Nokia N8 review: Director of photography

GSMArena team, 12 October 2010.

Well wired box

The Nokia N8 comes in a rich retail package to give you everything you need to use all the phone features. In addition to the mandatory charger, manual and data cable (which by the way can also be used for charging) you get an extra couple of short cables.

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There's quite a lot going on in the box

The first one plugs in the microUSB port and ends on a female USB jack. As you know, the Nokia N8 supports USB-on-the-go, allowing flash sticks and supposedly even other phones’ memories to be accessed from the handset.

The other cable is a male miniHDMI to female standard HDMI adapter, so you can use a regular cable for connecting your N8 to your HDTV set.

The last items inside the box are the one-piece headset and some leaflets.

Nokia N8 360-degree spin

The Nokia N8 does seem big for the size of its screen. But it’s by no means a huge slab that pushes the limits of comfortable handling.

A stocky touchscreen bar, it doesn’t have the flair and sex appeal of an iPhone but makes up for it with a full-metal chassis and premium build – not to mention all those unusual colors it’s available in.

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

We do appreciate the solid feel and the hefty 135 grams of weight too. The N8 is neither slim nor lightweight, and has the sophistication of a monster truck. But it’s in no mood to fool around anyway – a sturdy and reliable set, an impressive tool.

Design and construction

Sleek aluminum on the sides and the back and a large AMOLED touchscreen up front – there’s nothing to dislike about the N8. If you have a thing for phones made of metal you will absolutely love it.

For the time of our review we managed to obtain four of the five color options of anodized scratch-proof paint available (we’re only the blue one short of a grand slam).

We can’t force ourselves of course to call them all equally attractive. The Dark Grey and Silver are definitely our favorites but we’re sure that the Green and especially the Orange will find their fans too.

There were obviously enough users who liked them. Each got more than 10 percent approval in the Nokia Conversations recent poll.

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Nokia N8 dark gray and orange versions

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Nokia N8 green version

The front panel of the Nokia N8 is mostly taken by the 3.5” AMOLED display of nHD resolution. Tapered sides and sloping top and bottom make the handset quite comfortable to handle, both portrait and landscape. Unfortunately, the bezel around the screen is a bit too wide for our taste.

Anyway, 3.5” is a good enough size for a contemporary touch phone. And this one has several firsts to Nokia’s credit. The Finns debuted capacitive touchscreen tech on the X6 but only now is Nokia introducing multi-touch support.

Another first is a Nokia AMOLED display 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. Not as impressive as Samsung’s SuperAMOLED screens, but certainly competitive elsewhere.

The Nokia N8 has standard screen resolution. At 360 x 640, 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 compared to the iPhone 4 Retina unit

Not everyone needs that kind of pixel density though, and some users probably won’t even be able to notice the difference. We do, that's for sure.

The N8 screen sensitivity is as good as we’ve come to expect from capacitive units.

Vibration feedback does deserve a mention however as it seems impressively well tweaked and does improve the user experience in a surprisingly nice way. Haptics are enabled even when you scroll lists and the icons bump against the end of the screen or when you zoom in on a video using the virtual buttons.

Moving on, we notice the video-call camera in the upper right corner above the display. Near it are the ambient light and the proximity sensors, as well as the centrally placed earpiece.

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The video-call camera is in the upper right corner of the front panel

Below the display are the microphone pinhole and the menu key. There are no hardware call keys as on previous Nokia smartphones and we found that a bit confusing. Nothing you won’t get used to though. We do believe though, a hardware back button would have immensely improved usability. 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 only a single button below the N8 display

On top of the Nokia N8 is the power key, which also handles screen lock and the ringing profiles. The HDMI port and the 3.5mm audio jack are also there. The HDMI port is hidden under a small plastic lid to keep out dust and moisture.

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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’s HDMI port supports 720p TV-out. With DivX and XviD support right out of the box, the N8 might just replace your home media player.

The Nokia N8 left-hand side packs a couple of slots (this is where the microSD and SIM cards go) and the exposed microUSB port. USB charging works fine so you don’t have to carry 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 N8 is well covered in terms of charging options. You can you use either the regular charger or any microUSB charger/data cable you might have at hand.

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There's a plug for the Nokia proprietary charger too

On the right-hand side, the N8 has the volume rocker, the screen lock slider and the dedicated camera key. The first two are very comfortable, with great grip and tactility.

The camera key on the other hand is probably a bit too stiff and requires extra effort for a full press. This might result in some camera shake blurring when shooting at a lower shutter speeds.

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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 draws all the attention round back. It doesn’t have a protective cover as that would have added quite a few millimeters more of extra girth. Instead it relies on reinforced glass front lens that Nokia claims is sturdy enough to resist all the abuse the device might get.

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The 12MP camera lens, the xenon flash and the loudspeaker grill

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

The Nokia N8 is powered by a 1200 mAh LI-Ion BL-4D battery that’s quoted at up to 400 hours of stand-by or up to 12 and a half hours of talk time. In real life we managed to squeeze just about two days of moderately heavy use out of the handset. You can find the Nokia N8 full battery test in our blog.

We are impressed with the Nokia N8 – for both looks and build quality. The handset is build to last and Nokia has demonstrated the sturdiness of the aluminum shell on several occasions. The N8 is neither impressively slim, nor delicately crafted. Just the opposite actually – it’s a solid tool, a little rough perhaps, but sturdy and reliable.

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The Nokia N8 held in hand

The only things to note are the lack of a hardware Back key and the non user-removable battery.

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