Review

Retro Review: Nokia 6310i (circa 2002)

In my time writing for Neowin I've had a lot of hands-on time with the latest and greatest in technology. I've tried and tested the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I've explored new smartphones such as the Sony Xperia S and Galaxy Nexus, and even enjoyed experiencing some of the latest games like Mass Effect 3. But today I'm not doing any of those things, no... in fact today I'm looking at something from the past.

Over the past decade Nokia has been one of the most iconic and most successful phone manufacturers, going from the days of the most successful phone handset ever made, the Nokia 1100, to the new direction focusing on Windows Phones such as their new Nokia Lumia 900. For one week I decided to go back to Nokia's good old days and use one of their earliest business-focused GSM devices: the Nokia 6310i. Here is my retro review.

Specifications

  Nokia 6310i
Product Codes 6310i
GSM Bands 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G/4G Bands None
Display 1.5-inch monochrome LCD at 96 x 60
Blue backlight
Processor No idea (even Nokia themselves don't know)
Graphics Probably none
RAM Not much
Storage Not much
Connectivity Bluetooth
Infrared
Camera None
Ports Proprietary charging port
Proprietary serial data port
Car connectivity kit port
Sensors None
Battery Li-Po 1,100 mAh removable
Launch OS No idea
Launch Date 2002
Size & Weight 129 x 47 x 17-21 mm
111 g
Price Discontinued

As you can see from the specifications table above, the Nokia 6310i is truly a fantastic phone for business with all the features that the modern-day businessperson needs, such as infrared to send contacts between other Nokia devices. Unfortunately when I contacted Nokia PR about what is inside this device, they couldn't find exactly what was inside (!), but rest assured that it is an SMS powerhouse.

You'll also be glad to see that there is a 1,100 mAh user removable battery, which should be able to keep the phone running throughout a nuclear apocalypse on a single charge.

Design

The original box for the Nokia 6310i (and yes, I managed to obtain the original box) says that the Nokia 6310i has a "timeless design" with "advanced technology" and I would have to completely agree with Nokia here. Simply put, the design of Nokia 6310i puts current generation devices like the iPhone 4S to shame, forgoing any sort of metal and glass for stunning reinforced plastic that really sets it apart from the competition.

The Nokia 6310i in its wondrous glory

While modern smartphones generally have the entire display taking up the entire front area of the device, the Nokia 6310i has a fantastic set of hardware buttons that make the using the phone much, much easier than any sort of horrible 2002 stylus-loving resistive "touchscreen". The clicking noise the buttons produce is nothing short of orgasmic, delivering chills up and down my spine whenever I send a text or play Nokia Snake II.

Not only do the buttons deliver amazing feedback that you don't get with boring capacitive-touch buttons on current-gen devices, they are spaced appropriately and are capable of withstanding the repeated pressing of toughened fingers. Except the "1" button, for some reason that one button takes more force to get it to work than the others on my review model.

Pure sexiness

The left hand side of the phone has a volume rocker, which in typical Nokia fashion is very hard to push; don't worry though, this is a feature that stops you from accidentally changing the volume of the device. The top has an equally hard to push power button (again, it stops you from turning the device off) and the timeless infrared port. The bottom has both the charging port and the serial data connection point so you can add contacts via Windows XP.

The back of the device sees simple Nokia branding and pretty much the rest is taken up by the removable battery, with the one exception being the antenna connection port for in-car kits. The port looks like someone has forgotten to attach a camera there, but in fact no camera is included with the device, not that one would be particularly useful with the monochrome display.

Almost as thin as a Droid Razr!

The colors used on the device are simply beautiful: black ("Jet Black") for the most part with some silver and gold highlights that give the 6310i a premium look. If you don't like black, you can also get it in the wonderful "Mistral Beige" and "Lightning Silver". Unfortunately the model I got given had some scratches and marks to the paintwork, but these are just signature scars from surviving a great many drops from considerable heights; after all, it's an old Nokia and they are pretty much indestructible.

The final great thing about the phone is how comfortable it is to hold. It seems to be just the right size with perfectly sculpted contours to the design, and thankfully the thickness of 17 to 21 mm means that you'll always feel like you have something in your pocket.

Display

The Nokia 6310i packs a 1.5-inch monochrome LCD at 96 x 60 "pixels" with a blue/white backlight. These aren't your regular pixels with a red, blue and green subpixel though, this LCD display is only capable of two colors: black and white. Unfortunately with this particular display there is no middle ground between black and white (hence no greys), so pixels can only either be on or off in a similar way to alarm clocks and microwaves.

Not to worry though because the 6310i doesn't support viewing (or taking) images, and website support is very limited so there is no real need for a color display. Although don't expect crisp text because this is no "retina" display: individual pixels are definitely noticeable, and if you're patient enough you can probably count all 5,760 of them. In comparison, any 720p smartphone display has 921,600 pixels, or around 160x more; not to mention each pixel supporting 16.7 million colors as opposed to a measly two.

A crisp display with beautiful contrast

Considering the screen here is just slightly bigger than an Australian 50 cent coin, it's incredibly frustrating to use. Text messages often don't fit inside the area of the display, requiring me to scroll down, often several times, to read the entire message. Menus often take up several pages of screen space, meaning that it feels like you are constantly scrolling all the time, something that I'm not used to with large displays of modern smartphones.

Luckily the display is quite good outdoors because it is an old LCD display that doesn't need to display color. There is quite good contrast between the on and off pixels, giving reasonably good black levels considering the age of the technology. The display also has a backlight which, well, works.

Software

Generally the software on the Nokia 6310i does exactly what it is supposed to do. I had no problems making calls and sending texts for the most part, and there are some pretty cool features included with the phone such as a phonebook that can store several hundred contacts and options to set speed dials.

