Friday, December 18, 2009

Nokia 5230 review

Nokia 5230

When touchscreen handsets start to take over the lower segments of the market you know the rules of the game have changed. The Nokia 5230 is a smartphone but it doesn’t mind rubbing shoulders with the common run of handsets. So, it’s free to explore grounds where few smartphones have ever gone, let alone full touchscreen gadgets.

The land of affordability was the last territory for touchscreen phones to settle in and not quite the place smartphones would call home. So it was, but Nokia just won’t wait for a special invitation when a niche is wide open. And they’ve got quite a fleet already of low key touchscreen smartphones that’s certain to make an impact. The Nokia 5530 XpressMusic had a great bang for the buck and the 5230 is welcome to try and beat the bargain.
Cheap is nice but free is even better – and we guess the 5230 will be available both ways through retail stores and carriers. But let’s see what it has and what’s been left out.

Key features:
3.2" 16M-color TFT LCD 16:9 touchscreen display (360 x 640 pixels)
Symbian S60 5th edition
ARM 11 434 MHz CPU, 128MB RAM memory
Quad-band GSM support
3G with HSDPA 3.6Mbps support
Built-in GPS receiver with A-GPS support; Ovi maps
2 megapixel fixed focus camera with and VGA@30fps video
microSD card memory expansion, ships with a 4GB card
FM radio with RDS
Bluetooth with A2DP and USB v2.0
Standard 3.5mm audio jack
Accelerometer sensor for automatic UI rotation, motion-based gaming and turn-to-mute
Ovi integration (direct image and video uploads, Ovi Contacts)
Landscape on-screen virtual QWERTY keyboard
Excellent audio quality
Price tag on the cheap side
Changeable color battery covers (two extra ones available in-box)
Plectrum dongle available in the retail package

Main disadvantages:
No Wi-Fi support
Display has poor sunlight legibility
Default font size is a bit small due to the smallish but high-res screen
3rd party software is still somewhat limited
Extremely limited camera
Doesn't charge off its microUSB port
No smart dialing
No DivX/XviD video support out of the box
No TV-out functionality
No data-cable or memory card in retail package
No office document viewer
Below par speaker volume
It’s pretty obvious where Nokia are heading with the 5230. In this price range it is impossible to give users every available feature, so the Finns are at least giving them a choice.
There is Nokia 5230, 5530 XpressMusic,and that basically means you can choose between Wi-Fi and 3G with GPS. You can have them all in a single device too, but for a price premium (5800 XpressMusic). Custom made phones to completely match one’s taste and needs are not yet an option. You don’t get to choose the level of equipment like you would when buying a car. So, until that becomes available – if ever – we cannot see a better dealing with the problem than Nokia’s approach.

The R&D costs to release three similar models are probably low enough and there may be plenty of users to find the given choice absolutely adequate. What’s left to see is if there are any differences in performance or is it just the level of equipment that sets those three handsets apart.
The review begins on the next page, and all of you bargain-hunters are welcome to unboxing and hardware check up.

Two spare covers in the retail package

One of the best things about entry-level Nokia smartphones is a usually well stuffed retail package. The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic for example had stuff in its box that alone was about half the asking price (just kidding, of course).
Of course, the Nokia 5230 being even cheaper, there aren’t as many goodies inside. There is still something we suspect most users will truly appreciate. Xpress-on ring a bell? The 5230 comes with two spare battery covers to let you quickly customize your handset without much effort.

Our white Nokia 5230 has an optional Blue and a Pink cover inside the box, which we don’t quite like as much as the original one. Still, it’s certainly nice to have the option to refresh the looks of your handset now and then.

Moving on to the rest of the box contents, a couple of omissions are noted. There is no data cable (!) or a memory card, so basically you are left without adequate storage out of the box. What we did find in the was a charger and a plectrum that you can use instead of the stylus. We have to admit that if we are to hang anything on our handset this would be much better than a dangling stylus. In fact, a stylus is not even supplied with the Nokia 5230. The phone doesn’t even have a stylus compartment.
The last noteworthy item supplied was a one-piece headset with no volume controls. Decent looks is all it has to offer.

