Review posted October 16, 2007 by Lisa Gade, Editor
We've covered a great number of high end Nokia NSeries "multimedia computers", otherwise known as full-featured smartphones, and Nokia E series smartphones. They're generally available through retailers and importers rather than carriers (the Nokia E62 and N75 being recent exceptions which are offered by AT&T). And they are by no means cheap with prices ranging from $450 to $1,00 when in their prime. The Nokia 6120 Classic is a wonderful exception to the "you get what you pay for" rule: it's a powerful Symbian 9.2, Series 60 3rd Edition feature pack 1 phone that sells for under $300 unlocked for use with any GSM carrier. It's got an excellent QVGA display, a 2 megapixel camera with fixed focus lens, quad band GSM radio with 850/2100MHz 3G HSDPA, Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR with A2DP support, music player, FM radio, a microSD card slot, 369MHz processor and all the usual S60 software goodness including the excellent web browser based on Safari technology. To top it off, this is one tiny smartphone that looks smart and is pants pocket-friendly. The 6120 is perfect for those who want a smartphone with easy syncing to Outlook but don't need or want high end features like a 5MP camera, integrated GPS or WiFi. Why the "Classic" at the end? Several years ago Nokia used the model number 6120, so they added Classic to avoid confusion between the current and very old models sharing the same number.
Design and Ergonomics
Small, slim and elegant, the 6120 looks like a quality feature phone, smartly concealing the brains inside. The phone is gloss black with silver accents and is just a few millimeters longer than the Sony Ericsson W580i. It looks classy, modern and attractive and will snuggle easily into fitted pants pockets. The 2" display dominates the front face, though the keys haven't been shrunken unbearably small to keep the phone petit. The d-pad ring is a bit stiff but usable and the large center action button is quite easy to use. The usual S60 programs key is to the right of the d-pad and the clear key is on the right. Gone are the dedicated pencil key (instead, press the # key to change input) and multimedia launcher buttons to make the phone smaller.
Size comparison: The Nokia E90, N76 and 6120 Classic.
The piano black back does show fingerprints, though they're easily cleared with a huff and a wipe. The back cover fits tightly and isn't the easiest to get off, even after two months of wear and tear.
The phone's sides are matte black and are a bit grippy to keep the phone in hand. The microSD card door is on the phone's left side near the bottom while the speakerphone grille is near the top. The power button (which as always, doubles as the profile changer key with a short press) is dead center up top and the volume up/down buttons and camera button are on the right side. The 2.5mm stereo headset jack, standard Nokia charger port and mini-USB sync port are on the bottom. Since this is an import phone it comes with a Nokia world charger with prongs for Asia or Europe, depending on where your phone came from. Most importers include a prong adapter with the phone so you can use it in the states.
Phone Features, Reception and Data
Like most Nokia phones, the 6120 Classic has very good call quality with above average clarity and average volume by GSM standards. Reception is strong (we measure reception in db, rather than relying on signal bars) on both the 850 and 1900MHz GSM bands used in the US. The 6120 has the usual S60 settings wizard that configures the phone for voicemail, data and MMS based on the SIM you insert; and it has the usual T-Mobile US bug (each time you boot up the phone, it says you have a voice mail message, but there are actually no new messages). You can dial from contacts, and there's speed dialing as well as Nokia's iffy voice command but there's no smart dialing or smart search in contacts.
Call volume and clarity with the included stereo headset is very good (and can get quite loud). Likewise we got the usual strong Nokia compatibility and range with a variety of Bluetooth headsets including the Jawbone, Plantronics Discovery 655 and BlueAnt Z9. We also tested the 6120 with the Motorola S9 Stereo Bluetooth headset and heard less white noise than usual (the S9 has distinct, low-level white hiss when used with many non-Moto phones).
The 6120 has 3G HSDPA on the rather oddly combined 850 and 2100MHz bands. 850 is used in the US along with 1900, and 2100MHz is used in Europe. The Nokia 6121 has the more commonly bundled 900 and 2100MHz bands for Europe and Asia. We believe that the 6120 targets Australia which uses the 850 and 2100 bands, but not 1900. AT&T in the US currently uses the 850MHz band primarily on GSM/EDGE with most 3G HSDPA service on the 1900MHz band, so most of us won't be able to use the 6120's 3G in the US. But there are a few 850MHz 3G areas in the US, so we won't rule it out completely.
Messaging handles SMS, MMS, POP3 and IMAP email. Download speeds are very tolerable over EDGE, even with small attachments. Nokia includes their basic IM application but nothing that handles AIM, Yahoo or other popular IM services out of the box.
Performance and Smartphone Features
The Classic has a 369MHz ARM11 single core CPU, compared to the lower clock speed dual core CPUs used in Nokia NSeries smartphones. The phone is responsive and quick by S60 standards when opening folders and launching applications, similar to the Nokia N95. While it's not the video playback and 3D gaming powerhouse that the N95 and other dual core CPU S60 phones are, it's fine for Real Player playback, opening images in Gallery, 2D gaming and the like. In our SPMark Java06 tests, the 6120 actually did a tad better at 2D gaming than the N5-3, but the N95 trounced it in 3D gaming (the N95 has a 3D accelerator on board). The 6120 did well on the SPMark Java06 test with an overall score of 1656. The full test results are below.
PNG score: 1 (encode: 53kPixels/s, decode: 0) Editor's note: we're not sure what went wrong with the PNG test but something isn't right.
