Nokia Astound review: Best value smartphone available in the U.S.

I have had a Nokia N8 (see my Definitive Guide) since November 2010 and overall I am pleased with the device. The last Nokia device to launch on a U.S. carrier was the E73 Mode with T-Mobile and they continue to add Nokia devices to their collection with the new Nokia Astound. The Astound is a Nokia C7 with improvements not seen in any other C7 device while only selling for subsidized price of $79.99. The full no contract price is just $299.99 and both of these amounts are great deals IMHO.

Improvements in the Nokia Astound compared to the N8

Dieter took a look at the Nokia Astound at CTIA last month and I recently received an evaluation unit as well. While I do enjoy my Nokia N8, I am not pleased that it launched without a portrait QWERTY keyboard and with a rather lame web browser and it is taking too long to get updated. The Nokia Astound launches with a newer version of the Symbian software that includes the following:

  • Portrait QWERTY keyboard
  • Improved icons
  • Much better email client

In the box

The Nokia Astound comes in a typical T-Mobile package rather than the sleek Nokia packages I have been used to lately when buying Nokia devices outside the carrier. You will find the following inside the retail box:

  • Nokia Astound
  • Battery & charger
  • Wired stereo headset
  • USB data cable
  • Start Guide
  • SIM card
  • Terms and conditions pamphlet

You won’t find all those great goodies that were in the N8 box (USB on-the-go and HDMI cable), but this device sells for a low price for a reason.

Specifications

  • ARM 11 600 MHz processor
  • Symbian^3 software
  • Quad band GSM/EDGE with 850/900/1800/1900 MHz support
  • Quad band WCDMA with 850/900/1700/2100 MHz support
  • 3.5 inch 360×640 pixel resolution AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass
  • 250 MB of free user disk space
  • 8GB internal memory
  • microSD card slot for expanded memory
  • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • Integrated GPS with A-GPS
  • Integrated FM radio with RDS
  • FM transmitter
  • NFC wireless technology
  • 8 megapixel camera with 3rd generation dual LED flash
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • BL-5K 1200 mAh battery
  • Dimensions of 4.6 x 2.2 x 0.38 inches and 4.4 ounces

Comparing the Nokia Astound to the N8 shows that the N8 has the better camera while the Astound includes NFC. The N8 also has penta-band WCDMA (the 1900 MHz frequency is missing on the Astound), but the four that are included cover both AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. The Astound also has a removable battery, but I honestly haven’t had any real issue with the battery life of my Nokia N8.

Around the hardware

While the Nokia Astound has the same AMOLED display as the Nokia N8 (I incorrectly said something about ClearBlack in my video) I personally think it looks better for some reason. It is crisp and clear and maybe the shiny finish around it makes it pop out more or something. The 3.5 inch display takes up most of the front with a front facing camera in the upper right, send and end buttons on either side of the menu button and a mic opening along the bottom. Nokia, C7, and T-Mobile brands are stamped on the front as well.

On the bottom you will find the lanyard opening while the top holds the microUSB port, 3.5mm headset jack, and power button. Nokia includes a 2mm standard charging port on the upper left side.

The right side is where you will find a camera capture button, sliding lock switch, distinct volume buttons, and the voice command button.

The 8 megapixel camera and dual LED flash is found on the upper back while a metal cover hides the battery, SIM card, and microSD card slot. No microSD card is included, but you can use up to 32GB in the device.

The Astound has a Near Field Communications (NFC) chip inside, but I was unable to find anything to test it with at this time. It is nice to see they are thinking ahead with the device though, especially given it is an $80 phone.

The Nokia Astound feels fantastic in your hand with solid build quality and its thinness. The Gorilla Glass and metal/plastic frame make it feel like a very high end smartphone too.

Software

The Nokia Astound is a Symbian^3 device so everything I wrote about the Nokia N8 should be the same here too. It is a mature operating system and very customizable, but not necessarily as flashy as iOS or Android. It is an excellent choice though since it is a full smartphone priced down in the feature phone range.

Don’t forget it supports things like USB on-the-go, FM transmitter (called Play via Radio on the Astound), Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity, Nokia Maps (FREE worldwide navigation), and more.

T-Mobile also includes some software on the Astound without turning it into an AT&T disaster with tons of bloatware. These titles include:

  • Swype
  • TeleNav GPS Navigator
  • Slacker

I LOVE the updated email client with a look and feel that is efficient and attractive. It clearly shows read and unread email (something the N8 does a very poor job of doing) and full HTML in a much better interface. It still has issues setting up Gmail right through the Nokia servers so make sure to decline the last prompt when setting it up.

The browser still isn’t the latest and greatest, but I just loaded up the free Opera Mobile and am perfectly happy with its performance.

Conclusion, price and availability

The Nokia Astound is available now for $79.99 with 2-year contact or $299.99 with no contract. I have been seriously considering picking one up because I just can’t stop holding it and flipping it around and around in my hand. It takes good photos, has solid RF reception with excellent call quality, has much improved email software, and is a very nice Symbian device.

I haven’t yet taken a ton of photos or videos with the device so I can’t fully judge the camera yet, but will try to get to that soon. Battery life has gone at least a day for me with heavy usage and push email.

If you are a person with a Nokia Nuron, then this really is a no brainer upgrade if you like Nokia and Symbian devices. T-Mobile can sell a lot of these at this price and unlike some other devices in the past, there are very few (if any) compromises with the Astound when compared to smartphones in this price range. T-Mobile currently has an unlimited talk, text, and data plan for this phone at just $79.99 per month.

Ratings (out of 5)

  • Specs: 4
  • Form factor: 5
  • Customizability: 4.5
  • User interface: 4
  • App support: 4.5

Overall: 4.5/5

starStarStarStarStar

Pros

  • Sleek, super slim, solid hardware
  • Very good quality camera
  • Solid RF reception and phone call functionality/quality
  • Responsive, snappy performance
  • Full support for latest Ovi Store apps
  • High end features for low end price

Cons

  • Native browser still needs an update
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25 Comments to Nokia Astound review: Best value smartphone available in the U.S.

Stromson
April 19, 2011

This makes it a much tougher decision between the Astound and N8. I much prefer the N8 hardware, but the Astound has the right price tag…

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Red_Munk!!
April 21, 2011

@Stromson: You can get a N8 unlocked for around $300 online + it will be getting updated to Anna in the summer for what its worth.

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MegaShaun
May 27, 2011

And the C7 Astound has some nice photo apps for its 8Mpixel cam like ’3DPhotoFree’ which makes the Astound into a 3D camera phone

[…] a year to get that update? We saw details of Anna revealed back in February and today we have the Nokia Astound, Nokia E6, and Nokia X7 all with Anna loaded out of the box. I can’t think of a rational […]

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Gadgetman
June 27, 2011

You get a lot of technology for the buck with this phone. Any news on the availability in Europe?

John Hudson
October 8, 2011

As an ex-N8 user, I found the technology crammed in there excellent but the phone just a little too bulky to carry. Nice review though!

crossword puzzle maker
April 4, 2012

I use Nokia almost from the very first model. I’m still loving it and even don’t want to by another phone.


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