Nokia 5230
The Nokia 5230 is a moderately-sized handset at 111 x 51.7 x 15.5 mm and a volume of 83cc. It is larger than the Nokia 5530 XpressMusic (68cc) but it has a larger screen, so nothing out of the ordinary.
Strangely enough, the lack of a stylus slot and Wi-Fi receiver haven’t helped make the handset smaller than the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. The weight has even been increased to 115 grams.

Design and construction
When we looked at the Nokia 5230, our first thought was a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic in a new color. Later on we found a few minor differences, none of them critical designwise.

The 5230 is not much of a looker but it certainly has some young urban feel.

The layout of controls has been almost fully retained from the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic and we already mentioned the only major difference. The absent stylus makes handling the SIM card a bit of an issue. Following the design of 5800 and 5530, you’re supposed to use a stylus to eject the SIM card from its compartment at the side of the 5230 but you don’t get one on the package. Beats us – even more than the lack of a data cable.

But let’s get back to our walkthrough. The front panel of the Nokia 5230 is dominated by the 3.2” display. This kind of screen size is about average in the touchscreen world but better than most of the competitors in this price range. It also takes a slight edge over the Nokia 5530 XpressMusic and its 2.9” unit.

The nHD resolution (640 x 360 pixels) also compares favorably to the other offerings in this price group. The WQVGA LG Pop offers 2.4 times less pixels and there are quite a lot of applications where that kind of difference shows.

Nokia 5530 XpressMusic uses the resistive touchscreen technology, which needs a bit of pressure to register a click, rather than only a touch. Sensitivity is a tad better than 5800 XpressMusic, though we are not sure the difference will be tangible in real life use. In any case, Nokia still have some to catch up with the best resistive displays we have tried.

Resistive screens give you the option to use a stylus (or a plectrum in this case) or fingers with gloves. Women also needn’t worry about their manicure getting in the way like they would on capacitive screens.
We really appreciate the haptic feedback for the touchscreen. The vibration strength is configurable through the Profiles menu and we really appreciate its timing and intensity: it greatly improves the user experience.
Unfortunatelly, display legibility under direct sunlight is quite an issue much like it is with the 5530. The 5230 clearly underperforms compared to most other Nokia phones.

Above the Nokia 5230 display we find the earpiece, a touch-sensitive Media key and a couple of sensors. The Nokia trademark Media key triggers a drop down menu of shortcuts to media and web. Its sensitivity though is lower than the display’s so you’ll need to press down just a bit harder for it to work.

The two sensors above detect ambient light and proximity. The proximity sensor is used for turning the touchscreen off during calls so you don’t press anything by accident.
Under the display are the three keys usually found on Nokia touchscreen devices. Those include the Call and End buttons and the menu knob. A press-and-hold on the menu key also launches the task manager as the Symbian tradition goes. The keys are quite comfortable, with good tactility and adequate press.

Nokia 5230 has the crowded top of the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. Here you will find the power key, the microUSB port, charger plug and 3.5mm standard audio jack.

There is a protective cover for the microUSB port to keep dust away. The audio jack however hasn’t received the same treatment. Unluckily, the Nokia 5230 doesn’t charge off the microUSB port. It’s a pity since it might have given you some extra flexibility at times when you have no charger at hand.

The volume rocker, the screen-lock switch and the camera key are all on the Nokia 5230 right side. The screen lock is undoubtedly the one you will use the most so it is nice that it is large and tactile enough, and haptic enabled too. The camera key is good too, though the 2MP shooter it launches is nothing much to write home about.

Unfortunately, the things we disliked about the volume rocker in the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic are the same here. It is virtually flat with the frame of the front panel and thus too hard to press.
Moving on to the Nokia 5230 bottom we find nothing but the mouthpiece. There’s no stylus compartment this time.

The left side of the phone features a couple of rather big plastic covers. Under those hide the microSD card slot and the SIM card compartment. We had no trouble inserting and ejecting a memory card. The SIM though needs a pointed object to be released. Just don’t think you can hot-swap your SIM card as this is simply not going to happen. Even if you manage to take it out somehow without removing the battery, the handset won’t recognize a new card properly without being restarted.

