The Nokia N8 is a highly anticipated device here in Pakistan. It’s jam packed with features and we were one of the few lucky ones who got our hands on the Nokia N8 way before it officially hits the shelves.
Having spent a lot of time with the device here’s a review of the phone just like we promised in the Unboxing of the N8 post.
I tested the phone out vigorously these days, putting it to extreme tests, lots of text messages, tons of calls, endless internet usage, pointless use of Google Maps, constantly using the camera and after all this I came up with this review, in which we tried our best to cover all the major aspects of the Nokia N8.
I was pleased with the build quality of the phone, but along with the build quality brought few disappointments.
First up, the Nokia N8 is constructed completely out of anodized Aluminum therefore it feels really smooth in your hand. N8 is made from a single piece of Aluminum, which means that there aren’t any funky joints or anything that gets in the way.
This unibody construction might be awesome for some people but I found it as a huge con, why? Because the battery is not user replaceable due to the unibody construction. If the battery dies out on you, you can’t change it on your own.
The volume rocker is on the right hand side of the phone and it’s fairly placed for easy access. I didn’t find any problem while using it. Just underneath that is the lock/unlock spring loaded switch to lock or unlock your phone.
And the last button on the right is the camera button – I was really pleased with what Nokia has done with the camera button this time, it’s really comfortable to press and I didn’t have any issues using it whatsoever.
On the left hand side of the phone is the micro-USB port through which you can copy content onto your N8 and it double-acts as a charging port too; unlike many other previous generation Nokia smartphones – I really welcome this new feature.
On the top of the micro-USB port (on right side of Nokia N8) is the SIM and memory card loading slot. I’m going to be straight forward at this point that I had a hard time getting the latch for the SIM to open up. It felt that if I give it too much strength it might just break off.
We would’ve loved the fact if Nokia had made this easy for us but since slipping in a SIM is not a job which you’ll do on a regular basis then of course we can live with this for now. But we severely believe that this could have been made better.
On the top of the Nokia N8 is the microHDMI port. This is a really awesome feature. I’ve been using this feature a lot lately to view my photos and videos, which I shot from the camera and the result is just great. Some people are going to find this feature really fun and intuitive but it wouldn’t really that matter if you’re always on the go.
On the top is also a 3.5 mm headphone jack for connecting any type of headphones, which you might have lying around. Although the ones shipped with the N8 are quite satisfactory as well, and besides the headphone jack is the power button. It’s small but yet it’s easy to press.
Underneath the phone is the standard Nokia charging port.
Flipping the phone over you’ll see an enormous 12MP camera sticking out with a dual Xenon flash. I think the camera-sticking-out part is somewhat annoying, whenever you attend a call you just happen to poke the lens all the time, at least this happened to me, some of you might find this thing irritating too.
The speaker is also placed at the back of the N8 and I have to admit with my whole heart that it’s one of the loudest speaker I’ve heard on a mobile device. I was quite impressed with it and its fun to listen to music on it believe me!
On the front of the phone is the display, which we will cover in detail in a minute.
A front facing VGA camera for video calling and snapping photos and a dedicated menu button.
The menu button is placed quite badly though, it’s way off where it really should be. And using it gets really frustrating at times – you have to go all the way to the corner of the device just to access the menu button. We would’ve loved it if the menu key was more towards the center and near the display for easier access. At times the phone nearly fell off from my hands just to reach the menu key.
Moving on the internals of the device, the N8 is a perfect example that how much features you can fit inside such a small place.
The phone is loaded with almost everything you can think of. But packing everything doesn’t mean that it’s the best smartphone out there – for instance N8 is shipped with 680MHz processor when every other phone in the market is boasting a 1GHz processor sounds a bit off.
I was quite disappointed at the slow clock speed of the processor, Nokia could have easily bumped up the N8 with a faster processor but they chose not to for some reason.
The N8 has an onboard RAM of 256 megs only, which is quite fair enough but if you’re running a lot of apps in the background, then you will feel the need for the extra RAM. I did feel, at times, that extra RAM in the N8 would have been a huge treat but I wasn’t bothered too much about it.
Applications were snappy thanks to the dedicated graphics accelerator chip which takes the extra load off from the processor.
The N8 has built-in 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi which was quite pleasing to use, it works flawlessly but I did find one thing annoying, it’s hard to tell on which data connection the N8 will connect to, it’s somewhat unpredictable, sometimes it connects to EDGE and sometimes on WiFi.
Nokia N8 has a built-in GPS receiver as well, and hands down I admit it is the best GPS receiver I’ve seen, it locates your position almost instantly, so no issues here.
The phone has a built-in storage of 16GB, yes you read that right! And in addition to that, you can add an extra microSD card of up to 32GB. This is a huge plus point especially over direct competition smartphones such as the iPhone.
The battery has a capacity of 1,200 MAh which will give you a good solid day of battery time, depending on the way you use it, you can go all the way to two days if you use it wisely.
