Nokia N91 review: Real celebrity

Michal Sedlák, 09 May 2006. Read the original review at
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New Fairy-tale in old style

If you are a devoted reader of our reviews, you surely remember our criticizm against the incompatibility of the new Nokia 3250 OS with old Symbian applications. Nokia N91 is equipped with Symbian 9.1 and the situation is quite similar. If you buy the phone, you will simply have to wait until a modified or, even better, a brand new version of your favorite software is launched, not to mention paid re-registrations.

Active display has undergone smaller modifications. As usual, here you will find standard details like clock, date, day of the week, operator's logo and two indicators: one for the battery and one for the signal. The names of the applications assigned to the two buttons beneath the display appear in the bottom bar of the display (these applications are customizable). Both font type and size are new, but as I mentioned in the previous chapter, the 176 x 208 resolution is much too insufficient for smaller objects and hints.

Nokia N91
Main display

The active stand-by display, first used in Nokia 6681, is situated in the middle of the display. In N91, however, it features 6 icons instead of 5, and each one can be assigned for a frequently used function.

Below the bar of the stand-by display you will see today's events from the calendar or the earliest of the upcoming events in the next few days. Here you can also see the number of unaccomplished tasks as well as the name of the currently played MP3 file. What's more, all abovementioned data blocks are active, meaning that assigned applications like calendar, task manager, or music player are accessed by a single click on the respective icon.

Nokia N91 Nokia N91
Active stand-by display

The four ways of the joystick cannot be assigned a certain function as they are needed in the active stand-by mode. If you deactivate the stand-by mode, Nokia N91 behaves exactly like any other Nokia smartphone: state icons and time and date details are the only ones visible on the display.

A step back

The main menu is displayed as a matrix of icons. Originally, Nokia smartphones had a matrix of the 3 x 3 type. Later Nokia launched the 3250 model, where icons were distributed in a 4 x 3 matrix. In the case of N91 software designers have decided to go back to the "three times three" model.

Nokia N91
Main menu in a 3 x 3 matrix

Alternatively, you could also view the main menu as a standard list of items. Each item represents a separate application. Items can be freely reordered. For example, you can adjust the main menu to your needs by placing the most frequently used applications on the first positions.

Nokia N91 Nokia N91 Nokia N91
Main menu as a list of items • marking the Music icon • and changing it with the Media one

The overall outlook of the phone can be changed by graphic themes. These change not only the main display wallpaper, but also background in different menus, icon design, colors, symbols, etc. Nokia N91 offers a few preinstalled themes. Additional ones are available both on the Internet and in stores. You may also try to create your own wallpapers in PC Suite.

Nokia N91 Nokia N91 Nokia N91 Nokia N91
Nokia N91 Nokia N91 Nokia N91 Nokia N91
Graphic themes

Red key, Java, and a collapse

If you want to press the red receiver key to return to the main display of the phone, all running applications will get immediately closed, just like it happened in Nokia N70 or Nokia 3250. As this did not use to happen in older smartphones, it will take you some time to get used to it. You have to, though. Otherwise, you will end up closing important applications, which, I believe, is not a good thing at all. To switch between minimized running programs, use the bar, which appears after a long press of the Menu key.

Nokia N91
Bar for switching between active applications

As any smartphone Nokia N91 runs slower than common mobile phones. The start up of the phone alone takes approximately half a minute, which is more or less the same as in Nokia 3250. Sometimes work with the main menu in Nokia N91 is even slower as the phone makes you wait before the built-in disk is accessed.

Nokia N91 scored brilliantly in Java speed tests. I used the standard application JBenchmark and here is what I got:

  • JBenchmark 1.0: 5748 points
  • JBenchmark 2.0: 531 points

Compare it to Nokia N70:

  • JBenchmark 1.0: 4534 points
  • JBenchmark 2.0: 194 points

During the intensive testing process I found myself forced to restart Nokia N91 at least five times a day. It is instable. If I keep a higher amount of notes and events in the organizer and I leave an application working in the background, the main display often decides not to show me the selection bar in the active stand-by mode, while hiding the legends of the context keys at the same time. This logically leads to malfunctioning of the context keys. Well, as we all know, first firmware versions are never perfect, but in the case of Nokia N91, which made us wait pretty long for the official launch, the abovementioned hitches are hard to accept.

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