Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nokia 5310 XpressMusic (T-Mobile) Review

Looking to compete against the highly successful Walkman line of cell phones from Sony Ericsson, Nokia started the XpressMusic brand. But unlike Sony Ericsson, who rolls out the same phone with just a color and software change (SE W610 is similar to the K550), Nokia has released dedicated phones to the XpressMusic line. Although phones from the XpressMusic phones bear strikingly similar specifications and design to Nokia's standard line of phones (Nokia 5310b is similar to the Nokia 6301), they do include extra dedicated music keys to set them apart.

Looking to add a bit more flavor to the XpressMusic line, Nokia has unleashed the vibrant yet classy Nokia 5310b for North America. The first thing that caught my eye is its thin dimension. It's a nice looking phone but can it deliver in the multimedia experience as its XpressMusic labelling seems to suggest? Let's find out!

The firmware on my 5310 is V 05.91 20-02-08 (the initial production firmware) and runs S40 5th edition. The box contains the phone, AC-3U charger, Headset / HS-45 and controls AD-57, BL-4CT: 860 mAh battery, USB data cable (CA-101), 1GB microSD (sd-C01G) memory card.

Quick facts:
Name: Nokia 5310b XpressMusic (RM-304)
Network: GSM 850/1800/1900
Weight: 70g
Dimensions: 104 x 45 x 9.9 mm
Battery life (stand by): up to 300 hours (GSM)
Battery life (talk): up to 300 minutes (GSM)

My phone was manufactured in: (your phone's country of manufacture could vary) Mexico.

A staple of the Nokia brand are its quality bar shaped phones and the Nokia 5310 continues this tradition in its very attractive thin design. Everyone I've shown the 5310 loved the look and impressed by the 9.9mm thickness. The red side bars add excitement to an otherwise traditional black phone.
The light sensor is immediately to the right of the ear piece

The left is the charger and music player controls. The right has the volume rocker

A very simple back with the camera at the top and the speakers at the bottom

On the top of the phone is the 3.5mm headset jack, microUSB, and power button.

Here is the Nokia 5310 compared to my 6230b:

Side Profile:

With almost the same functionality, the 5310 comes in a smaller package

The build quality of the Nokia 5310 is solid despite being of mostly plastic construction. Unlike most other Nokias, there are no creaking and very little gaps. Almost no dust enters the battery compartment unlike my Nokia 6230.

The 5310 is, however, a fingerprint magnet on all it's glassy surfaces (the entire front of the phone).

The SIM mechanism is really bad requiring you to push the SIM into the thin slot and push it out from the back. I suppose the cheap construction was to keep the phone thin.

The SIM card isn't under the battery but a little switch is pushed into the SIM by the battery that prevents the SIM from being pushed out.

The screen is a good size and resolution is standard Nokia at 240 x 320 pixels (2 inches) and can display up to 16.7 million (24-bit) colors. There is a light sensor to vary the brightness of the screen.

A very standard TFT display that's readable under direct sun:

Keys are stiff and the glossy surface makes it slippery. The call and soft keys are both flat and flush so distinguishing between the two usually requires you to look at the phone.

A traditional keypad that works:

The number keys have a subtle hump in the center that help you distinguish between each row but it's smooth between columns

The keypad is small for those that have big fingers:

I'm right handed and find the right most keys difficult to press as they're so close to the edge of the phone and because the phone is thin.

The keypad light is very bright. No complaints about it.

I have a T-Mobile branded 5310 but you can configure change its theme and turn on active standby to mask the branding:

Unfortunately there are two aesthetics things I noticed that can't be changed easily:
- T-mobile icons
- right soft key can't be changed and it's set to t-zone

General menu navigation was smooth and very snappy. There was no perceived lag.

