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Review of GSM/UMTS-handset Nokia 7900 Prism/Crystal Prism

Live photos of Nokia 7900 Prism

Table of contents:

  1. Positioning
  2. Design, size, controls
  3. Display
  4. Keypad
  5. Battery
  6. Memory
  7. Camera
  8. USB, Bluetooth
  9. Performance
  10. Themes, applications, games
  11. Impressions

Sales package:

  • Handset
  • Li-Ion battery (BL-6P)
  • Charger (AC-6)
  • Wired stereo-headset (HS-82)
  • USB data cable (CA-101)
  • User Guide


The Prism collection offers all fashionistas out there three phones the more mass-market Nokia 7500 Prism and two senior devices the Nokia 7900 Prism and its iteration, the Crystal Prism. Essentially, these handsets target women as their main audience, and while the Nokia 7900 Prism can qualify as a unisex model to a certain extent, so men can actually go for it, the Crystal Pink is heavy on pink and this very women-centric.

In our review on the Nokia 7500 we mentioned that the fundamental difference between it and the 7900 positioning-wise is brought about by the materials used and size, while the Nokia 6500 Classic is somewhat in between. In fact, the latter served as the prototype for the Nokia 7900 Prism, and the truth is, the list of differences between them is pretty shallow, however the 6500 Classic is versatile as far as its target demographic goes, whereas the Prism is a clear-cut feminine phone.

The maker never aimed t to make a mass-market solution for everyone; on the contrary, the senior member of the family was meant to drive the sales of the junior offerings. Basically, thats how things stand these days, the Nokia 7500 enjoys some sales largely thanks to its elder brother, as not everyone can afford it this approach to selling phone duos has been around for a while and usually works a treat.

As far as the Prism collection is concerned, or, to be more prices, its top-of-the-line offerings, it is essential to realize that these handsets are in effect the flagships in the candybar class for Nokias feminine phone series. Although a couple of new models will see release later this year, in September, the candybar-style solution among them will be somewhat cheaper, whereas the other two will come in different form-factors. Turns out, that all women and girls out there favoring the classic shapes will have no other way to go, as their choice will be pretty much confined to the Nokia 7900s iterations. On the other hand, most women give more credit to clamshells, while being cold to candybars, that's why the Nokia 7900's niche won't be all that large. Nevertheless, as far as fashion-savvy solutions go, a shallow user base is more of a benefit, rather than a catastrophe. Therefore there are all reasons to believe that the niche Nokia has picked for the 7900 is right on.

Nokia on the fashion market marginal notes

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Design, size, controls

The Nokia 7900 Prism is available in two flavors black and golden, however the front plant is always decked out in black plastic. The Crystal Prism, apart from a different rear plate, boast a faceted crystal embedded into the navigation key, which is a direct reference to the Nokia 8800 Sapphire Arte, where they used a synthetic sapphire. Unlike the Arte, though, the Crystal Prisms fact sheet doesnt specify what gem the phone retains, but it is still synthetic and thus has no real value to it. Rounding out the story about the color schemes, we cant overlook the white edition of the Nokia 7900 Prism, and this time around it is all white, including the front fascia. Regrettably, it is a limited offer available only on select markets. As far as other bits and pieces go, we can expect new iterations and editions of the Prism collection, although there wont be a great many of them probably one-two new offerings at best.

The Crystal Prisms design was elaborated by Frederique Daubal, which is why it has some differences from the original Prism, like a bandana in the box that pattern-keyed to the phones casing and themes that mesh with the handsets style. But thats about it other than that, the Crystal Prism is no different from the original version, therefore this review will have the 7900 Prism as its subject from this point on.

The handset is pretty palm-friendly and feels well-balanced at 112x45x11mm, tipping our scales at 101 grams. The anodized aluminum casing pleasantly chills the palm, although the Prism is not all about metal, employing it rather for the entire underside and the side-plates; overall this design is very similar to what we saw with the Nokia 6500 Classic and thanks to that, the Prism is completely free of gaps or loose-fitting details, feeling like a very robust and well-built device.

But this phone is not without a handful of gimmicks. The fact is, the only socket it has onboard is the microUSB slot housed on its top end alongside the V-shaped lip on the back underneath which is the sliding battery cover. This brings about certain challenges, since when you are pulling the chargers plug out of it or disconnect your earphones, you can well flick the casing open; and from a psychological standpoint it is very hard to grasp camera lens when dealing with this microUSB socket. We wish the battery compartment cover was tighter, though; but again, you will never see it open on its own in daily routine.

