Nokia N90 review: The great mobile revolution

David Polesný, 31 July 2005. Read the original review at
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Tags: Nokia

Did Carl Zeiss fail?

Update: Please read the separate Nokia N90 camera review. The review you are reading now is based on the old version of the firmware, so some of the negative notes in this section are not valid any more.

The camera is one of the strongest lures in Nokia N90. The main reason is that its optic qualities are guaranteed by the name of Carl Zeiss - the top-class manufacturer of lenses and optical equipment. The optics along with the camera's sensor with 2 megapixel resolution constitute an extraordinary combination.

Setting the phone in a shooting position (AVI, DivX 5.2, 1.8 MB)

Nokia did not hesitate, but supported N90's high quality equipment by appropriate high quality applications. Its camera may even be appreciated by experienced photographers, because of the options for manual adjustments. The phone offers 7 scenic modes. The white color balance can be adjusted according to the type of the surrounding light. There is also an option for exposure compensation as well as an option for choosing the relevant color shade of the picture.

Camera's viewfinder • camera's menu

The camera has a self timer and continuous shooting option. Pictures can be taken in three different sizes - 1600 × 1200 pixels, 800 × 600 pixels or 640 × 480 pixels. In the menu you will find a digital zoom, which works in a combination with crops and interpolations. After the first several focusing steps the resolution remains unchanged, but if you go on, picture becomes smaller and smaller till it gets displayed in VGA resolution, which is interpolated further on. This way the digital zoom is 20x. In practice, however, the result of such zoom will be nothing but a loss of quality.

Camera functions selection • mode selection • other settings

The camera focuses automatically. The first picture result may horrify you for it is much smudged. To focus the scene you will have to half-press the release button several times till the focus indicator turns green. The pity is that this process takes sometimes three long seconds. If you are impatient, your photo is likely to get out of focus.

Sample pictures (Full 2MP resolution, 300-500 KB each):

When light conditions are acceptable, the camera takes very good photos. Yet, we can hardly speak of exceptional performance for it has already been a while since Sony Ericsson K750i - the brilliant 2 megapixel photo mobile - was launched on the market. This is also where the surprise caused by certain minuses of N90' camera functions rise from. The most notable disadvantage is related to scenes scanned at a short distance - although the camera has a macro function, it is not able to focus such scenes well. If focusing comes out well, there is a notable "softness" in the result. The same problem is visible in photos taken from a bigger distance, although not to such a great extent. On the other hand, the lack of noise and the excellent color rendition are admirable.

The phone shoots videos in MP4 format in a 352 × 288 pixels resolution. In addition, it is possible to set a lower, standard resolution as well as a 3GP format. All taken picture and shot videos are gathered in a rotating gallery. When you view pictures, their previews roll around the display. While rotating, you can select the one you wish to send or possibly view across the entire display. Although effective, this solution is somewhat slow. The reason is in the high resolution of the pictures, due to which they take longer to display.

Viewing the gallery in the open phone mode... • ... and in the camera mode

Entertainment does not mean camera only

Beside the camera, the phone offers entertainment in the form of a multimedia files player. It is the old good Real Player. It plays MP3 and AAC formats and plenty of other sound and video formats. If you take into account the equipment of old Nokia Symbian phones, the stereophonic sound of the new model will definitely please you. You should not worry about running across memory space difficulties. Beside the inner memory of 31 MB, you are also provided a memory card slot of the RS-MMC type. It works at both 1.8V and 3.0V, and is therefore compatible with all kinds of RS-MMC memory cards. Supplied with the phone is a card of 64 MB.

Multimedia player Real Player

Along with the phone comes a pair of standard earphones, which are the same as the earphones of Nokia 6681, 6630 and many other models. Due to the built-in microphone they can be used as a light handsfree set too. They are plugged into the system connector. The sound quality is identical to the one of other Nokia models. I mean, it is reasonable and fully sufficient for travel needs. Regrettably, N90 does not have a radio.

Click to zoom.
Delivered earphones

If you stop enjoying taking pictures or listening to music, enter the game world. Nokia N90 has two preinstalled games - the old good snake in a modern version and a card game, but according to your wish you can always install a huge amount of additional higher-quality games thanks to Symbian.

Data transfers

Data communication is best supported by WCDMA 3G network. Nokia N90 can also send data through the packet technology GPRS as well as through the much faster EDGE with both of them being of Class 10. Communication with the closest environment is guaranteed by Bluetooth or by a USB cable, which is a part of the phone's delivery package. N90 does not have infrared port.

In the delivery box you will also find a CD with the latest version of PC Suite. Once again, everything is the same. Connecting the phone to the computer is an instant operation, which can be managed by everybody - incl. complete beginners - thanks to the attached detailed user's guide. The process of synchronization with Outlook is fast and smooth. I even used the phone as a modem through both cable and Bluetooth connection for a little while. As I had expected, it ran smoothly. What I am not able to estimate yet is what the connection stability may be, if the connection lasts longer.

Click to zoom. Click to zoom. Click to zoom.
CD installer is quite impressive

Click to zoom. Click to zoom. Click to zoom.
Nokia PC Suite - no changes • synchronizing with computer

Another function to be found in the phone is called Data Transfers. It allows mass transfers of records from the phonebook and the calendar as well as creating a gallery between two Symbian phones connected through Bluetooth, which is quite a practical extra function.

N90 offers a web/WAP browser. It is relatively good quality. It manages even some relatively complicated pages. N90 also offers the tried out Opera in case that you are not satisfied with the standard browser.

Browsing web pages in a standard browser... • ... and in Opera browser

For those adoring beauty

Nokia's idea has proved to be successful. The new N90 model is a remarkable phone. Although it is very expensive, it will definitely gain fans in a short time. Even more important than the adored 2 megapixel camera is the main display. We expect that it will soon appear in other new models with Symbian operational system. The most notable disadvantages of N90 are its size and weight. Beside the price, these two characteristics may stop many people from buying the phone. Yet, there are many aspects in which they fade in front of N90's excellent construction and rich equipment.

The phone is expected to appear in most of the shops in Europe in mid August, the latest. Its price is estimated at about 670 euros. For the moment, Nokia's strategy in respect to prices is not clear. We do not know whether it is planning to keep them high within the N series as it did with its luxurious stylish phones. We suppose, however, that their price will be gradually falling for what is considered to be high-class equipment today is going to be a common standard in a few years. In the case of Nokia N90, however, this process will probably take longer.

Basic package contains:

  • Phone Nokia N90
  • Battery BL-5B
  • Charger + adapter for older types
  • Stereophonic earphones with a microphone
  • Memory card RS-MMC 64 MB (+adapter for MMC size)
  • Strip
  • Cleaning cloth for the display
  • Data cable
  • CD with software
  • Manual

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