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Writer. Wheelman. Occasional DIY mechanic. Walking collection of hang-ups. Hopeless romantic. Old-school. Analog soul in a digital world. I am all of these things and more.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Two birds, one gadget

Some of you may know that since my collection of digital music ripped from my CD collection (and some loaned ones) kept growing and growing, I've had my eyes set on getting a digital audio player. (No iPod was ever in my wish list, though.)

Some of you may also know that I've never really liked my cellphone, my mom's hand-me-down Nokia 6600. It's got a lot of features compared to today's models, but I never took to its soap-bar form factor.

Regular readers will remember at this point last year I was looking to get a Nokia 5300 XpressMusic phone---arguably the first or second in that line. The best of both worlds, right?


It was not without its drawbacks. Dismal battery life, a non-standard 2.5mm audio jack and a fragile screen were livable, but the deal-killer was its lack of support for WMA music files, which most of my music is encoded in. The newer 5700 came, went, and addressed the WMA playback, but it looked much less appealing than the 5300.

I spent 2007 loaning my Tita Vik's trusty CD Walkman and soldiering on with the 6600, while whetting my appetite on Attack of the Show's "Gadget Pr0n" and digital audio player reviews on CNET and Anythingbutipod.com.

While wandering in Power Plant, I saw something very promising and put it on my Christmas wish list...and I got it: the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic phone.

Next to the chunky 5300, 5700 and my 6600, this thing is so slim it's anorexic. The 5300's side-mounted music buttons remain, now wider and made of textured plastic over aluminum. A standard 3.5mm stereo mini jack takes pride of place on the top, next to the proprietary mini-USB jack. I glossed over the equally new but more expensive 5610 XpressMusic because of that audio jack, and I've developed doubts on the reliability of slider mechanisms after seeing the abused demo units in several Nokia stores. The 5310's even light enough to hang on the neckband of my Creative EP-635 earphones. On these earphones the 5310 has a lot of oomph---listening at the lowest volume is plenty loud enough for my ears, and the music quality's very good.

The phone still isn't perfect, though. On prolonged music-playing periods, battery life won't last you two days, and the loudspeaker is on the weak side. In a perfect example of megapixel count not being everything in digital cameras, the 5310's 2-megapixel unit is slow and isn't very good compared to the old 6600's VGA camera. Finally, when playing music, there are infrequent random times when it stops and reupdates its music library. All are livable quirks, and frankly, you really don't buy a 5310 for its camera---you get it because you love music on the go.

Thanks, Mom. I didn't think you'd take me seriously when I told you I wanted the 5310 as a Christmas present---I'd really rather prefer to buy my stuff by myself. That's why I appreciate it all the more.

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