Review of the Nokia 5130 XpressMusic


I had the opportunity of testing the 5130 along side of the Motorola W233, which was rather fortuitous because both phones have very similar feature sets and are aimed at the same general audience. This of course disregards the claims made by Motorola that the W233 is a carbon-neutral ďgreenĒ phone. My review is not concerned with such things and is, as always, focused on the performance of the phone.

 

Available through Rogers and 7-11.

Last Updated: 10-Aug-2009

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

Both phones are simple 2G models that provide minimal data features, but boast music-playing capabilities and they both support MicroSD cards to provide storage for a large number of MP3 files.

Note that because of the strong similarities of these two phones, and because the reviews were written at the same time, I have cut-and-paste many of the remarks from one review to the other. If you read both reviews youíll get a feeling of dťjŗ vu, but rest assured that the import facts concerning each phone are accurate and unique to each model where applicable. However, both phones are remarkably similar beyond their basic feature sets.

RF Performance

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

RF Sensitivity: (A+) Tests of the 5130 were performed in the hallways of Square One in Mississauga, where the signal on Rogers 2G network could be faded to non-existence to get a feel for the ability of a phone to hang on to the signal. At Square One both the 5130 and the W233 performed identically and they managed to work in places previous phones had not.

However, I was unable to compare them with my Nokia N95, because the N95 with Rogers firmware couldnít be forced into 2G mode. 3G coverage inside of Square One is superior to 2G coverage, and so no comparisons between the performances of phones operating on the difference networks could be made.

I next went to the Ikea store in the south end of Etobicoke. This particular store is well-known for blocking out signals from all of the networks and furthermore the 2G performance on Rogers is actually better there than on 3G. That meant I could easily get the N95 to switch to 2G on its own accord, thus allowing me to compare it to the 5130 and W233.

The results of this test were a bit puzzling. While the 5130 and W233 once again came out neck-and-neck, the comparison to the N95 was a mixed bag. The N95 could more readily find and lock onto 2G signals, plus it could more readily complete calls when the signal was weak. However, once the call was underway the 5130 and the W233 could maintain more stable audio than the N95.

The bottom line is that the 5130 appears to have excellent RF sensitivity and will provide service where other phones struggle (with the exception of the W233 that is, which provides virtually identical performance).

Over-the-road Performance: (B+) When it comes to this aspect of performance however, the 5130 clearly takes a back seat to the W233. What really ruined the experience for me were the quite-audible clicking sounds heard at virtually each handoff.

This isnít to say that handoff performance on the 5130 is poor, for indeed it is not. Iíve tested many Nokia 2G models in the past that have performed worse than this. However, compared to the clean rock-solid performance of the Motorola W233, it is hard to see the 5130 in quite the same light.

Nonetheless, despite its loss to the W233, the over-the-road performance of the 5130 is still very good, it just isnít excellent.

Audio Performance

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

Tonal Balance: (A-) Like many Nokia phones of the last few years the 5130 provides pretty decent tonal balance, but it lacks the truly rich sound that Iíve heard from other phones in the past. It beats the W233 quite strongly in category because it has a slightly richer sound and the audio is in no way muddy. Youíll find the over tonal quality of the 5130 to be quite good for most calls.

Sound Reproduction: No problems here. The 5130 has very low levels of hiss and excellent reproduction of the nuances of speech. However, it wasnít stellar as Iíve found in a few Sony-Ericsson models in the past.

Earpiece Volume: (A-) Like virtually all Nokia models of the last 5 years or so the 5130 has fairly decent earpiece volume under normal conditions, but then the volume is boosted whenever the phone detects that there is a lot of background noise where you are. When the volume boost kicks in the 5130 gets to be plenty loud, but not quite as loud as the W233. To be fair however, the W233 is strikingly loud and is a standout in this category. The 5130 is more than loud enough under severe conditions.

The only fly-in-the-ointment here is that the earpiece has a very pronounced sweet spot. That means you must press the phone to your ear in exactly the right place to prevent your ear from blocking out the sound. This sort of things is very annoying, especially for new users of the phone who may not realize there is a sweet spot and just assume the phone has poor earpiece volume.

Outgoing Audio: (C-) The 5130 sounded pretty darned good when there was no background noise, but like many Nokia models Iíve tested over the last few years it copes poorly with loud background noises. In the tests I performed at the crowded food court at Square One, and the tests made on the highway with the windows cranked down, the 5130 made no attempt to suppress the noise. Especially on the highway, the 5130 makes it quite tough for your callers to understand what you say. The 5130 performs much worse the Nokia N95, which seems to apply a noticeable degree of noise cancellation (though certainly not as much as the Motorola W233).

