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THE Nokia Communicator has come a long way since the company first unveiled the 9000 Communicator at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, in 1996.
The latest Communicator – the 9500 – launched locally in December last year, boasts a 150MHz Texas Instruments OMAP Arm-9 dual-core RISC processor plus many new features (see specs box for list) over its predecessor, the Symbian OS 6.0-based 9210i Communicator.
I took the 9500 with me on trips to Penang, Ipoh and Singapore while I was reviewing it. The smartphone gave me the exhilarating freedom to surf my favourite websites and to send and receive e-mail anywhere, anytime over EDGE, GPRS or WiFi networks.
Proof of the pudding
Let’s start with how the 9500 functions as a phone. Voice conversations were loud and clear, even on the easily-accessible speakerphone. Those who hate going through multiple menus to enable the speakerphone will be glad to know that all you have to do is open the 9500’s cover.
It’s that easy!
Another intuitive feature is the EasyWLAN which displays all available WiFi services for users to select. In addition, it also let me manually identify and create WiFi access points which I could reuse later when accessing Internet services.
Using a stopwatch, I timed downloads of the 21MB PC Suite 6.41 application from Nokia’s website to the 9500 at several WiFi hotspots. It typically achieved speeds of around 400Kbps.
The same download over the EDGE network clocked up to 193Kbps in some cases, which isn’t bad considering maximum speeds achievable on EDGE are now around 236.8Kbps.
I took several still photos and videoclips using the 9500’s built-in camera and sent them as e-mail or MMS attachments from trains, buses and taxis. I even wrote a letter with the phone’s wordprocessor and sent it as an attachment via e-mail over EDGE and GPRS.
The Communicator worked well as a wireless modem for my PC through the DKU-2 USB cable provided, achieving speeds averaging 219.1Kbps.
Transferring files using infrared and Bluetooth also went smoothly.
There were a few occasions when webpages loaded rather sluggishly on the 9500’s web browser over WiFi or EDGE connections, while the same pages loaded almost immediately on a PC with the phone being used as a modem. However, this only happened periodically.
Unfortunately, the quality of photos taken using the 0.3-megapixel built-in camera was disappointing. Pictures taken in broad daylight appeared blurred, especially when viewed on a PC.
It made no difference whether the image quality was set to basic, normal or high.
One nice addition was the photo-editing feature on the 9500. Pictures can be rotated, flipped, cropped or resized and stored on the phone in either JPEG, BMP PNG, GIF or epoc/app formats using the phone’s image browser. You can also use the image browser to view TIFF or animated GIF files.
By default, the 9500 captures and stores videoclips (with sound) in 3GPP format up to 100KB (about 10 seconds long) – great for sending via MMS. alternatively, you could configure the camera to shoot videos in maximum length. This means the 9500 will record videoclips up to the available memory on it.
Videoclips played back on the phone looked acceptable although they did not look that good when viewed on the PC. The 9500 uses RealPlayer to play back videos on the phone and Nokia Media Player or RealPlayer for the PC.
Video files in MPEG4 Visual Signal Processor (VSP) and RealVideo formats can also be viewed on the phone.
But wait, that’s not all. The 9500 also has a voice recorder which can be used to record phone conversations. The recordings are stored in AMR or WAV formats.
You can also play back MP3, WAV, MIDI, AMR, AAC and RealAudio files. The sound is not bad, but don’t expect hifi quality.
BTW, the phone’s loudspeaker is mounted on the right side of its keyboard.
Besides creating Word- and Excel-compatible files, the 9500 also lets users create PowerPoint-compatible presentations on the phone and include pictures. The 9500’s PDA (personal digital assistant) functions are always on even when the phone is off. This means that you don’t have to wait for the phone to start up before using its PDA functions. Just flip open the cover and there is your PDA.
Users can also access WiFi with the phone off. However, EDGE and GPRS are only accessible when the phone is switched on.
Heavy data use, especially surfing on the phone, can drain its battery in about a day. However, the battery should last longer if you’re only accessing data and recording or playing music since these don’t require the backlight.
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