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Not a smartphone, but pretty clever

MSNBC's Gary Krakow looks at Nokia's 5300 XpressMusic handset and finds both a terrific phone and portable MP3 music device.
T Mobile and Nokia team up with the 5300 XpressMusic phone which seems to be pretty good at everything it does.
T Mobile and Nokia team up with the 5300 XpressMusic phone which seems to be pretty good at everything it does.Nokia

These days, it’s usually the brand-new smartphones that people talk about.  You know which ones I mean — the handsets that can handle your e-mail, text messages, portable Web browsing, casual photography and — yes — also handle your cell phone calls.

But there are lots of people who don’t need smartphones. Nor do they want to settle for 'dumbphones.' They want flexible handsets with loads of features.  Luckily, these devices are getting better and better every year.

Take, for example, the new Nokia 5300 XpressMusic phone from T Mobile. It’s not a smartphone, but it's pretty clever.

The 5300 is a slide open, tri-band GSM/GPRS world phone. It has lots of features built inside — including a 1.3 megapixel camera for stills and video (8x digital zoom), Bluetooth wireless technology, XHTML Web browsing, instant messaging, a great 320-by-240-pixels color display, calculator, calendar and alarm clock, games, voice recording and voice dialing.

The 5300 is called the MusicXpress for a reason. It’s also an excellent portable music device.  The 5300 comes with a 1GB mini-SD storage card for up to 750 songs. You can also purchase a 2GB card to store up to 1,500 songs.

The player handles several compressed music formats. It also handles MP3 ringtones, video ringtones, True tones, plus MIDI ringtones, alert and gaming tones. You can download music from the Web and/or sync it with your PC to load files using Nokia’s Audio Manager. If and when you get bored with your stored music you can listen to the built-in FM radio through a headset.

Little speaker, big sound
What surprised me was the sound coming from this little phone. I know there’s only a tiny little speaker inside — and the sound is forced out of a few tiny little holes on the phone’s back cover. But the sound quality coming from the 5300 is pretty amazing. To take it to the next level you can plug in your own set of earphones (2.5mm connection) or try Nokia’s cordless, Bluetooth stereo headset. All in all, quite an impressive little music device.

The 5300 is a little jewel. It measures 3.64 by 1.9 by 0.81 inches and weighs less than 4 ounces. It slides open and closes precisely and effortlessly. Battery life with the standard cell pack is estimated at 3.2 hours of talk and up to 9 days of standby time — depending, of course, on how much you use the music, camera and all the other features.

All the controls for both the phone and especially the dedicated keys for the music player are logically placed exactly where you want them: Play/stop, forward and back buttons on the left and volume up and down on the right. You can also control the music player with the 4-way pointing device right under the screen. All in all a very well-thought-out design. The phone itself worked flawlessly too.

T-Mobile is currently selling the 5300 MusicExpress for about $100 after discounts and rebates. That price is dependant, of course, on signing up for a service contract. 

Overall, the 5300 is a great little phone with a terrific sounding music player built inside. Plus, it’s reasonably priced. Highly recommended.