Everybody has a cellphone that can play music. A few weeks ago, on a moonlit night by the side of the Chandra-Bhaga river in the magnificent Pangi Valley region of Himachal Pradesh, I was in the company of fellow motorcyclists recuperating from the bruising ride back from Ladakh on the Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey. The road ahead was blocked by a landslide and we were camped in a pine forest on the river banks. As such evenings progressed, we were raucous or mellow depending on our choice of intoxicant and the chiaroscuro play of the moonlight on the dancing water beside us and the soaring mountains casting a magical spell. Music was the only missing ingredient, so out came the cellphones and assorted playlists. So we had the Motorolas, Nokias, Sony Ericssons, Samsungs and BlackBerrys displaying their musical talents, albeit through their tinny, little onboard speakers (tip: Putting a phone inside an empty glass makes for a significant leap in sound quality). On such an evening, the Nokia 5700 Xpress Music phone would have completely overshadowed its competitors.
The Nokia 5700 is a smartphone sold under the XpressMusic sub-brand, which emphasizes music and multimedia playback. The 5700 weighs in at 115g, liveried in glossy white plastic. My review unit had a red matte plastic mid-section. There is a rubber flap on the right hand side which covers a microSD hotswap card slot, USB port and charging jack.
The keypad is unusual, intuitive, innovative and useful—it can be twisted to four different positions, each accessing a specific function of the 5700. Twisting the music controls 180º to the front turns the 5700 into a dedicated music player. Twisting the lens away from you activates the camera and twisting the camera towards you makes it a very convenient videophone or video diary camcorder. The 5700 has a joystick and, as joysticks go, the 5700’s is perfectly adequate. Personally, I would have preferred the silky smooth trackball that is on my BlackBerry Pearl, but that is due to my own dislike of phone joysticks in general that seem to be the first thing to go south. The 5700’s playback controls are excellent and they are easy to use. The excellent QVGA (240x320) 16-million colour screen is clear and snappy, with a sensor that adjusts the lighting depending on ambient light. Battery life is decent and I used the 5700 as my main phone and found I had to recharge it every couple of days.
The 5700 is a Quadband (850/900/1800/1900) GSM and 3G phone, and it is up to the usual high Nokia standards. The 5700 has a speakerphone mode, and also supports all current Bluetooth headset profiles, including A2DP stereo. It seems increasingly likely that soon almost all new Bluetooth-compatible phones will support A2DP and it is time for GG to shop around for a stereo Bluetooth headset. The 5700 has built-in stereo speakers, which are mounted along the left side of the phone in music mode, but spread on the left and right sides of the phone in normal mode. The speakers are pretty loud but, as with all phone speakers, they are tinny and lack bass. However, it was a snap to pair the 5700 with my Vu Bluetooth speakers in the office.
The music player is compatible with a wide range of audio standards and you can transfer tracks using the Nokia Music Manager or Windows Media Player or use my preferred method of drag-and-drop tracks from my iTunes library via USB into the 5700’s Music folder. The 5700 has a hotswap microSD memory card slot which can use cards with a capacity of up to 2 GB. What is puzzling is that there is no built-in 3.5mm headphone socket. This is by far the most common standard for headphones and audio cables, and although the 3.5mm adapter is perfectly good, it is still another bit of kit that you have to remember to take with you. Sound quality is very good on the 5700, although it is largely determined by how good your headphones are. I ditched the supplied earbuds for my favourite pair of Bose in-ear earphones and was much happier for it.
The 5700 has an FM radio tuner, which requires headphones or external speakers to be plugged in to act as the aerial. The 5700 also supports Visual Radio if you have access to it—I don’t. The built-in RealPlayer application handles video playback, and you can twist the keypad round so that the 5700 stands horizontally on a tabletop, automatically putting the video player into full-screen horizontal mode. Video quality on the built-in player is excellent, and the camera can also shoot video at 320x240 pixels, the resolution of YouTube videos. The 2-megapixel still camera takes pretty average pictures, but I had a lot of fun using the Panorama mode which helps you take two photos and stitch them together.
The 5700’s browser is the standard Nokia S60 OSS browser, and you can visit most HTML and Flash-based sites, provided you remember to switch on the Flash support in Settings, although some processor-intensive features, such as watching YouTube videos, simply will not work. The other hitch is that there is no option to work in horizontal mode (320x240) as well as vertical mode (240x320).
Clearly, the ultra-slim Razr loyalists and the Wi-Fi and DVD-quality shooting N Series aficionados will not be won over by the chubby 5700, but at a price of Rs14,399, this here is a damn fine phone that smartly and innovatively achieves its stated goal of being a music and multimedia player. It does not have every smartphone feature, and its relatively low price tag reflects this. The 5700 also isn’t going to be bought by people who want phones to look very serious and business-like, but many of us don’t want serious-looking phones but a quirky one with lots of character, which the Nokia 5700 has in abundance.
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