The lanyard attaches at the left side of Nokia 5230 and the single speaker grill is also here. No stereo sound for you with the Nokia 5230 in loudspeaker mode we are afraid.
The back of the 5230 is pretty plain, featuring only the 2 megapixel camera lens. There is no flash this time, and the low-end image resolution makes it pretty clear that the handset isn’t into photography at all.

Removing the battery cover reveals the Nokia 5230 1320 mAh Li-Ion BL-5J battery. It is said to last 432 hours in standby, 7 hours of talk time or 33 hours of music playback in offline mode. In reality it kept our phone going for three days of moderate usage (half an hour of web browsing, the occasional photo and a few calls a day).

The Nokia 5230 build quality is generally good. It’s all plastic but the price range hardly implies otherwise.

Adding the friendly dimensions, the 5230 provides very good user experience and trouble-free single-hand operation.

S60 touch user interface
Despite being a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic twin in terms of hardware, the 5230 software is in fact identical to the Nokia 5530 XpressMusic instead. That’s simply because the Nokia 5800 UI is actually behind all other S60 touch smartphones by Nokia. So if you thought that the 5230 UI will be trimmed down or anything, you were wrong.
The Nokia 5230 behaves much better than the 5800. Some of the UI improvements we’ve seen lately have eventually made their way to the 5800 with the latest firmware updates but the 5230 has a far more polished UI and user experience.

As with other S60 touch handsets, the Nokia 5230 main menu screams Symbian all over. Icons are set in a 3 x 4 grid or a list and you can freely reorder them. Screen orientation can be set to change automatically thanks to the accelerometer. The auto-rotation however doesn’t work on the homescreen.

Checking out the homescreen
And it’s that same homescreen that seems to be one of the areas that has suffered from the conversion to touch operation. The six slots on the Shortcut bar are now replaced by four, so they can be more thumb-friendly, there’s no WLAN wizard plug-in (not that it matters on the WiFi-less 5230) and the addition of a contacts bar (nice as it might be) doesn’t completely make up for anything.

The status icons on the Nokia 5230 are located on top of the homescreen, along with the calendar and the clock. A single press on the clock starts the clock application (which is only a click away from setting up an alarm) while tapping on the date opens a drop-down menu where you can either launch the calendar application or change the currently active profile.

The Contacts bar follows right beneath the status icons. Each contact is represented by the contact photo and their first name - and it's possible to have three contacts displayed at a time but the list is scrollable to left and right.

Selecting a contact from the Contact bar brings up a screen with info on the contact (different from what you get if you select the contact from the Contacts list). It has the contact photo, name and phone number.
Further down is an area that shows the communication history for that contact - both calls and messages. And finally, at the bottom there are the top two lines from the contact’s RSS feed.

We guess a nice trick is to add a contact that isn't a person just so that you'll have quick access to your favorite feeds on the homescreen.
Under the Contacts list, it's pretty much standard Active Standby but with fewer slots. You only get email notification showing the number of unread messages, along with the sender and subject of the most recent message.

The blank area beneath is reserved for the music player and radio mini apps - they get displayed when either is set to play in the background.
At the very bottom of the homescreen is the Shortcuts bar. Both the Contacts and the Shortcuts bars are optional and can be hidden.

The Media key, placed above the screen on the right, is a shortcut to the Music player, Gallery, Ovi Share, Videos, and the web browser. It's an excellent control that offers quick access to the handset's multimedia features. It's haptic-enabled too.

Its sensitivity though is a bit lower than that of the touchscreen so you need to press it a little bit harder than you may be used to.

The UI’s other extra features

The S60 user interface has its ins and outs. Kinetic scrolling is among the nice features that actually lack on the 5800 though it has been rumored and eagerly awaited by users for quite some time now.

The flick scrolling, as Nokia marketing materials call it, works throughout the user interface - from file browser through gallery to contacts. It implementation is decent in most parts of the UI but there are gaps where it feels bumpy. Specifically, the web browser and the gallery are two places where kinetic scrolling is a bit of a downer. We feel it should gain more momentum when we make a rapid sweep across the screen and the stopping is bit too abrupt there. Not to mention that the animation is not always smooth enough.

