N8 image by Phone Arena

Now that the Nokia N8 has shipped, the reviews that I have been anxiously anticipating are appearing faster than Google instant can display them. Not exactly, but most of them have hit the key points — good and bad — that I thought would.

First off, everyone mentioned just how gorgeous the anodized aluminum shell is and how fantastic the shots that the 12-Megapixel camera are. This was expected. As Nokia’s flagship device, there was no doubt that it was going to be rock solid in these two areas.

Phone Arena says, “The Nokia N8 feels special. With an anodised aluminium body, it delivers a really luxurious cold metal sensation when you pick it up, and a fantastic weighting behind it. It is truly a tactile pleasure to hold and fondle and would still be even if it didn’t switch on.

The anodised aluminium body has a novel shape, like something out of a Megaman videogame, it’s got a retro look coupled with a futuristic feel. In addition to looking and feeling refined, it’s also quite practical. The flat top and bottom make it easy to pick up, handle and even stand in portrait orientation. The curved edges feel complementary as they are smooth for comfortable hand holding, an ergonomic touch that makes the buttons on the right hand side a breeze to press. On the right is a volume rocker, a small, ribbed sliding button to lock / unlock the Nokia N8, and a camera button. There are no buttons on the left of the phone, however you will find the microUSB port which remains uncovered, as well as the SIM card and microSD card slots located under two flaps. These flaps close nice and flush with the N8’s body and despite being plastic, have the same matted feel as the aluminium body, making for a smooth, unnoticeable addition. With no removable battery, there are also small screws visible on either side of the phone, which are neither here nor there. While we are tempted to say they add to the industrial, sturdy design of the Nokia N8, they also manage to detract from the minimal finish.

If there was ever a time for a drum-roll, this is it. It’s time to take a close look at the Nokia N8’s 12MP camera with auto focus Carl Zeiss lens (28mm f2.8). Nokia commissioned the University of Westminster, a university with a strong photographic heritage in London, to conduct research into the Nokia N8’s sensor.

Nokia World 2010 touted the N8 as a compact camera replacement. There has been so much buzz surrounding this camera, that it really has to be something special to live up to it all, and by golly it is.

Quick to activate, quick to fire (even with flash), quick to process, when we first started taking pictures, the speed at which the Nokia N8 worked made us think it was set to a low resolution. That wasn’t the case. At full 12MP, everything works, and works quickly. The camera button on the bottom right of the N8 has two stages of press (focus and capture) and this can be used to take the picture. Alternatively, there is a single camera icon on the screen that can be used. The camera has face detection, an optional on-screen grid, as well as the following:
Scene modes (auto, user defined, close-up, portrait, landscape, sport, night and night-portrait)
Self timer (off, 2 seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds),
Colour tone (normal, vivid, black and white, sepia),
White balance (auto, sunny, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent)
Exposure (-2 to +2 in increments of 0.5)
ISO (low, medium, high)
Adjustable contrast
Sharpness (hard, normal, soft)
Pictures taken on the Nokia N8 are indistinguishable from some of the mid-range compact cameras on the market at the moment, and are unquestionably better than most entry-level compacts.
Colour reproduction is good. While on the AMOLED screen, images look slightly over-saturated, but when exported to a monitor, reds and yellows in particular look bright and natural.
As you can see from the samples, levels of detail are high across busy images, especially in shots taken in daylight. Thanks to the 12MP sensor and Nokia’s efforts, images don’t break down as soon as they are zoomed into, so there is some leeway in terms of cropping an image once it is taken.
Exposure levels are also very promising. With the shot of the two statues providing a low contrast scene on a slightly overcast day, the Nokia N8 produced a capture very similar to the real thing.
An area the Nokia N8 camera is a little weaker is dynamic range. When faced with a high contrast scene, as with most compact cameras, shades of black melt into one, and highlights can become blotches of white. Another factor is metering. The Nokia N8 doesn’t enable the user to set metering, so it is defaulted to centre-weighted. “

Source: Phone Arena N8 Review

Couldn’t have typed it better myself. At this point in time, Phone Arena’s N8 review is the most thorough one available. I wonder how well the aluminum casing will stand up to bumps. There will probably be some indentation and markings as the phone sees usage. At least we know that the paint does chip away from the manual lock/unlock slider on the side of the phone as has been mentioned in the reviews.

Tech Radar says, “Hardware-wise, Nokia has pushed the boat out too with the new N8, offering a full metal chassis with anodised scratch-proof paint to give the phone a really high end feel.

It really is scratch-proof – rubbing keys on it produced no ill-effects, although the slider switch on the side can get its paint rubbed off over time.”

Source: Tech Radar’s N8 Review

So video playback is outstanding with multiple-codec support. Revamped music player is excellent. The 680MHz ARM 11 processor shows little slow down which shows its efficiency coupled with 3D Hardware support. Voice calling is clear and good battery life. Every single feature that has been talked about and highlighted seems to have come through.

Now we get into the revamped Symbian^3. One thing that was bugging me from the early previews of the N8 was the text input screen(s). Instead of  displaying a floating QWERTY on-screen keyboard, Nokia went with a separate screen as the image shows below.

N8 on-screen QWERTY keyboard

At least for me, this seems to distract from the original screen. I had an issue with my N97 text input when not using the sliding keyboard. Not sure why it is so difficult to display a floating keyboard for Nokia, but its there and will have to be dealt with. Like I said before, I am used to the Symbian interface. So it will not bother me that the UI is a bit counter-intuitive.

Many of the reviewers mention that the huge downfall of the N8 is the UI. We must remember that Nokia’s is aiming not at the North American market but at the other parts of the world. Symbian^3 is not intended to swoon over the iPhone and Android users, rather its intended as a huge update to the much larger existing customer that is in the millions world wide. Smartly you update and solidify your customer base, laying the foundation for the high end in the future. George Linardos was a guest on the Engadget Mobile Podcast #057 and touches a bit on the subject.

George Linardos of Nokia (in the Engadget Mobile Podcast #057) says, “Nokia’s obviously has been through a period of kind of reset and its been interesting to be a part of this in the last couple of years because its a company with 100,000 employees, its a company that sells well over 400 million phones a year and does a very large amount of revenue so as the industry started to change, Nokia was about as bold as a big company could be to sort of  go in the change direction. But you know you’re never gong to turn a big ship like that over night but people wanted results over night, so now acually  you’re seeing new devices, refreshed Symbian start to come to market. You’re seeing the new store, OVI maps really to the point of maturity and I would say probably the leader in mobile navigation.”

With all that said, I’m now waiting for the release and reviews of the E7 (with ClearBlack display). I just don’t see myself using a phone without a hardware keyboard. Although the N8’s camera is really tempting. What about you? Will you purchase the N8? Leave your comments in the section below.

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