At last. The Nokia N8 was announced in April, touted for August and has finally been released at the start of October. After months of speculation, a spectacular change at the top at Nokia and claims that the MeeGo would gazump Symbian, the N8 has landed.
So is this first ever Symbian 3 cell worth the wait? How does it stack up against its rivals? And what of that 12 megapixel snapper? Read our N8 review and find out now.
Lift the N8 from its box and fire it up and you can’t help but realise this is the classiest phone Nokia has ever released. It feels absolutely rock-solid, its aluminium frame crushing any lingering memories of the N97’s flimsy build.
Symbian 3 looks like a marked improvement on S60’s creaking style, while the first shots we reeled off with the camera were pretty impressive. But spend some time with this phone and you’ll find it’s not all smartphone success.
The N8’s build is undoubtedly its greatest feature. This is a phone which goes toe-to-toe with the likes of the HTC Desire HD and HTC Legend and comes out looking every bit as sharp. The 3.5-inch screen means this never feels too chunky when you slide it out of your pocket, giving it the same feel as the iPhone 4.
However, you can’t help but feel it’s a tad on the chunky side, especially as its Apple rival is so slim. 12.9mm isn’t exactly fat, but add the protruding camera lens and flash and it certainly doesn’t feel like a slimline smartie.
Because the camera doesn’t sit flush to the frame, it does cause some discomfort when holding the phone for extended periods. That aside, this is one sleek piece of kit, and one that design junkies can easily get onboard with.
The camera, with a huge 12 megapixel sensor, is the big draw when it comes to the N8’s key features. While rivals have eschewed upping the megapixel count in order to push on in other areas, Espoo has made the camera a key component of its flagship phone.
There’s no doubting this is an area in which Nokia has excelled in recent years and the N8 continues that tradition. Shots in good light are remarkably crisp, with plenty of features thrown in to make it a proper compact contender. Face detection, white balance tweaks and changes to colour tone make this an adaptable camera for those who want quick shots on the move.
The Xenon flash also means low light snaps are ace, although we did detect some noise on the edges of our late night pics. HD Ready video capture is excellent, and clips can easily be seen on your HDTV via the HDMI port up top. Films are every bit as clean and clear as on the iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S.
However, the big let down is the inability to share shots and clips easily with social networks. You can send via Bluetooth or MMS, but there’s no obvious share button, as seen on Android-based cameras. That aside, this really is the best cameraphone out there at the moment.
This is the first phone to come with Symbian 3, with a string of follow up devices, including the E7 and C7, due out in the New Year. However, the leap from S60 isn’t huge and this is an OS that sadly cannot stand up to Android, iOS or webOS.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have good features. The home page UI is straightforward enough, with three homescreens offering access to apps, RSS feeds and BBC iPlayer among others. The latter is a particular treat, even if watching back shows on the 640x480 AMOLED screen just can’t compare with the iPhone 4’s Retina Display or the Super AMOLED effort on the Galaxy S.
The homescreens can feel cluttered, and with more apps hidden in a further menu screen, accessible by the button on the left-hand corner of the device, things get very confusing, very quickly. There’s also another app icon, hiding even more goodies. Nokia would have done well to offer better folder options. Instead, the drill down menus can feel confusing and don’t offer the clean break from S60 that’s so desperately needed.
Ease of use
Symbian 3’s issues extend across to ease of use. Setting up Gmail should really involve just entering your address and password, but instead asks for ‘Exchange’ details, including a further username and port details.
When setting up accounts on the iPhone and Android is so easy and unfortunately Nokia has failed to make it as straightforward as it could be. Once set up, though, the N8’s mail handling is superb, influenced in no small part by the ace E-series. The keyboard could also be better. It automatically defaults to a numeric version when in portrait, something which will throw hardened touchscreen phone users used to QWERTY in both portrait and landscape. The latter is actually pretty natty and very precise, although the unnecessary haptics can cause confusion and don’t feel natural at all.
The drill down menu systems are also a disaster and really don’t help the N8’s cause. There’s no doubting this is Nokia’s best effort yet to battle it out for smartphone supremacy. And while it succeeds in many areas, the camera especially, it’s still not a phone that can match the iPhone, or HTC’s best Android efforts. Here’s hoping MeeGo can do what Symbian can’t.
- Symbian 3
- 3.5 inch, 640 x 360 capacitive touchscreen
- 12 megapixel camera, 720p HD video recording
- 3.5mm jack
- Wi-Fi, HSDPA, 16GB storage
Overall Mark: 8/10