The good news is that finger scrolling is the same as on the Nokia 5530. You push the list one way and it moves in the opposite direction as if you are pushing the actual text. Nokia still haven’t treated the Nokia 5800 Xpressmusic with this scrolling and this is probably the biggest difference between the two in terms of user-friendliness.

Unfortunately, in menus where icons are present, you still need to grab the side scrollbar or you stick your thumb on the icons and push the highlighted item in the direction you want the whole block to move, which is not only counter-intuitive, but also quite confusing (due to the inconsistency with lists scrolling).

But getting back to the updates, the Contacts bar on the Home screen has now been improved and it's now side-scrollable and thus accommodates a lot more phonebook shortcuts. A bit of nuisance we came across on the early 5800 XpressMusic is also sorted now. Turning the handset landscape in text-input mode automatically brings a full QWERTY keypad on screen.

And all the basics

S60 5th is in essence a direct translation of D-pad and soft-key action into touch. Although it has its benefits, the result is hardly the most fluent and intuitive touchscreen interface there is. Scrolling and accessing items is nothing like other touch platforms we've tried. On the other hand, soft-keys work just fine and enhance usability compared to other touch phones.

So, the user experience with S60 5th is a mixed bag and what you think of it will quite depend on your background. If you know your way around S60, you'll be quite at home with the Nokia 5230 interface. But if you come from an alternative touchscreen platform you'll be busy climbing a somewhat steep learning curve.

Opening an item in any of the listed submenus requires not one, but two presses - one to select, and another one to confirm the action. Now that's something that you don't normally see in other touch phones. You get used to it with time, but the main issue here is that the interface logic is different when you deal with icons instead of lists.
When the opened menu uses icons to represent items as opposed to lists, then only a single click does the job.

The Nokia 5230 features a task manager, which is launched by a press-and-hold on the menu key. The task manager itself is identical to what you get on Symbian S60 3.2 devices. Much like in the previous version of the UI, it appears on top of every pop-up menu. There's no C key on that one of course to close running applications - instead you tap the app's icon to display two virtual buttons: Open and Exit.

Pretty decent phonebook

The Nokia 5230 phonebook has virtually unlimited capacity and functionality is certainly among the better we have totally up-to-date. Kinetic scrolling is enabled in the 5230 contact list and that's a welcome enhancement.

Contacts can be freely ordered by first or last name and can naturally be searched by gradual typing of any of the names. You can also set whether the contacts from the SIM card, the phone memory and the service numbers will get displayed.

When searching for a contact you make use of a clever dynamic keypad, which shows you only the letters that correspond to actual contacts. Once you type in a first letter, their number decreases leaving only the ones that actually make up real contacts names (in our case – “E” and “X”). A really convenient tool indeed.

Editing a contact offers a variety of preset fields and you can replicate each of them as many times as you like. You can also create new fields if you happen to be able to think of one. Personal ringtones and videos are also available for assigning. If you prefer, you may group your contacts and give each group a specific ringtone.

The Call log keeps track of your recent communications. The application itself comes in two flavors - accessed by pressing the Call key on the stand-by screen or from the main menu. The first one brings 20 call records in each of its tabs for outgoing, received and missed calls.

If you access the Log application from the main menu, you'll see a detailed list of all your network communications for the past 30 days. These include messages, calls and data transfers.

Telephony: smart-dial nowhere to be seen

Voice quality is good on both ends of calls, the earpiece sound is crisp and there were no reception problems whatsoever.

The only real downside is the still missing smart dialing functionality. Some may argue it's not as essential on a touchscreen but most of the competition has it duly covered. Not to mention WinMo devices have a very elaborate smart dial system that even searches in your Calls log for numbers that are not in your contacts list.

Voice dialing is an option with the Nokia 5230 as with mostly any other phone. The voice dialing mode is activated once you press and hold the Call key. It is fully speaker-independent and doesn't require pre-recording the names of your contacts. Bear in mind though, that if you have multiple numbers assigned to a contact, the first or the default one gets dialed.

