Nokia N79 review: Swiss Army knife

GSMArena team, 20 November 2008.
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N-gage: fun costs

We still look at Nseries handsets as smartphones but they are at least equally as important to Nokia as N-gage phones. It's all about mobile content sales and trial-to-purchase-conversion counts big time. No wonder our N79 unit was quite loaded.

Unfortunately you only get one full-featured game with the rest being only trials. By the way, the N79 does keep a low profile here for the lack of dedicated gaming keys.

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The N-gage platform offers great gaming experience but only one of the games comes for free

You can of course download some free games at the Nokia download center but those aren't as good as the N-gage titles. There are also plenty of third-party games out there, so Nokia N79 users can easily download both native and java titles.

GPS does OK

Nokia N79 has a built-in GPS receiver and comes with three months of free voice guided navigation. Sounds like a serious premise for reasonable use as a dedicated navigation unit. The chip sensitivity might be an issue here as it isn't the best we have seen from the Nokia Nseries. We were far more pleased with the N78 or even N96 performance in that aspect.

It took the phone about two and a half minutes to get satellite lock upon cold start and that is some way off the best times we have seen. However, on most occasions, this kind of speed might seem perfectly adequate to use. In addition A-GPS might take down this time to a more acceptable level. After all, if a couple of minutes are so important you might as well spend a few extra cents on data.

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Nokia N79 is having some trouble getting initial satellite lock

The built-in GPS receiver works with Nokia Maps, which is one of the navigation applications to offer the most detailed maps. Furthermore, it is free and relatively easy to use. You will have to buy the voice-guided navigation license once your three-month free trial expires. At least the actual purchase itself is quite simple directly via the phone interface.

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Nokia Maps is in charge of the navigation with Nokia N79

The Nokia Maps application itself is doing pretty well in terms of features too. It has four different view modes including satellite and hybrid maps. Those however do need an internet connection to be available. The more regular 2D and 3D view modes are also at hand.

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Nokia Maps offers four different view modes

The route planning algorithm is also rather easy to customize to best suit your preferences. Toll roads and motorways can be avoided and so can tunnels and ferries. Route selection can be set to either fastest or shortest. The app is also usable for pedestrian navigation or you can switch the GPS receiver off and use the phone as a hand-held map.

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The route planning algorithm can be easily adjusted according to your taste

Additional features like traffic information and city guides can also be activated but they come for a fee.

Finally, in case you are still unhappy with Nokia Maps you can go for a third-party application and there are quite a lot of those available. User reports indicate the internal GPS has no problem working with any of the more popular third-party navigation apps.

The overall impression with GPS navigation on Nokia N79 is rather positive but not as good as most other recent Nokia GPS-enabled models. The quick initial lock of the Nokia N78 really impressed us but if you can live without it the rest is basically the same. The ample screen is also a benefit but still not up to standalone navigator standards.

Final words

The good news with Nokia N79 is the Nseries haven't completely run out of inspiration. No gaps in the feature set and distinct looks do sound right for a healthy demand. Solid value as a brand-loyal upgrade and little competition let the N79 hope for quite a success.

From where we stand, the major obstacles in front of Nokia N79 are the not too impressive camera and the relatively low level of innovation it offers. No, it has nothing to do with the length of the specs sheets, there's just nothing we haven't already seen.

We still can't ignore the fact that N79 - and N85 for that matter - are being launched in a time of major transition. As Nokia are readying for S60 5th and touchscreen, N79 and the likes are taking over from the top dogs of the past, repackaging the whole set of goodies with a moderate price tag. At the same time they are clearing the scene for the new flagships to come. From this perspective, there's little we can hold against the N79. A true all-in-one, with less focus on N-gage and with a distinct face, the N79 may as well stick around and do just fine.

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