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Hands-On: Nokia N Series

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Aug 26, 2008, 3:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

We were able to spend a few moments with Nokia's new N Series phones, the N85 and N79. Read our first impressions.

Intro 

Nokia announced two brand new N Series phones today. Phone Scoop was able to sit down and play with them for a few moments. Neither was final hardware, unfortunately, but they were close enough for us to develop some strong first impressions.

Both phones carry the torch of the N Series forward with solid spec lists and hardware. They each include S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2, which is the latest version of the S60 platform.

GPS, Wi-Fi, tri-band 3G, 5 megapixel cameras, FM radios / transmitters, video support, dual LED flashes, 3.5mm headset jacks, and stereo Bluetooth are all on board.

Read on to learn about the N85 and the N79.

N85 

The N85 is a dual-slider phone that is basically an N96 Light. It takes the basic form factor of the N96 -- and most of the specs -- and simply packages it in a smaller, more pocketable phone.

Despite being prototype hardware, it felt solid in the hand. Probably because so much is stuffed into the phone. It doesn't have quite the marquee feel of the N96, but it is a very good looking device and has nice, smooth edges in comparison. Probably the most welcome change when comparing it to the N96 is that it is a thinner phone. (Sorry, N95, and N96, you're just beefy). The N85 is less so, but it is still far from being the thinnest slider on the market.

The plastics on the front of the phone felt a bit on the cheap side, but we'll accredit this to the pre-production status of the phone with hopes that final products will be less cheap feeling. The original N95 had a nice, big dedicated media key that took you to the media carousel. Starting with the N81, Nokia reduced the size of this key to a small dash to the right of the D-pad. The N85 uses this same dash key. To be honest, I don't like it. For a media-focused phone, it should be easier to get to your media. This tiny little dash of a button just doesn't cut it.

The numeric keypad itself is similar to that of the N96 and N81 in that the buttons are flat and smooth. I thought it was a bit difficult to differentiate between the keys using just my thumb. The action and feedback was okay, but not great. Again, it felt a bit cheap.

On the back of the phone is a cover for the 5 megapixel camera. It is a nice simple hatch that slides back and forth. Slide it open, and it fires up the camera. Close it, and it shuts the camera off. It is nice to have a protector for that Carl Zeiss lens.

All the hatches and ports along the N85's sides worked fine. I had no trouble opening any of them. Same goes for the buttons. They all had good travel and feedback, and were easy to find and use by feel.

In all, with its smaller foot print, smaller price tag, and nearly equal feature set, I expect the N85 to cannibalize some sales of the N96.

 

N85

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

N79 

The N79 takes many of the features of the N85 and crams them into a monoblock instead of a slider.

It is a compact little phone. It is easily gripped in your hand, and slips into a pocket no problem. It feels very well balanced and its weight isn't overbearing.

Rather than show off a black face that many of the other N Series phones have been favoring of late, the front of the N79 is white. The back plate will be interchangeable, with three (white, black, red) different plates coming in the box with the phone. There is also a chip built into each of the backplates. The N79 will automatically change the theme on the screen of the phone depending on what backplate you put on it. This makes it stand out a bit from its N Series brothers.

The pre-production unit we had the chance to use seemed to be a bit less final than the N85. Almost all of the buttons on the front felt very cheap. Travel and feedback just didn't feel good, and the buttons felt very "plasticky" in a bad way. They also didn't work consistently. We hope that this is something corrected in the production units. We will say this, they keys at least are real keys, and not the blips found on the N78. This is a welcome return to normal keypad design.

The D-pad itself was different compared to the D-pad of the N85, N81 or N96. It is flatter and doesn't have the high ridge around the outside. The center button also protrudes a bit more than on other N Series devices.

It has the same camera lens cover that is found on the N85, and it was a bit loose in the frame. We'll chalk this up to is pre-production status.

Overall, the N79 is a worthy bearer of the N series badge. It has all the features you'd expect, and improves on the usability of the N78.

 

N79

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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n85 n79 vs. 6220 classic mikiet77 Aug 26, 2008, 11:27 AM
 
 
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