Since my last review with a S40 5th edition device, the Nokia 3555, I noticed the following significant difference:

  • Auto keypad locking - auto key lock settings > phone >automatic key guard
  • Call timer during a call - settings > call > in-call timer
  • pretty cool screen saver but useless
  • locking the phone is no longer the left soft key then *. Its center key then *
  • With sleep mode on you don't see anything on the display with it off you see the typical Nokia black screen with a white strip containing the date, time, and indicator icons
  • change font size - Settings > Display

The active standby feature allows you to display up to 4 items from the following: Calendar, Countdown timer, General Indicators, Music Player, My note, and Short cut bar. You cannot choose the same item type twice; for example you can't have two sections for countdown timer. I have chosen short cut, music player, and calendar above. Within the short cut bar you can choose from a long list of core phone functions like profiles or camera but added Java applications are not available options.

Very flexible active standby screen with 4 choices

With the introduction of S40 5th edition, Nokia phones have become very customizable but with that, Nokia phones are creeping towards being complicated and menus are getting very deep.

For example, to access the calculator, if you don't have it as a short cut, it's in Menu/Fun&Apps/Organizer. It takes a bit of time to get use to it. The display shows 4 menu items at a time. There are 14 groupings in Settings.

Menu Structure:
-- Music
-- Log
---- Call Log
---- Missed calls
---- Received calls
---- Dialed numbers
---- Message recipients
---- Clear log lists
---- Call timers
---- Packet data counter
---- Packet data conn. timer
---- Message log
---- Sync Log
-- t-zones
---- t-zones (online)
---- Bookmarks
---- Last Web Address
---- t-zones inbox
---- Settings
---- Go to address
---- Clear the cache
-- IM & E-mail
---- Instant messages (t-mobile app and online)
---- E-mail (t-mobile app and online)
-- Messaging
---- Create message
---- Inbox
---- Drafts
---- Outbox
---- Sent items
---- Saved items, Delivery reports, Voice mail, Service commands, Delete messages, Message settings
-- Fun & Apps
---- Gallery
------ Memory Card
------ My Album (online)
------ myFaves Icons (online)
------ Images
------ Voice Clips
------ Music Clips
------ Themes
------ Graphics
------ Tones
------ Recordings
------ Receiv. Files
---- Games & Apps
------ Memory Card
------ Games (online)
------ Games - all demos
-------- AMF Bowling Deluxe (limited number of times)
-------- (Who wants to be a) Millionaire Music
-------- Surviving High School (girl game - level limited)
-------- WSOP Pro Challenge (time limited)
------ Collection
-------- Converter
-------- t-zones
-------- Wallpaper creator
-------- World clock
------ Media
-------- Camera
-------- Video
-------- Music Player
-------- Radio
-------- Voice Recorder
-------- Equalizer
------ Organizer
-------- Alarm clock
-------- Calendar
-------- To-do list
-------- Notes
-------- Synchronization
-------- Calendar
-------- Timer
-------- Stopwatch
-- Help (online)
-- Phonebook
---- Names
---- Synchronize all
---- Settings
---- Groups
---- 1-touch dialing
---- My numbers
---- Delete all contacts
---- Move contacts
---- Copy contacts
-- Settings
---- Profiles
---- Themes
---- Tones
---- Display
---- Date and time
---- My shortcuts
---- Sync and backup
---- Connectivity
---- Synchronization
---- Call
---- Phone
---- Enhancements
---- Configuration
---- Security
---- Restore Settings

The Nokia 5310 didn't come with Snakes. That is just wrong. All the included games are demos either limited by play time or number of times played. Also included are T-Mobile's suite of online apps such as t-zones, Instant messages, E-mail (there is no native S40 e-mail client on the 5310), and myFaves Icons

There is no task switching key as found in Sony Ericson’s and Nokia's S60 operating system so there's a limited amount of multi-tasking possible.

Music Player
The built-in music player is native to S40 and can run in the background and while the phone is locked or running another application.
The music and video player look good with the included t-mobile skin:

The default skin is horrid and makes the phone look complicated:

I pulled this image from my 3555 review since it's the same

The sound circuit theme is a minimalist theme.

The music player feels sluggish with a split second delay after each key press. While the music player supports playing videos, the music player feels even more sluggish with a longer delay for each key press. Equalizer looks good.

The 5310 supports 3.5mm headsets but does not support Nokia A/V so the 5310 does not support TV out.

