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Nokia N71 review

Nokia N71 review
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Retail Price: RM 975
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An elegantly designed compact fold with a high-definition 2.4 QVGA display, the Nokia N71 enhances the user experience by providing versatile entertainment and enhanced Web browsing capabilities in addition to the rich Nokia Nseries multimedia feature set.
Review On : Nokia N71
REVIEW by Michal Jerz - My-Symbian.com
Nokia N71, a member of the Nseries line, is the first Symbian OS 9.1 Series 60 3rd Edition (Feature Pack 1) smartphone I had pleasure to test so far. As this is still a proto build (the phone is scheduled for release by the end of March 2006, depending on country and region), no information about stability or Performance will be posted at this time, only general look and feel impressions. I will update the article with details about performance and full feature set as soon as I test a final unit.

Nokia N71 was announced at the Nokia Mobility Conference 2005 in Barcelona on November 02, 2005, along with two other Nseries smartphones powered by Symbian OS 9.1 and the 3rd Edition of the S60 platform: the quad-band, WLAN-enabled N80 and the first integrated DVB-H mobile device for watching broadcast TV programs, the N92. N71 is the third Series 60 based clamshell from Nokia.
The first thing you'll notice is that the phone is quite small. Being a clamshell, it is obviously still quite thick but its width and height are considerably smaller than e.g. Nokia N90's and it's slightly thinner, too. The dimensions are 98.6 x 51.2 x 23.0 mm and the phone weighs 139 grams, which is 35 grams less than the N90. N71 uses the BL5-C Lithium Ion battery and with moderate use it should give about 2-3 days of standby time, but people browsing the Web and using organiser functions and 3rd party Software may find it necessary to top up the accu daily.
Now the first thing you hear: open or close the lid and you'll notice a metallic click. It may be the least important thing for some people, but it makes so much pleasure to my ears! It gives the phone solid feel and you'll always know that the lid is fully closed or open without having to looking at it. Now when I open or close the N90 I miss that sound very much. It's the little things that sometimes make so much fun.


External side of the cover contains the outside display (96x68 pixels, 65,536 colors STN) surrounded by an aluminium-like frame. For my taste, the display is a little bit too grainy (large pixels) and faded but it's still useful and readable. Below the screen you can find the main 2 Megapixel Camera (4.8 mm, f/3.2, fixed focus, 1600x1200 pixels, 20x digital zoom) with LED flash. Between the camera and the display there is a small button which can be used to show big clock and date and also to access several system functions like e.g. viewing the call log. There is no dedicated camera shutter button and you have to open the cover and operate it from the menu inside. On the left side of the phone there is a dedicated Push-to-Talk button and on the bottom of the cover you can find the usual Power on/off button which can be also used to switch profiles.
Open the lid and you'll see the new QVGA (320x240 pixels, 2.4") active matrix display capable of showing 262 thousand colors. Physical size is only slightly bigger than in older S60 phones but the increased resolution provides much improved quality and higher detail level (e.g. possibility of using smaller fonts and thus showing more text). The resolution is smaller than N90's 352x416 pixels but it's still a considerable improvement over the S60's standard 176x208 pixels. The quality of the screen is very high, it displays vidid colors and very smooth text.

Right above the Internal display there is a second camera (VGA, 640x480 pixels, 2x digital zoom) which can be used for video calls or self-portraits. It is accompanied by a light sensor which controls screen backlight.
The keypad is split into two parts, the lower part containing alphanumeric keys and the upper one being the "control part" with the 5-way button, two configurable soft keys, the usual pen, menu, C and red/green buttons and also the new configurable Multimedia button introduced in Nokia N70, letting you quickly launch four favourite applications. The display and the upper part of the keypad are surrounded by a nice aluminium-like frame giving the phone more 'expensive' and solid feel. The upper control keys are large and convenient to use in contrast to the alphanumeric keys which are slightly too small for text input and may require some getting used to. Tactile feedback of all keys, however, is very good. White backlight is bright and clear.
The N71 is a dual mode GSM/UMTS phone. Data transmission speeds reach 384 kbps in WCDMA networks and up to 236 kbps in EDGE networks. Connectivity options include Bluetooth 1.2 (with Basic Printing Profile and Human Interface Device Profile providing support for accessories, including BT keyboards) and USB 2.0 via Pop-Port connector, which is located on top of the phone, under the hinge. N71 supports hot-swappable miniSD cards up to 2 GB (128 MB card is bundled with the phone) and comes with 10 MB of internal storage memory, which is twice less than in N90 and three times less than in N70. The miniSD slot is located right under the Pop-port and is hidden behind a black plastic door.