So many menus

Using the keyboard to enter text is enhanced by predictive text which can be reasonably fast depending on how good you are remembering where the letters are on the numpad. Although, after you send a text you are taken back to text entry area which includes all the text you just sent, which is pretty stupid and can be confusing. There are also a lot of menus throughout the UI; a surprisingly large amount including some menus that only have one possible option to select.

For the business user there are some applications such as a calendar, to-do list and a calculator. Strangely the calculator is limited to a 10-digit readout, meaning that you can't perform a calculation such as 4589256314 * 2147568910 because it doesn't round the 19 digit result to standard notation. There is also no support for trigonometric or logarithmic calculations, limiting the use of the calculator to just basic functions such as adding and multiplying.

The calendar on the Nokia 6310i is fit for any businessperson

There is a voice recording application, although it's horrible and should never be used.

Finally there is support for sending emails on the device, although I couldn't seem to find a way to do this because the process just to send one message is very long, complicated and probably wouldn't have worked. I also couldn't find any option to check my emails, but it was probably hidden away somewhere in the endless amount of menus.

Performance

Unfortunately I have absolutely no idea what powers this device processor-wise, and neither did Nokia when I sent them an email regarding the matter. Not to worry though, because the Nokia 6310i performs well in most tasks.

By saying the 6310i performs well in most tasks is not really saying much because the device can't do much. There is no lag opening up the menu, and there is no lag inputting text for a text message; generally the interface is very smooth to use, although there is no animation so this is not really a magical feat.

Snake is no problem for the 6310i

Two of the most processor intensive tasks you can do on the 6310i is use the calculator and use basic Java applications and games. The most intensive thing I could think to make the calculator do was a square root of a 10-digit number, and it seemed to have no problem performing this. Then again, my microwave is probably powerful enough to perform a square root calculation so it's hardly something to be proud of.

The phone had no problems rendering the three included Java-based games, although they are all monochrome 2D games at 96 x 60 so again, any home appliance is probably equally as capable of doing this as the Nokia 6310i. You can also use Java applications on the device, however after you try out World Clock and Converter, the two included ones which take over 10 seconds to load, you will probably be put off from adding any more.

Trying to browse Neowin? Turns out the page is too large

Lastly, the web browser needs to be mentioned. The good thing is that it is included on the phone. The bad thing is that it only works properly if you can find websites that have no images and haven't been updated since roughly 1999. I surprisingly managed to load the Google homepage on the device (although it took damn forever), but when I went to actually search for something it came up with a "web page too large" error. The same error occurs for pretty much every other website on the current-day internet.

Although, there are several variations of the "too large" error message, so it was mildly entertaining for a few minutes trying to see what all of them looked like.

Camera

There isn't one. Oh well.

Media Playback

If you're thinking that this device can play back MP3 "true-tones" then think again! If you think it can play polyphonic ringtones also think again, because the 6310i only supports monophonic audio tones! Yay!

What's great is the Nokia 6310i comes with a full 35 monophonic ringtones to choose from, include favorites such as the Nokia Tune, Auld Lang Syne, [The] Entertainer and my favorite "Long Scale". Even better, you can add your own MIDI tones provided you either have the proprietary Nokia serial cable or some sort of infrared transmitting device attached to your computer. I have neither, so I was stuck with the default 35.

What wonderful ringtones to choose from!

The speaker included on the device isn't particularly loud, although if you happen to be in a busy shopping center and you can faintly here what appears to be a $1.50 piezoelectric buzzer going off nearby, it's probably your Nokia 6310i. If you're worried about volumes just turn on the vibrate mode as well, which is easily powerful enough to dislodge fecal matter from your bowels while it's in your pocket.

After changing your pants and answering the call, prepare to listen intently to understand what the caller is saying thanks to a shockingly awful in-call speaker. For some reason it makes everyone sound like they are on the toilet while calling, although the microphone is apparently clear enough for the receiver to understand perfectly. 

Also, don't expect any sort of image or video playback because the phone can't even receive a simple MMS, let alone display it in more than two colors.

Battery Life

In true Nokia featurephone fashion, the battery in the 6310i seems to last forever. At 1,100 mAh it is smaller than most modern-day smartphones, but in the entire time I have had the phone, which is almost a week, I have not had to charge it or even get the charger out of the box it came in.

Almost infinite battery life

In fact the battery life is so good that currently I'm sitting on 4 out of 7 bars remaining after a good week of using the phone as my daily driver, making calls and texts and playing the occasional included 2D Java game. The box for the device says it has a standby time of 408 hours (17 days), and for once this could actually prove truthful although I simply didn't have enough time to test it.

If you happen to be going on a camping trip and you have to choose whether you take your Lumia 800 or 6310i, choose the 6310i because you won't have to scramble for a power point each night to charge it. In fact given the battery life I'm experiencing you may need to charge it less often than an Amazon Kindle.

Conclusion

There are several awesome things about the Nokia 6310i. For one, the design is awesome, comfortable and solid enough that if you dropped a brick on the device it will only scratch the paintwork. Another great thing is the battery life, which as I mentioned before would survive well into any sort of apocalyptic event no matter how many critical phone calls you make and 2D games you play. The monophonic Nokia Tune ringtone is also quite nice to a nice retro jingle to hum along to.

Which would you choose? Personally I'd go for the Nokia

However there are some pretty horrible things about the device too. Nokia included way too many menus in the user interface for some reason, and the screen is probably (maybe) a bit small. There is also the issue of the terrible, terrible in-call speaker, the completely useless web browser and the incredibly complicated email set-up process.

That said I would recommend picking up a 6310i if you need amazing battery life, and I imagine they are reasonably priced considering the age.


Got something old that you want us to retro review here at Neowin? Send me an email and we'll see if we can organize something

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