Nokia's nifty music phone

The Nokia 5300 does a great job of integrating top-notch music features into a capable handset

I've spent the last few days testing out the Nokia 5300 XpressMusic Phone, and have come away very impressed by its music features. Like the Sony Ericsson W810, the Nokia 5300 does a great job of integrating top-notch music features into a capable handset.

The Nokia 5300 been available since late last year in an unlocked version, but this week T-Mobile announced that it will be offering the phone starting later this month. That will bring the price down significantly: an unlocked handset will cost you about US$300, while T-Mobile is offering the phone for US$99 with a two-year contract.

That's a reasonable price for a phone that can double as a digital audio player. The 5300 is a slider-style handset; when closed, it looks more like a music player than a cell phone. It features external music controls that sit to the left of the big 2-inch display. These keys let you scroll through your music collection or play and pause tracks. Volume keys sit on the right side of the handset.

The phone's music player is very user-friendly. You can quickly scroll through your music library, which is organized by artists, albums, genres, composers, or playlists. The phone ships with a USB cable for transferring tunes from your PC; it also includes Nokia's Music Manager software for organizing your music library. While the desktop software isn't as intuitive as the phone's on-board music player, it is still relatively easy to use. It scans your PC for audio files and lets you transfer the ones you'd like to your phone with one click. (The phone includes a 1GB microSD card for storing tunes.) You can also use the Music Manager app to delete songs from the phone and to create playlists, which you can't do on the phone itself.

Audio quality won't rival that of your iPod, but it's better than we've heard on most music phones, both via the included 2.5mm headphones and the external speaker. Songs occasionally sounded tinny when played over the speaker, but overall it's very good.

The phone also includes a 1.3-megapixel camera, built-in Bluetooth, and support for e-mail and IM. And, don't forget, the Nokia 5300 makes calls, too. If you're in the market for a new phone, this one is worth a look.

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Liane Cassavoy

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