Review: Nokia N8

By Branko Miletic

Last week we gave you the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Nokia N8. Now that we have had a few days to fully test and play with it, we can give you the whole picture.

In some ways, Nokia’s N8 is what all smartphones could be. By that I mean that if you are going to stick a camera into a phone, then put in a real camera and not some photographic halfway house you find in most mobile phones these days. As I wrote last week, the 12-megapixel Carl Zeiss optics with autofocus and Xenon flash is the ants’ pants of phone cameras and should become the benchmark of all smartphone makers from now on.

However, at the same time, if we apply the same rule to processors, then you should try and future-proof your technology. This is one thing that the Nokia N8 does not do that well. Sticking a 680MHz processor under the hood whilst everyone else is packing 1Ghz processors into their phones is not the way to future proof your product and in many ways is an affront to the rest of the N8s great innovations.

And while I am on a roll here, let me add the fact that the Symbian OS is a bit like Chardonnay – that fact that it was once popular doesn’t mean it was also that great either.

In an age when Android is going ahead in leaps and bounds, and considering the fact that using such an underpowered processor would not be an issue with the less power draining Android system, shows that those long, dark winter days in Finland don’t do much for helping with engineering ingenuity.

In terms of speed and touchscreen agility, let me say that the N8 performs about the same (if not a little faster) than the Apple iPhone 3GS.  That was a bit surprising as the number of trashy touchscreen N8 reviews I have read made me think the N8 was about as fast as a snail on Valium.

Then there are the great points. The standard functions like email setup, ringtone changes, SMS sending, wallpaper upgrades etc were as easy to find as one would expect on any Nokia. Add to that the Nokia App store and the super-functional Ovi Maps, and the N8 becomes a truly a multi-functional beast. On top of that, combining the all-time Nokia strength of long battery life and you start to see how useful the N8 can be. It has a non-accessible 1200mAh battery, which Nokia says gives about two days of use between charges.

This is not true – Nokia’s battery life is a lot better than the company claims it is and that includes calling, web surfing, emailing, SMS sending, taking pictures and even taking HD video with the in-built video camera. The N8’s battery life is nothing short of magnificent. My testing showed it lasted just over 3 days with some pretty heavy industrial-like usage. Why Nokia chooses to underplay this attribute is beyond me, however, I have always held the opinion that battery life is the most important of a mobile phone’s functions- without it you can have as many cool Apps and hardware additions you like – but when the battery dies, in the end, all you have is a paperweight.

At 135 gms, it is about the same weight as the iPhone 4.0, but a bit narrower. Unlike Apple’s flagship smartphone, it doesn’t need you to become a worshipper in the Global Church of Apple Fanboys to fully appreciate its capabilities.

You’ll also notice that I did not go too much into the Apps. This is because when reviewing phones, I believe the hardware is the issue and the only software I should be comparing is the OS. I am not a fan of comparing App stores as not only does this skew a review, the fact they change on a daily basis means that by the time you would read the review, my conclusions could well be outdated.

Suffice it to say, the Nokia App store has pretty much most Apps you would need and like other App outlets, it also has quite a few you’ll never need, too.

In conclusion, if you want one of the best phones currently on offer or if you are like me and use a voice recorder, camera, GPS and phones for work and don’t want the inconvenience of carrying around a menagerie of digital devices, Nokia’s N8 will do the job.

Pros: fantastic camera, long battery life, good all-round size
Cons: Ordinary processor, slightly dates OS and needs a better mic for the camera

Rating: 3.5 / 5