The glossy surface on the Prisms top is a true fingerprint-magnet, although all stains and smudges usually keep low profile, but still they do the 7900 Prism no justice. What is more, the rear plate also tends to pick up dirt and grease from hands.

Speaking of neat things about the handset, we cant pass by the light indicator perched on the top end it can emit light waves in 49 different colors that match what you get for the keypad backlight. If we leave half-tones out, then there will be around a dozen of unique flavors left, which isnt that bad at all. While this indicators utilitarian value isnt remarkable, since all it can do is notify you of a missed call or message, what it is really great about it is that by glowing in different colors it attracts the eyes of people around you, sparkling like a gemstone, and thus elevating the Prisms emotional value.

The Prism packs a flash, camera lens and the sole speakers slot around back.

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The phone utilizes a 240x320-pixel OLED display measuring 2 inches from corner to corner; capable of up to 16 million colors (the same unit is retained by the Nokia 8800 Arte). Unlike the Nokia 6500 Classic (TFT), here the user is enabled to adjust display brightness. The display found in the Arte is pretty good and puts up a relatively bright picture.

Many were curious what can an OLED-display bring what a TFT unit is incapable of. The answer isnt as clear-cut as you might think at first it is more appealing largely to the fact that it consumes less energy, hence the ability to adjust display brightness, which the predecessors lacked. Compared to the Nokia 6500 Classic, the Nokia Prisms display holds the upper hand not thanks to its brightness, but juicer colors; although they may seem less natural at times, they add up to a picture that looks smoother and a tad blurry, and thus more eye-candy. While the Prisms display looks like a winner here, in real life, given its dark color schemes, you simply wont see the difference.

The OLED display is a better performer under direct sunlight, plus the bundled ambient light sensor adjusts the screens backlighting automatically, rendering texts more readable, especially indoors.

The display accommodates up to 8 text and 3 service lines. The font is pretty big and certainly readable; its size can be altered.

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While idling, the Prism shows no captions on the keypad, presenting the user with a flat black surface, which makes the phone somewhat quirky and not like any other solution. By default all keys are lit in purple, although you can pick one of the 49 backlight colors in the settings. This is an unusual feat that first came along around 5 years ago in a handful of affordable models, but never made it to the mainstream (although they didnt sport such a bevy of colors).

Other things of note include the fact that when you press some key down, it gets closer to the backlight source and thus glows brighter than the rest of the keypad for a couple of seconds. This is a nice visual touch, although it is almost 100% accidental, but still it looks pretty good. If it was up to me, I would have them incorporate this effect into every phone.

The keypads backlight brightness is just enough to make for comfortable typing sessions in various environments. The keys themselves are pretty much standard size- and travel distance wise, nothing to write home about. The ergonomics of the Prisms keypad is average, thats why neither reading key captions nor actual texting will bring any difficulties.

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The Prism utilizes a 830 mAh Li-Ion battery (BL-5P), rated for 300 hours of standby and 3 hours of talk time. In Moscow it lasted around 3 days with 2 hours of calls and up to 4 hours of music. It takes the Prism around 2 hours to charge up.

We managed to squeeze 9 hours 20 minutes (in earphones) of music in one non-stop session.

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The handset ships with 1 Gb of bundled memory and no memory card slot. The Prisms storage is divided up into sections for music, video, images and around 22 Mb for PIM applications organizer, phone book, SMS messages.

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The Prism packs in the same camera module as the Nokia 6500 Classic. This handset has a 2 mpx camera (CMOS) which is not that much by todays standards, but it is still pretty much sufficient for a mid-tier offering. Unlike some solutions that come armed with 2 Mpix cameras, Nokia has decided not to bet on the camera part in the Nokia 7900, it is more of an optional feature here. This is why cameras module picked for the Prism is one of the cheapest units out there, and provides pretty poor quality. Shooting in the dark with the Prism may give you a hard time, since the exposure settings go up even the slightest movements of your hands can ruin the shot. What is more, for the Prism in the dark is synonymous to a cloudy day outdoors.

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The following resolutions are supported:

  • 1600x1200;
  • 1280x960;
  • 800x600;
  • 640x480;
  • 320x240;
  • 160x120.

Two lower resolutions were added for creating photos that would fit as wallpapers for the display. Three JPEG compression types are supported: basic, normal, high. Considering the fact that photos do not blow your imagination away, it is better to go for the top quality, it wont get any worse after all.

The shutter sound can be disabled, also there is a 8x digital zoom, but there is no reason to use it. You can save photos in the internal memory.