The phone also features a built-in FM transmitter, which is a great way of saying goodbye to wires if you’re on the go and want to stream your songs on the radio instead of plugging in wire, it works fine and has no issues.
Also let me take a second to tell you that the phone’s hardware is capable enough to play a full 720p video without any problem, even with the HDMI output, I didn’t get a lot of time to play with the video aspect of the phone but the amount of time I spent with it, I was impressed with it overall.
I’m not gonna brag about the display of the Nokia N8, but this is indeed the best display you’ll ever see on a Nokia device.
It’s an AMOLED display, which is really bright and images look stunning on it, the colors have high saturation and content on it looks just amazing. It has a resolution of 360 by 640 pixels with a size of 3.5 inches (diagonal).
It’s a capacitive display, therefore it’s really sensitive to touch and it’s really comfortable to use.
It supports Multitouch gestures, which is really a welcome feature, and it works great in the photo gallery but holds up quite bad in the internet browser. Whenever I tried to pinch to zoom into a page, the page seemed to break and text looked all gibberish. I really wish a software update fixes this issue.
The screen adjusts its brightness accordingly to your environment and it works quite well, but I hate the fact that there’s no way to turn off the auto-brightness feature.
The screen uses a technology called Gorilla Glass, which is darn tough! Stab it with a pen and you can’t scratch it or break it, but we highly wouldn’t recommend that and we didn’t do it either.
The phone has a built-in accelerometer for auto rotating the screen when going from portrait mode to landscape, and it works just fine, not the fastest auto rotate feature we’ve ever seen but still does what it’s supposed to.
Ok I am going to be very straight forward and little hard in this part. I was expecting tons of new features from Symbian^3, but it turned out to be a disappointment.
Think of it as the older versions of Symbian Series 60 5th edition but with smoother animations and more colorful icons. Although the software performs well on the N8’s hardware but we believe that Nokia could have done a better job at this.
If you’re taking a leap from a phone like the Nokia N97 or the Nokia 5800 then you won’t feel a lot of difference in software, but if you haven’t ever used Symbian before and this is your first time getting your hands on it, then you’ll find the whole experience quite good.
Symbian^3 is more of a touch friendly version of the previous offerings of Symbian, it’s comfortable to use on a touchscreen device like the N8, thanks to the large display.
After having used Symbian^3 for quite some time now, I got the hang of it and found that it’s a great OS to use if you’re doing normal day to day tasks – although it doesn’t compare to Android and iPhone’s iOS in any case.
The homescreen of Symbian^3 features widgets which you can customize in any way you like, and you now even have different homescreens which you can swipe through and all of them can have different widgets.
You can have different social widgets which will display your Facebook and Twitter streams and that too in real-time, you can also have a radio widget, your RSS feeds and tons of other stuff which comes in handy.
I did notice some lag in different menus from time to time, maybe it was due to the lack of RAM? I am not sure what it was but the lag is always there and pops up from time to time.
The best thing I liked about Symbian^3 was the way it lets you multitask, just hold down the menu key for a couple of seconds and it will give you a preview of all the windows you have currently running in the background, it’s a real eye candy and spotting the app on which you were working on is a snap!
The whole user interface is pretty much the same as the previous version of Symbian but a few things have been updated, most noticeable changes lie in the sub menus and options.
The theme animations are much better now and they are quite smooth! And they are pleasing to have too.
Messaging has been updated, it’s now threaded, in other words you see in the same window what the other person sent you and what you replied back, it’s an awesome and welcome feature to have but Nokia adopted the tradition of threaded messaging quite late, but better late than never right?
The phonebook is as good as ever, pick up any Nokia and you’ll see a phonebook which is very detailed so no issues here.
The Nokia N8 handles Emails really well, I’ve been using the N8 as my primary handset for a couple of days now and I’m pleased with the Email client it has.
The Nokia Ovi Store has been revamped and has a brand new look on the Nokia N8. It has a whole new interface, easy to navigate through but what I don’t like about the Ovi Store is that it doesn’t filter out apps and games which are tailored specifically for your device. Would’ve been a great feature but won’t give anyone a heart attack if it’s not there.
The Ovi Store has a wide variety of apps to choose from, and I’ve noticed the apps which I used to have on my old Nokia 5530 look darn good on the N8 and they even perform better.
Social apps are great, if you’re a bigger Twitter fan then give “Gravity” a shot, no other app even comes near to Gravity in terms of what it has to offer, probably the best Symbian Twitter client out there.
Good news is, Symbian^3 can run Symbian S60 5th edition apps without any hitch, if you have an app which you like a lot on the older platform then you will have no issues running it on the N8. There aren’t a lot of apps to choose from quite frankly but all the necessary apps are there to get you going. A few apps which I highly recommend are as follows:
Angry Birds- It’s an awesome game and will keep you entertained for hours trust me. But it’s not free and is for RS 139.99 but the lite version is absolutely free but it’s limited.
