Nokia 5210: undeniably cool

Review Launched just in time to capitalise on the ski season, the dust, shock and water resistant 5210 is no doubt the must-have phone on the slopes this year. Dressed in a contrasting orange and black exterior, the ruggedised Nokia looks purposeful and undeniably cool, and won't look out of place alongside your Helly Hansen snowboarding jacket and Oakley sunglasses.

Slotting somewhere between the 3330 and 8310, the latest Nokia measures a reasonably compact 105x48x23mm and weighs 92g. Expect to pay around £50 with contract to BT Cellnet or Vodafone. It goes head to head with the equally rugged Siemens ME45, which retails for between £50 and £70, depending on network.
Nokia has managed to push the boundaries of design once more. Not content with making the 5210 water, dust and shock resistant, the designers have also allowed you to change the look and colour of the phone in an instant, thanks to a new design of swappable covers, dubbed Xpress-on shells. Simply grip two special points on the lower half of the phone and the top half (which houses the display) pops off like a pen top. The bottom half then simply clips off, revealing a 'naked' 5210 chassis, which is similar in size to the 8210. You can then mix and match top and bottom 'shells' of different colours if you so desire.

Unlike most other swappable covers for Nokia phones, 5210 shells come complete with keypads, as they are sealed in to the design so as to protect the innards from moisture and dust. Four covers will be available at launch; Thirsty Blue, Wave Blue, Flushed Yellow and Weathered Green. Expect to pay around £25 to £30. A complicated four-point carrying strap comes as standard with the phone, allowing you to carry it around your neck, if you wish. An optional carry case is available which features an armband strap.

Ergonomic wonder

The phone fits nicely in your hand and despite its compact size, the controls are a decent size, with volume and the power key moulded in the easy to grip composite exterior. However the buttons on the numeric keypad are tightly packed together, meaning you probably won't be able to dial out with gloves on, which could be a pain if you are intending to use the phone in cold weather. While the shell does protect the phone's internal components from everyday knocks and bumps, it is not waterproof, merely water resistant. So while it is okay to maybe drop your phone in the snow, it's not recommended that you dunk it in to a pint of beer to demonstrate its toughness, otherwise the next trip you'll take will be to a Nokia service centre.

Like all Nokias there is a standard keypad lock, which you activate by pressing the left soft key and *. But the 5210 also has an automatic keyguard option, which can be set to lock the phone's numeric keypad within a preset time, between ten seconds and one hour. Useful if you are prone to accidentally dialling out when your phone is in your pocket.

The display is easy to read with a restful amber backlight, and the menu system uses a now familiar system of soft keys and a central toggle that all works in tandem with on-screen prompts. If you've owned a Nokia in the last five years, you could pick up this phone and start using it straightaway. Such is the intuitive nature of the user interface.

The list of features and gadgets on the 5210 is numerous, including a 100-item calendar, alarm clock, and calculator. But to reflect the active lifestyle element of the phone there is also a stopwatch, countdown timer (great for parking meters). Most amusing is an on-screen thermometer, which is reasonably accurate and shows the current temperature in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. Why you would want to know it is minus 4 on the top of a snow-capped mountain, is beyond me, but I am sure it has its uses for those outdoor types or hypochondriacs.

While the phone is equipped with both a WAP browser and infra-red modem for mobile data, it surprisingly lacks either HSCSD or GPRS high-speed data, which have been omitted, probably down to cost. The browser is only 1.1 spec, but it does feature WAP Push, so you can get news and email headers sent straight to the phone.

Entertainment wise, there are five games to choose from. Snake 2, Bantumi, Pairs II, Space Impact and Bumper, all of which are playable, but it would have been nice to see some new games by now. Snake 2, Space Impact and Bumper can all be expanded with additional mazes, levels and pinball tables. Highscores can be sent direct to the Club Nokia website for other members to compare, thanks to the WAP browser.

In use the 5210 is a delight. The phone uses intelligent calling line identity tied to a phone book with a generous capacity of up to 250 numbers in the phone and up to 200 on the SIM. The system also allows you to categorise the phone book entries as 'friends', 'family', 'VIPs', 'colleagues' and a user-defined category. Each one of these caller groups has a specific ringer (from a selection of up to 42 ring tones) to help you recognise important incoming calls. There is a composer to create your own ringtones or you can download up to seven more from the ever-growing number of web providers.

Nokia have always been great for text and picture messaging and the 5210 is no exception. As you would expect T9 is standard, as is the ability to concatenate up to three 160-character messages into a single message to other compatible Nokia phones, plus the ability to send single messages to multiple recipients. Perfect if you are trying to organise a group of friends to meet at a particular place or time for a big night out.

Also available is a mobile chat facility, which allows you for the moment to have a one on one text message based conversation with another mobile user in a chat room environment. It's not proper interactive chat, but a log of all text entries is stored on-screen, and attributed to users (who are assigned chat names). When the networks finalise proper chat facilities you'll be able to conduct interactive text message conversations with multiple users.

There is a choice of ten picture messages to choose from, with one slot free to download a new image. However all of them are replaceable if you want to download some favourites. Most exciting of all you can now create or alter picture messages with a picture editor built-in to the phone. You can draw or create images using six sets of clip art supplied in the picture message folder, and then send them on to other compatible phones.

It is very easy to personalise the 5210 to suit your needs. Like all Nokias the 5210 has user profiles, which can be customised to suit you, with standard items like a choice of ring tone and keypad volume. But the 5210's user profiles have an added twist. A rhythmic backlight and vibrating alert are included, which will flash and shake in time with the beat of the ring tone, rather than the regular fixed-pulsing effect that you get with a normal vibrating alert.

Most useful in the profiles menu is a timer, which allows you to temporarily set a profile to expire at a specific time and revert to the default profile. Ideal if you are absent minded, like me, and go in to a meeting with the phone set to 'silent' mode and then forget to switch it back to 'normal' and then proceed to miss calls for the rest of the day. There is also space for two completely customisable profiles.

There's no doubt about it-the 5210 is a great piece of kit. While the phone lacks some cutting edge technologies you would expect from Nokia, it makes up for it by providing a plethora of lifestyle goodies, which will appeal to both adults and teenagers alike.

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