Nokia 3G is a joy to use

3G Phones have long been a hit and miss affair. Unlike their 2.5G counterparts, 3G handsets are generally regarded as big, bulky and slow - among many other issues. Only recently have we seen a change in this and Nokia has joined the party, this time offering the classy 6280. It's quite simply excellent in most areas.

Boasting a two megapixel camera, a vivid 320 x 240 display and an external mini SD card slot, we fell in love with the 6280 as soon as it fell into our hands. And surprisingly, it wasn't just because of these features either - it's just that the 6280 is a joy to use and its interface is what all 3G phones should be aiming to produce. There it is, in a nutshell.

Aesthetically, the 6280 looks a class above anything else we've seen in recent times. The phone itself is black and silver in colour, with a chrome five-way navigational pad breaking up the looks quite nicely. While it's far from the smallest phone on the market, for a 3G model it's hardly large at all and fits nicely into the palm of your hand. The only issue we had with the design was the slider; at no point in time during testing did it feel sturdy and despite our review unit being brand new, the top half of the unit didn't sit well at all, regularly jiggling from side to side when it was opened. Perhaps Nokia needs to take a closer look at build quality in this model because it's a bit of a let down considering how the handset shapes up in other areas.

The vivid, bright and clear display has to be seen to be believed. Without doubt the best display on a mobile phone we've seen to date, the 262K colour screen is a joy to use, particularly when it is combined with the camera. And the new Series 40 user interface also gets the best out of this display; with bright and animated logos ensuring even those who are new to mobile phones shouldn't have any problems getting their heads around the 6280. (Another minor issue though; the animated icons looks extremely pixilated for some strange reason.)

Controls and keypad are once again simply Nokia, just the way we like it. Two selection buttons, Answer and End Call keys and a five-way navigational pad round out the controls, while the keypad is compact without being too small; chrome lines separate the three columns of keys which are easy to type long messages on. Conveniently, there is a volume control on the right hand side of the unit and a Push To Talk button on the other. A dedicated camera button means the 6280 is able to act as a normal camera where the phone is held sideways and the camera button acts as the shutter key.

The two megapixel camera sounds great with all the features it offers, but we were disappointed in the overall image quality it produces. For starters, the camera takes plenty of time to write photos to the phone and even longer to start the camera application itself. The images we uploaded to our PC lacked appropriate lighting and the flash just made things worse. Perhaps the biggest problem with the 6280 camera was the discoloured pixels - almost every photo has a few pixels which turn out green or red. You don't actually notice it until you upload the image to a computer, but once you do, the problem is fairly substantial. The camera also lacks auto focus but offers plenty of image settings with Grayscale, Sepia and Negative effects, to name just a few. The video recorder also suffered with poor quality, but this is to be expected and is the norm for most video cameras on mobile phones.

Other features of the 6280 include an MP3 player with AAC support, dual integrated cameras with video calling and email with attachment support. If you're looking to use email frequently though, we'd probably recommend a more business oriented handset rather than this one - which is directed at normal every day use. Video calling wasn't anything to write home about in terms of quality, but it gets the job done nonetheless. The phone is only rated at 180 minutes of video talk-time, which is a little below average. The 6280 music player was surprisingly efficient and the sound was better than we expected as well. Unfortunately, you are unable to use a standard set of headphones with the 6280, which is a shame because as usual, the stock ear buds are uncomfortable and don't sound the best either. This is a common problem.

The 6280 includes a 64MB miniSD card in the package and this should be enough storage, depending of course on what your primary uses are. We took plenty of photos and recorded a couple of short videos at the highest quality and still had plenty of room for many more. Battery life was rated at 240 minutes of talk time and 400 hours standby - we did expect a little better, but it's not bad.

What's Hot: Design, Superb interface, User Friendly, Quality Display, Comfortable keypad and controls, Good list of features
What's Not: Slider not well built, Issues with Camera quality, Pixilated animated menu icons
The Final Word: A fantastic entry into the 3G market, the 6280 offers a superb user interface, together with an outstanding display. Definitely one of the best 3G handsets available.
RRP: $699