Speakerphone: (B-) The single back-mounted speaker of the 5130 provides fairly decent reproduction of MP3 files (if you insist on playing that way) and it also provides reasonable sound quality for phone calls. The lack of sympathetic vibrations in the housing makes it useable for a conversation if there isnít much background noise. This compares favorably to the W233, which provides very poor audio quality.

Support Features

Ringer Volume: (B-) To test this feature I uploaded my standard Loud Ring MP3 file into the phone and I compared its volume to that of the N95 (which has a very loud ringer indeed). If the N95 represents a 10, then the 5130 is at least an 8. That puts it slightly ahead of the W233, though both phones do a fairly good job in this respect.

Keypad Design: (C+) The keypad of the 5130 is laid out in a fairly traditional manner, but at the same time the keys are flush and they lack any tactile distinction. This forces you to look at the keypad while dialing and there is a strong likelihood that youíll press the incorrect key. However, during use I found keypad accuracy to be fairly good, but I still found it very annoying to use. It made the N95 keypad seem almost stellar by comparison, and the N95 is hardly a model of excellence in this category.

Display: (A-) The 5130 wins big in this category with a lovely 320 x 240 pixel display that just screams quality, especially compared to the tiny low-res screen provided on the W233. One might argue that the W233 doesnít need this sort of screen because it doesnít have a camera, whereas the 5130 does. Beyond that however, the overall crispness and readability of the 5130 screen was excellent and it made the W233 look like a throwback to the old days.

Unfortunately the screen is nearly impossible to see in direct sunlight. This no worse than the W233, but it compares poorly with the type of screen used on the N95, which can reflect sunlight and provide a readable (though washed-out) view of the display.

Icing on the Cake

Camera:
(C+) The camera on the 5130 is a fairly pedestrian 2 megapixel unit with average image quality. Fortunately it doesnít suffer from the problem that plagued many Nokia models a few years ago, in which grey looked green and there wasnít much you do to fix it after the fact. The color on the 5130 camera is about what youíd expect. So, while you could use this camera to take the occasional snapshot when you didnít have your full-fledged digital camera with you, itís really meant for taking photos to be viewed on the phoneís excellent 320 x 240 screen.

The delay time after taking a photograph is excruciating. I donít know if this is because the phone has a really slow processor or what it is, but expect to wait 4 to 5 seconds after taking a shot before it completes the processing.

Music Player: (A-) This particular feature is really the high point of the phone, given that it carries the XpressMusic name. Itís a much more capable player than the one found on the Motorola W233. The speaker does a fairly good job of playing the audio, but itís only in mono and of course there is no bass whatsoever. In a pinch (when you donít have a stereo headset with you), the overall quality of the built-in speaker is good enough to allow you to listen to music through it. It has more volume and somewhat better tonal quality than the W233.

Another thing that makes the 5130 music player better than the W233 player is that the 5130 has a standard 3.5 mm headset jack. This means you can use any stereo headset you like. The W233 uses a proprietary 4-pin 2.5 mm jack that requires you use Motorola-provided headsets, or a bulky adapter.

Operating System: (A-) The Series 40 operating system in the 5130 is nicely designed and itís loaded with features. It is light years better than the operating system in the Motorola W233, and so if this is an important feature to you, the 5130 is definitely the way to go. However, if you are really serious about having a flexible operating system, you should really be looking at a full-fledge smartphone.

Conclusions

The 5130 is a good choice for a low-end music-playing phone. It has excellent RF sensitivity, very nice incoming audio with good earpiece volume, a terrific non-smartphone O/S, a really wonderful screen, and a useable speakerphone. However, it has slightly less-than-stellar over-the-road performance, a nasty sweet spot on the earpiece, and horrible outgoing audio when there is loud background noise present.

If I had to choose between the 5130 and the Motorola W233 based solely upon phone performance, Iíd be hard-pressed to make up my mind. The W233 beats out the 5130 in over-the-road performance and I find that a solid plus. On the other hand Iím not too pleased with the muddy audio of the W233. Still, Iím no fan of the nasty sweet spot of the 5130, but I like its keyboard better. Actually, Iím glad I donít personally have to make this choice, because the two phones seem to offer conflicting pluses and minuses.

So it seems that my bottom line is no bottom line at all. I donít think Iíve ever encountered two phones that have so much pull in opposite directions. All I can recommend to you is that you sum up your own personal preferences concerning the strengths and weaknesses of these two models and decide which one for you is the best (or, if youíre a pessimist, which phone is the lesser of two evils).

At the time of this writing the 5130 XpressMusic sells for $100 from Rogers on Pay-As-You-Go, and through 7-11 for $139. However, 7-11 has a promotion running where buying a $100 airtime voucher gets you the 5130 for half price. Note also that 7-11 calls the phone the Jamma. Both Rogers and 7-11 include a 1 GB MicroSD card with the phone.

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