For those who can't quite stretch to the eye-wateringly high asking price of Nokia's flagship X6 music phone, the budget X3 may be the answer. It's available for free on a £10-per-month, 24-month contract. You can also pick it up for around £90 on a pay-as-you-go deal, or £120 SIM-free.
Let it slide
Nokia may be pitching the X3 as a budget version of the X6, but the two phones couldn't be further apart in terms of both design and functionality. Whereas the X6 is an all-singing, all-dancing touchscreen device with the bare minimum of physical controls, the X3 is a pretty traditional slider phone with a small screen and no 3G or Wi-Fi support.
In fact, even by slider-phone standards, the X3's 56mm (2.2-inch) screen is pretty tiny. Its low resolution of just 240x320 pixels isn't great either, but it's the viewing angle that is its most annoying limitation. Turn it slightly to the left or right, and colours look either very dark or completely washed-out.
The X3 uses Nokia's Series 40 software, rather than the more advanced Series 60 operating system that you'll find on X6. The version of Series 40 used on the X3 has, however, been updated to support the Ovi Store, letting you buy and download new applications directly from the handset.
Series 40 has plenty of other neat features, but its clunky design makes it feel rather dated. At least moving through the menus has been made pretty straightforward, thanks to the phone's large direction pad. Although the keys on the slide-out keypad are very flat, they're actually quite responsive, so it's fairly easy to quickly tap out long text messages.
Quick music fix
The X3 is primarily being promoted as a music phone, so it's no surprise to find a column of dedicated music buttons lined up vertically to the left of the display. These give you quick access to the track-skip and play/pause controls.
There's also a standard 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the phone, so you can easily swap the included headphones for your own cans if you want. The supplied headphones aren't all that bad, however. They offer decent bass response and, although they're rather lacking when it comes to the higher frequencies, you can compensate for this slightly using the music player's equaliser control.
The music player actually looks rather basic, but it's pretty simple to use. Songs are sorted into the usual album, artist and track-title categories. Album art is also supported, although there's no flashy navigation feature, as there is on the iPhone, with its Cover Flow feature, and some other recent touchscreen handsets.
Unfortunately, the phone's camera is rather disappointing. It's only got a 3.2-megapixel resolution and, while colours in photos captured outdoors look rich and vibrant, the lack of a flash means indoor shots are very dark and grainy. There's no autofocus either, so you have to be quite careful when framing your photos to avoid camera blur.
If there's one area where Nokia phones usually excel, it's call quality, but the company has dropped the ball with the X3. Even though we tried the phone in a number of strong-signal areas, call quality was mediocre at best, and downright awful at worst. Sometimes, even with full signal strength, callers would sound overly robotic, as if the signal were breaking up.
At least the X3's battery life isn't bad. We got around three days out of it before it needed to be topped up with juice.
The Nokia X3 is a very different phone to the X6 and, given its low price, we can forgive it some of its failings, such as its lack of 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. The shoddy call quality and poor screen are big disappointments though. As a result, we'd recommend that those after a good budget music phone check out the similarly priced Sony Ericsson W395 Walkman instead.
Edited by Charles Kloet