Nokia N8 preview: First look

GSMArena team, 05 October 2010.
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Nokia N8 360-degree spin

The Nokia N8 stands at 113.5 x 59.1 x 12.9 mm, adding up to a volume of 86 cc. The numbers aside, the handset does feel thick and stocky. Not to an extent to risk being considered second rate but somewhat short of the finesse of most other recent touchscreen flagships.

In a way, the phone is bigger than its 3.5” touchscreen suggests. On the other hand, they simply needed room for the large image sensor, wide-angle lens and Xenon.

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Nokia N8 sized up against the Apple iPhone 4 and Samsung I9000 Galaxy S

The phone still fits nicely in hand and the hefty 135 g give a solid feel that we do appreciate. If you like your handset slim and lightweight, feel free to disagree with us on this one.

Design and construction

The Nokia N8 is certainly among the best looking mobile phones in existence. Its sleek aluminum unibody is a joy to behold.

There are only a couple of things that seem to separate the N8 design from perfection. The camera lens and flash seem to be protruding a bit too much on the back, and the top and bottom parts are made of plastic.

However as we already mentioned, the N8 must be a smartphone and a digicam simultaneously so compromises had to be made. And subjectively as it may be, Nokia seem to have found the right balance here.

The front panel of the Nokia N8 is mostly taken by the 3.5” AMOLED display of nHD resolution, which brings several firsts to the Nokia mobile phones portfolio. Capacitive touchscreen debuted on the X6 but only now is Nokia introducing multi-touch support.

Another first is that the N8 also packs the first AMOLED display by the Finnish manufacturer to remain perfectly legible under direct sunlight. Previous attempts were pretty poor on a bright sunny day, but this time they got it right.

The indoor image quality, as is to be expected from an AMOLED unit, is pretty good with deep blacks and nicely saturated colors. However it is hardly a match for the SuperAMOLED screens on the Samsung Galaxy S lineup and the Samsung S8500 Wave. We are yet to see how those compare to the ClearBlack units on the more recently announced batch of touch-driven Nokia handsets, but they certainly are a class above the N8. Too bad Samsung’s going to suffer SuperAMOLED shortages for at least six months more.

The resolution of the Nokia N8 is hardly impressive, though we wouldn’t go as far as calling it inadequate. At 360 x 640 pixels, the Nokia N8 has 44 percent less pixels than the best Android displays (854 x 480 pixels) and just over a third of the iPhone 4 pixel count (960 x 640 pixels).

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The N8 display has better contrast but far lower resolution than the Retina display

Not everyone needs that kind of pixel density though, and some of the users probably won’t even be able to find the difference.

The N8 screen sensitivity is as good as we’ve come to expect from a capacitive unit. Vibration feedback does deserve a mention however as it seems unusually well tuned and further improves the user experience.

Moving on, we notice the video-call camera above the display, in the upper right corner of the front panel. Near it are the ambient light and the proximity sensors, as well as the earpiece, which is located in the dead center.

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The video-call camera is just above the display

Below the display are the microphone pinhole and the menu key. There are no hardware call-handling keys as on previous Nokia smartphones and we found that a bit confusing at first, but eventually got used to it. Yet what we believe would have improved usability is a hardware back button as the software one is by far not as comfortable, being in a different place at different parts of the interface.

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There's no Call and End keys this time

On the Nokia N8 top panel there’s the power key (which can also be used for locking the device or alternating its profiles), the HDMI port and the 3.5mm audio jack. The HDMI port is hidden under a small plastic lid to keep out dust and grime.

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The HDMI port sits on top, flanked by the power key and the audio jack

An important thing to note here is that the Nokia N8 can provide 720p TV-out through the HDMI port and with DivX and XviD support on-board it might just be enough to replace your home media player.

The left side packs a couple of slots (this is where the microSD and SIM cards go) and the unprotected microUSB port. Charging through microUSB works fine so you don’t have to bring a charger with you all the time.

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The two card slots and the microUSB port on the left side

The bottom of the Nokia N8 features nothing but the Nokia proprietary charger plug. The charger plug lets you use your old charger with the N8 too, giving you a better chance of finding somewhere to plug your device when you are away.

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There's a plug for the Nokia proprietary charger too

On the right-hand side of the N8 there are the volume rocker, the screen lock slider and the dedicated camera key. The first two are comfortable enough, providing great grip (mostly the ribbed lock slider) and tactile feedback, so they render no usability obstacles. The camera key on the other hand is probably a bit too stiff and requires a bit of extra effort for a full press. This might result in camera shake in some of your shots, which is not exactly ideal, considering which handset we are talking about here.

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There are three controls on the right: volume rocker, screen lock slider and camera key

The 12 megapixel camera lens is what grabs your attention when you turn to the phone’s back. It doesn’t have a protective cover as that would have added quite a few millimeters to the device waistline. Instead it relies on reinforced glass that Nokia promises is sturdy enough to resist all the abuse you are going to subject the device to.

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The real star is backstage

The other elements of interest here are the xenon flash and the loudspeaker.

Under the hood, the Nokia N8 packs the 1200 mAh LI-Ion BL-4D battery that should last for up to 400 hours of stand-by or up to 12 hours and 30 minutes of talk time. Those are some pretty impressive numbers for a medium-sized battery like this, but we’ll have to wait for the full review to be completed to see if the real-life performance is so good.

We are generally very impressed with the Nokia N8 build quality. The handset seems fit to last in the long run.

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The Nokia N8 held in hand

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