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Phone Scoop

printed October 2, 2014
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Nokia Nseries Launch

Intro N91 1 N91 2 N90 1 N90 2 N70 Wrap-Up Comments  18  

While the whole Nseries is basically a line of "flagship" phones, the N90 arguably leads the fleet. While the N91 has a music focus, the N90's strengths are all visual. From the stunning display to the Carl Zeiss optics to the look of the phone itself, the N90 is a feast for the eyes in every way.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The first thing anyone will notice about the N90 is the funky hinge design that twists and turns more ways than a Rubik's Cube. In addition to the twist-and-flip design that several other phones have had, the N90 also has a twisting camera that protrudes quite a bit from the hinge. While it looks like a clumsy, flimsy design in photos, with too many moving parts, it is actually one of the most solid-feeling hinges I have tried in some time. The angles where the hinge "clicks" are designed in such a way that it's actually quite a pleasure to manipulate, and the camera part feels equally well-constructed.

The whole feel and ergonomics of the phone are excellent. Everything is exactly where it feels like it should be, and feels and works very well. The phone is fairly large, but there will always be some size compromise when you want a phone will all the trimmings.

The fancy hinge is to allow maximum flexibility when taking photos or videos, which is the main focus of the N90. Unlike Nokia's first twist-and-flip phone, the 6260, the N90 does not allow the main display to be twisted 180 degrees and folded down facing out. But the N90 does feature a large secondary display, which can be used as a viewfinder for the camera. The advantage of this setup is that the main display is always protected from scratches, which is important given the quality of that display.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

So just how many ways does this phone bend? Well, to start with, you can simply turn the camera part to activate camera mode with the phone still closed. You can turn the camera away to use the phone just like a digital camera, or you can turn it inward to take a photo of yourself, if you like. Then of course the phone opens like a standard clamshell for normal use.

But the real acrobatics begin if you want to use the main display as a viewfinder. Then you can fold the top part down half-way (where it "clicks") and twist it to the right. Then you can hold the phone sideways, camcorder-style. The advantage is that the display is now in landscape orientation, so you can use nearly the whole (beautiful) display area as a viewfinder. Plus it's very easy to hold the phone one-handed this way, and hold it steady.

Another advantage is that the display and camera both have fully independent adjustable vertical angle in this configuration, so you can hold the phone at any height and angle that's most comfortable, and still point the camera at your subject and the display at your face. I can't think of a single camera phone or standalone digital camera that is this comfortable to hold and offers so many angle options.

If you have access to a 3G network that supports video calling, you can also point the camera at yourself for a video call.

The camera controls are also quite extensive and well-thought-out. Like a standalone digital camera, the N90 has a capture key (shutter-release) that you can press down half-way to focus, and then all the way down to actually take the shot. This can help eliminate delay if you're trying to take a shot that needs to be timed carefully. The reason this is necessary is that the N90 has a true auto-focus lens, which boosts quality dramatically over the fixed-focus lenses still found in most current camera phones. Auto-focus lenses typically require an extra second or two to focus.

The camera also has additional dedicated controls, including a true five-way joystick right below the capture key, and two extra soft keys next to the display. The joystick controls the digital zoom, as well as activating and navigating the primary settings menu. The two soft keys provide additional options, such as switching between still and video mode, or moving to the gallery application. Together with the joystick, they allow you to do nearly anything visual without using the main keypad (which would be quite awkward from that angle.)

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