Nokia N90

15 Mar 2006

This is a phone and then some. It’s possibly the heaviest handset I’ve seen in some time but also one of the most interesting and intriguing.

We’re so used to ever shrinking devices that this is a behemoth by comparison. Taller, wider and deeper than most handsets, this weighs just over 150g, so there’s no danger of it slipping out of a pocket unnoticed.

Although taste is subjective, I’m tempted to say that this is a great looking phone: yes it’s big but the black and silver livery give the device a heft that makes it seem like a proper piece of high-end consumer electronics kit.

The N90 is a clamshell with a difference; in addition to flipping open in phone mode, the screen tilts on its own axis so that it feels like a camcorder. In addition, the camera lens is mounted separately in a barrel and can swivel around 300 degrees even when the phone is closed, so it’s possible to take pictures using only the outer screen to frame the subject.

The camera proudly boasts of its Carl Zeiss optics that give it serious photographic ability. Photos taken on the N90’s two-megapixel camera are really crisp and detailed, while video capture (in high-resolution MPEG 4 format) is excellent even in low light and you’re not restricted to very short clips as with some handsets.

The camera’s zoom feature is powerful and can be controlled by a toggle on the side of the device. When in phone mode, this same button can also be used to scroll quickly through the menu. Sending images to a printer is now really easy – a button on the N90’s opening screen accesses this feature directly.

The inside screen display is stunning – the best I’ve seen in a mobile, bar none. Text displays on the N90 don’t have the usual pixelated look and there’s real clarity to the images. The outer screen, while not as detailed, is nonetheless pretty good and can be used to view text messages and complete other tasks.

Call quality is good and the battery life is generous. On the downside, the phone isn’t as intuitive to use as others; it needs to be played around with for a fair amount of time before getting to grips with its features. The menu is more sparse than I’ve come to expect and it takes a bit of work to change certain settings (the ringtone, for example).

Some of these limitations prevent me from giving the N90 an unqualified thumbs up. Having said that, I’ve been sceptical about whether the future of phones, photography and music lies on a single unit rather than many discrete devices; the N90 has gone a long way to making me reconsider.

The price for the Nokia N90 is €699, SIM free only.

Handling ****
Features ****
Performance *****
Value for money ***

By Gordon Smith