With its Nokia 6500 classic, Nokia has produced an unashamedly elegant handset that's a mere 9.5mm thin but which packs in 1GB of internal memory and has 3G connectivity.
It's an understated but elegant sliver of a design that avoids the flash attention grabbing of the Nokia 7500 Prism and the wallet-bruising price tag of the Nokia 8800 series. Note though: the candybar-style Nokia 6500 Classic shouldn't be confused with the Nokia 6500 Slide sliderphone.
For some reason Nokia has decided to give these distinctly different looking and differently featured phones matching numbers. Beats us why they couldn't tweak a number here or there to make life easier, but there you go...
It may be smart-looking, but the Nokia 6500 classic isn't one of Nokia's Symbian-powered smartphones. Instead, it utilises the latest version of Nokia's popular Series 40 user interface that's familiar to millions across the world. Its spread of features includes a music player onboard to take advantage of that 1GB of track storage space, and a 2-megapixel camera with video recording function.
The 6500 Classic's 1GB of onboard memory can't be increased by adding a memory card, however; the 6500 Classic doesn't have a MicroSD card expansion slot that's now virtually standard issue across Nokia's mid-range handsets. That's a shame, as MicroSDs are now such a cheap and convenient way of adding extra storage (2GB cards are widely available for under £15).
Unusually for a 3G phone, it doesn't offer face-to-face video calling. This isn't necessarily a big drawback, as video calling is unlikely to be a big draw for the 6500 classic's target audience. Other 3G functionality, such as support for fast video and audio downloads and streaming of content, and web browsing, are present.
Nokia has kept it simple and sophisticated on the casing, with curved edges and an anodized aluminium top half giving a tactile, classy feel to the phone.
Despite its slim size, it doesn't feel too miniature and liable to slip out of your hand, thanks to its longish length and a deceptively substantial feel. It measures 109.8 (h) x 45 (w) x 9.5mm (d) and weighs 94g.
It's certainly minimalist on the sides of the casing - there's no quick access keys, controls and barely any socketry; there's simply one Micro USB connector on the top taking care of data connectivity, charging and headphones.
The Micro USB connector also handles the supplied stereo headphones, as Nokia hasn't included a dedicated 3.5mm headphone socket on the 6500 classic, as it has started to do on some other models.
Numbers on the keypad are neatly accented by angled, tiny silver strips, separating individual keys on an otherwise flush pad. There's no tricksy stuff on the navigation keys - a regular navigation D-pad and large softkeys, plus call/end keys maintain the classy feel of the handset. Above this is a bright 2-inch, 16.7-million colour QVGA (320x240 pixels) display.
The standard Nokia interface allows you to customise the standby screen, with an (optional) Active Standby home page; here you can have calendar updates, add notes, get notification and create shortcuts to the music player. A set of icons on top of the standby page can also be changed for fast access to a variety of functions, while the D-pad can be user-configured for fastkey shortcuts too.
With 1GB to fill, some users will head straight for the music player. Loading up tracks is straightforward - hooking up the supplied USB cable, you can sync to tunes stored on a PC using the Nokia PC Suite software provided, or simply drag and drop music files with the phone connected as a mass storage device to your PC or Mac.
You could zap them over via Bluetooth too. The 6500 classic sports the stereo A2DP Bluetooth protocol, so wireless headphones and speakers can be used with it too.
You can also download tracks and videos over the air using 3G from compatible mobile network operators' music services. The new Nokia Music Store option isn't available on this handset, however.
Once loaded up, you can listen to the tunes through the built-in speakers (probably a bit low-rent for 6500 classic customers) or through the supplied earphones.
The speaker - on the back, directly under the camera lens - can be pushed up pretty loud although it is trebly, and gets tinnier and harsher the louder you crank it. The earphones are a far better option. Unusually, these are attached via a Micro USB connector, so if you want to plug in your favourite quality headphones instead you'll need to source a Micro USB to 3.5mm adapter.
The earphones produce a respectable if not remarkable performance, like so many in-box sets, and it's a shame that Nokia has limited the ease with which you can upgrade them.
The music player itself is a tidy piece of software, organising tracks by the usual categories, and allowing equalisation tweaks to suit your preferences. The player makes use of the D-pad for controls, and can play in the background while in standby or be used with the phone off in flight mode.
The camera on the Nokia 6500 Classic is a standard 2-megapixel shooter, capable of taking images that can be blown up to standard photo print size. It's a fixed focus lens, though there is a digital zoom. Image quality can be decent in well-lit environments, but overall the quality is fairly average, particulalty for a Nokia phone.
There are some control settings to adjust white balance and quality, and you can add basic shooting effects, but with low quality video too imaging isn't the stand-out feature on this Nokia.
Nokia has geared up the 6500 Classic with both a standard Nokia XHTML browser, and an Opera Mini browser. The Opera Mini browser, tucked away in the Apps folder, provides small screen rendering of websites, optimised to make them easily scrollable on a mobile phone screen.
An email client is onboard the 6500 Classic, to go with text and MMS. Regular organiser functions are included, and calendar, notes, and the to-do list can be synced with a PC using the supplied Nokia PC Suite software.
A calculator and convertor software, plus a My Nokia information update and user tips service, are loaded onto the phone. Four Java games - Backgammon, Golf Tour, Snake III and Sudoku - come preloaded too.
When it comes to the basics of voice calling, the 6500 classic certainly puts in a classic Nokia performance. Audio quality was first rate and signal finding and holding appeared better than some of its more illustrious smartphone stablemates.
Battery life is quoted by Nokia at up to 9 days on standby or 3.5 hours talktime - so it's not the longest runner in this category of slimline handset. Extensive use of the music player will eat into the power further, so expect to charge regularly.
The Nokia 6500 classic is undoubtedly a classy looking handset that puts style above fashion, with a sophisticated look and slimline appeal.
The 1GB of internal storage is still a hefty amount for a mobile phone, although the lack of memory card expansion does limit it for those who want to pack the handset with music; we'd have preferred to see an expansion slot here.
The headphone socket arrangement isn't the best we've seen either, and the camera is a fairly ordinary model (particularly when considering the 6500 Slide's 3.2-megapixel, Carl Zeiss-optics equipped camera).
But what you do get with the Nokia 6500 classic is a well-groomed, decently featured, slim and stylish 3G phone. It delivers a solid performance, and while other Nokia handsets do offer a fuller features list, the Nokia 6500 classic has some charm.
Ease of use: 8
Call quality: 9
Networks [for Cinergy]: O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone