Perhaps Nokia's numbering should have been the clue, but we were surprised to see just how similar the 6210 Navigator is to the 6220 Classic we reviewed last month. Both phones share similar navigation controls, nearly identical dimensions — including a pocket-friendly depth of 15mm — and both phones share the same awkward keyboard design, but more on that later.
One key difference between these handsets is that the Navigator sports a slightly larger 2.4-inch colour display, which is important considering this phone is intended as a handheld personal navigation device. This display is up to Nokia's usually high standard and features excellent horizontal and vertical viewing angles, meaning you don't lose the image on-screen when you view the screen tilted on an angle — another important element for a mobile navigator .
In our hands the 6210 feels solid while also being lightweight. The battery cover is made of a stiff plastic and has a slightly rough feel to it, like a piece of flint, which gives the phone necessary friction for when you slide open the top half of the slider. The sliding mechanism feels slick and sure, and gives the 6210 the feel of a premium quality handset. A 3.2-megapixel camera sits on the back but unlike previous N-Series releases, this camera doesn't have a lens cover. This isn't poor design necessarily, it keeps the phone flat and streamlined, though we did find the lens recess did collect a lot of dust and lint after short trips in the pocket of our trousers.
As mentioned above, the 6210 sports a similar keypad to the 6220 Classic, which in our opinion is less than ideal. The pad lays flush with the underside of the sliding half, and while it's an attractive design element, it's just not as easy to use as it should be. The keys feel plastic-y and less tactile than a raised keypad and the top row of keys are awkward to thumb quickly when speed-typing text messages.
Last year Nokia started pushing its mapping service with vigour, spruiking the turn-by-turn navigation subscriptions attached to the service. When the Finns released the 6110 Navigator at the end of last year it offered free turn-by-turn voice guidance for the life of the phone, setting it apart from the growing range of Nokia handsets capable of installing Nokia Maps and featuring A-GPS hardware. Naturally we assumed this year's Navigator would also feature this service subscription-free: we were wrong.
In it's place Nokia has included six months free access to voice-guided navigation — the same offer they attached to the N95 8GB at the end of last year. In our experience Nokia is not a miserly company and is often acutely aware of what its loyal fans will and will not pay for — the Comes with Music offer is an excellent example — however, stripping turn-by-turn guidance out of the 6210 Navigator reeks of penny-pinching and makes an affordable mobile phone cum personal navigator look immensely less attractive.
Aside from navigation, the 6210 is another well-featured mid-range Nokia handset. It connects to the internet at 3.5G data speeds and sports A2DP Bluetooth connectivity, though no Wi-Fi. The 6120 runs on the latest Series 60 third edition operating platform and includes the same excellent suite of pre-installed applications we've seen on recent release N-Series phones including document readers for Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF files, visual radio, a selection of games and the standard range of personal organiser applications.
Since the frustrating lag we experienced using last year's original N95, Nokia has been on a sure and steady road to improving the performance of its handsets running on the S60 Symbian platform, and the 6210 is further evidence of this. While its hardware specs may seem underwhelming, its 369MHz ARM processor has proven more than capable of delivering an impressively lag-free user experience through the various applications and menus.
When the 6210 was first announced at the beginning of the year Nokia began espousing the phone's specialty in pedestrian navigation, especially with regards to its internal compass. This compass rotates the on-screen map's orientation, with an icon displaying true north, helping to better guide you to points of interest on the map like cafes and train stations. We've had a chance to test the 6210 on foot and in-car and agree with Nokia's original approach. This device is much better suited to pedestrian navigation than to directing a moving vehicle.
When walking with the Navigator we found it kept our location superbly, updating constantly as we moved along one street or another. In a car, with a much heavier reliance on routing, the 6210 struggled somewhat, directing us along unusually complicated routes and even once guiding us to a street three or four blocks from our destination before proudly announcing that we had reached our destination. No one, and we mean no one, tells a CNET editor to walk three blocks more than he or she has to.
Battery life during our tests was also mildly concerning, with two-day average cycles reminding us of N-Series handsets of old. Unsurprisingly 90 minutes of GPS navigation nearly completely drained the battery, but more alarming, a similar length phone conversation almost depleted the battery as well. Anyone intending to use the 6210 as their in-car navigator should seriously consider buying a car charger as well.
The 6210 Navigator is another decent handset from the world's number one mobile phone manufacturer, but far from the company's best. Its stand-out features are the Series 60 operating platform with its excellent suite of apps and speedy performance, but of course, this is available with all new mid-range and top-line Nokia phones and doesn't differentiate the Navigator from the growing list of same-y Nokia phones. Without a lifetime subscription to turn-by-turn navigation via Nokia Maps, the 6210 feels neutered, robbed of what made it unique and leaves us asking why we should choose it over the 6220 Classic — with its 5-megapixel camera, A-GPS and the ability to install the same maps — or wait for the N96, or even Samsung's INNOV8.