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printed November 24, 2014
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Review: Nokia N8

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Nokia has never had a problem designing compelling hardware, and the N8 is a shining example of what its engineers can conjure up. It is manufactured with a fine mix of metals, glass and plastic. It has a comfortable weight to it, and the gently rounded edges caress the skin of your hand. Were it not for the large bulge on the back to house the camera module, I'd call it sleek. The top and bottom of the N8 are tapered down, and the device almost resembles a spaceship. It fits into pockets fine, but in tight jeans you're going to notice the camera bulge.

Since it is a touch phone, the N8 is mostly glass on the front. There is but a lone button tucked into the bottom left corner of the front surface. It is a home/menu key; a narrow dash set flush with the surface of the N8. It has good travel and feedback, though I wish it were easier to find with your thumb.

Three of the N8's four edges are replete with controls. Starting at the top, there is a 3.5mm headset jack, a miniHDMI port, and a power/profile key. The HDMI port is protected by a hatch that is easily peeled open. The N8 comes with a miniHDMI-to-HDMI cable adapter to make hooking the N8 up to a HDTV simple.

On the left side, the N8 houses three different ports. The top two are combined into one mega port, and encompass the microSD card and SIM card slots. Yes, the SIM card is easily accessible from the side of the N8. Below these is a microUSB port for charging and data transfer.

On the right side, the N8 has three buttons. Nearest the top is the volume toggle and camera zoom button. It is easy to find, and tiny nubs let your thumb know which is up and which is down. Centered on the right side you'll find the sliding lock switch. I am not a fan of spring-loaded switches for locking/unlocking the screen, but the N8's works fine. I'd prefer it if the power button doubled as a lock button instead, but Nokia devices have historically offered fast ringer profile switching as a secondary function of the power key. Last is a two-stage camera button. The two stages are well defined, though the overall feel of the button is a bit on the cheap side.

Long-time Nokia users will be happy to discover the Nokia micro-pin charging port on the bottom. This makes the N8 compatible with older Nokia chargers and microUSB chargers at the same time.

One oddity of the N8 is that the battery is sealed inside and not user-serviceable. Yup, you read that correctly. The N8's battery cannot be removed and/or replaced.

Despite a couple of drawbacks, I'd call the N8 one of the finest pieces of hardware to come out of Espoo. It's a solid hardware design.

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