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Nokia N8 review: 12 Megapixel camera with Xenon flash and HD video support

Last updated on: April 19, 2011 08:36 IST

Nokia N8 review: 12 Megapixel camera with Xenon flash and HD video support

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Get Ahead reader Vijay Padiyar reviews Nokia N8 after using the smartphone for a couple of weeks.

Vijay Padiyar is a software engineer and regular blogger.


I'm not exactly a latest gadget freak. I tend to carefully evaluate any gadgets before buying them, and then use them for a couple of years at least. So the gadgets that typically appeal to me are those that are feature rich while still being simple to use. After all, no point in having a feature rich gadget that makes it difficult for you to actually use most of those features!

So, after having used my earlier Sony Ericsson K790i over four years, I finally decided to go in for a change of phone. I basically wanted to try out a touch screen phone. I haven't been a big fan of HTC in the past (my wife had a HTC Touch which was complicated to use). And somehow, mobile phones by LG, Samsung and Motorola don't really appeal to me as I find their user interfaces inferior as compared to Nokia and Sony Ericsson's.

In terms of quality and ease-of-use, the iPhone 4 is undoubtedly the leader of the touch screen smartphone pack, but unfortunately it is prohibitively expensive in India and lacks some basic features (no flash, no FM radio, etc.).

So, eventually the choice boiled down between the Nokia N8 and the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10. After a comprehensive analysis of features supported, price and other aspects (including user reviews), I decided to go in for the Nokia N8.

After having used it for a couple of weeks, here's my not-so-comprehensive review of the Nokia N8.

NEXT: Pros of Nokia N8

 

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Image: Nokia N8

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Nokia N8 review: 12 Megapixel camera with Xenon flash and HD video support

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Pros:

1. 12 Megapixel camera with Xenon flash and HD video support: This is by far the biggest USP of the Nokia N8. The N8's camera is absolutely fantastic! It works well under all conditions, bright and dark, thanks to its powerful Xenon flash and its 1/1.8" CCD sensor that delivers fantastic picture quality with natural colours. In fact, the pictures come out so well even in pitch-dark conditions that I'm actually planning to sell off my dedicated Sony 7.2 MP digital camera!

The N8's camera also supports HD video recording, which means you don't need to buy a dedicated HD video camcorder.

2. Excellent battery life: I'm listing this second because a good battery life is really important to me. A feature-rich phone can quickly become a pain if you have to keep charging it every other day. Thankfully, the N8 battery lasts for 3-4 days on average with reasonable amount of use ( 2 hours of talking, a little web browsing and some music). Now, that's great for a feature-packed large screen touch smartphone!

3. Excellent voice clarity and signal strength: Like most Nokia phones, the voice clarity and signal strength is fantastic in the N8, way better than what I used to get in my old Sony Ericsson k790i. This means fewer issues with call drops or poor voice quality.

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Nokia N8 review: 12 Megapixel camera with Xenon flash and HD video support

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4. 16 GB internal memory: This means there is more than enough space for all your photos, songs and even complete movies on your phone! Plus, you can add an extra 16 GB of memory via a memory card.

5. Music player with FM transmitter: Music players are pretty much a given in most phones nowadays, but one neat feature that the N8 has is the built-in FM transmitter, which can come in handy when you want to play your songs on a car or home music system but don't have (or can't connect) a stereo cable.

And although not as refined as the iPod Touch user interface, the N8 music player has a pretty good user interface that is quite neatly designed and easy to use.

The N8's video player supports HD video playback and 5.1 channel Dolby stereo output.

Users in India currently also get a 1 year free subscription to the Ovi Music store, and searching and downloading songs is extremely easy with the Nokia Ovi Music application bundled on the phone.

6. GPS navigation: The Nokia N8 supports GPS navigation and also comes with local maps bundled on the phone, courtesy Ovi Maps (which is lifetime free). Note that these are offline maps that are stored on your phone memory, so you don't need a GPRS network connection to use the navigation feature. You will need to buy a car phone holder for your N8 though.

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Nokia N8 review: 12 Megapixel camera with Xenon flash and HD video support

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7. FM radio: This is also standard issue on most phones nowadays (though not on the iPhone, surprisingly!). The N8's FM radio reception and clarity is good. RDS and AF are supported.

8. Wi-Fi support: Really useful nowadays. The N8 supports 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi standards, and can auto-detect and connect to available networks if configured to do so. It also has a WLAN Power Saving Mode.

9. Push Mail support: So you can set up your Microsoft Exchange account on your N8 and view your office emails on the move.

The N8 also has easy configuration options for Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Rediffmail and a couple of other email services.

10. Java and Flash support: The N8 supports Java MIDP, which means you can install all those applications like ngpay, mChek, etc. And the N8's built-in web browser supports Flash (although I use Opera Mobile). Users can also install any Symbian application that is written for Nokia phones.

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Nokia N8 review: 12 Megapixel camera with Xenon flash and HD video support

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11. USB On-the-go support: Turns your Nokia N8 into a full-scale computer. You can connect USB peripherals (such as pen drives or external hard drives) to the phone and it will recognize them as mass storage devices. So transferring data to/from the phone via USB becomes a reality!

12. HDMI support: You can connect your phone to a HD television and watch your videos/pictures on the TV.

13. Bluetooth 3.0 support: For super-fast data transfer. Works with earlier versions of Bluetooth as well.

14. 3.5 mm headphone jack: Which means you can use any earphone or headphone with your Nokia N8.

15. Rugged phone with scratch-proof screen: The N8 has a scratch-proof touch screen made of Gorilla glass. I have already dropped it a couple of times, and observed no issues at all!

NEXT: Cons of Nokia N8

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Nokia N8 review: 12 Megapixel camera with Xenon flash and HD video support

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Cons:

1. Symbian OS (and buggy, at that): Although the Symbian 3 OS is significantly improved from previous versions, some of the N8 menus have the same old low-end Nokia user interface feel. Due to this, at times the N8 feels like any other low-end Nokia phone when browsing some of the menus. There are also a couple of minor bugs that mar the user experience to some extent.

2. Sluggish at times: Although the N8 has a 680 MHz ARM CPU and a dedicated GPU, it still feels sluggish at times, and is slow to react to events. For example, after disconnecting a call, the screen doesn't refresh immediately and it doesn't go back to locked mode quickly, so you get confused and try to lock it manually, which only causes the screen to unlock! Similarly, the phone is sluggish while opening or closing certain applications. This is something you will never notice on an iPhone.

3. Dictionary feature is quite stupid: The N8's dictionary utility is a prime example of poor programming. This is because the dictionary setting is globally applicable across the entire device. This means that if you turned the dictionary on when composing a SMS, it will be on everywhere, even if you are typing a URL in the web browser or searching a name in the phonebook! As a result, you have to keep turning the dictionary on and off periodically.

By contrast, in my old Sony Ericsson phone, the dictionary setting was applicable only in the SMS/MMS/Email application.

Conclusion:

All in all, I'd say the N8 is good value for money considering the features it packs in and the good battery life. As mentioned, its primary USP is clearly the 12 Megapixel camera with Xenon flash and HD video recording support, which makes the N8 better than a lot of dedicated digital cameras!

The other USP is GPS support, although if you are planning to use it heavily, you might be better off buying a dedicated GPS receiver, because the phone's battery drains fast if GPS is on for a long time (due to the screen being on continuously).

As for the basic phone functionality (phone calls and messaging), needless to say, no one does it better than Nokia!

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