Nokia has set out its stall for high end music mobiles with its N91 4GB and 8GB mobiles, but it's also keen to scoop up some of the budget end of the market too. The Nokia 5300 XpressMusic is a handset clearly targeted at a young music-loving audience, with its bold colour scheme and slider chic.
It's immediately apparent that the 5300 is part of an ever-growing army of dedicated music mobiles from the array of rubberised transport controls lined up along the handset's coloured rim.
In the case of our review model, this was red and white, but for the more reserved it's also available in black and white. The frame around the largish 2-inch, 262k-colour display is a muted silver, which is carried over to the hidden keypad.
It's not the thinnest sliderphone around, although it is relatively compact in the palm of your hand. The slide-action top springs open effortlessly with a reassuring 'clunk', and despite the phone's solid feel it's in no way cumbersome.
This quality extends to the keypad and navigational buttons, too, which all make good use of the extra space available to present surprisingly tactile controls. The usual Nokia layout is followed, and the crystal-clear QVGA screen is another plus.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty, the 5300 is first and foremost a music mobile, and targets most of its efforts in this area. So how does it fare? Close observers will notice straight away the updated Series 40 Music Player, which brings the handset more in line with the offerings of music mobile maestro, Sony Ericsson.
As we've seen, this is complemented by dedicated music controls around the edge of the handset, so you don't have to delve into the menu every time you want to fast-forward or rewind a track.
So far, so good. Unfortunately, though, the onboard memory situation doesn't initially suggest a serious music mobile, with only 5MB of internal storage available. Thankfully, this is supplemented by a (hotswappable) 256MB MicroSD card, supplied in the box by Nokia.
This gives you ample space to store up to 180 tracks, depending on the format you choose (this equates to around 80-90 average MP3 files). This could be fine if you're using your mobile as a casual music player for travelling around town, but you may want to invest in additional larger capacity cards if you want to carry a stack of music around with you. MicroSD cards up to 2GB are supported by this phone.
Getting tracks onto the 5300 is simple, assisted by the fact that the player is fully compliant with most file types including MP3, AAC and WMA. One way is to transfer music using a memory card, although Nokia has also included USB connectivity as standard on its music mobiles, simplifying the transfer process and endowing the handset with Mass Storage capabilities (you can use a memory card in the phone as a target drive, as the 5MB onboard storage won't be up to handling large files ).
For added organisation, PC users also have the option of downloading the Nokia Audio Manager application that comes on the included CD-Rom. Any music downloaded directly to the phone or memory card will automatically be assimilated into the music library each time you fire up the phone.
Unfortunately, though, it's not the ideal phone for over-the-air downloading, as the 5300 supports only slow GPRS data transfer, as opposed to high-speed 3G.
However, you do get instant access to free content via the built-in stereo FM radio.
In performance terms, music playback has a certain warmth when listening to tracks with the supplied headphones, although it does lack some clarity. This can be helped by some creative twiddling of the equaliser settings, which can be manually adjusted if the standard presets don't suffice.
Another option is to bring the bundled 3.5mm adapter into play (which plugs into the 2.5mm socket in the side of the phone), so you can plug in some decent stereo headphones of your own. Alternatively, you could make use of the A2DP stereo Bluetooth profile support and invest in some Bluetooth headphones.
Of course, the 5300 has other strings to its bow, which it carries off with varying degrees of success. Photos produced using the 1.3-megapixel camera are a touch disappointing, both in terms of their resolution and colour reproduction. Shutter lag is also an issue, particularly in low light, where there's no flash to illuminate proceedings.
Video footage is similarly disappointing, recording at 15fps with a maximum resolution of 176 x 144 pixels. Video playback can be good, however, if running files you've loaded onto the phone - Nokia has usefully given the 5300 the ability to play moving pictures in landscape as well as portrait mode, so you can appreciate clips better.
On the plus side, the updated Series 40 user interface is configurable to individual users' needs and offers a highly intuitive way of working.
All the standard organiser tools are on offer - calendar, alarm, calculator and stopwatch functions - and there's also a Java email client providing POP3 and IMAP4 support. There's also an XHTML browser using Wap 2.0, and Nokia has usefully equipped equipped this handset with infrared as well as stereo Bluetooth.
In terms of call quality Nokia has proved its worth consistently over the years, and the 5300 is no different. Reception was top-notch, with the handset succeeding to cling on to the network in areas where many before it had failed.
The performance put in by the battery did let the side down a little, although surviving around three days of relatively heavy use is by no means anything to be ashamed of.
The 5300 may scare some off with its bold colour schemes, but it's a look that will gain it just as many fans amongst the younger market. Nokia has done well to transform what is essentially a workmanlike handset into a funky music gadget by seeking to entertain once more, and it's an approach that should be applauded.
It may not relegate your iPod to the desk drawer just yet, but as a music phone carrying a few CDs' worth of music on, it can certainly step into the breach when needed...