half the time you’d end up
using your fingernails instead of your thumb. The 5800 gives you 4
options for text input — full QWERTY, mini QWERTY (for portrait mode),
handwriting recognition and the normal virtual phone keypad — which is
nice because it provides the user more ways to type in text depending
on the need and screen orientation. The system remembers your last
input method and shows it in future instances until you change it.

The Media Bar is a small touch sensitive portion of the phone just
at the top outer border of the screen that drops down to some shortcuts
— Music Manager, Video Center, Internet and Photos.
The touchscreen is quite responsive but sometimes, it requires two
taps to select an item or hotspot. Scrolling down with the finger takes
a bit of practice and can become easy but scrolling up is almost
impossible (that’s when you need to use the stylus). Haptic feedback
makes things much easier though.
Multimedia & Photo Quality
The sound speakers are the loudest I’ve ever heard on a mobile phone
and worthy of being in the XpressMusic class. I find it odd though that
the speakers were unevenly placed on both the left side of the phone
which makes me wonder that if you position it horizontally on the
cradle for some hands-free movie viewing, both speakers are facing
downwards (not upwards where the sound will have more open space to
propagate). I guess that adds to the bass effect.

Video quality is good but not very impressive. If you compare the
5800’s 3.2″ screen at 360×640 resolution against the Xperia X1’s 3″ @
480×800 pixel, you can see which screen has more pixels packed per
square inch (more pixels per square inch, better video quality). The
Nokia Video Manager (an app that automatically converts video files
transferred to the phone) makes a low-quality compressesion that videos
played on the 5800 ends up very pixelated. I converted my own videos
(using Super) to match the settings I use for the iPhone 3G and while
the output was better, the videos still appear dithered and the colors
a bit faded.
I was puzzled why 3.2MP Carl Zeiss camera didn’t perform as well as
other Nokia phones with the same optics. I took several sample photos

Doesn’t work well at night and the dual-LED flash only performs
better on close up shots. The picture of the steel Buddha here can be
compared to the same taken with the Nokia N78 here.
What’s Missing or What I Would Have Wanted

  • USB port charging. Nokia already did it with the N85 so I don’t understand why the newer models don’t have it.
  • Updated firmware. The unit that I had some occasional hang-ups
    (apps not exiting properly) and one instance that the phone rebooted on
    its own.
  • Internal Storage. There’s only about 90MB of internal phone memory.
    The phone comes with an 8GB external microSD card so the only way to
    expand your storage is by replacing it with a bigger capacity (like
  • Faster Processor. Sometimes, you’ll feel that the ARM 11 369 MHz
    CPU is slow. The Qualcomm MSM7201A 528 Mhz processor would have been
    better (the ones on the HTC Touch HD and SE Experia X1).

Of course, some of the items in this list would affect the phone’s final price so it’s a trade-off.

Over-all, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is a nice-to-have phone but fell
short of my expectation as a flagship touchscreen phone. I guess, and
because Nokia was late in the game, I expected them to score high in
changing the way touchscreen phones interact with its user. The
device’s dependence with the stylus ruined the experience (just like
many stylus-touting touchscreen phone) and the plectrum was just a
fancy addition that serve no extra function other than it symbolizes music (as in XpressMusic).
The S60 platform holds a lot of promise. It was great with a lot of
NSeries and ESeries Nokia phones but it needs to be refined more for
the touch screen. Had the Nokia 5800 been launched in January (or even
June) of 2008, I would have given it more excuse. If
this was the first touch screen phone I’ve ever used, I might have
liked it a lot but after trying out the Omnia, Xperia X1, Touch HD, LG
Cookie and iPhone, I’d put the 5800 somewhere in the middle.

What’s most surprising with the Nokia 5800 is the price tag. It’s
already a high-end phone but the price seemed unbelievably affordable.
We’ve seen the N96 priced at 37k and the Nokia 8800 Arte at 47k. Even
the 2-year old Nokia N95 8GB is more expensive than the 5800 — and this
tells us something about how Nokia perceives its flagship touchcsreen
Nokia knows its the king of alphanumeric candybar phones. It’s also
getting a good boost in the qwerty smartphones. Yet, they are
relatively behind the touchscreen race (despite the fact that they
already had a discontinued touch screen phone 5 years ago) although
this battleground is still fresh. Most consumers are wary to shell out
30k or 40k for a touch interface they are not familiar with so the 5800
is positioned really well as an affordable full-featured touchscreen
For its features, I think the Nokia 5800 is still worthy to be
priced at the 25k to 35k range but Nokia puts it at a very sweet spot
of Php19,990. They did this to play catch with the
rest and I believe they’d done a great job with marketing it as such.
Nokia fans will surely love owning this little piece of history from
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