The 5310 includes dedicated music keys unfortunately they're not back lit:
There is no way to easy lock keys like a dedicate mp3 player

Java applications open fairly quickly with a little load time when opening and closing. Within the application, the response is snappy with no lag like old implementations of Java. It's become so fast that some included applications that use to be native are now implemented with Java like the calculator.

Once again the calculator has gone through a revamp.

Standard mode:

The calculator has now adopted a style similar to Calcium for S60

Scientific mode:
 You have to scroll down to see more functions making it hard to use

My favorite function of the calculator is the new loan calculator:
You'll never get stuck figuring out if you're getting a bad deal at the car dealership

You can't leave a Java application without closing so this limits you to one Java application open at a time.

Note: Java applications no longer start with a display of the Java logo.

Sim-less Mode
The Nokia 5310 has flight mode where it will function with the antenna deactivated (Settings/Profiles and choose Flight) and without the sim-card.

You can connect the 5310 to your computer using Bluetooth or USB data cable. You can install Nokia PC Suite to synchronize the 5310 with your computer.

You can pair devices, you can send images/music files/video clips/themes and virtually any content via Bluetooth to another device. Each time you want to connect to another device, the 5310 needs to scan for devices even if you've previously connected with the device (this gets annoying if you Bluetooth a lot as you need to wait for the search to finish). If your BT is off you can still send media, the phone prompts you to turn on BT and will automatically turn off BT when the transfer is done. So if S40 can automatically turn off BT, why can't S60 do the same?

Sending files occur in the foreground (cannot multi-task) but receiving files occur in the background so you can multi-task during this time.

Pairing the 5310 with a PC gives you these features in the included Bluetooth profiles:
Dial up networking
HS Audio gateway
OBEX Object Push
OBEX File Transfer
Serial Port
Network Access Point Service

There are not as many profiles as on Sony Ericsson phones but its good enough for most people. I paired the 5310 to my laptop and N82 with no problems.

With most people already over the whole triband fiasco of 2004 with plentiful quad band GSM phones and moving on to complaining about 3G WCDMA frequency compatibility (North America uses 850/1900, except T-mobile who uses 1700 while the rest of the world uses 2100), I find it cheap that Nokia only included triband GSM support, throwing us back into 2004.

Sound Quality
With no support for T-mobile's 1700 network, the Nokia 5310 experienced weak and spotty reception and signal strength in the NYC area. thankfully i had another T-mobile SIM card for testing so i compared the 5310's reception to my other Nokia phones. The 5310 had weaker reception compared to my N82 and E61. i experienced in and out voice and static during calls but none of my calls were dropped.

You can set your own MP3 as a ring tone too.

The 5310 has weak speakers with no bass. The audio quality is worst than the E61 and N82. It also only plays mono through the speakers.

Headset use
Wow. I don't have the most sensitive ears but the quality is very good being as good as my Nokia N82. The 3.5mm, of course, supports stereo. This is definitely the way Nokia intended music to be played and here is where the added digital signal processor (DSP) helps. The 5310 also supports Bluetooth stereo headsets through A2DP but I wasn't able to test this.

Multimedia Features

The 5310 has a 2MP (1600x1200 pixel) camera.

The photos produced by the 5310 are blurry. A slow shutter forces you to hold still for a split second when taking photos. The phone takes a picture a noticeable split second after pressing down on the shutter button. Saving photos is slow taking about 7 seconds so you can't take many photos in succession.

Surprisingly, the 5310 stores pictures taken in the Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) format but the only EXIF data stored are width, height, bit depth, equipment make, model, firmware, and Color Representation.

There are 7 picture sizes

Image Quality

Landscape Photo
Switches the camera UI to landscape mode.

normal, false colors, sepia, grayscale, negative, polarize

White Balance
Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent

Building in Daylight

Nokia 5310

Nokia N82

The 5310 produces a photo with accurate colors but comes out blurry.

There is no night mode, but it's interesting to see how normal mode in 5310 fares against the Nokia N82.

Nokia 5310:

Nokia N82:

The 5310 produces very blurry photos. The indoor photos from the 5310 are very bluish. It feels like Nokia just stuck in one of their crappiest 2MP camera modules to this phone so, spec-wise, it qualifies as a midrange phone. You can see all the blurry photos I took with the 5310 on one of my recent trips on Jumpcut.

