Review of the Nokia 1600


The Nokia 1600 is a basic no-nonsense low-end phone offered by 7-11 on their Speakout Wireless service. Thereís no camera, no MP3 player, and no expansion memory slot, but thereís plenty of features for those looking for just-a-phone.

 

The 1600 is available on 7-11.

Last Updated: 27-Jun-2007

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

RF Performance

RF Sensitivity: This is one area where the Nokia 1600 really shines. I compared it against the Siemens A56, which is a phone with an excellent reputation for good RF sensitivity. Most phones that I rate highly usually match the performance of the A56, or beat it ever so slightly. The 1600 however, actually beat the A56 by enough to be quite noticeable.

I ran the tests in a couple of known weak spots for Rogers inside of Square One shopping mall in Mississauga. The first was in the lower level of Sears, which is a great place to test the performance of phones at 850 MHz. I was able to take the 1600 into places on the lower level of Sears and maintain reasonable call quality where the A56 broke up or even dropped the call.

My second test location was in the Z-shaped hallway that connects between the underground section of the mall (between Sears and Zellers) and the main hallway. At the second elbow in that hall the signal on all networks gets extremely weak (especially Rogers), but coverage there is predominantly from 1900 MHz indoor repeaters and itís a good place to test 1900 MHz performance of phones. Once again, the 1600 bested the A56 by a reasonably wide margin.

Over-the-road Performance: I was actually quite impressed with the 1600ís ability to tame network maladies during numerous over-the-road tests. Handoffs were usually quite tame, and the phone did a good job of keeping everything nice and clean. It wasnít quite up to the level of the recently-tested Sony-Ericsson z710i, though the handoffs were slightly less ďobviousĒ than on the SE model.

Compared to other Nokia models, the 1600 is among the best they make for this particular aspect of performance. Coupled with the phoneís excellent RF sensitivity, there is no question that this model is a definite winner when it comes to overall RF prowess.

Click on this link for a full description of RF Performance, and how to interpret it.

Audio Performance

Tonal Balance: While admittedly far short of the best sounding phones Iíve ever tested, the overall tonal balance of the 1600 was very easy on the ears, if a tad shallow-sounding (that is, it lacked any low end that gives other phones a rich tonal quality). Throughout much of my testing I found the sound to be reasonably well-balanced with very little harshness. However, the lack of richness was a bit of a letdown given the excellent performance up to this point.

Sound Reproduction: Like tonal balance, the ability of the phone to reproduce the nuances of speech is quite good, but not quite stellar. Part of the problem is a detectable background hiss that seems to change somewhat with the overall sound. In other words, it isnít just hiss, but a distortion in the sound that takes away from overall clarity. Still, it outranks quite a few more expensive phones on the market, and so given the low-end roll in life, itís hard to find fault here.

Earpiece Volume: Sadly the earpiece volume is only adequate in many circumstances, and rather faint in others. Not only is the maximum volume of this phone mediocre, but the volume boost feature seems reluctant to kick in when you need it. At first I wasnít even sure there was a volume boost feature, but I finally found conditions that would trigger it. I personally wish Nokia would just provide more overhead in their volume settings rather than relying on this method of compensating for loud conditions. It can get annoying when the phone constantly raises and lowers the volume.

If you call a loud source (like the Speakout Wireless customer service front end) the phone sounds quite loud, but once you call other people, especially those with faint voices or faint phones, the lack of earpiece volume is quite noticeable.

Outgoing Audio: The overall quality of the outgoing sound (when there is no background noise present) is quite nice, but hardly terrific. Like the incoming audio, it is a bit shallow-sounding. When background noise is present the phone lacks any real noise cancelling attributes, but itís no worse than any other Nokia is this regard.

During tests at a noisy food court I found that my voice was still quite audible above the background din, but the overall quality of the sound was noticeably poorer under those conditions. Iíve tested plenty of phones that can greatly reduce the background noise without doing much (if any) damage to the outgoing sound quality.

During tests on the highway with the windows open I found that the phone transmitted quite a bit of that noise to the caller. During the extreme pass-a-tractor-trailer-with-the-window-down test, I found it impossible to hear my voice at all. Other phones Iíve tested have handled this severe condition well.

Speakerphone: As Iíve noted before, some Nokia phones end up with a pathetically faint speaker, while others get a really loud one. In stark contrast to the earpiece volume, the speakerphone on the 1600 is surprisingly loud. The overall quality of the sound is a bit tinny, but itís very clear and easy to use in quiet to moderately-noisy environments.

Click on this link for a full description of Audio Performance, and how to interpret it.

Support Features

Ringer Volume: As with most Nokias that include the loud sounder for the speakerphone, the volume of the ringtones is quite good. It isnít Motorola-iDEN-phone-loud, but if you pick your ringtones correctly you should be able to hear it over most noisy backgrounds.

Keypad Design: Even though the 1600 uses an odd arrangement of having 2 vertical keys on the same physical key (that rocks up and down), the overall feel and layout of the keypad is actually pretty traditional otherwise. Tactile feel is consistent and a groove down the middle of the connected keys makes it possible to feel the difference between them without looking. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of keys that are side-by-side. Because of this the keypad is still pretty much unusable without looking at it.

The 4-way cursor key is a bit better than average when it comes to feel and accuracy, but there is no center-press functionality to select an item once youíve scrolled to it.

Display: The display is among the smallest and lowest-resolution of any phone Iíve tested recently. Itís only 68 x 96 pixels, and while Nokia boasts 65,000 colors, thatís hardly a consolation, since you wonít be looking at photographs on it. However, given the phoneís mission in life as a low-end no-nonsense phone, the screen resolution (or lack thereof) hardly seems much of a concern.

Conclusions

While this is hardly one of the best Nokias Iíve ever tested, it has very little wrong with it and as a low-end starter phone its tough to beat. It has excellent RF characteristics, reasonable audio quality, a great speakerphone, and reasonably loud ringtones. Itís certainly one of the best phones presently sold by 7-11, and given its mission in life you would be hard pressed to find a better phone for the same money.

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