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Nokia N82 review

Nokia N82 review
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N82 is a candybar that has quad-band GSM and 2100 HSDPA, Bluetooth 2.0 (w/ A2DP), WiFi, GPS, TV-out, FM and a Micro SD slot. That's quite a lot packed into a pretty bunch! It even features VGA, 30 fps video recording and a 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens and auto-focus plus the XENON flash.
Review On : Nokia N82
Review by Adam Lee
A week ago, I received this late build N82 proto for testing.
Nokia N82 proto

Now that it's officially announced, I can finally write this up. The past week has given me adequate time to evaluate this phone pretty thoroughly. So here are my thoughts.
In a nutshell, the N82 is a super fast N95 wrapped up in a candy bar style monobloc body with a xenon flash. That's basically what it is. If you wanna know the nitty gritty details, read on...
Design
The design of the phone, in my opinion, will not win any beauty contests. It looks and feels plasticky. It's quite a feather weight too, feeling just a tad heavier than the N95 8GB (non scientific hand weighing machine). Scientifically, it's 120g.
The front is mostly reflective smoky silver. The earpiece speaker is at the top centre as usual and the front camera (for video calls or crappy pictures) is on its left. The SEND and END buttons are located just below the centre of the phone on either side and positioned just like the N81 where it curves slightly towards the sides of the phone.
Nokia N82 front Nokia N82 back

At the back, the covering is a pearly silver that has a V-shaped pattern repeated all over it. It looks textured but when you touch it, it's actually smooth. There is a camera slider switch that activates the 5MP camera as well as the lens cover, like the original N95. The highlight of this phone is of course, the xenon flash. This is the first phone with xenon flash Nokia has ever made.
Nokia n82 5mp

The shortcut, menu and cancel buttons live between the send and end buttons on a flat plane while the multi-media button is given special treatment being the lone button that sticks out. The multi-media button is the same as the keypad buttons, much like an N91: thin rectangular blocks. On the N91, they feel sturdy,like they are made of metal and click with a very positive action. Here, they feel like plastic.
Here's a comparison between the N82 and N91 8GB keypads
Nokia N82 keypad

On its left are the micro USB port (I'd prefer a mini USB but it's not a deal breaker), micro SD card slot and the charging port. On its right are two loud-sounding speakers, camera shutter button, picture/video gallery shortcut button and volume up-down/zoom in-out buttons.


On the top lies the power/profile button and a 3.5mm audio port (perfect position for it). A lonely microphone resides at the bottom of the phone.

I know it looks rather good in the pictures, like glass and metal, but in real life, that's not the case. It's looks like a light chunk of plastic, which it is.
Here are some pictures comparing it's thickness against other phones.

N95 8GB vs N82


N73 vs N82


E90 vs N82


Apple iPhone vs N82


N93i vs N82


E61i vs N82

And some pictures of it beside its cousins

N95 8GB with N82


N81 8GB with N82


N93/N93i with N82


N91 8GB and N73 with N82


E61i and E90 with N82


Apple iPhone with N82


And finally, a family shot

Camera
This is the first ever Nokia phone with a xenon flash. The camera itself is a 5MP, autofocus, Carl Zeiss Tessar (2.8/5.6) module. It's the same module as the N95/N95-8GB. So we already know how well the camera performs. But let's see what kind of difference the xenon flash makes.
Below are a series of pictures taken by the N82, N95, E90 and just for the heck of it, a 10.5MP Leica D-Lux 3 digital camera. I'll let the pictures do the talking.
These pictures are all taken on auto mode without any zoom.
Nokia N82
Nokia N95
Nokia E90
Leica D-Lux 3

N82
Nokia N82 Photo
N95
Nokia N82 Photo
E90
Nokia N82 Photo
Leica D-Lux 3
Nokia N82 Photo

N82
Nokia N82 Photo
N95
Nokia N82 Photo
E90
Nokia N82 Photo
Leica D-Lux 3
Nokia N82 Photo

N82
Nokia N82 Photo
N95
Nokia N82 Photo
E90
Nokia N82 Photo
Leica D-Lex 3
Nokia N82 Photo

N82
Nokia N82 Photo
N95
Nokia N82 Photo
E90
Nokia N82 Photo
Leica D-Lux 3
Nokia N82 Photo

N82
Nokia N82 Photo
N95
Nokia N82 Photo
E90
Nokia N82 Photo
Leica D-Lux 3
Nokia N82 Photo

N82
Nokia N82 Photo
N95
Nokia N82 Photo
E90
Nokia N82 Photo
Leica D-Lux 3
Nokia N82 Photo

N82
Nokia N82 Photo
N95
Nokia N82 Photo
E90
Nokia N82 Photo
Leica D-Lux 3
Nokia N82 Photo

Shot with "Close Up Mode" (macro) with flash set to automatic
N82
N95
E90
Leica D-Lux 3

N82
N95
E90
Leica D-Lux 3

N82
N95
E90
Leica D-Lux 3

Shot with "Night" mode (no flash)
N82
N95
E90
Leica D-Lux 3

N82
N95
E90
Leica D-Lux 3

And just for reference, here's a video of me walking around my apartment taken with the N82. Camera setting is Automatic.

