Product Nokia N8
System Specifications 680MHz ARM 11 CPU, Symbian^3 OS, 3.5-inch AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16GB internal memory, up to 32GB SD card support, HDMI output, Bluetooth, WiFi, 3G, 113.5mm x 59mm x 12.9mm, 135g
Price £419 (SIM-free)
SYMBIAN^3 IS now upon us, and Nokia's clearly hoping it will boost sales of its N8 handset. With an array of multimedia tools, Nokia will also be looking to claw back previously loyal customers that have since defected to Android-based models and the Iphone.
The N8 is housed in a good-looking, anodised aluminium chassis with a scratch-proof coating to protect it from day-to-day damage. Nokia's also done well in crafting a compact chassis, measuring 113.5mm x 59mm x 12.9mm. What's more, at 135g it's also pretty light. Its 3.5-inch AMOLED screen looks great and is comparable to that of the Samsung Galaxy S.
The Symbian^3 operating system is an improvement over previous versions, but it is still not at the level it should be. There are three home screens packed with widgets and applications that can be viewed in landscape and portrait modes, which is a nice touch that many other smartphones lack. Each home screen is divided into four rows, which can house four application shortcuts or display one widget such as email or social networking updates. However, we were disappointed that the widgets cannot be expanded to take up the whole screen, as many people now want as much information as possible crammed onto the screen. The same problem was apparent in the Nokia C6, which runs an older Symbian OS.
In our tests we found that customising the home screen was a bit of a chore and it was not possible to move widgets between panels. Instead, each of the three screens has to be customised individually, and even then it was fiddly. There is no sense of integration like there is with Apple IOS4 or Android home screens.
Pressing the Home button brings up a more detailed classic menu catering to Nokia fans, and a selection of apps have been preloaded onto the phone. Bloomberg, Iplayer, Skype, Spotify, Wikipedia, Yell and Youtube are all there from the get-go. Ovi Maps with voice guided navigation as standard is a bonus, and Nokia's Ovi Store also houses thousands more apps.
A middling 680MHz ARM 11 processor means that the N8 isn't the fastest of devices, and a split-second delay between initiating and loading an application is apparent. While this delay doesn't hinder performance generally, there were periods when the device slowed down significantly and had us twiddling our thumbs. As the N8 is capable of multitasking, users need to be careful not to keep too many apps running in the background.
The N8 comes with a full touchscreen Qwerty keypad and while it is one of the best Nokia has created, it is still short of the great input interfaces offered by the Iphone 4 or Galaxy S. Typing in portrait mode brings up a classic alphanumeric keypad, which is a tad disappointing considering this is a method smartphone users are no longer accustomed to. It's little things like this that make it clear Nokia is reluctant to move on, and the decision not to go with a mini qwerty is baffling. Thankfully, when the device is used in landscape mode a full qwerty appears. Unfortunately, the keys such as the space bar, enter, delete and shift are simply too small and make inputting text quite awkward.
The default browser is made to look distinctly average when up against mobile browsers such as Safari and Opera Mini in terms of speed and formatting. The N8 shows as much of the web page as possible but users still have to click on a double-ended arrow in the bottom right hand corner and then it's another three clicks before being able to navigate to another address. The font is readable when a web page is loaded, but pages do not automatically resize to fit the 3.5-inch touch screen, which is disappointing. Pinch-to-zoom is another letdown as resizing is jerky and doesn't always zoom in on the intended area.
Double tapping on the screen zooms in and out of text, but again there is no automatic reformatting when zooming in, fragmenting the reading experience even more. We found scrolling was not the smoothest experience either, with the page jerking as we moved down.
As it is touted as a multimedia device, we'd expect the N8 to excel in this area. The HDMI output is the standout feature, allowing the device to be connected to larger HD displays. A micro-USB port is also included, allowing the device to be synchronised with a desktop, and micro-SD and SIM cards are inserted through the left hand side of the device via two-hinged gates. Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP, WiFi and 3G round off the wireless connectivity options.
Nokia has chosen to seal the handset so there is no access to the battery, an alarming trend that some smartphone manufacturers are starting to follow. However, on the plus side, SD cards and SIM cards can be inserted and removed in a matter of seconds, and the phone reboots quickly. The device comes with 16GB of internal memory and supports SD cards up to 32GB.
Users looking to make video calls can do so with the front-facing VGA camera, but the jewel in the crown for the N8 is the 12-megapixel Carl Zeiss camera on the back. Nokia claims that it is the best camera in a phone and, judging by the snaps we took, we think the manufacturer has a point. With autofocus, face recognition, 2x digital zoom and Xenon flash, our pictures appeared crisp and clear. The N8 is also capable of video recording in HD 720p at 25fps with 3x digital zoom, and Nokia claims three hours and 20 minutes of recording time.
Watching videos using the pre-loaded Iplayer app was a pleasure. There was no lag over WiFi and picture quality was decent. The browser runs Flash Lite 4.0 and is able to play most videos without trouble.
Finally, as far as battery life goes, Nokia touts a maximum of 720 minutes talk time and 400 hours standby. In our tests, the device lasted two days with medium use.
The N8 is a valiant effort from Nokia and definitely its best high-end smartphone to date. However, Symbian^3 is a big letdown and, while the N8 will satisfy multimedia and Nokia fans, it could struggle to attract business users against competition from the Blackberry, Iphone, and to a lesser extent, Android devices. µ
Great camera, decent battery life, impressive multimedia options.
Poor touchscreen keyboard, frustrating Internet experience, cluttered interface.
Symbian^3 is disappointing.