Thanks to the built-in accelerometer, you can silence an incoming call (or an alarm) by simply flipping the handset over. Also when in calls, the proximity sensor makes sure the screen turns automatically off when you pick it up to your ear.

Using the hardware screen-lock switch you can not only unlock the phone but also silence it.

Unfortunately Nokia 5230 performed rather disappointingly in our traditional loudspeaker test. It ranks in the bottom end of our table , lower than any of the other Symbian S60 5th edition handsets that we have tested so far.
Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score

Nokia 5230 65.8 60.3 66.7 Below Average
Nokia 5800 XpressMusic 75.7 66.5 68.5 Good
Nokia 5530 XpressMusic 70.6 69.7 75.7 Good
LG KP500 Cookie 78.1 75.7 82.7 Excellent
Samsung S5230 Star 82.7 76.0 80.2 Excellent

More info on our test can be found here.

Touchscreen messaging quite adequate
Nokia 5230 supports all common message types - SMS, MMS and email. They all share a common intuitive editor which by this point should be quite familiar to everyone.

Delivery reports can be turned on - they pop up once the message reaches the addressee, and on the screen and are then saved in a separate folder in the messaging sub-menu. When you are exiting the message editor without having sent the message, you get prompted to save it in Drafts or discard it.

The email client is really nice, there to meet almost any emailing needs. The easy setup we found in the latest Nokia handsets is also available with the 5230. It has been touched here and there too, so it needs even less input.
If you are using any public email service (it has to be among the over 1000 supported providers), all you have to do is enter your username and password to start enjoying email on the go. The phone downloads all the needed settings to get you going in no time.

Besides, it now prompts choosing whether you prefer POP or IMAP access to mail providers that support both. With the previous version of the email setup wizard that was not configurable. Nicely done!
Multiple email accounts and various security protocols are supported, so you can bet almost any mail service will run trouble-free on your Nokia 5230.

The client can download headers only or entire messages, and can be set to automatically check mail at a given interval. A nice feature allows you to schedule sending email next time an internet connection is available. This can save you some data traffic charges since you can use the next available WLAN connection instead.
Here might just be the right time to mention the input options on Nokia 5230. The handset offers a standard alphanumeric on-screen keypad, which automatically turns into a full QWERTY keyboard when you tilt the handset thanks to the accelerometer. The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic didn't do that at first. doesn’t do that automatically and you need to select the full QWERTY keyboard option manually.

Finally, the Nokia 5230 offers handwriting recognition, which did a rather decent job, recognizing almost all the letters we scribbled in the box. You can improve its performance by taking the handwriting training - where you actually show the handset how you write each different letter.

Image gallery way too slow

The gallery of Nokia 5230 is nicely touch optimized and there are sweep gestures enabled for flipping through photos displayed fullscreen.
You can sort images by date, title or size and you can also copy, move and delete them. Sending them via Bluetooth, email, MMS or sharing them online is also available straight from here.

The default view is portrait but you can go to landscape automatically thanks to the built-in accelerometer. A slide show is also available but it doesn't have as many customizable settings as on some Nseries handsets.
You can also zoom in the photos to see more detail. Zoom is controlled via either the volume rocker or an on-screen touch slider. In all other cases, images are displayed full screen.

Probably the main problem of the gallery is its speed. Loading a picture takes a couple of seconds even for a 2 MP shot taken with the 5230 own camera. If you have a large amount of photos on your data card it might take ages before the thumbnails are generated.

At least the zooming and panning are a bit faster. However as we mentioned the kinetic scrolling implementation has its flaws as it doesn’t gain as much momentum as we would expect and stops too abruptly. That means that you will need several rapid screen to get from one end of an image to the other if you have zoomed in.

How about a new skin for the music player

Nokia 5230 music player is pretty functional but its design could use a little freshening up. With user friendliness such a key aspect of full touch phones, it would be nice from Nokia to add some fun to the mix.

Your music library is automatically sorted by artist, album, genre and or composer and searching tracks by gradual typing is available. You can also create your own playlists in no time.

