So, Since this was announced (April 2010 according to GSM Arena) we have had the E7, C7, C6-01 and will soon have the X7 and E6. Yet the N8 is still considered by many to be top dog in the Symbian 3 kennel and expected to still be after the X7 and E6 hit the shelves. Is it still deserving of that status, or is it just a nice camera? Here’s my review.
- 3.5″ AMOLED screen with Gorilla Glass
- 12MP Auto Focus camera with Xenon flash
- Symbian 3
- 680Mhz ARM 11 processor with Broadcom graphics accelerator
- 16MB on board memory with SD card slot
- 3.5mm headphone jack which also supports TV out cable
- Bluetooth 3.0
- HDMI port
- WiFi b/g/n
- FM Radio
- FM Transmitter
- Micro USB port for charging, Data connection and USB on the go
- Proprietary charger port
- Pentaband 3G world phone
The N8 is a strong and sturdy device made with anodized aluminum for most of it’s body. It looks great (I have the grey one and have seen it in Silver and am sure it also looks great in Green, Blue, Orange or Pink). It also stands out a lot from the black flat rectangles which encase most Android and Windows Phone devices right now. It in part stands out because it won’t lie flat. The camera module sticks out a few mm from the back. However, this doesn’t make it awkward to hold – it’s comfortable in the hand, though not quite as nice as the Astound / C7. It’s also a little more slippery with it’s curved edges and shiny metal. Still, with the materials used, if really feels like a premium device.
The front has the 3.5″ screen along with the front facing camera, proximity and light sensors above it. At the bottom on the front is the menu key, off to the left side, and on the part that slopes. This can lead to it giving a little bounce when pressed with the thumb while holding the phone in one hand.
The left side houses the SIM card and SD card slots. As the back cover only comes off with the aid of a small TORX screwdriver, it is good to have these slots on the outside. The covers for these are a bit awkward to get off though if you have short nails. The Micro USB port for charging and data connections is also on the left and without a cover.
The sales package comes with a charger, a long Micro USB cable, a USB on the go adapter cable, a HDMI adapter cable, a stereo hands free kit with in-line music controls and the users manual. All in all a well stocked package, and right now there’s a version being sold by Nokia USA for $1 more that also includes a 16GB Micro SD card.
Symbian 3 features up to 3 home screens which can each take up to 6 widgets. The main menu key brings up a menu of applications and sub menus and menu folders and whist easy to navigate, at times can be many layers deep so the Shortcuts widget can be very helpful for getting some of those deeper things to your home-screen. When swiping between screens, you have to finish your swipe before the screen shifts along in the current version of the software. When locked, being an AMOLED screen, there are several options for different things to display including the simple Big Clock (and a clock is part of all options), the current music track playing, or you can take advantage of things like Nokia Sleeping Screen for more interesting lock screen displays. Symbian 3 supports multitasking and a card view of open apps can be bought up by holding the menu key.
Phone and communications
First and foremost, our bits of fancy technology are called cell/mobile phones, and so it’s worth seeing how well it functions as one. You can call by hitting the call button from any one of the 3 home screens – this is important as, unlike the Astound, it doesn’t have call and end keys, and you have to return to the home screen to place a call if you are in an app. Call quality is decent, though not quite as good as for the Astound and it feels a little less comfortable to hold against your ear as there is a small ridge around the screen and this is right next to the speaker. I have also managed to hit the hold button in a call a few times with my cheek which makes me question how well the proximity sensor is working.
You can get VOIP via SIP (built in), Fring, Skype or another VOIP client from the Ovi Store. The conversations app is good and readable, though when texting on the t9 keyboard after using the portrait QWERTY of the Astound, I am looking forward to this update, even though it didn’t take long to get used to predictive text again. In landscape view there is a QWERTY keyboard, though I installed Swype from the Ovi Store. I found I had more errors using this than the same keyboard on the Astound and wondered if the touch screen is better in the Astound. Contacts are easy to set up and access, exactly as they should be.
The email app was easy to configure and set up and get the widgets running for, though I’m still surprised that Ovi Mail was not one of the email choices and i had to choose Other to set that up. There are also social media clients available. All in all, it does everything you want it to, and most things it doesn’t do as well as some newer devices will be helped by the software update.
