Review of the Nokia 6230b & 6230i


The following review replaces one I made for the 6230b in November of 2004. I recently had a chance to try a 6230i with some definite improvements and so Ive combined the 2 reviews into this newer one.

Last Updated: 23-Oct-2005

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

At the time of this writing Im not sure if Nokia will release a b version that includes the improvements found in the newest i, but I would presume they will. In that case, the only real difference between the b and the i is that the b has 850 MHz support in place of 900 MHz support.

The major changes to the phone are a far superior camera and a greatly improved display, but otherwise the new 6230 and the old 6230 seemed to perform about the same.

RF Performance

RF Sensitivity: When it comes to RF performance, the Nokia 6230b is among the best GSM phones Ive yet tested. At both 850 MHz (on the b version only) and at 1900 MHz the phone can sustain a call in places most other phones just cannot. At 1900 MHz both phones were even slightly better than my Nokia 6310i, which has been the standard-bearer at 1900 MHz for quite some time.

Some of the improvement can be attributed to the AMR CODEC, which Rogers now supports. When signals get very weak the network switches modes and uses less of the bits for the audio and more for error correction. This results in slightly raspier sound, but with great stability.

Over-the-road Performance: Over-the-road performance is about on par with other Nokia products, which is to say good, but not stellar. Id pick a Motorola V220 or V300 over this phone for on-the-move calls.

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

Audio Performance

Tonal Balance: The tonal balance of the newer 6230i is slightly less rich-sounding than the 6310i, but the difference is relatively small and not particularly significant. You can only really tell that there is a difference by literally comparing the two phones side-by-side in a simultaneous connection to the same recording. Both the 6310i and 6230 possess tonal balance that is quite literally as good as it gets. Only some of the Motorola V-series phones can come close.

Sound Reproduction: Incoming sound quality is excellent and earpiece volume was pretty good (thought not as loud as the 6310i). The 6230 processes Nokias volume-boost feature, which increases the earpiece volume (even when you have it set at max) when the background noise goes above a certain level.

My only complaint about the incoming audio is that it possesses a tad too much sidetone for my liking. It isnt a huge amount of sidetone like I found on the recent review of the Siemens S46, but its noticeable enough in a noisy environment to be annoying to picky users like myself.

Sidetone is when the phone feeds a sample of the audio from the microphone to the speaker so that you know that the phone is working. However, when the sidetone is too loud it makes background din around you sound like noise in the incoming audio.

Outgoing sound quality is quite good also, but once again it seems to be about the same as most the better-quality Nokia models, in that it picks up a bit more background noise than it should. Overall however, the phones sounds great both incoming and outgoing (sidetone issues notwithstanding).

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

Support Features

Speakerphone: The speakerphone feature of the 6230b is surprisingly good for such a small phone. While the maximum volume of the speaker isnt all that loud, the quality of the sound delivered is exceptional. In a quite room it is very easy to have a conversation using the speakerphone feature.

Ringer Volume: The ringer on the 6230 isnt quite as loud as the one on the 6310i, but overall the phone can generate ringtones that are loud enough to hear in a busy shopping mall or on a noisy street corner. As always however, you have to ensure that you choose a ringtone that produces the loudest sounds to hear it in a noisy environment.

Keypad Design: The keypad seems to be designed to go along with the style of the phone, rather than to provide good ergonomics. Ive certainly tested far worse keypads, but the one on the 6230 is still not that great. The 4-way cursor key is perhaps the worst of it ilk, as I found it extremely difficult to press the button directly down (to select options) without accidentally putting a bit too much pressure in one direction or another. To be fair, the 6230i has a separate center button which is a bit easier to press, but I still found it difficult to operate accurately. Overall, this is one of those keypads you absolutely must look at to use effectively. Its a bad design, with bad ergonomics.

Display: This is one area where the old 6230 and the new 6230 differ greatly. The old phone came with the mediocre 128 x 128 pixel display, whereas the new 6230 sports a 208 x 208 pixel display that is light-years better. With 264% more pixels the new display is really quite gorgeous by comparison, especially for multimedia applications. Both displays work well in bright sunlight and both have an excellent backlight.

Camera: I dont normally review cameras any longer, but the new 1.3 Megapixel unit installed in the 6230i deserves a special mention. Unlike the truly crappy 640 x 480 camera that I tested on the 6230b, the new camera is probably one of the best Ive ever tried. The lens has to get a lot of the credit here, because it produces excellent (and consistent) focus across the entire photograph and its sharp enough to make good use of the 1280 x 1024 canvas that is has to work with.

Below is a sample photograph taken in Hong Kong by Howard Chu (the phone's owner), and with it I have included a blow-up of an area of the picture that demonstrates just has good the focus is.


 

In fact, the quality of the pictures that the 6230i can take is good enough to rival low-end dedicated digital cameras, which is an amazing thing given the overall size of the phone.

Low-light pictures aren't so great however, as they are often very grainy and of poor quality. You'll definitely want to limit your photography to well-lit subjects.

The 6230i is also capable of recording videos with sound. The quality isnt as good as the still pictures and the frame rate is a little slow, but once again the excellent quality of the lens produces videos that (in a pinch) are really not that bad.

Conclusions

I already liked the 6230b that I reviewed last year, but with the vast improvements in the camera and the display the 6230i is an even better phone. Lack of support for 850 MHz may put some people off, but the overall performance of the i model is so good that urban users will probably want to get it over the b. With any luck Nokia is planning to release a b version with the new display and camera in the near future, and it will be one of the best-performing North American GSM phones you can buy.

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