MOBILE MAY: Reviewed: Nokia N8


16 May 2011

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We take a look at the Nokia N8, boasting a powerful 12-megapixel camera.

Look and feel

The Nokia N8 has a solid aluminium casing and is available in several colours, including orange, silver and blue. The design of the phone feels quite sturdy and durable, particularly its bright AMOLED screen, which feels like it could take a lot of abuse without showing much trauma. The phone is nicely curved on the sides, contrasted by the design of top and bottom of the phone, which ends sharply.

Its camera sticks out a little at the back, though perhaps understandable considering it has a 12-megapixel sensor. Along with the back camera, it has a VGA front-facing camera.

The Nokia N8 has a HDMI port for display images on a HDTV, a mini USB port, a designated camera button and a menu button, with a slide-down switch to lock the screen.

Interface

The N8 runs on Symbian^3, the latest version of the operating system. While Symbian^3 was certainly a step in the right direction, its design doesn’t go far enough.

The Nokia N8 focuses a lot on its customisable homescreens, with the ability to place numerous widgets for your own purposes. It works well in some ways, such as when you turn the phone on its side, the homepage screen adjusts to a horizontal layout. However, there are still a few flaws. Many of the widgets are quite small, such as the social networking one, meaning a lot of information hidden.

The general user interface of the device feels like it needs some streamlining, too. For example, when the phone is upright, the texting keys are laid out like an older mobile phone, with numerous letters set to different numbers. It’s only when you turn it on its side, a fuller keyboard emerges. Considering that many other high-end devices can implement full keyboards when holding a phone vertically, this shouldn’t be the case.

Another design niggle was with web browsing. When I entered a URL, I’d hit the green tick button, assuming it would take me directly to the site. However, this tick was only to confirm I entered the text right, as I would then be required to select “go to” to actually load the site. This felt a bit clunky, considering that other mobile and web browsers only need one button of confirmation to enter a URL.

The apps section was hidden in a separate folder in the main menu. Considering how important apps are to smartphones, it’s odd that they’re almost hidden away like this.

Also, while setting up an Ovi account, I was required to retype a CAPTCHA to prove that I was human. That was fair enough, however, when I opened the keyboard to copy the string of letters and numbers into the form, the entire screen was covered by the typing interface, meaning I had to keep going back and forth to make sure that I was typing the CAPTCHA correctly.

While these examples may feel like I’m nitpicking, when put all together with other design issues, you can see how the interface may feel a bit frustrating to use, particularly when you compare it with the likes of iOS and Android.

Software

The N8’s built-in music player has some nice features. Along with the ability to set up playlists and directly access the music store, the player lets you utilise an equaliser feature, allowing you to boost the bass or adjust the sound for jazz, pop, classical and rock tracks. The audio from the N8 is excellent, and adding this to the phone’s powerful battery, it’s definitely worth taking advantage of this music player.

Another software feature on the N8 is Ovi Maps, providing comprehensive mapping software. Ovi Maps includes navigation if you’re walking or driving. You can check in to your social networks through your Ovi account and mark favourite locations. The maps are impressively detailed and it’s built-in GPS is very accurate.

Camera

One of the biggest features of the N8 is its 12-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss Optics and a Xenon flash. Images are sharp and vibrant, with the focus adjusting quickly when moved. There are also numerous options, such as facial detection, colour filters and the ability to set scenes, such as for close-up and landscape shots. The camera shoots 720p HD footage and the fast-adjusting focus was useful here, too.

Overall

The Nokia N8 has some impressive hardware, particularly with its AMOLED screen, its GPS functionality, excellent sound quality and its high-quality camera. There is some great software within this, too, especially Ovi Maps.

However, while a step in the right direction, Symbian^3 still can’t compete with other smartphone operating systems, with many frustrating design flaws impeding on the usability of the device.

That said, it certainly is one of the best Nokia phones available right now.

 

We are giving away a Nokia N8 as part of Mobile May

Enter now for your chance to win a Nokia N8 smartphone.


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