Nokia N8 First-Look Review

by Reads (12,116)

UPDATE: This preliminary review was written after a limited time with this device. A more in-depth review is now available. It can be found here:

Nokia N8 Review

 


The Nokia N8 is a new Symbian^3 smartphone that packs a 12 megapixel camera and several other enhancements over previous Nokia models. It is positioned to vault its maker back into the minds and hands of prospective customers.

This is not only the first device using the Symbian^3 operating system from Nokia (or anyone), it is also a move by the Finnish mobile company to show that it has been paying attention to the evolving market.

 

Nokia N8 with Symbian^3What follows are my first impressions of the N8. A full review will be available soon.

DESIGN & BUILD

Nokia has always been known for making beautifully designed devices, and the N8 carries on this tradition and steps it up at the same time. It is basically a solidly carved piece of brushed aluminum, with color-matched and tapered hard plastic on the top/bottom and a stunning Gorilla Glass AM-OLED touchscreen. The entire package has done nothing but get compliments from everyone.

In hand, the N8 brought back memories of playing with a RAZR for the first time. It’s heavy, but in one of those “quality lives here” kinds of feelings. It isn’t too wide, and at the same time doesn’t feel as if it is plump to compensate.

I spent the first 30 minutes or so just admiring the black/charcoal-grey without turning it on — it felt like a model to put in a case for display, not a mobile that meant to be used.

My initial concern was that the protruding 12 megapixel camera on the back would be a problem, but I never noticed it. It was almost like the “bump” for the camera served as a solid boundary for your finger to keep from smudging the exposed lens.

Overall, I am impressed. From the hardware side of things, Nokia has a winner here. It is like being a BMW to the iPhone 4 as a Mercedes — the attention to quality is that impressive.

Screen
The front is dominated by the 3.5-inch, 640 x 360 pixel, AMOLED touchscreen. Even though it is not the biggest resolution in terms of raw specs, it is one pretty screen in all but the most direct of sunlight. And even then, it is no where near as bad as the washed out experience I used to get on Nokia’s other capacitive smartphone, the X6.

But, like the X6, it loves finger oils.

Nokia N8 with Symbian^3Other Buttons and Ports
The left side of the N8 has doors for the microSDHC and SIM which are hard as beans to open. There is also the micro-USB slot, but this doesn’t have a cover, which is kind of interesting.

On the right side is the volume up/down, screen lock, and camera buttons. Being used to the placement of those buttons on the N97 that I use everyday, it is taking me a bit to get used to the feel of these.

The bottom is bare except for the 2mm charging port (the N8 charges via micro-USB and 2mm ports). The top has a 3.5 mm audio/video Jack, HDMI connector, and the on/off power button. As with the volume and lock buttons, the power button takes some getting used to since it’s recessed and kind of tough.

PERFORMANCE

The Nokia N8 is the first device that uses the Symbian^3 operating system. As I use a Symbian^1 device as my daily driver, I was very interested in seeing the tweaks and wrinkles in this new version of the platform.

For the most part, all interactions are a lot smoother. The home screen transitions took a bit to get used to — you swipe and then there’s a small delay before the screen switches to another panel.

There are still a good deal of menus and screens work your way through to get to applications and preferences. This is something Symbian users have had to get used to.

Setting up email and social networks were simple, but I’ve not yet had a good working day with them just yet.

I was impressed that I was asked for my credentials for Nokia’s Ovi services. Sign me in when I get the mobile going, very nice. However, I don’t use Ovi to hold contacts/calendar online, so I am not able to say if it would pull that off neatly.

Nokia N8 with Symbian^3It does continue the tradition of having the Phone Switch application. This gave me a chance to see how much the Bluetooth transfer speeds have improved. Moving 1000+ contacts and 300+ calendar entries from one device to another — less than 5 minutes later I was good to go.

There is a lot out-of-box with most Symbian devices in terms of functional software, but there are no carrier apps since my N8 unit is straight from the manufacturer. Office viewer, file manager, dictionary, and photo/video editors round out the offering. Bare from the included app standpoint, but not badly.

The Ovi Store needed to be downloaded though as it was weirdly not included. After you’ve installed it, you’ll be able to add additional third-party software to the N8.

Camera
I have been having fun with  the 12 megapixel camera. In speed to auto-focus, image capturing/processing, and loading viewed shots, it is very fast.

I went from my Nokia N95 to my N97 to the N8 to get an idea of just how much faster it is to launch and take a picture, and you wouldn’t even know that they were from the same company, the N8 is amazingly fast in this department.

 

PRELIMINARY CONCLUSION

The Nokia N8 comes off as impressive, albeit almost incomplete still. Given what I am used to from Symbian devices, it is smoother, faster, and a bit more polished around the edges. It leaves me more in an anticipating mode than I would have figured.

Stay tuned to the full review in a few weeks time and we’ll see how the N8 meets/misses/exceeds my expectations.

 

For those of you who can’t wait, the N8 is available now on Nokia’s website. It sells for $550.

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