JVM score: 3922
Like most Nokia S60 smartphones except the Nokia E90, Nokia N95-3 and the Nokia N95 8 gig all of which have received a memory injection, the 6120 has 64 megs of RAM with approximately 20 megs free at boot to run programs. That's not a great deal of memory, and that means if you run Gallery, the web browser and a game running at once, you'll probably see a low memory error and the phone will start closing down applications to free up memory. By no means in the 6120 or other Nokia S60 phones unusable, but we're happy to see the trend toward increased memory in their flagship devices.
The phone has 128 megs of NAND flash memory, approximately 35 of which is available for storage. In addition, there's a microSD card slot that accepts cards up to 2 gigs in capacity.
The bottom of the Nokia 6120 classic showing the USB, headset and charging ports.
Despite its small size and un-geeky looks, the Nokia 6120 Classic is a full-fledged smartphone. The 6120 runs Symbian OS 9.2 with S60 3rd Edition, feature pack 1. It has capable PIM applications for contacts, calendar, notes and tasks and can sync these to Outlook. Nokia hasn't yet released an iSync plugin for Mac OS X, but I edited their plugin for the phone's cousin, the Nokia 6110 to create a plugin for the Classic. The contacts application supports most every field in Outlook and our only complaints are that: 1) Nokia still hasn't added a sort by company feature to S60, 2) there's no smart search inside contacts (i.e.: search for "store" to find the Apple Store Cupertino entry). The calendar is the usual good S60 stuff with support for alarms, repeating appointments and more.
There's a file manager, memory card manager, calculator, unit converter, Adobe PDF viewer and QuickOffice for viewing MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. For multimedia, there's Nokia's Gallery application, RealPlayer, Flash Lite 2.0, Voice Recorder and an FM radio. The FM radio application can download stations as presets to your phone based on your city (medium to large sized cities are available in the US). The FM radio uses the headset as its antenna and has average reception by phone standards, and weak reception by boombox standards. And of course, you can install 3rd party S60 3rd edition applications to the phone, though Nokia's broad software bundle doesn't leave gaping holes.
While the 2 megapixel 6120c can't compete with the Nokia N73 or N95, it does a better-than-average job among 2MP import camera phones and stands ahead of most US camera phones. The camera has a fixed-focus lens and LED flash, and is capable of taking photos at a maximum resolution of 1600 x 1200. Colors are generally accurate, though sometimes washed out in bright light and by Nokia standards, low light shots are acceptable (Nokia's weak point is indoor low light shots). The camera application has night mode, sequence mode, a self-timer, flash control, panorama mode and settings for white balance and color effects.
The Nokia can shoot video up to QVGA (320 x 240) resolution at 15 fps. There's also a front-facing video conferencing camera that can shoot QVGA resolution video at 15fps, but you won't be able to use it as a conferencing camera in the US since no carrier supports 2-way video calling. Video quality is decent by camera phone standards, with little blockiness and good audio-video sync.
The Nokia 6120 has a 820 mAh Lithium Ion battery that lives under the back door. This is the Nokia BL-5B, and Nokia claims up to 3.1 hours talk time on GSM. We actually managed closer to 3.5 hours in our best test runs on GSM (no 3G on 850MHz in our area). With average use, the phone should last 3 days on a charge. With a very capable phone, it's becoming harder to describe an average usage scenario-- for example if you like to watch an hour of video on the commute home from work, battery life will be shorter. Likewise if you use the Nokia as your MP3 player and play music 8 hours each day, you'll need to charge more frequently. But for talking 30 minutes/day, browsing the web for 45 minutes/day, checking email hourly and playing music for 2 hours/day the phone lasted us 3 days.
The Nokia 6120 Classic is a fantastic entry level S60 3rd Edition smartphone. In fact, it need not be considered entry level, but rather a phone for those who value portability and don't need WiFi, GPS or a high end camera which drive up both price and size. The phone is responsive, has an excellent display, manageable keypad and good battery life. And it's relatively inexpensive, attractive and durable (we haven't managed put even a scratch on it in two months of heavy use).
Price: Less than $300 unlocked from online retailers
Display:16 million color
TFT color LCD. Screen size diagonally: 2 ". Resolution:
240 x 320, supports both portrait and landscape modes in apps such as the web browser and gallery.
Battery:Nokia BL-5B 820 mAh Lithium
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
Claimed GSM talk time: up to 3.1 hours, claimed standby up to 9.5 days.
Performance:369MHz ARM 11 single core CPU. 128 megs flash memory and 64 megs RAM. 20 megs free to run programs and approximately 35 megs free storage.
x 2.78 x .53 inches. Weight: 4.67 ounces.
Phone:GSM quad band 850/900/1800/1900MHz world phone with EDGE, unlocked for use with any carrier. Has 3G UMTS and HSDPA on the 850 and 2100MHz bands.
Camera:2.0 MP with fixed focus lens and LED flash. 1600 x 1200 max photo resolution. Can shoot video with audio at 320 x 240 max resolution at 15 fps. 4x digital zoom, f2.8 lens.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Stereo headset HS47 included (2.5mm with inline mic and call send/end button). Voice Recorder, music player and Real Player included.
Networking:Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR with headset, handsfree, HID, A2DP, AVRC, Object push, FTP and SAP profiles.
Software:Symbian OS 9.2 with S60 3rd Edition feature pack 1. Java MIDP 2.0. Contacts, calendar, tasks, notes, QuickOffice suite (view Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents), IM client, memory card manager, Java VM, Messaging client (SMS, MMS, POP3 and IMAP email), web browser, voice recorder, Gallery, Converter, Calculator, File Manager, RealPlayer, Flash Lite 2, Zip Manager, theme manager, application manager, Adobe Acrobat PDF viewer, FM radio, music player, Nokia Maps (external GPS required for navigation) and WorldMate standard edition.
microSD card slot (hot swappable), 2 gigs max capacity.