Review of the Nokia 6233


The Nokia 6233 isnít presently available through any of the Canadian providers, so if you want one youíll have to order it online or buy it at a retailer that carries one.

Last Updated: 30-Nov-2006

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

RF Performance

RF Sensitivity: The 6233 is a tri-band phone that does not support 850 MHz. I therefore compared its RF performance to that of my old Nokia 6310i, which is also tri-band and doesnít have 850. The two phones are remarkably similar in their abilities to pull in weak signals. While testing over at Square One I found examples where the 6310i was marginally better and others where the 6233 was marginally better. I guess you could say it was a tie, and given that the 6310i has excellent RF sensitivity, ergo the 6233 is also an excellent performer.

Over-the-road Performance: Iíve never been particularly impressed with the over-the-road performance of most Nokia models, but the 6233 is a real head-turner when it comes to this aspect of performance. I donít believe Iíve ever experienced a Nokia GSM model that handled the various on-the-move network issues as the 6233. The phone makes handoffs and other maladies seem almost trivial. Iíve often used the word TAME to describe other GSM phones that excel in this area and the 6233 is right up there with the best of them.

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

Audio Performance

Tonal Balance: Like most Nokia GSM phones, the 6233 has quite good tonal balance that falls just on the tinny side of excellent. It lacks the truly rich sound of many Motorola GSM models and itís a little bit tinnier than my old 6310i. However, in real world use the tonal balance seems very natural and it isnít the least bit harsh.

Sound Reproduction: I wasnít quite as pleased with the sound reproduction however. It wasnít anything I could really put my finger on, but when I compared various audio sources through the 6233 to that of the 6310i (and other phones) I got the distinct impression that the 6233 sounded just a little bit distorted. That distortion was much more evident if you took the call on the provided stereo earbuds. Honestly though, this is something that would only be evident to the most raving audiophiles out there, but still, if I can hear, others will hear it too. Most people wonít, and in general the 6233 sounds just fine, with little or no background hiss.

Earpiece Volume: The volume of the native earpiece is about average for the current crop of Nokia phones. It also includes their now-ubiquitous volume-boost feature, which increases the earpiece volume (even when itís set to maximum) if loud background noise is detected. The phone produces at least as much volume as my old 6310i, which I ranked as excellent in this regard. Unfortunately, audio volume through the stereo earbuds is pathetically low, even with the volume cranked to full.

Outgoing Audio: In terms of raw quality, the 6233 is about par for most Nokia models, producing well-balanced audio that your callers will enjoy listening to. When it comes to suppressing background noise however, the 6233 has a multiple personality. When faced with noise that consists of hundreds of voices melded into a din similar to that youíd experience at a crowded mall, the 6233 doesnít really do much to blot it out. Fortunately the overall level of that background din is low enough not to interfere with your voice. However, when used in a noisy car the 6233 seems to be a better-than-average job of suppressing the noise. In other words, it works exceptionally well in an automotive environment.

Speakerphone: Nokia speakerphones seem to run the gamut from poor to pretty good, but for once we have a model that has a speakerphone that borders on excellent. Rather than providing just one sounder (as is usually the case) the 6233 has two (one on each side of the phone) to support stereo playback of MP3 files. Somehow these tiny little speakers produce surprisingly rich sound with fairly good volume. The only fly-in-the-ointment that I noticed was that the microphone sensitivity wasnít increased when the speaker was activated. This MIGHT have been a flaw in the specific phone I tested, but I have no way of knowing that for certain.

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

Support Features

Ringer Volume: I expected the ringer volume to be pretty good, as there is almost always a correlation between the excellence of the speakerphone and the volume of ringtones. For some reason that didnít happen in the 6233 and its ring volume is a little on the faint side. Itís not seriously faint (like in the recently-tested Sony Ericsson W300i), but it could do with being louder to cope with noisy conditions such as a crowded shopping mall or a noisy street.

Keypad Design: While traditional in layout, I found the keypad to be just a little small for my medium-large thumbs. Those with much larger thumbs might find the keypad difficult to use. Aside from the size issue however, I had no other complaints concerning the keypad. Each key had good tactile feel and the 4-way cursor was even easy to use.

Display: The display is one Nokiaís excellent 320 x 240 designs that grace many of their recent models, such as the 6265i. It has reasonably bright backlighting, but not quite enough to be really easy to see in direct sunlight. It is possible to see the display with the backlight off, but youíll have to strain your eyes and get the ambient light to reflect off of the screen just right. However, thatís better than most color displays that are literally flat black without backlighting.

Icing on the Cake

Camera: The camera in the 6233 is 2-megapixel type and of approximately equal quality to the one provided in the 6265i. It takes good photographs, but like all Nokia cameras, it suffers from too much noise in the shadows (even in well-lit pictures). As Iíve often noted, this makes it difficult to use software such as Photoshop to fix the shadows & highlights to compensate for a poor exposure. Bringing up the shadows just makes the noise more obvious.

On the other hand, the videos that the 6233 can capture are light years better than any other phone I've tested. While the results wouldn't hold a candle to those from a digital camcorder, they are shocking good nonetheless. Instead of some ridiculously low resolution (typically 176 x 144) the 6233 can render video at an amazing 640 x 480 (virtually at NTSC resolution of 720 x 480). The frame rate is a little slower than standard TV and when lots of things change from frame to frame (such as during a pan) the quality seems less than great, but for normal levels of motion it's really excellent.

Data compression in the video recordings is also kept to a minimum, thus ridding the video of those super-annoying compression blocks that mess up the results from most other phones. However, it means that videos recorded at this rate are quite large. A 27-second sample video Howard & I made turned out to be almost 6.5 MB in size. While approximately 14 MB per minute is a far cry from the almost 220 MB per minute consumed by DV tapes, it's a big step forward for cell phones.

Note that the phone supports various lower-resolution settings (including 176 x 144, and even a super-low-res video mode of 128 x 56) and various higher compression settings. To get the results noted above you have to set all of the video settings to their highest levels.

Bluetooth: While support of Bluetooth isn't anything unusual these days, the support of the A2DP profile is. Only the most recent version of the firmware adds support for this profile, but it shouldn't be difficult to get your copy of the phone updated if you have an older version that doesn't offer A2DP.

So what's this A2DP profile all about? It's essentially a high-fidelity stereo standard that allows you to listen to full-fidelity music through headsets that connect to the phone via Bluetooth. I was quite impressed with the implementation for 2 reasons, the most obvious being the ability to listen to MP3 files in full-fidelity. However, the profile was much more tolerant of bit errors than the standard headset profile when used to take calls. This means that you rarely get any of that robotic quality that occurs with standard Bluetooth headsets when there is interference to the signal.

Conclusions

This is a very impressive Nokia phone, and with its excellent over-the-road showing during my tests it might well be the best-behaved model to come from them in ages. Its lack of 850 MHz support however, will put some people off, especially those who travel extensively in rural parts of the country. Those who use their phones almost exclusively in urban settings wonít find that missing 850 MHz is a huge problem, but Iíll leave that argument to the 850-is-next-to-godliness debaters on HowardForums.

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