This is one area where the Nokia 1600 really shines. I compared it against the Siemens A56, which is a phone with an excellent reputation for good RF sensitivity. Most phones that I rate highly usually match the performance of the A56, or beat it ever so slightly. The 1600 however, actually beat the A56 by enough to be quite noticeable.
I ran the tests in a couple of known weak spots for Rogers inside of Square One shopping mall in Mississauga. The first was in the lower level of Sears, which is a great place to test the performance of phones at 850 MHz. I was able to take the 1600 into places on the lower level of Sears and maintain reasonable call quality where the A56 broke up or even dropped the call.
My second test location was in the Z-shaped hallway that connects between the underground section of the mall and the main hallway. At the second elbow in that hall the signal on all networks gets extremely weak, but coverage there is predominantly from 1900 MHz indoor repeaters and it’s a good place to test 1900 MHz performance of phones. Once again, the 1600 bested the A56 by a reasonably wide margin.
I was actually quite impressed with the 1600’s ability to tame network maladies during numerous over-the-road tests. Handoffs were usually quite tame, and the phone did a good job of keeping everything nice and clean. It wasn’t quite up to the level of the recently-tested Sony-Ericsson z710i, though the handoffs were slightly less “obvious” than on the SE model.
Compared to other Nokia models, the 1600 is among the best they make for this particular aspect of performance. Coupled with the phone’s excellent RF sensitivity, there is no question that this model is a definite winner when it comes to overall RF prowess.
Tonal Balance: While admittedly far short of the best sounding phones I’ve ever tested, the overall tonal balance of the 1600 was very easy on the ears, if a tad shallow-sounding (that is, it lacked any low end that gives other phones a rich tonal quality). Throughout much of my testing I found the sound to be reasonably well-balanced with very little harshness. However, the lack of richness was a bit of a letdown given the excellent performance up to this point.
Sound Reproduction: Like tonal balance, the ability of the phone to reproduce the nuances of speech is quite good, but not quite stellar. Part of the problem is a detectable background hiss that seems to change somewhat with the overall sound. In other words, it isn’t just hiss, but a distortion in the sound that takes away from overall clarity. Still, it outranks quite a few more expensive phones on the market, and so given the low-end roll in life, it’s hard to find fault here.
Sadly the earpiece volume is only adequate in many circumstances, and rather faint in others. Not only is the maximum volume of this phone mediocre, but the volume boost feature seems reluctant to kick in when you need it. At first I wasn’t even sure there was a volume boost feature, but I finally found conditions that would trigger it. I personally wish Nokia would just provide more overhead in their volume settings rather than relying on this method of compensating for loud conditions. It can get annoying when the phone constantly raises and lowers the volume.
If you call a loud source (like the Speak out Wireless customer service front end) the phone sounds quite loud, but once you call other people, especially those with faint voices or faint phones, the lack of earpiece volume is quite noticeable.
The overall quality of the outgoing sound (when there is no background noise present) is quite nice, but hardly terrific. Like the incoming audio, it is a bit shallow-sounding. When background noise is present the phone lacks any real noise canceling attributes, but it’s no worse than any other Nokia is this regard.
During tests at a noisy food court I found that my voice was still quite audible above the background din, but the overall quality of the sound was noticeably poorer under those conditions. I’ve tested plenty of phones that can greatly reduce the background noise without doing much (if any) damage to the outgoing sound quality.
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