16 March 2009

Gadget Review: Nokia N85 Cell Phone

Before I headed off to CES I was able to get my hands on a Nokia N85. The plan was too connect my Stickam account to the device and stream content live from the showroom floor. Unfortunately, Stickam’s tech didn’t work and the show room floor had spotty 3G coverage. Nonetheless, I’ve been able to spend some more time with the handset and despite lacking a touchscreen I really enjoyed the device.

The screen on the N85 measures 2.6-inch and sports a resolution of 240×320, which is more than enough. This particular handset garnered numerous news posts (this site included) when it went on sale here in the US thanks to the AMOLED screen. Although it doesn’t still stand up to the quality of the iPhone screen it can still hold its own, especially when reviewing photos and recorded movies.

As you’ve probably figured about by now the N85 is a slider phone. But, it’s a little unusual in that it slides one way to expose the keypad and the other way to expose the media keys for accessing the phone’s music menu. When slid into the ‘media mode’ the screen automatically switches to landscape mode and the main nav button serves as the track forward/back and play button. Which brings me to my next point: The N85 include a real 3.5mm headphone jack.

Movies or pics, the N85 captures quality images. Sure, like most cameras phones it’s not great in low light scenarios but thanks to the LED flash it suffices in a pinch. And at 5 megapixels your images and movies (640×480) will look as good as some of today’s stand alone cameras.

I’m an avid Mac user and for some reason I couldn’t get the N85 to show up in my iSync menu. So all I can say is that you’ve been warned. Sure, some trouble shooting might’ve resolved the issue, but the point here is that this thing won’t just sync out of the box.

As for memory, the phone comes with an 8GB microSD card. This was more than suitable for me but you can upgrade if you’re looking to add your expansive music collection. As with most microSD card slots it was a bit fiddly when trying to remove the card, but with a little patience and a thumbnail I succeeded.

Unfortunately, by design my car doesn’t work with FM transmitters, but with that said, the Nokia N85 includes its very own. You can adjust the frequency, turn it on and whamo, you’ve got music streaming from your phone to your car’s stereo system. I know, the sound quality won’t exactly be top notch, but for some quick tunes and one less trip to Best Buy who can complain.

Battery life of the N85 is outstanding. I tested out the standby time, which means absolutely no use, and the handset lasted a few days short of 2 weeks. Plus the OLED screen makes the phone even more efficient when it is being used. When really using the phone I could get 4-5 days in between charges, but keep in mind your battery experiences may vary depending on signal reception and type of use.

Built-in to the handset is an accelerometer, but you wouldn’t know it at first glance. Factor settings set it to off, but that can be quickly over ridden by navigating to Tools>Settings>General>Sensor Settings. For the most part the accelerometer was very speedy to react but on occasion had a tendency to be a little over sensitive, ultimately changing the screen from portrait to landscape mode when not truly warranted. Another interesting feature, which also is turned off by default, is the Nav Wheel. It can be turned to ‘on’, which essentially turns the circumference of the main joystick button into a nav button. I didn’t extensively test out the option since it proved more annoying than useful. I suppose those used to a Blackberry experience might find it useful or just complete off setting.

Getting online with the N85 can be achieved via 3G/EDGE or WiFi and setting up the wireless was super simple thanks to the WLAN Wizard. Surprisingly, it include a full HTML browser, which admittedly is a bit of a surprise given the small screen. Fortunately, the OS, Symbian S60, pops up a little screen when you start to move the mouse around allowing you to navigate the page from afar. In the end, I found the browser was only suitable for checking websites at a glance and really isn’t designed as a Web friendly device.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the Nokia N85. I’ll be honest, it’s been many years since I’ve really used one but now I understand why they’re the number one handset maker in the world. The build of the N85 is very solid. At times the buttons on the phone proved a bit cumbersome and for anyone coming from a Blackberry or iPhone, or any handset with a touchscreen and full QWERTY keypad will find adjusting to the new layout challenging. The payoff of course is in the optics, small footprint. solid build and opulent like hora the handset gives off.


* Great battery life
* Solid build
* Nice screen with good resolution
* Great camera for stills and video


* Screen a bit small
* Phone’s menus can be cryptic

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