Music and Media
16Mb on board storage is a nice start to the N8 media credentials, and for me it was great as I could sit and wait whiles Nokia Music copied the whole of my collection to it. And with that collection of tunes now on the phone I have been listening to them via the loudspeaker, Bluetooth, headphones and the FM transmitter – a great feature that helps people like me without an Aux input on their car stereo to enjoy their drive to work each morning that bit more. The speaker on the phone is mono, but is still pretty loud and not tinny like may phone speakers, though it does get muffled when lying face u The FM radio and Nokia Internet radio (and DAB radio if your in the UK) all add to the audio options, plus apps like Slacker and Mobbler can be downloaded from the Ovi store.
On the video front it played the one video I tried on it and video does look good and smooth. One big deal for this phone is the HDMi output. It means you can hook up the phone to a high definition TV and see the screen mirrored on the TV, with some adjustment for video, photo and game playback. However, when paired with Nokia Big Screen from the Ovi Store it takes an extra dimension. Now (if you are only concerned with video, music or photos) you can leave the phone near the TV and go back a comfortable distance, pick ip a Wii remote and control a new UI optimized for big screen viewing, which is a very pleasurable experience, and makes it much better for movie watching or showing snaps to your family.
Speaking of photographs, did you know this phone had a camera, and I heard it was supposed to be quite decent. Ok, so that’s a huge understatement and if you found this blog, you probably know it has a great 12MP camera with auto-focus and Xenon flash. The images I took concur with this and it even performed adequately outside at night. Colors were, in generally faithfully reproduced and detail was crisp. However, it is also perfectly possible to take bad photos with the N8 and I have done it. One way to take bad photos is through shaking the phone when using the dual stage shutter. One way to avoid this is use the on screen camera button, and the phone then performs the focusing and snaps the picture.
Video seemed nice and reasonably smooth, and zooming in and out didn’t seem to reduce the quality at all. It records at 25fps, but if that’s not enough for you, I’m told there’s a patch that takes it to 30fps, though I haven’t installed it at this time.
Basically, it’s a bit dated and clunky and, if the Astound is anything to go by, the Symbian Anna update will vastly improve the browser experience. For now though, Opera Mobile is free in the Ovi store.
Other Apps and features
Maps: Ovi Maps is an excellent mapping service and includes offline mapping which means you can save your data plan and get to where you are going just fine. It can be used as a basic map, or to do turn by turn directions, show traffic data or other things. It also has some little features which are nice like Night mode in the turn by turn view, which inverts the color scheme to reduce glare on windscreens/windshields.
Games: The device I received from WomWorld had no pre-installed games, but an Ovi Suite update bought me Need For Speed Shift, Real Golf 2011 and Galaxy on Fire. All 3 performed well and looked good on the N8 and that graphics processor really worked well.
In general the phone performed well and whist not always snappy, was never slow either in performing all it’s tasks. It feels a little faster than the Astound, and may perhaps has slightly longer battery life too, which is good considering you can’t change the battery easily. Symbian 3 does need sprucing up a bit though and I hope Anna will help do that a lot.
I found it to be a fairly reliable phone as well. Whilst the Astound crashed on me, or did weird things with the lock screens, the N8 was pretty solid overall. I did have the WiFi applet crash on me once when it couldn’t connect to my home network, but this is night and day compared to the Astound when it comes to stability (I really hope my Astound was just a bad batch and other users had a better experience).
Overall, I like it. Actually, I have grown quite fond of it over the last 2 weeks. Although it was announced over a year ago , this feels like a nice handset, that, looks aside, isn’t flashy, but does what it does well. Symbian has it’s quirks but I have become accustomed to them and am learning how to get the best out of the device. So it’s stable, but while instability can make an otherwise good device bad, it doesn’t make a device good on it’s own. Thankfully, it also has a great camera, a good array of connectivity options, a media player that works well and an FM transmitter to go with it, a great navigation tool, a useful lock screen and a few great apps in the Ovi store to go along with it. So soon will come the time when this has to be returned to it’s rightful owner. In the meantime, I’m off to Nokia, Amazon and EBay to see what one of these costs.
On the subject of it it’s still top dog, by experiences these last two weeks say yes, I expect it is and will be and not just because of it’s camera, though a great camera does help. It has the whole package, and while some others may do some bits better (i.e E7 has the nice keyboard, and both E7 and X7 have bigger screens while I thought Astound had better call quality and has NFC), they seem to do so at the expense of something else (Camera, HDMI out, no SD card support or low on board memory, etc). In fact, for my money, the top Nokia challenger may a device which is a bit older, a bit bulkier and doesn’t run Symbian. Is it better than an N900? I’ll tell you later.