Nokia’s N-Series is back with a bang. The N8 is finally here and comes with a promise of revitalizing Nokia’s high-end segment with its funky new age look, updated OS and whatever else comes with that. But the Twenty Six Thousand Rupee question is, will it deliver on the promises Nokia has made with flying colors or be just another high-end smartphone, a face in the crowd? Take a closer look.
The N8 is packed neatly inside a sleek, elegant yet funky looking anodized aluminum alloy shell that’s available in a wide range of color options. Viz. Dark Grey, Silver White, Green, Blue and Orange. It’s comfortable to hold and convenient to use and carry around. The singular menu/home button below the 3.5-inch (360 x 640 pixels) OLED capacitive touchscreen tucked safely away behind a scratch proof Gorilla Glass, may seem a little iPhone-ish, but is nevertheless conveniently placed for quick access. A light sensor and front facing camera are located just above the display. It also comes with Dual microphones (front under the display and under the camera lens) for added voice clarity via active noise cancellation technology.
A dedicated camera button is on the same side as the display lock slider switch and the volume/zoom keys while hot swap slots for the SIM and microSD cards are located on the opposite sides just above the micro USB port. Incidentally, The N8 can also very easily be charged via the USB port or the standard Nokia pin charger socket located at the bottom. The Power button, Mini HDMI port (adapter cable provided) and 3.5mm handsfree socket are located at the top. The N8 comes with 16GB of internal memory so there’s plenty of space for all your media, photos and any other data you deem fit to tote along with you on the go.
The only protrusion that tends to make the otherwise sleek handset just a tad bulky is at the rear of the device for the camera. The lens with Carl Zeiss optics and Xenon flash for the 12MP camera is raised a bit but doesn’t really get in the way or make it difficult to slip in or out of your pocket. There’s no removable battery compartment, which is actually neither here nor there. The Apple iPhone has successfully proven that it’s not necessary. However, should your device hang, a hard reboot by removing the battery is not an option here. Let’s just hope it doesn’t ever come to that. At just 135g its weight is very well proportioned and overall the N8 comes off as a very well designed piece of mobile hardware.
Features and Performance
This is the first of Nokia’s devices to come with Symbian ^3 OS. To be blunt, there’s nothing really spectacular about it. It’s pretty much the same with a few added tweaks like multiple desktops (which even non-smartphones have) and customizable widgets for these desktops. Some of the other tweaks include tap and hold functionality (about time) that bring up settings for a variety of features, and an option to simply tap and access missed call/message/Wi-Fi and other icons at the top of the display making it so much more convenient than going through the menus.
Like other smartphones, keeping the menu/home key pressed will bring up a list of running apps which can also be closed from this display. With its ARM 11, 680 MHz processor and 3D Graphics HW accelerator, multitasking is a simple task. I had over 15 apps open simultaneously and had no issues with speed. The accelerometer worked like a charm but multi-touch could have been a little smoother. Copy pasting data from one place to another could have been a little easier.
The only issue I have with the new OS is that it’s boring. It’s almost the same as any of the previous high end devices like the N97 for example or the X6 with a few minor changes. The icons are the same and so is the layout. I guess Nokia just believes that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The N8 is designed to cater to those hardcore Nokia fans who have been clamoring for a more media functionality. I’d like to say it lived up to all the hype that was created around it but it fell just a little bit short in my book. Let’s start with the music player. While the interface has been tweaked a bit to suit the new age album art, cover flow style look, the core player is essentially the same. It comes with Stereo Widening and a Loudness option as well as a few (very few) EQ presets. Here’s the shocker, there’s no option to customize the presets or create your own like you’d find a standard Symbian smartphone. Audio quality was exceptional but at a rather low decibel level.
On the plus side, the N8 comes with DivX and XviD video support so gone are the days when Nokia had large screen devices for which you’d need to laboriously convert videos to view on. Just drag and drop for instant playback. Better still, thanks to the handset’s HDMI out and Dolby Digital Plus audio video playback on a big screen was a whole other experience with 720p videos. But, like the music player, it has one flaw; it doesn’t bookmark the videos where you left off. You can keep it paused in the background while you’re doing other things, but if you use the ‘Back’ option you’ll have to start all over and forward to the point you left off.
