Mini-Review of the Nokia 3205


The Nokia 3205 is the first Nokia CDMA phone to be offered by Telus PCS since the ill-fated 6188. While that phone eventually proved itself to be a solid choice with later firmware upgrades, the damage to the Telus-Nokia relationship had already been done. There are many Nokia fans out there who are cheering that the relationship has finally been patched up.

Last Updated: 22-Nov-2004

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

Also read Comparing performance of Telus PCS Phones.

General

I already knew that the 3205 had a funky keypad, and seeing it in person didnít do anything to improve my option of the design. I have to admit that tactile feedback and overall operation of the keys is exemplary, but I just couldnít seem to wrap my head around keys I had press at the top or at the bottom to get the functionality I wanted. While you can probably get used to anything (I know someone who goes around challenging others to write text messages faster than he can on his Nokia 3650ís round keypad), I think that the keypad is going to put off quite a few buyers.

Nothing else about the physical design of this candy bar phone is contentious, however. Itís solidly constructed, with good fit-and-finish, a nice feel when pressed against the ear, and feels good in the hand. The one I saw had a see-through faceplate and backing, and so it was hard to say anything one way or another about the styling. Itís not going to win any awards for clever design, but it shouldnít turn anyone off of it either (the keypad notwithstanding).

RF Performance and Audio Quality

As this is only a mini-review, the primary focus is the RF performance and audio quality. Along as references were the Ericsson T206 and the Kyocera Blade, both of which have reputations for possessing the best RF sensitivity of any Telus PCS phones that Iíve thus far tested. We used the Hall of Shame at Square One to perform the primary comparisons, but we confirmed the behavior at other weak signal locations around the mall.

The Nokia 3205 performed exceptionally well, but sadly it didnít quite match the stellar performance of the T206 or the Blade. Donít get me wrong, it was a photo-finish, but the Ericsson and Kyocera phones simply held onto the signal longer, and could place calls more readily in weak-signal conditions. As Iíve noted many times before however, there can be slight variations from one example of a phone to another, which means it possible that another 3205 might even have beaten its older competitors. Or then again, it may have done worse.

I also got to test over-the-road performance, which I rarely get a chance to do in a mini-review. Fortunately the owner of the 3205 had no problem driving me around a challenging loop near the mall so that I could compare the three phones under severe conditions. The Blade was clearly the worst, once again exhibiting the same inability to cope with network problems as it had last year when Iíd done a long-term test on one. The T206 was quite good, but it wasnít quite as good as the 3205. The Nokia chipset clearly does a superb job of making frame errors and other network problems almost inaudible. I believe that this facet of the phone more than makes up for a slightly-less-sensitive receiver.

In terms of incoming sound quality the 3205 is a mixed bag, much like the Nokia 3586i that I tested last year. In terms of tonal balance the 3205 is clearly the winner, with a much more natural balance than the boomy-sounding T206 or Blade. On the other hand, the 3205 produces far more audio distortion than the other two phones, both of which do an excellent job of sound reproduction. Itís a bit of a toss-up which failing is worse, but in the end it will likely come down to YOUR personal preference. Too bad the 3205 isnít great at both aspects, in which case it would be the best-sounding CDMA phone Iíve ever tested.

Earpiece volume is a bit disappointing compared to the Blade, which is at least 4 to 5 dB louder. The T206 is also louder, but to a lesser degree. This isnít to say that the 3205 is too faint to be useable, but it could certainly do with being a bit louder. This is especially true then the background noise becomes exceeding loud.

The speakerphone feature doesnít seem to suffer from the same problem. The dinky little speaker on the 3205 is more than capable of belting out surprisingly loud audio (though no one would describe it as sounding great). Just the same, the volume and passable clarity are more than enough to make this the most useable speakerphone Iíve encountered on any CDMA phone thus far.

Outgoing sound quality is quite good, but not quite as good I remember noting of the Kyocera Slider on Bell Mobility. Just the same, the phone is markedly better than the T206 or the Blade in this respect. My test was under rather severe circumstances, and in more moderate conditions the phone sounds very good, with great tonal balance and clarity.

So there you have it. The 3205 exhibits excellent over-the-road RF performance, excellent tonal balance, and almost top-notch RF sensitivity. All of which should be enough to convince anyone, but unfortunately I fall short of unconditionally recommending the 3205 because of the audio distortion issue. As I noted already, this is the same problem I had with 3586i on Bell last year.

Some people may find that they arenít sensitive to the distortion, or they may simply not care. If you can honestly say that you are one of these people, then the 3205 is, without question, the best-performing phone presently offered by Telus PCS. For those who ARE sensitive to this distortion, they may not be quite so impressed.

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