Some effects can be applied to the already made photos, should they be used initially it is up to you to decide. Such effects as False Colours, Greyscale, Sepia, Negative, Solarize are available.

For those who love to shoot a lot of photos at once, there is special mode for you the camera makes up to 3 shots at a time, all settings remain similar to those selected for the single shot mode, including the resolution. There is an auto-timer for self-shots.

Video. The handset allows recording video in 3GP format, available resolution 128x96 pixels, or 176x144 pixels. There are three recording quality settings available. You can limit a recordings length, but it also can be unlimited, so you will keep capturing videos until the memory runs out (memory card or internal storage). Effects can be applied for video just as for still images, they are all the same.

Video sample (3gp, 272 kb) >>>

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USB, Bluetooth

USB. The Nokia 7900 comes with the microUSB socket, housed on the top edge of the phone. This socket is used for plugging in a data cable (the phone starts doesnt start charging up, though). The vendor says the handset supports USB 2.0, and it does indeed, in the USB Mass Storage mode the USB connection offers 500-600 Kb/s (topping out at 800 Kb/s). This is slower than the Motorola RAZR2 V8, which also comes installed with the microUSB-socket.

Upon successful connection you can pick one of the following modes: USB Mass Storage, Nokia Mode (PC Studio) or Printing&Media. The 7900 also supports the MTP mode.

Bluetooth. The handset comes with EDR-enabled Bluetooth 2.0. The following profiles are supported:

  • Dial-Up Networking Profile
  • Generic Access Profile
  • Generic Object Exchange Profile
  • Object Push Profile
  • Serial Port Profile
  • Handsfree Profile
  • Headset Profile
  • Synchronization Profile
  • Basic Image Profile
  • File Transfer Profile
  • HID (host) Profile
  • Stereo Advanced Audio Distribution Profile
  • Advanced Audio/Video Remote Conference Profile

The Bluetooth implementation is, as always, nothing to complain about, we encountered no issues with handling this type of connections. The stereo-headset also worked fine.

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The phone is a typical offering for its generation no bells and whistles here. Compared to Sony Ericssons solutions, the Prism is quite a mediocre performer.

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Themes, applications, games

The handset boasts a number of themes that substantially alter its style, seem to be well-elaborated, meshing with the handsets overall image. Coming preinstalled are around 9 themes, which, couple with the backlight colors, do a pretty good job keeping you content with how your phone looks.

The handset comes preinstalled with an array of games Golf Tour, Snake III, Sudoku, Music Guess.

The Applications section includes such standard functions like World Clock, Opera Mini, Yahoo! Go, Sensor Search. Some markets may also see other applications installed on the Prism. New Java applications can be uploaded over the air or directly into the handsets memory (no size limits).

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The volume of the Prisms polyphony is high enough to make sure you will hear it in various environments. While it sounds a tad muffled as opposed to phones enjoying two speakers, the Nokia 7900 Prism is still loud enough. The reception quality was never an issue with the handset either. The vibro alert is average strength-wise, but it does the job even if the phone is stuffed inside a pocket.

The Prism is a pretty decent fashion-conscious solution that can get women interested, all thanks to the light indicator and keypad backlight adding more value to the phone. Also among the positives are the handsets materials and build quality. But since the Nokia 7900 Prism is more of a complement to the Nokia 6500 Classic, it should be viewed as a niche offering, which is quite potent at that, given its current price tag (320-340 Euro). In its turn, the Prism Crystal will retail for around 375 Euro when it arrives in April.

As far as designer solutions go, it is a very rare occasion when we actually manage to come up with either direct or indirect rivals to them, for they are designed by people with sometimes polarized tastes, making for differently looking phones and thus little to no overlapping of ideas and concepts. But to my great surprise, the Nokia 7900 Prism does have a brother in arms the Sony Ericsson T650i that also comes with a variety of light effects for its keypad, yet only one color for the key backlight, sports a metallic casing (unlike the Prisms patterned body, it is smooth), Prism-grade display, ring tones volume and functionality and a slightly better camera. Basically, they have a lot of things in common, down to their price tags. But the thing is, they are still different while the Prism is a very women-centric solution, the T650i caters for the tastes of both men and women. Thats the difference and thats what makes the Prism a better way to go for women. Other than that, the Nokia 7900 Prism has no direct or even indirect rivals, thats why it will sell well among its target audience.

SAR for the Nokia 7900 Prism 0.83 W/kg.

Related links:

Software features of Nokia S40 5th Edition

Nokia on the fashion market marginal notes

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Eldar Murtazin ([email protected])
Translated by Oleg Kononosov ([email protected])

Published — 20 March 2008

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