Nokia's 9000 series Communicator devices have always had a few things in common. They've had big displays, full QWERTY keyboards, and they were huge. The Nokia 9500, a current model in Nokia's lineup, still fits that description. But with the 9300, things are starting to change. The 9300 still has a big display and a QWERTY keyboard, but it isn't exactly huge - especially when compared to earlier models, as you will see.
The Nokia 9300 has the same wide clamshell form factor that can be found in all of the Nokia Communicator handsets. But with dimensions of 133mm x 51mm x 22mm (5.2" x 2.0" x .9"), it is 15mm shorter, 6mm narrower, and 2mm thinner than the full sized 9500 model. While still on the long side, the 9300 is suddenly a lot more pocketable than any of the earlier models. Its weight is down, too: 169g (5.96oz) with SIM and MMC card. That makes it a whopping 55g (1.94oz) lighter than the 9500. The 9300 is the first Communicator within range of such devices as the Sony Ericsson P910.
The 9300's clamshell form factor, however, imparts it with some real advantages over devices like the P910. For example, the 9300 has a very normal exterior look to it. There is a 128x128 pixel 65k TFT color display, a d-pad controller, two softkeys, and a large and spacious numeric keypad. You won't find that on most PDA style phones. All of the exterior buttons and controls worked quite well, and the overall build quality and finish of the device seem to be top notch.
Apart from the front panel, there are no volume control or other buttons on the exterior of the 9300, though there is an IR port on the side of the bottom the phone. There is no camera in the 9300, unlike with the 9500, so there is little to the back other than the battery cover, which can be a bit of a pain to remove, and two rubber feet. Under the battery cover you will find the battery, the SIM socket, and a MMC memory card socket. The MMC card can be swapped without the need to remove the battery, unlike the SIM. It is also worth noting that the 9300 won't function without a SIM; not even as a non-connected PDA, which I find odd.
When closed, the 9300 could easily be mistaken for a regular, if quite large, normal phone. But when you open it up, people will take notice, for inside you will find a full QWERTY keyboard, a 640x200 TFT display, and four softkeys that run along the right hand edge of the display.
The 65k color display is quite good in most situations, though it can be a bit hard to read in direct sunlight at times. But the wide-screen format makes doing a lot of things, such as web browsing or spreadsheet editing, a lot easier than they would be on a portrait mode display. The keyboard, however, appears to have suffered in Nokia's attempt to shave millimeters from the 9300's girth. The keys have no spacing between them, as they had with models such as the 9210 that came before the 9300 and 9500. This makes them difficult to feel blindly, even though they have a slight dome shape to them. The reduced size of each key pretty much will limit most people to using the keyboard with their thumbs, but I don't think that in and of itself is a real problem since the 9300 can open up a full 180 degrees, so that it lays flat. The real problem with the keys, in my opinion, is their lack of travel and feel. Oh, and the missing backlight. Mustn't forget to mention that, as it will prove to be a real sticking point with anybody that tries to use the 9300 in less than optimal lighting conditions. All of this adds up to what I believe is the 9300's biggest shortcoming.
The other controls, such as the 4 softkeys, the shortcut keys at the top of the keyboard, and the thumb-stick directional controller are a bit of a mixed bag. The softkeys have a good feel to them, one that would have made a world of difference if present in the main keyboard. The shortcut keys are a bit narrow, but at least allow you to quickly get to most major functions in the 9300 without bothering with the main menu.
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