There's no denying this large phone is visually different (well, it is a Nokia handset). We aren't sure we like it: the combination of a top-heavy frame and a small and squeezed keyboard gives it a 'Popeye after spinach' look that doesn't appeal. But under its pumped-up exterior lies a set of features to make the multimedia fan hyperventilate, especially if you have a penchant for editing movies shot on a handset.
Online, we've seen prices ranging from free with a £30 per month contract to £220 SIM-free. If the design and features appeal, you should be able to find a price and contract to suit.
This is a relatively chunky handset. At 109mm tall, 49mm wide and 19mm deep, it requires 90 cubic centimetres of space in your pocket, and you'll have to cope with 110g of weight. It isn't a brick by any means, but it's more beefy than most handsets.
The look is very 1970s sci-fi, with charcoal and silver colouring (it's also available in reddish brown and silver). It has rounded edging and strange, Space 1999-style numbers on the keys. The bottom right edge of the casing houses an infrared port. On the top is a speaker, which pumps sound out at an inadequate volume. The left edge has a button dedicated to the built-in Push to Talk service, which is not yet widely available in the UK.
On the back sits the 1.2 megapixel camera lens, with a square mirror that distorts framed photos of yourself to the point of being a fairground attraction rather than a useful tool. There is no hardware button to launch the camera. While it is easy enough to find in the application menu, anyone keen on taking quick snaps should note the extra seconds involved -- some spontaneous moments may be lost.
The screen offers 65k colours at 176x208 pixels, and it is large (35mm wide, 41mm tall), clear and generally likeable. Between the numberpad and screen sits a panel of buttons including Call and End keys, Nokia's familiar Menu, Clear and Edit keys, twin softkeys and, slap bang in the middle, a joystick. This stands proud with a recess all around it and is pretty responsive.
There is an eyelet for a wrist strap, but Nokia doesn't provide one. What you do get by way of extras is a 32MB RS-MMC card to expand the built-in memory, a stereo headset and mains power charger. The 3230 runs Series 60, and it is possible to exchange data with a PC using PC Suite, but you'll have to download the software (free of charge from the Nokia site) to do so.
A main selling point of the Nokia 3230 is Movie Director, an application for editing video clips and producing 'muvees', as it annoyingly calls them. You can apply a range of filters to videos and join smaller clips together. There are several preconfigured styles, or you can choose your own music, text and general style. Completed muvees can be sent as MMS messages. It's fiddly to use, though, and we tired of creating muvees as quickly as we tired of the novelty spelling.
You shoot footage with the built-in camera, which is also capable of capturing stills, at resolutions up to 1280x960 pixels. The built-in Kodak Mobile software enables you to upload your photos to the Web for sharing or to order prints. Alternatively, you can transfer your photos to a PC using the built-in Bluetooth or via the memory card, and share them from there.
The 3230 has another multimedia trick up its 70s retro sleeve: Visual Radio. Also available on Nokia's 7710, Visual Radio allows you to see content relevant to the current show, but only if stations choose to broadcast that content. As of yet there are no such offerings in the UK, but watch this space.
In the meantime, you can take advantage of the 3230's standard FM radio. Audio quality is fine, assuming you're in an area with reasonable reception. There is both automatic and manual tuning, and you can save 20 station presets. You must have the headset plugged in to use the radio, because its antenna resides in the cable, but you can send output to the 3230's speaker. The speaker or headset can also be used to listen to pre-recorded music, thanks to RealPlayer, which supports MP3 and AAC format files.
With all this media capability, you'll want plenty of storage. There is good and bad news here. It is great that you can enhance the built-in memory with RS-MMC cards, and just as good that cards can be hot-swapped, because they live under the battery cover but not under the battery itself. However, it's annoying that Nokia only provides a 32MB card to augment the rather measly 5.6MB of on-board memory. In our view, 32MB just doesn't cut it for a multimedia phone.
Among the other goodies built into the 3230 is a full Web browser with the useful ability to automatically remember the last six sites visited. You also get extras including a voice recorder for both calls and voice notes, calculator, calendar, alarm, voice dialling and three Java games. One of these games, Agent V, had us hooked for hours. It uses the camera's current view to act as a backdrop to a point-and-shoot scenario in which you are charged with ridding the environment of nasty viruses. Clever and addictive.
Audio calls were loud and clear, and you change volume using the joystick, which is as easy as it should be. Texting is painful, though. This is not due to the keys, which are tactile enough, but because of the generally top-heavy nature of the handset. Rather than balancing ergonomically in the palm for one-handed use, the 3230 feels as though it may forward-roll out of your grasp during message writing, and indeed it did so on more than one occasion. It may be that you need a larger palm than ours to cradle the 3230 for one-handed use, but we suggest you give it a texting test before you buy.
We had no problems with the battery, which gave several two- and three-day stretches of use between charges. If you are heavy on the music and radio use, or get the muvee bug, expect to charge it daily.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide