Nokia C5 review: Smart and trusty

Smart and trusty

GSMArena team, 12 May 2010.

Down to earth retail package

The Nokia C5 is economy class and the retail package is simple and to the point. All the basics are covered and that’s that.

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The modest retail package

The 2GB microSD card and that tiny Nokia microUSB cable are identical to what you get with the Nokia 6700 slide, and so is the charger. In fact, the only change is the cheap-looking one-piece headset that this time goes into 3.5mm jacks.

Nokia C5 360-degree spin

The Nokia C5 measures 112 x 46 x 12.3 mm (a volume of 56 cc), which makes for a pretty compact phone. We have seen smaller, of course, but slipping the C5 in your pocket will be no trouble at all.

The metal rear might be adding a few grams but at 89.3 g of total weight, the Nokia C5 feels pretty light actually. The upside of this is you may as well forget about it in your pocket, but it does lack the solid feel that heavier phones give.

Design and construction

The Nokia C5 plays it safe on design and doesn’t try anything stupid. No, it’s not a phone that will turn any heads but the styling is unmistakably Nokia. There’s no display of finery, no E-series sophistication. The new C-series have a different brief – simplicity and reliability.

So, the Nokia C5 is not the kind of phone to impress customers – metal clad or not. But it certainly won’t put them off either. Given the balance of features and the good build, the conservative styling of the C5 might be a good thing after all.

The 2.2" display takes the upper half of Nokia C5 front panel. The TFT LCD unit has QVGA resolution and can display up to 16 million colors. Despite its decent brightness, the image quality is nothing to rave about.

Nokia C5
The display is hardly impressive

Nokia have been using this exact type of displays on their handsets for years now and they do feel outdated. Against WVGA and Super AMOLED screens, a small TFT display of QVGA resolution is just low-end and there’s nothing to do about it.

Size is the other problem with the Nokia C5 display; 2.2" just isn’t enough. Yes, it’s an entry level smartphone and they clearly wanted it as compact as possible, but 2.4" would’ve been way better.

On the other hand the sunlight legibility of the Nokia C5 is great, the screen remaining perfectly legible outdoors in any weather conditions.

There are six keys under the display – three either side of the traditional D-pad. The controls include two soft keys, Menu and Clear buttons, as well as the Call and End keys. All are decently sized and very solid to press. The menu and clear keys are actually small but comfortably raised, which makes them easy to hit.

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There’s a bunch of keys under the display

The D-pad has a pretty thin frame of direction keys, but no worries to use even in our big hands. The fact that there is so much free space around it also helps, so size is no obstacle to usability really. The large confirmation center button is welcome indeed.

Below the navigation deck is the 12-key alphanumeric keypad. We dare say it’s among the best we’ve seen. Not that we’ve been dealing with numpads too much recently – it’s been mostly touchscreen. But anyway, the keys on the C5 are great in size and nicely shaped to stick to your thumb. The solid, even feedback is also greatly appreciated.

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The keypad is reasonably comfortable

The only two things left to note on the front are the video-call camera and the loudspeaker grill at the top.

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The earpiece and the video-call camera

The sides of the Nokia C5 are pretty bare. The left hand side of the Nokia C5 holds nothing but the lanyard eyelet. On the right, you get the volume rocker and the memory card slot. There is no camera key, but there’s no real need for it considering the Nokia C5 only packs a 3.2 megapixel fixed-focus camera.

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The lanyard eyelet is all you will find on the left

What really bothered us was the microSD card slot. It’s great having it on the side – readily available to handle your memory card trouble-free. That was the idea at least, but the implementation is quite a bit of nuisance.

It’s nearly impossible to reach to the card and push to eject it. The slot is just too deep in the phone’s body. And to make matters worse, the card refuses to go out even if you manage to push it. It gets stuck in the slot and you need to scratch and pull hard to take it out. That seems a real ergonomic blunder by Nokia.

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The microSD card slot is a real blunder

On the positive side, the slot can handle 16GB microSD card (probably 32GB too, though we can’t confirm at this point) and is of course hot-swap-enabled.

The volume rocker is on the right too and not quite comfortable either. It’s a bit too thin and quite stiff, lacking proper press feedback. We can live with that though, as it has very limited use across the Symbian OS anyway.

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The volume rocker isn’t too comfortable either

The top of the Nokia C5 features the microUSB port, the 3.5mm audio jack and the Nokia proprietary charger plug. The microUSB slot can also be used for charging if you prefer. There's no protection on top - all of the connectivity ports are exposed.

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There are three jacks on top

Since the mouthpiece is on the keypad, there is nothing of note on the bottom.

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The completely bare bottom of the phone

The back panel of the handset features the 3 megapixel camera lens, accompanied by one of the tiniest LED flash units we have ever seen. The loudspeaker grills are also here, on the bottom end.

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The 3 megapixel camera is acoompanied by one of the smallest LED flash units we have seen

The camera lens has no protection against scratches save for being slightly set in. That means you need to be careful handling the phone if you want the image quality to stay the same as the day you bought the handset.

Removing the steel battery cover reveals the SIM card slot and the 1050 mAh BL-5CT Li-Ion battery. Quoted at up to 12 hours of talk time and 630 hours of stand-by in 2G networks or 5 hours of talk time and 670 hours of stand-by in 3G networks, the battery really sounds like something.

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Checking what’s under the hood

In reality we only had to charge the Nokia C5 once for the 10 days that it was with us. It didn’t see too much use (about 15 minutes of telephony a day plus about 40 minutes of using other phone features) but that’s still a pretty good achievement.

The build quality of the Nokia C5 should be one of the phone’s best selling points. The only thing to be especially careful about is the cover of the memory card slot. It has a hard hinge instead of a bendable fix – and that makes it particularly fragile.

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The Nokia C5 held in hand

Otherwise the phone looks and feels sturdy enough to stick with you for quite a while. Fingerprints are no issue either, except on the screen. In terms of ergonomics, the C5 is near perfect – with the exception of the fiddly memory card slot. Comfortable navigation deck and one of the best numpads make the phone great to use.

Reader comments

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