So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- MP3 functionality is well implemented, 512MB card included
- Irritating thumbstick, Quite slow
As a media player and camera, the 3250 is a pretty good device, but its phone functionality leaves a little to be desired thanks to an awkward and slightly sluggish interface.
Price$ 649.00 (AUD)
Nobody can accuse Nokia of a lack of innovation. Their Nokia 3250 music phone incorporates a twisting, almost Rubix Cube-like design which houses the regular phone keypad on one side, a camera in the middle and music controls on the rear. It is a unique and functional design that will appeal to those wanting something a little different. The music and camera applications are quite well implemented; however as a phone this unit has several problems, ranging from poor controls through to sluggish operation and a menu structure that only previous Nokia users will likely appreciate.
The key feature of this model is its music player. The rotating keypad flips one way to activate the camera and the other to reveal play/pause, stop and track skip buttons, and automatically fire up the music application. While it is a cool and quite unique way of integrating MP3 functionality, we can't help but think it is a little clunky. In the end it is easier to simply hit a button that activates the music software and have the media keys on the face or sides, such as Sony Ericsson's set up on their Walkman line of phones.
Once you get into the software however, there is plenty to like about Nokia's MP3 interface. There are a huge variety of options, including loop and repeat modes, equalizer presets, bass boost, reverb and stereo enhancement that make the sound a little more robust. We found the sound quality to be quite good, on par with competing models from Motorola and Sony Ericsson, and this was assisted by the excellent included earbuds. Pre-packaged earbuds regularly offer disappointing sound quality, and those bundled with mobile phones usually even more so, so it was a great surprise to find Nokia's product presented clear, balanced sound with a good level of detail and reasonably full bass. They are connected to the phone via a 3.5mm adapter cable which also sports an external remote, allowing you to control your music with the phone still in your pocket. We'd still recommend you use a third party pair of headphones for better quality music, but the average listener will not be disappointed with the included model. Nokia also offer all the usual sorting options (artist, genre etc) as well as the ability to make playlists, and the device supports a wide variety of file formats such as MP3, eAAC+, AAC+, M4A, MIDI, RealPlayer and WMA.
Furthermore, Nokia has done their users a great service by making the 3250 completely drag and drop. You have the option of converting your music to several formats and uploading it through the Nokia PC Suite software package, but as this phone appears as a mass storage device, you can also simply drag and drop your files across. However we did have one issue with this; your music doesn't show up on the phone straight away. It took us at least five minutes to delve through the menu and work out we had to hit 'update music library' before the tracks would appear on the phone. The interface is also a little slow, taking a second or two to change songs and respond to other basic tasks.
This speed issue is also noticeable when navigating the main phone interface, and is one of our biggest complaints with this model. The phone runs on a Series 60 Symbian operating system, and the phone feels quite sluggish at times. It can take a second or two for basic menu items to load and we experienced several longer periods of slow down when starting different applications. It wasn't as slow as some smart phones we've looked at recently, but in comparison to other music phones in this category it didn't perform as well.
We also found the interface to be unnecessarily complex. It is Nokia's standard menu, so regular Nokia users will be quite at home, but those coming from another company's phone may struggle. It is broken down into so many sections, with so many tiers that we found it troublesome to find basic things. The best example of this was when we spent five minutes hunting through the menu to change our ring style and volume, only to discover you can only do this through the profiles tab (most other phones just have it in 'settings'). It is fairly standard aesthetically with a square grid of icons and tabbed menus; however it isn't nearly as lively or colourful as those produced by some competing companies.
Our interface problems were exacerbated by the extremely irritating joystick Nokia has implemented on the 3250. You navigate by moving it on its two axes and push down on it to select. Unfortunately though, it is just a few millimetres tall and extremely stiff, meaning you constantly wind up selecting instead of moving in the direction you intended. Not an hour went past where we didn't find ourselves cursing at our phone because we'd wound up in the wrong part of the menu yet again. The keys are also laid out in a rather strange manner, with the menu button crammed into the left hand side, next to the answer and selection buttons.
Joystick aside, we found the rest of the controls rather responsive. The keypad is right down the very bottom of the unit, and requires a bit of a stretch of the thumb to use properly, but once you get the hang of it messaging is smooth and quick. The keypad's rather diminutive size means there is ample room for a big screen, and Nokia's 2.2in 176x208 pixel LCD accommodates, however on a multimedia handset like this we'd really have liked a better quality display. We found it to be a little dull and lacking the vibrancy of other company's handsets, and the new Symbian OS is really designed to take advantage a higher resolution screen.
Apart from the rotating keypad, the 3250 bears a fairly standard candy bar design. It is a little larger than music models from other companies, although not quite as chunky as Nokia's new N91. The glossy plastic finish is quite sturdy but does have a habit of picking up excessive finger prints.
As stated, in addition to activating the MP3 player the twist functionality has a second purpose; by rotating it 45 degrees you can activate the camera. The two megapixel sensor rests on the bottom left hand corner and by turning the handset you wind up with it facing outwards and the screen facing you, much like a regular digital camera. The media keys run along the top and acts as shutter and zoom controls. It has a fairly standard array of imaging options, including three white balance presets, night mode, digital zoom and colour options such as sepia and black and white. The image quality was decent for a 2.0 megapixel camera, but not particularly impressive. There were high levels of noise which really contributed to a lack of sharpness and an overall grainy look. Nokia include a 512MB MicroSD card in the sales package, which is a great addition for a multimedia phone of this nature. It allows you to store large quantities of photographs and MP3s right out of the box. This card can be upgraded to a 1GB capacity if you so desire.
All the usual PIM functions are included such as calendar, calculator, notebook, converter and world clock, and these are supported by both Bluetooth and USB connectivity. MMS messaging is available with T9 predictive text input also a standard feature.
Nokia quote the battery life at three hours talk time and 10 days stand-by, which is about average for a phone of this type. When playing music however this drops to 10 hours. We found we had to charge the phone every two days with moderate music and general usage. Call quality was crisp and clear, with good volume at the highest setting.
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