The process of adding tracks to the library is as simple as choosing the refresh option. You won't need to do that if you upload the music via the proprietary PC Suite application. With the huge number of supported formats you will hardly ever come across an audio file that the phone won't handle. Album art is also supported and if you don't like the default sound of the device you can enhance it by applying one of the five equalizer presets and if they seem insufficient you can create new ones in a matter of seconds.

Quite naturally, the player can also be minimized to play in background. In this case a tab appears on the stand-by screen indicating the currently running track. You can pause the current track or skip to next/previous. Of course, you can go back to the full music player app using the dedicated Media key above the screen.

Perfect audio quality

Lately Nokia got us used to seeing top-notch audio quality even in low key handsets so we would let the 5230 escape with any less. But it even managed to outdo outr expectations, demonstrating the best audio output in the Nokia full touch family.
Each and every one of the Nokia 5230 readings is splendid, comparable to the best handsets we have tested. There is hardly much to comment here really as the handsets is so universally superbgood.

Here goes the table and the graph so you can see for yourselves what a talented singer this 5230 fella is.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Nokia 5230 +0.03, -0.05 -86.7 86.5 0.0033 0.016 -84.0
Nokia 5530 XpressMusic +0.11, -0.84 -90.9 90.8 0.010 0.454 -90.6
Nokia 5800 XpressMusic +0.09, -0.77 -92.2 92.1 0.013 0.297 -75.0
Nokia 5130 XpressMusic +0.04, -0.16 -89.9 89.0 0.0033 0.014 -83.6
Samsung S5230 Star +1.02, -2.41 -88.0 87.8 0.0045 0.222 -82.3
LG KP500 Cookie +0.13, -0.32 -87.5 81.9 0.125 0.150 -63.0
Apple iPhone 3GS +0.01, -0.05 -92.1 92.1 0.0035 0.011 -95.0

No DivX/XviD support plagues the video player

The ample screen makes watching a video on the Nokia 5230 generally a pleasure. However the lack of DivX and XviD codecs makes running one somewhat of a harder task.
Of course, you can use the Nokia PC suite built-in application that automatically converts all kinds of video files to the format and resolution your phone supports. The automatic converter though seems to compress the videos too much even at the highest quality setting and they look over pixilated but so far it's the easiest way of getting compatible video to your handset.

The video player itself only works in fullscreen landscape mode but, since anything else would have made the widescreen display useless, this is understandable. When in fullscreen, a tap on the screen shows the controls which are normally hidden.
Using the RealPlayer or the Video center (accessed by the Media key positioned above the display), you can not only watch the videos saved in the phone's memory or in the memory card but also to stream Internet video content. Of course, you can always go to directly.

FM radio with RDS

The FM radio on Nokia 5230 has a neat and simple interface and can automatically scan and save the available stations in your area. It also has RDS support and automatic scanning for an alternative frequency. This means that if you’re on the go, the 5230 should take care of auto-switching to the frequencies of your selected radio station.

The radio station name gets displayed with cool effects across the whole screen, while the rest of the RDS readings are printed in nicely legible text on a line at the bottom. Perhaps we would have preferred this font a bit larger, but it isn't that much of an issue.

The camera is not much of a feature

Nokia 5230 has a 2 MP camera with a maximum image resolution of 1600x1200 pixels. There’s no auto focus or LED flash. Hardly the dream of a photography enthusiast, right? Well, its performance isn’t anything to write home about either.

The camera UI is quite unfriendly with all settings squeezed in a common menu, which is no match for what some other manufacturers offer on their full-touch handsets (think Samsung for starters).

On the positive side, the range of settings on the Nokia 5230 is extensive enough: from manual white balance and ISO to exposure compensation, sharpness and contrast. Various effects are also at hand, labeled color tones and there is also geo-tagging.
The viewfinder doesn't occupy the whole screen - a bar on the right is reserved for the touch controls. This way you get to see the whole frame rather than having a part of it cropped due to the aspect differences of the display and the sensor.

You have a settings button that launches a semi-transparent overlay of all available shooting options and an on-screen shutter key. With the lack of auto focus you might as well use that last one just as successfully as the regular shutter key.

We didn’t have any great expectations about the image quality of Nokia 5230 and it turned out to be the right way to go. The amount of resolved detail is pretty low and the contrast of the photos is too low. And with the noise also pretty high you get the idea that you better use the Nokia 5230 camera for taking contact pics only.