The radio worked out quite well providing decent reception almost everywhere I was. Nokia has also thrown in an image editor to spruce up your photos and a video editor for creating slide shows from your images or joining videos and adding music etc. There’s a also an audio recorder that has a pretty good range. WebTV is also a pre loaded application with a few pre-loaded channels like Nat-Geo and CNN but the service is still not quite active in India, at least I was unable to get it to work successfully. Hopefully you won’t have this issue with an out of the box device.
As one would expect from a high-end phone, the N8 comes with all the possible standard connectivity options like Wi-Fi, GPS (with Ovi Maps pre-installed on the drive) 3G, Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP and of course USB 2.0. There also a new feature that’s added which is a first for the mobile industry – USB on the Go. This allows you to connect a pen drive (via the micro to USB Female cable provided) to the handset and view all contents be it video, music or documents.
I really didn’t see anything new with the browsing experience as the native browser is still pretty much the same and in some ways that’s a good thing. With Full flash support you’ll get a desktop like browsing experience. If you’re looking for a slightly faster option without multi-touch zooming, Opera Mobile is available via the dedicated Ovi store application. Setting up emails on a Nokia device hasn’t changed much either. It’s not a time consuming task even for Exchange accounts.
What was a bit of a disappointment was social networking integration with the phone book. This will require a bit of an effort as it’s not like it is with Android devices. Here you can’t sync with your Google account to download your contacts. You can sync it with your Ovi account though. You can also, individually link contacts to their respective Facebook and Twitter accounts. There’s no automated way to do this. The Social Network App is just for Facebook and Twitter and could easily have been a little better laid out. It takes a while to start up and doesn’t let you connect to MySpace or Orkut etc. There’s also no option to upload images to any of your online sites like Picasa or Flickr directly from the image itself. However you can upload pics from the SN application to your FB and Twitter accounts.
Ovi Maps comes preloaded onto the 16GB of internal memory which makes start up real quick. However it still requires you to hook up to the net for A-GPS features like locating things or (POI Points of Interest) in the areas. On the whole though, Ovi maps works out quite well.
All the basic apps that you’d find in a standard Nokia smartphone with the Symbian OS are present – Notes, Calendar, Dictionary, Zip Manager, Calculator, and a Quick Office document viewer (can’t create new documents till you purchase the full version) and a separate PDF viewer. Voice control options like Voice Commands and Text to speech functionality are also part of the handset’s features. The N8 also has an FM transmitter, a YouTube application and a universal Search function as well. The Sensor settings allow you to silence the alarm or incoming calls just by flipping the handset over.
The N8’s biggest asset is of course its 12MP camera, another first for the Finnish company. The only problem I have with this feature is that it could have had better settings. The only new setting is that it comes with is Face Detection but if a handset like the Samsung Galaxy 3 that’s priced at almost half the N8’s cost could offer features like Smile detection and omni-directional auto-stitch panorama amongst others, the N8 could have come with much more. However as is, it still is one of the best camera phones I’ve tested so far.
The Images quality is just superb with the level of detail retained to quite an extent.
Macro images also look really good with vibrant colors when taken with enough light.
Low light conditions also produce fairly good pictures but they tend to be a little dull. Make sure to adjust the exposure and brightness levels accordingly.
Night shots also came out reasonably well without me having to remain perfectly still.
What’s also really remarkable is the quick start-up and processing time the camera takes. I have to agree with Nokia’s Brand Ambassador Priyanka Chopra, you just can’t stop clicking pictures with this phone. The 720p videos also looked really good. So suffice to say the camera definitely met my expectations, even if the features were not as many as I wanted.
On a full the charge the 1200mAh battery ran for a good two days even after taking scores of pictures, videos, listening to music and using the net via Wi-Fi. Talk time averaged in at over 5 hours easy. Another very significant feather in the N8’s cap.
The Bottom Line
With a price tag of just Rs. 26,259 (MOP), the N8 is a great choice if your looking for a well rounded multimedia device with a kick-ass camera. It does have its quirks with a few small but significant options have been left out, no doubt, but on the whole it offers a wide range of services and features that gives it a little bit of an edge over the competition. Nokia fans will not be disappointed and if you’re not a fan, the camera will almost certainly make you one. My only hope is that Nokia will fix the few ‘bugs’ I’ve pointed out but in any case the positives far outweigh the negatives so I say go for it.
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