To turn off the camera sound, within the camera app go to Options > Settings > Camera Sounds
On/Off (it really turns the phone silent unlike most S60 cameras)

The 5310 also records video. You can record directly to the memory card and length of the movie is only bound by the amount of free space available (remember to change the Video clip length to maximum).
Video recording was also bad as seen to this comparison to a recording by the Nokia n82

Video clip quality:

Video Resolution:

The resolution is really low and isn't adequate for anything useful. Even YouTube supports a higher resolution (320x240).

Here is the video I took uploaded to YouTube:

Audio Recording
Audio recording is horrid picking up lots of background noises and heavy distortion. This is an audio recording by a lake: Download Audio

External Memory
A 1GB microSD memory card is included in the 5310. The memory card is not obstructed by the battery or SIM card so you can hot swap the memory card.
can pop out memory card with no phone warning and pop back in and it'll pick it up. Alarm using sound on memory card will default to Nokia tone when memory card not available

Battery is weak for a S40 phone. The 5310 lasts 2 days from full charge. Without a SIM card or placing the phone in flight mode, the phone lasted 5 days without a charge (sometimes I wonder if this is the mode most manufacturers use to determine the standby time they publish).

Build quality...........10
Features for $.........7 (T-Mobile $50 for 2 years, Rogers $50 for 3 years)
Battery life.............3


*Attractive exterior design
*It's really thin while staying managable in the hand
*More advanced S40 5th edition operating system
*Great build quality
*Dedicated music controls
*3.5mm headset jack
*Fast menu navigation
*Free on T-Mobile
*Support for various IM and e-mail services like MSN and gmail
*reasonable price, T-Mobile $50 for 2 years, Rogers $50 for 3 years

*Weak speakers
*Poor call quality
*Triband with no 3G support.
*Complicated menu system
*No physical keypad lock switch
*no native e-mail client
*Short battery life

Overall the Nokia 5310 is a great low to mid-ranged phone with a very compelling design and great build quality. It offers a very thin, compact, and classy design. It may not shine in the imaging but it's a very strong phone in the music department. The 5310's weak outgoing/incoming call qualities and reception are uncharacteristic of Nokia's bar shaped phones.

The Nokia 5310 unit reviewed was supplied by WOM World. Thanks guys!

Cross posted on HowardForums


Anonymous said...

You mention the pictures are blurry and bluish, well I noticed in the photo of the back of the phone you still had the plastic static cover on the lens. Notice it has a blue tint to the plastic.

Eric said...

:) I took that off before I took the photos. But I can see why you would think it was that blue protector causing the bluish.

Anonymous said...

I recently got this phone and the is a circular symbol on the display. I can't figure out what it means. The best way to explain it, it looks like a snails shell. What the heck is this??

Anonymous said...

2 Questions ?
Does it have the call time during a call ? and can you minimize the music player while it is play ??

Eric said...

First anonymous: Is it two circles with a line connecting the two at the bottom? If it is, that's the voice message icon.

Second Anonymous: Yes, you can set it to display the call timer while in a call. You can minimize the music player and it will keep playing.

Anonymous said...


How do I get Nokia PC Suite to recognise the 5310 (RM 304)?

I tried a solution of switching the phone off - removing the Micro SD and SIM - and the connecting, and this worked a few months ago.

However, I've since updated my firmware and PC suite to ver 7.08 and now that method doesn't work.

What can I do please?

Meghan said...

At the top of my phone there is a swirly icon and i don't know what it means but whatever it is, it isen't allowing me to send pic messages.
Helppp Please!!!!!

Anonymous said...

This phone takes great pics, but the vids are incredibly terrible! The FM tuner is cool but gets horrible reception in concrete buildings. The MP3 player has a great interface, but i wouldn't use the attached headphone section with the button... it is long enough to sit on the chest so if something bumps your chest it skips to the next song. I would like more desktop customization. Like a bigger clock than the little one in the corner. The screen saver is neat but like it says useless in the end. I like the auto keylock, but i would like to see better support for video files uploaded to it. Good Email support but the incoming text message icon is always on even though i have no new text messages. I have T-Mobile, so it might be a network problem. Overall, a good phone for MP3's and Pics... Not good for much else.