Opera Mobile 10- The perfect browser replacement for the native browser.
Fring Mobile- Make video calls from your phone, need I say more?
Qibla Touch- A great app for finding Qibla direction. Uses the built-in GPS to calculate.
Geo News– Self Explanatory what it is.
Google Maps- The best free maps app out there and works great in every major city of Pakistan. Can be downloaded from m.google.com/maps
There are tons of apps to go through, but the ones above are a few which I loved a lot, and are handy to have. I would recommend that you give websites like www.Mobile9.com a shot if you’re looking for apps, wallpapers and other content, they have almost everything. Or you can just Google around for content, your choice.
This is the place where the Nokia N8 rules out its shortcomings, it is a feature packed phone and is guaranteed to keep you entertained.
The music player is quite fun to use, you turn the phone over to landscape mode and you see an amazing iPhone like cover flow mode in which you can slide through your albums along with the album art.
It works like a snap and we didn’t see anything wrong with the music player and it performed up to our expectations. It’s even more fun to use if you’re using the stock Nokia headphones which come with the N8, thanks to its dedicated music control keys.
The audio quality is just like any other mp3 player, and with the audio equalizer in the music player, you can set up the audio according to your liking for that perfect sound you crave.
The N8 features a Video and Photo editor and its self explanatory what it does and it does the job well and is simple to use.
You can edit videos on your phone and come up with pretty decent stuff for sharing with other people, we’ll leave this part for the more creative minds to explore.
As we mentioned before that the N8’s speaker is really loud and the quality of the audio is quite good, but it won’t double as your car horn trust us on that. The radio works great too and uses your headphone’s cable as the antenna.
The Nokia N8 keeps you connected in every way possible, it has WiFi, it supports 3G and EDGE, since we’re in Pakistan so cover the 3G part with water for now.
EDGE works great with the N8, I was using Warid as my soul operator while testing out the N8, where I live, the reception is good so I didn’t get a chance to see the N8 struggle for some signal bars.
Bluetooth 3.0 is there, it supports stereo Bluetooth headsets and supports sending data over the air too and works just great. It has a USB 2.0 port for fast data transfers between your computer and your phone and as we mentioned earlier, it doubles as a charging port too.
This is probably the only part in the Nokia N8 which didn’t get any sort of update over the previous handsets, the web browser is slow, it handles data in a very choppy manner and Multitouch gestures are quite bad.
This might outrage a few Nokia lovers out there but that’s how things are, the browser isn’t just that good, I was expecting the Symbian^3 web browser to be completely overhauled over the previous offerings and I had to make a switch to Opera Mobile, it’s a far better browser and it’s free.
Think of this section of the review as the teaser, why? Face it, the camera is so damn good that we have a separate post for it!
12MP camera on a mobile device, it’s not a joke. And It’s able to pull off 720P videos without any problem.
You’re gonna love the camera believe me! If I’ve used this phone for let’s say 24 hours, then I easily spent more than 12 hours playing with the camera.
Stay tuned we will be back with a detailed post just related to the camera with picture samples and hopefully video too.
At this point you must be wondering where’s the price right? Well, there’s no official price for the N8 yet. Different retailers are giving it off from a price range of 42,000 and beyond, while some are saying it to be priced at 38,000 – so we can’t say for sure how much the price will be.
I’ll wrap up the whole review by saying that the N8 has its shortcomings and it’s good points at the same time. It’s a big upgrade over previous Symbian smartphones, which Nokia has been offering for a long time now. But at the same time some design and hardware aspects really kill the whole mood for the N8.
Symbian^3 in my opinion is rather disappointing to use, there’s nothing brand new over here, everything has just been polished a little, the platform is the same except it’s been pushed up a bit cosmetically.
Would I recommend the Nokia N8? Well, if I had that much money to spare, 40,000 plus that is, I would go for an HTC or any Android phone or probably a Samsung. I already know that I wouldn’t get that much value out of the N8 but at the same time there are features in the N8 which I really did love, especially the camera, it’s just amazing!
I’m not bragging about the camera but it’s the best I’ve ever seen on a mobile device. Although the iPhone 4 also has a good camera and also pulls off 720P video recording without any issues but the image sensor size of the iPhone 4 is limited to 5MP’s only, so still photos on the N8 definitely have an edge over the iPhone 4.
If you’ve been loyal to Nokia and planning to get an N8 then here’s a good recommendation, hold off from buying it right now. Wait for the software updates to come out, there are a lot of bugs here and there, maybe you will not even notice them but trust me if you’re using the N8 for a prolonged period of time, they will get annoying. The browser for instance, not well at all! Nokia should come up with an update to improve its functionality.
We gave you a full review, now it’s up to you to decide whether you should go for it or not.
Leave questions in the comment section below if you have anything you want to ask about the N8 and I will try my best to reply as soon as possible.
Before that, you may find this useful: Complete technical details of Nokia N8 (PDF File – 178 KB)