The N71 provides strong support for multimedia. like all recent S60 phones it generates high quality stereo sound and plays the following audio formats: WMA, MP3, AAC+, eAAC+, M4A, MPEG-4 ACC, Real Audio and 64-polyphonic MIDI files. The phone also has stereo visual FM radio and a 5-band equalizer letting you adjust the sound to your preferences. The external camera records 352 x 288 pixel movies at 15 frames per second (samples will be posted later when final units become available). The loudspeaker is located right under the keypad, and it seems to be a very good location as the sound output is directed right at the person holding the phone which makes it louder and clearer. There are two speaker holes on both sides of the keypad but I can't tell if they play stereo or mono sound - they're simply too close to each other to let you hear any difference. The N71 will ship with Nokia Audio Adapter (Pop-Port to standard 3.5 mm jack converter) letting you use any headphones.
Built-in applications are mostly the same as in the N70. Changes include first of all the new Nokia Web Browser with Mini Map and support for RSS feeds. Small improvements can also be found in the Camera application. It takes advantage of the higher resolution and shows useful data about current mode and settings while shooting. It also shows the most recent picture taken by you as a small thumbnail along with information about it. The N71, like all recent S60 phones, supports the Active standby screen with shortcuts to frequently used applications and information about upcoming appointments and to-do's. In the menu view, you'll notice a small mark accompanying icons of applications or folders which are currently open in the background.
As the new operating system is not backwards compatible with older versions (existing Series 60 software, except for Java midlets, will not run on new S60 3rd Edition phones and developers will have to release new versions slightly tweaked and recompiled for the new OS) and as the N71 is scheduled for release only in March 2006, at present there is no native 3rd party software that can be installed and run on it. Hopefully this will change soon and new, S60 3rd Ed compatible versions of the best applications and games will arrive before or along with the phone. During the test, I couldn't install and run any popular applications to check how they run and 'behave' on the N71, simply because there are no programs compatible with the N71. Moreover, the increased security level of the Symbian OS 9.1 requires that each SIS file is digitally signed with a trusted certificate. So all I could do was to play with some Java midlets.

To measure the speed of the N71, I used four popular Java MIDP based benchmarks: JBenchmark, JBenchmark2, JBenchmark3D from JBenchmark and SPMark06 from FutureMark. Check the results shown on the screenshots below and compare them with results from other phones available on the above mentioned websites. On average, the device seems to be slightly faster than currently available S60 phones and it seems to be using graphics acceleration as some tests were unbelievably fast. For example, the "2D game" car race test of the SPMark06 which runs @ 0,7 fps on the Sony Ericsson P910 and 0.8 fps on the Nokia 6680, gives whopping 17.6 fps on the N71! In contrast to this, the "3D game" test runs slower on N71 than on the 6680 but it may be because the N71 tested by me was still a prototype with early firmware version. Let's wait for final units to obtain fully reliable results.


Summary
Nokia N71 is a small and nice looking clamshell. Equipped with the latest Symbian OS 9.1 and S60 3rd Edition, the phone provides much increased security and more power. High quality 240x320 pixels screen and 2 Megapixel camera capable of recording video with VHS quality @ 15 frames per second make it a good choice for multimedia enthusiasts. The only concern is that the phone is not compatible with existing 3rd software for older Series 60 smartphones and it may take some time until developers prepare and release Symbian OS 9.1 compatible versions of their applications. However, this will apply to ALL new Symbian OS 9.1 (not just S60) phones so it is not N71 specific problem. But if you are used to have lots of 3rd party applications and games installed on your smartphone, you may want to wait a little bit until some existing applications get ported to N71 or some new programs are released or else you may be limited to mainly use Java MIDP software. Scheduled to become available by the end of Q1 2006, the phone will cost around 400 Euros.
What I liked:
  • Symbian OS 9.1 provides MUCH increased security and stability - say goodbye to Cabirs and Skulls.
  • high quality 240x320 pixels 262k colors screen
  • the click you can hear when you open or close the phone :-)
  • much smaller and lighter than N90
  • UMTS and EDGE
  • video calls, video sharing
  • high quality stereo playback with 5-band equalizer and Visual FM radio
  • 2 Megapixel camera with quality comparable to N90 and SE K750
  • results of some benchmarks promise very good performance, especially in 2D games
  • convenient 5-way key.

What I didn't like:
  • External screen a little bit too "grainy" (low res, large pixels)
  • miniSD is OK but it's the FOURTH format used by Nokia in S60 phones which may be a problem for people often changing phones or having more than one Series 60 phone.
  • no backward compatibility of the new Symbian OS 9.1 means that existing 3rd party software can't be run on new phones and developers have to update and recompile their applications for the new models this may take a while and it'll mean that initially users of the new Symbian OS 9.1 based phones will have limited choice of 3rd party applications.


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