Eric said...

Third Anonymous: I've heard of a few rare instances of that happening. Have you tried reinstalling PC Suite? If that doesn't work I'd downgrade to the version of PC Suite that worked for you

Meghan: Does the swirly icon look like a G? That icon means the phone is registered to the GPRS network. Do you have MMS properly set up on your phone?

TeePOG's blOG said...

I got a 5310 from Virgin Mobile South Africa the a couple of days ago. A couple points:

1. The locked soft key has to be a T-Mobile thing; mine is customisable.

2. The active standby shortcut bar on my unit allows me to add my own Java applications to the shortcuts. Try this: with the shortcut bar active, go to Options --> Select Shortcuts --> Application List -- Tick your Java app --> Done :-)

My music player has no lag like you described; could it be that the FAT32 filesystem on your memory card is getting fragmented? They tend to do that after a number of music additions / deletions.


TeePOG's blOG said...

Oh, and on a related note: I got Snake III with my unit.

Seems as if T-Mobile messed around with the default software a bit too much...

FargoUT said...

I also have the swirly icon next to my battery status indicator. And next to that is a phone with double-arrows extending out from it. I have no idea what either of these mean, and there doesn't appear to be any mention of it in the Nokia manual. It must be a T-Mobile thing. I haven't had problems sending picture messages though, so I don't know what it means.

Anonymous said...

is there a way to get a Hotmail email acount set up on my nokia 5310 Xpressmusic phone.
i know there are a few options of email providers but hotmail is not one of them.

thank you

Cory said...

my 5310 has a certain symbol at the top of the screen it resemlbes the @ symbol. I am not sure what it means and cant figure out if it is the reason the phone in acting improperly. Please advise.

TeePOG's blOG said...

Cory: On my phone it shows the @ symbol when I have new IMAP mail (I check my Gmail like that).

Perhaps your SP put a preset email account on the phone?

Anonymous said...

is their a way you can set the text message tone to be different for each contact?

VinnieDM said...

Swirly icon = phone with the four swirls??
My guess it is the PTT option, at least that's what it's called over here, Push-To-Talk (PTT) it's kind of a walkie talkie function. I've heard it only works in USA and depending if your operator supports this option/function.

Or am I wrong?

Eric said...

@the last anonymous: no, you cannot set different message tones for each contact

Anonymous said...

i recently got this phone, it's only few days old but my star(*) key is not working. I can't return this phone because this was bought back home. any ideas?? please help, it will be greatly appreciated


Khaled said...

Can I play music during a call like N73 I haveent found this option

Eric said...

@Khaled A call will interrupt the music player. The 5310 doesn't support the same kind of multi-tasking as the N73 so you can't do it.

@Anonymous you might need to bring it to a repair shop or experiment with re-assembling your phone in case something is loose inside

zervo said...

um i have a problem with my picture messages i can neither send or reaceive them anymore, i said anymore coz i used to be able to send and receive them. :( can you help me with thi?

Anonymous said...

My 5310 died while still under warranty so I got a replacement. On the replacement phone, when I am on a call, there is what looks like a sideways lightening bolt next indicator icon that comes on. Sometimes the icon has a slash through it, sometime it is just the sideways lightening bolt. Any ideas what this indicates?

Anonymous said...

I have the 5310 and i keep getting this icon that looks sort of like a check mark with and extra line at the end everytime i make a call. Any idea what it means?

Pressed Rat and Wart Hog said...

If you look at the 2nd picture in this article, which shows the front and back of the phone, on the picture of the front of the phone there are three indicator icons shown. The rightmost indicator that sort of looks like a film cartridge is not mentioned in the manual. Does anyone know what it means?

Anonymous said... says: If you run the nokia update software on your phone, it'll make the t-zones thing go away. pretty cool. oh, be sure to use the on-phone backup settings utility first.

Anonymous said...

is it true that you could remove those annoying t-mobile icons and t-zone things away when you run the nokia update software? are there any problems? help

Mateus said...

There are as you take the theme of the music player? It is a rare theme in high demand.