VGA videos sound nice, look poor

Video recording is definitely the better part of the Nokia 5230 imaging skills. The phone can shoot VGA footage at 30fps. Quite good, considering the 2 MP still shots, right? Well in this price range, they're probably among the best you can get, but in general they are quite uninspiring. The relatively high compression applied results in too many artifacts and an unpleasant pixelated look. The often mistaken color balance doesn’t help much either.

Videos are captured in MPEG-4 format and can have automatic or manual white balance. The other available settings are night mode, exposure and color effects.

All connectivity lacks is Wi-Fi

The Nokia 5230 is pretty well-heeled in terms of connectivity. Wi-Fi is the only major omission, so if you don’t have a data plan you might be better off buying a Nokia 5530 XpressMusic.

If you go for 5230 however, you will certainly appreciate the network connectivity Nokia 5230 offers. There’s GPRS, EDGE and 3G with 3.6Mbps HSDPA onboard.
Local connectivity relies on USB v2.0 and Bluetooth. There’s also a memory card slot, which can usually give you the fastest data transfer rates. Unfortunately, USB charging via the USB port is not possible – not that there is a USB cable in the retail package.

Web browser still has some catching up to do

The S60 web browser is decently usable, especially now that is also offers kinetic scrolling. Yet there is quite a lot of work remaining before it is able to rival the best in class. The Andoird and iPhone browsers are miles ahead in terms of usability and user-friendliness. However we don’t Nokia particularly enjoys the role of also-runs so we expect them to do something about it in the near future.

But let’s not digress. The Nokia 5230 browser has good rendering algorithm, displaying most of the sites we visited correctly. It also offers some nice functionality such as different font sizes (5 options), auto fill-in of web forms and password manager.

The built-in RSS reader will handle your feeds, while the download manager allows you to download any kind of files while surfing. There's also a popup blocker, but bear in mind that you cannot open a new window in any other way but clicking a pop-up link. We'd have really preferred to see an option to open links in new window.

A minimap is available for finding your way around large pages and the Find on page feature allows you search for keywords. The visual history is a nice bonus that can help you find a page you've visited more easily. Finally, the web browser has support for Flash and Flash video, which means you can enjoy Flash videos straight in your browser.

One of the disadvantages of the web browser is concerning the kinetic scrolling - it is certainly a nice feature to have on board and all but its implementation in the web browser needs polishing. The scrolling is there but it lacks the momentum you see when scrolling listed items in the menu and you'll need several sweeps for even moderately-sized pages.

Besides, it gets pretty bumpy at times, instead of the smooth scrolling on some competitors. Fingers crossed that and the awkward process management will be addressed in a firmware update some time soon.

Continuing our grudges with the web browser, if you happen to be in portrait mode and choose the fit-to-width zoom level, the text does not automatically center onscreen. Instead you will have to align it manually, which is nonsense really.
Double tapping any text zooms it in on screen, but again, the text doesn't fit the zoomed area and you still need to scroll sideways.

So, generally speaking, the S60 touch-browser is going in the right direction but there's still a lot of work to be done to catch up with the rest. The improved usability is a nice start but it's nowhere near the iPhone or Android standards. The same goes for the resolution, which is a lot better than the QVGA non-touch predecessors but hardly a match for the WVGA.
Organizer misses a document viewer

The S60 5th edition organizer is pretty well geared although its applications are already in need of refreshment - especially on a touchscreen. Some of the apps are starting to look boring and dated, having the same interface for over 3 years now.
Just as with the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic and N97, developers were hesitant to put the touch input to some good usage and maybe some cool new features. They have only gone as far as to touch-optimize the S60 3rd edition apps.

The calendar has four different view modes - monthly, weekly, daily and a to-do list, which allows you to check all your To-Do entries regardless of their date. There are four types of events available for setting up - Meeting, Memo, Anniversary and To-do. Each event has unique fields of its own, and some of them allow an alarm to be activated at a preset time to act as a reminder.

