Mini-Review of the Nokia 3120

The Nokia 3120 is yet another boxy style-resistant GSM entry from Nokia that doesnít seem to bring anything new to the table except expand the number of model designations you can choose from. This is essentially an entry-level phone, despite its rather steep $209 no-contact price at Rogers Wireless.

Last Updated: 10-Oct-2004

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


This is only a mini-review, meaning that I only had an hour or two to play around with the 3120 over at Square One. Fortunately I was able to put the phone through most of the standard tests, and I played with it enough to get a feel for what it could and could not do. On that score the phone was a disappointment, in that it seemed no different from countless other Nokia phones Iíve played with in the last year or so. It has the same 128x128 color screen, the same menu system, the same basic feature set, etc.

It also has one of Nokiaís current trademark design flaws; an attempt at a funky keypad that just doesnít have the functionality of a well-designed traditional model. The keys are butted against one another, which greatly reduces your ability to feel which key you are pressing. Like many other keypads of this type the phone must be looked at to be dialed. This a definite problem when you try to use it while driving (but hey, you arenít supposed to do that anyway).

The usual assortment of polyphonic ringtones was nice enough, but the ringer wasnít particularly loud. As Iíve often said, a loud ringer is a necessity when the phone is used in a noisy environment. A vibrator-alert can help, but you canít always feel the vibrations through thick clothing in the winter.

RF Performance and Audio Quality

Due to the phoneís lack of distinction in terms of functionality Iíll skip right to the bottom line, which is RF performance and audio quality. In terms of RF performance the 3120 was a reasonable performer, though in the Hall of Shame at Square One it failed to match my 1900-MHz-only Nokia 6310i. Granted, the difference was marginal, but the 3120 just couldnít hold onto a call as well as the 6310i when the signals were substantially weakened.

Incoming audio quality had a nice tonal balance, but it seemed to suffer from way too much high frequency distortion. Many people who experience this distortion describe it as HISS, which isnít far from the truth. However, unlike background hiss, which is independent of the audio, and subsequently constant, the effect on the 3120 varies with the audio. This makes it far more annoying than ordinary background hiss. Overall I found the sound reproduction sub-standard.

Outgoing sound quality was okay, but hardly stellar. Like many Nokia phones it managed to pick up background noise too well, and as such it made it sound like you were in a nosier location than you really were. Sound quality was only average and ever so slightly muffled compared with much better phones like the Nokia 3650.

So you wouldnít find me using a 3120. The poorly-conceived keypad, the distorted incoming audio, and the sub-standard outgoing audio just donít add up to a quality GSM phone.