Review of the Nokia 3120 Classic

The Nokia 3120 Classic is a Series 40 phone not presently offered by any of the providers in Canada, but it supports 850 MHz and 1900 MHz, and so it is well suited to use in Canada or the United States. It seems to have no relationship to the old Nokia 3120 that I reviewed just over 4 years ago and I really have no idea why Nokia is recycling model numbers.

Last Updated: 19-Mar-2009

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

It seems that Nokia makes so many models that they have been forced to reuse numbers. This is nothing new in other markets, such as automobiles. The recycling of names on cars is so common that we just naturally expect them to do it.

No provider in North America carries the 3120 Classic, but you can certainly buy one through an unaffiliated retailer and run on it most of the North American GSM networks. There is a variant of this phone designed for the North American market, but you should be able to use the model that provides UMTS (3G) at 850 MHz and 2100 MHz. All variants support quad-band non-3G GSM.

RF Performance

Click on this link for a full description of RF Performance, and how to interpret it.

RF Sensitivity: (A+) The more Nokia models I test, the more convinced I am that Nokia has essentially found perfection and stuck with it. There is virtually no difference between the 3120 Classic and any other quality Nokia model Iíve tested in the last 2 or 3 years.

Over-the-road Performance: (A+) The 3120 Classic supports UMTS, and so over-the-road performance is near enough perfect. As Iíve noted in many previous reviews of UMTS phones, the implementation of CDMA-base voice on GSM is far superior to that offered on what we presently call CDMA (offered in Canada by Bell Mobility and Telus Mobility). So far, all of the Nokia UMTS phones (including the 3120 Classic) have excellent over-the-road performance.

Audio Performance

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Tonal Balance: (B+) The overall tonal balance on the 3120 Classic is very similar to that of the Nokia N95. Subsequently the same can be said of the 3120 Classic that I said of the N95, which is it could do with a little more low-end to give it a truly rich sound, but overall the quality of the sound can best be described as well-balanced, but a tad thin.

Sound Reproduction: (A+) As with virtually all current Nokia models the sound reproduction was exemplary. It could reproduce most voices with little or no detectable distortion and it had very little earpiece hiss.

Earpiece Volume: (A-) This is another area where most of the recent Nokia models do very well. The maximum volume wonít rip your eardrums apart, but it will allow you to easily hear your callers in noisy environments. Like all recent Nokiaís it includes the volume-boost feature that raises the volume (at all volume settings) to compensate for a noisy background.

Outgoing Audio: (A+) The outgoing audio was actually detectably better than the N95, though to say it was night and day would be pushing a bit. The overall tonal balance was rich and clean, and its ability to cope with background noise was as good as Iíve seen on any Nokia model. I tested the phone in both a noisy food court and on the highway with the windows rolled down. Even under those severe conditions the audio remained clean and mostly undistorted.

Speakerphone: (B-) I wasnít quite as happy with the speakerphone on the 3120 Classic, because it lacks the volume of the same feature on the N95. The sound is a bit tinnier than the higher-end N95, but overall it produces enough volume and clarity to use the feature under most indoor circumstances.

Support Features

Ringer Volume: (B-) All Nokia phones sporting a speakerphone feature use the same speakers for the ringer, since all Nokia phones now play MP3 (or other sound files) for their ringers. Subsequently the volume of the ringer is only as good as the speakers and sound system of the phone, which in the case of the 3120 Classic could do with being a bit louder.

Keypad Design: (A-) The keypad on the 3120 Classic is refreshingly free of Nokiaís whimsical keyboard designs. The keys are well laid-out and large enough that even users with large thumbs shouldnít have any trouble with them. Overall key feel was good, though not excellent.

Display: (A+) The 3120 Classicís screen provides a resolution of 240 x 320 on a 2-inch display. The quality of the display is excellent and while the resolution wonít put any top-of-the-line Smartphones to shame, itís excellent for a dumb phone. The display can be seen in direct sunlight, though the colors do wash out a bit.

Icing on the Cake

Camera: (C+) The camera provided with the 3120 Classic is a 2-megapixel (1600 x 1200) model with auto-focus. The quality of the pictures is on par with the N95 (when it is set to 2-megapixel mode), which is actually better than it sounds. Lower-end Nokia phones have traditionally had rather poor cameras, which usually have issues with a green cast, even in brightly-lit pictures. The camera in the 3120 Classic has no such problem and it actually produces properly balanced images. Unfortunately the camera doesnít do so well in poorly-lit environments, which brought down its mark a little.

Operating System: (B-) I normally wouldnít comment on the operating system of a non-Smartphone, but Nokia has done a really nice job sprucing up the O/S. It looks and feels much like the S60 Smartphone O/S, but it doesnít offer the kind of power and flexibility. It includes plenty of features found in higher end phones, including a top-notch integrated MP3 player and it includes stereo Bluetooth (A2DP) support.

Connectivity: (B-) The 3120 Classic supports 3G data, but only at speeds as high as 384 kilobits. This is a far cry from 3.6 megabits or even 7.2 megabits with is now the norm for 3G phones. Bare in mind however that this is not a Smartphone, and so for the types of data usage youíll like see in a dumb phone, this is actually quite good. Oddly however, I could never seem to get speeds any higher than 50 kilobits per second, even thought the phone claimed that it was connected to the 3G network.

The speed problem I was having with the 3120 Classic was apparently related to a setting that canít be manually changed. However, if you program the data settings using the Nokia-provided online service, the same problem shouldnít occur to you.

Memory: (A-) The phone supports MicroSD cards up to 8 GB in size (which is great for storing music), but the internal RAM is only 24 megabytes. If this were a Smartphone, that would be laughingly small amount of RAM, but for a dumb phone its actually quite respectable and will allow you run numerous applications simultaneously before it runs out of memory.


For a dumb phone, the 3120 Classic has a lot going for it. The phone side of the equation is damned near perfect, and it has plenty of added features and a fairly decent operating system. If you arenít looking for a Smartphone, the 3120 Classic is hard to fault, though as you can see from my review, there are a few aspects of the phone that could stand some improvement. You may also have some trouble finding a dealer who can get one for you, and you arenít going to get a subsidized price on it. However, it might be well worth the effort.