Unfortunately, the Quickoffice application wasn't preinstalled on our Nokia 5230 nor was it available through the Nokia download center. Many users contacted us having the same problem with their 5530 XpressMusic units so we are guessing it is some kind of regional thing. However this doesn’t excuse Nokia even one bit as every smartphone needs to have a decent document viewer, if not even editor.

The calculator application is well familiar but it lacks the functionality of some of its competitors. The square root is the most complicated function it handles and this is no longer considered an achievement. If all you do with it is split the bill at the bar though, you're free to disregard that last sentence.

The organizer package also includes a great unit converter voice recorder, as well as the Notes application.
The alarm application allows you to set up as many alarms as you want, each with its own name, trigger day and repeat pattern. If this seems too complicated, there is a quick alarm setup where all you do is set the time and you're good to go. Thanks to the built-in accelerometer you can also snooze the alarm by simply flipping your phone.

GPS good to go
Nokia 5230 comes with a built-in GPS receiver and just like the one in 5800 XpressMusic it is a highly sensitive unit indeed.

The relatively large high-resolution screen sounds like a serious premise for reasonable use as a dedicated navigation unit. The 5230 comes with Ovi Maps 3.0 preinstalled. It offers extensive map coverage for free but you do need to pay for most of its extra features such as traffic information or city guides.

Unfortunately, the there is no starter voice guided navigation license included, unlike most other Nokia GPS-enabled devices recently. But that could be expected with that kind of a price tag.

If you prefer an alternative navigation software, you might want to carefully look around for a compatible version. Some sources suggest that the latest version of Garmin Mobile XT is compatible with S60 5th edition, but we can’t confirm or deny it.
The touch-enabled Ovi Maps application itself is doing pretty well in terms of features too. It has four different view modes including satellite and hybrid maps. Those however do need an internet connection as you cannot upload them through you computer using the Map Loader app. The more regular 2D and 3D view modes are also at hand.

Ovi Maps is also usable for pedestrian navigation or you can switch the GPS receiver off and use the phone as an electronic map.
The overall impression with GPS navigation on Nokia 5230 is very positive but, having in mind that a 1-year voice-guided navigation costs about a third of the price of the handset, we are not sure whether many people will go for that. But who knows - with an ample screen like that it might easily replace some standalone SatNav units.

Final words

It may as well have been a matter of routine and habit, but Nokia have achieved another of their goals. The 5230 is ready to take on a segment that’s virtually free of smartphone competition. Giving customers another option is always welcome and it gets even better when the minimal R&D costs result in a welcoming price tag.
Nokia 5230 is the cheapest of them S60 touchscreen phones but quite a few users will be willing to consider it against the Nokia 5530. The larger screen and the added HSDPA and GPS connectivity are more than welcome, especially if your data plan is good enough to make Wi-Fi nonessential.

Essentially, the Nokia 5230 and 5530 XpressMusic are near equivalent options – it’s a matter of balancing your needs – whether it’s WI-Fi or GPS with fast HSDPA data transfers. The downgraded camera will count of course but imaging has never been a great asset in the 5800 or the 5530 XpressMusic in the first place.

None of this is to say of course that the Nokia 5800 and 5530 are not worth their money. Right on the opposite, the trio will be topping the bang-for-buck list of quite a number of users. If you can live with the software limitations the raw hardware is all there and gets the job done. The S60 touch UI is not the best piece of software money can buy, but it is near impossible to find a contemporary full-touch smartphone for this kind of cash.

Let’s have a brief look at the competition’s workforce in this price range.
Samsung are constantly updating their lineup of full-touch phones and they have quite a few handsets to offer. The Samsung S5600 Preston, S5230 Star WiFi and M5650 Lindy all cost about the same and have comparable connectivity features.

None of those handsets however can't beat the level of versatility a smartphone can offer. Screen size and resolution are also in favor of Nokia.
Those handsets are designed to compete against each another but seem unprepared to handle an attack by affordable touchscreen smartphones. This of course is the geek’s point of view, and smartphones are simply not everyone’s cup of tea. But Nokia’s expansion in the lower touchscreen market is nonetheless threatening. The Finns are hoping to gain from giving users the luxury to “go smart” without charging a premium price for that.


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