Saturday, April 13, 2013
Nokia Asha 311
Nokia is one of those manufacturers with a penchant for visual design.
Regardless of the overall strengths or weaknesses of a handset the company produces, design is consistently on the positive side of the checklist and even the worst of its portfolio looks rather dapper compared to much of the rest of the market.
The Asha 311 may be a budget device but that doesn’t mean Nokia has scrimped on the aesthetics. The shape is a neat rectangle with gently curving sides and corners which work well with the proportions.
Nokia’s also gone for its usual range of luminescent colour options and the 311 features a contrasting panel on the lower portion of the phone, separated by a narrow chrome band which also houses the solid control keys.
Overall we think it looks very smart.
That said, it is a little on the small side and those with larger hands may find it a bit fiddly to get to grips with.
Another minor grievance is the inconsistency of materials used. The build quality actually feels surprisingly solid for a budget device but Nokia has clearly saved production costs by using a fairly low-quality feel plastic for the main back panel.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this but the lower contrasting panel feels like a much nicer material and we can’t help but think the experience of the device in the hand would’ve been substantially improved if the whole thing was made from this superior plastic.
We also find it a bit irksome that Nokia insists on fitting a proprietary charging port rather than allowing the already present Micro USB to fulfil charging duties.
The budget constraints and diminutive size of the Asha 311 means it’s only sporting a basic 3-inch TFT touch display with 56k colours, low resolution (400×240 pixels) and low pixel density of only 155 pixels-per-inch (ppi).
But at the very least it’s capacitive rather than resistive and is reasonably responsive when navigating the homescreens.
Being a Nokia screen the blacks are quite good, but apart from that everything’s a bit fuzzy and the colours don’t really pop.
The Asha 311 is reasonably well provisioned in the processor department thanks to a 1GHz single core CPU which ensures the operating system runs quite smoothly and the device is capable of running games such as Angry Birds reasonably well (although this is a version built and optimised specially for S40 handsets).
However, in other areas it’s less impressive with 128MB of RAM and 140MB of onboard storage.
It does at least have MicroSD support for cards up to 32GB and connectivity is quite well catered for with Bluetooth, MicroUSB and Wi-Fi – the latter being rather unusual for feature phones and thus a welcome addition.
The S40 operating system is a major bone of contention here. Generally we found it extremely obtuse and frustrating to use compared to other contemporary touch-based platforms such as Android, Windows Phone and iOS.
Many of the most typically used settings and functions are buried deep inside a maze-like burrow of layered menus and sub-menus. Needless to say, it doesn’t offer the most intuitive experience.
Another issue is that despite the touchscreen’s decent responsiveness, the way the platform reacts to this isn’t great. The transition animations between screens feel too quick and effectively twang across the display awkwardly.
Although the app icons are bright and colourful they’re also fairly flat and bland. The homescreen interface is divided into three panels you flick between. One is an app drawer for all installed apps, the other is a fullscreen dialpad and the third is a favourites page which you can populate with your most regularly used app shortcuts and contacts.
Facebook and Twitter are preloaded onto the phone, together with Angry Birds and a digital gift card which allows you to download up to 40 EA games, but you have to do this within 60 days of activating the gift card.
You’ve also got apps onboard for a range of phone functionality including a weather app, file browser, email, maps, contacts, music and a calendar.
In fairness there are plenty of apps available on Nokia’s S40 app store, but as we mentioned with the Angry Birds example earlier, many of them are specially made and optimised builds for S40 devices and this does have an impact on the end user experience.
It’s also fair to say that although you get some very well known and well established apps on S40 (EA Games titles, What’s App, Facebook et al) you also don’t get anywhere near the broad range of 600,000 + apps found on Google Play or Apple’s App Store, instead there’s just over 100,000.
As you might expect on a budget handset, the camera is not particularly impressive. It’s a 3.15-megapixel shooter with a 2048×1536 pixel resolution and VGA video.
Visuals are typically washed out and grainy with very poor contrast, white balance and exposure, although colours are not too bad.
The result is that every shot or video looks like a dream sequence from a film.
Battery life isn’t too bad but then we’d expect as much from a feature phone. It’ll easily last a day or two with moderate use but it also charges quite rapidly compared to most smartphones.
The Asha 311 typically retails for around £100 (RRP is closer to £70 but we haven’t found it anywhere at that price) and for that amount of money, compared to what else you can get, it’s not an appealing device.
It’s too obscure and fussy in terms of how you interact with it and it simply doesn’t offer enough compared to something similarly priced like the Huawei Ascend G300 which gives you way more bang for your buck via Android.
View the original article here