Here are some full resolution pictures shot with the N82:
http://homepage.mac.com/adam.madmusic/PhotoAlbum101.html

And here are some full resolution N82/N95 comparison shots in a very dark room:
http://homepage.mac.com/adam.madmusic/PhotoAlbum102.html
From the pictures and video, I can say that my N82 PROTOTYPE does better than the N95 in situations that require flash, but not necessarily better in situations that do not. The xenon flash of the N82 simply gives a much more natural tone to pictures. The bluish tint typical of LED flashes is not present. Again, I must emphasize that my unit is a prototype it does not represent consumer versions.
A few things became apparent in the process of taking the pictures:
1) The N95 is painfully slow in doing everything, especially in processing images. The waiting time is easily double, maybe even triple that of the N82's.
2) The position of the N82's END button (right below the shutter button) is very prone to accidental presses during picture taking. I have quit the camera menu many times pressing the END button while pressing the shutter button. Maybe it's just me.

Screen
Another very talked about feature of the N82 is the automatic screen rotation. It's better than the iPhone in only one respect, and that is: the rotation feature is not limited to a few applications but is available on almost every screen except the desktop, games and "Video Center" menu. That's great. However, the execution leaves a bitter taste.
Why? The screen rotation is a bit hit-and-miss. Sometimes it works fine, and other times it's slow and indecisive, resulting in situations when you get landscape view while holding the phone vertical, and portrait view while holding the phone horizontal. Many times, viewing the phone while lying down creates similar problems. Also, it works in only one vertical axis and one horizontal axis. Watch this video to see what I mean.

Compare this with Apple's superior implementation (2 horizontal axes instead of 1). It has never made any wrong decisions, no matter which position you hold the phone in.


As you can see from the videos, Apple presents internet content in a way where you can see lots of info at a glance and get to it with a tap. Nokia's way leaves you wondering what you are looking at most of the time. For me, the only times where screen rotation is really useful is when viewing web pages and pictures.
Surfing the net is a pain on the N82 (and every other Nokia phone) in the sense that you can only see a tiny bit of a web page at a time, forcing you to scroll up down left right to get to what you want to see.
Yes, I know there is a preview window that pops up to show a "map" of the page you're viewing, but what I want is an Apple-esque solution where I can see and get anywhere in a flash.
Apple leaves Nokia in the dust in this respect, sorry to say. Even on the with the E90's big screen, it's still no match for Apple's web surfing experience.
So is screen rotation on the N82 something to shout about? Not to me.
Audio
Regarding the audio quality, it's good, very good. To my trained ears (I produce music for a living), it's as good as the N81 8GB, which to me is slightly tighter than an Apple iPod Video. The 3.5mm earphone jack is great and I think it should come with every phone on the planet. On the N82, the position of this port, in my opinion, is perfect. Its on the top left of the device, staying out of the way when using the phone while listening to music.
Through my AKG K271 Studio headphones, bass is tight, treble is natural and everything is balanced. It definitely has a high quality (for a mobile phone) headphone amplifier inside.
Another thing I love about most N series phones, including this one, is when the phone detects something being plugged into the 3.5mm port, it asks you what type of device it it so that it can give you the best possible output. A nice touch.

The speakers on the N82 are pretty loud. Louder than an N95's, but prone to distortion at higher volumes.
Software
The other aspects of the N82 is similar to the N95 8GB. They run the same software.

Communications protocols are as per N95 8GB, so I'm not going to elaborate further as there is plenty of info out there regarding this.
Battery Life
Battery life (BP-6MT) is very decent. It still holds 2 bars after taking 40 photos (about 20 with flash), 1/2 hour GPS usage, 100 SMS's, 1 hour's worth of 3G usage, 20 minutes' worth of voice calls and 1 hour of web surfing over wifi.

One of the many questions I got asked was how long the battery of an N82 can last while playing back music before it dies. Nokia's official N82 battery specs say:
Battery: Nokia Battery (BP-6MT) 1050mAh
Talk time: up to 190 min (WCDMA), up to 260 min (GSM)
Stand-by time: up to 210 hours (WCDMA), up to 225 hours (GSM)
Still images: up to 290 pictures (with flash)
Video capture: up to 110 minutes (VGA, 30 fps)
Video call: up to 120 minutes
Video playback: up to 200 minutes (VGA, 30 fps)
Music playback: up to 10 hours (offline mode)
Well, it's an easy test, so I decided to do it. Here's the process:
First I fully charged the battery and made sure no other applications were running in the background. There is no SIM card and the phone was running on offline mode.
Plug in standard issue Nokia earphones. I listen to some music and decided that 50% volume would be a reasonable level for someone to listen to music for long periods, and set the music player to repeat all songs in my song library.

Note the start time.

after 7 hours. Still surviving
after 10 hours (Nokia's official rating) Still surviving

Finally died after 11 hours and 43 mins of non-stop music playback.

In between, I turned on bluetooth on the phone to transfer 2 songs from my laptop via bluetooth, then turned it off. After that I listen to music through my AKG271 Studio headphones for a good 1/2 hour with the volume set to 100% for my other blog entry regarding the sound quality of the N82. I then put back the Nokia earphones and turned down the volume at 50% and let the phone continue to play until it died.
You can draw your own Conclusions from that...
Highlights
A few things I feel that is worth mentioning are:


1) The multi-media menu is now different from the original N95. It's the same one found on the N95 8GB. You can't customize it anymore. Instead, 7 sub-menus reside here now (Gallery, Music, Videos, Games, Maps, Internet and contacts). Within these sub-menus are convenient shortcuts that are relevant to each sub-menu. I don't like it. I much prefer the N95's where I can add or take away any function I like. A step backwards for me. But I suspect this is the way Nokia is going in the future.
2) There is A-GPS (Assisted-GPS) now and that improves the user experience by leaps and bounds over the original N95. Satellite fixes from cold starts are extremely quick at less than 30 seconds. Basic navigation features are pre-loaded but features like voice guidance and city guides are payable. Maps are free for download either via network or wifi on the phone itself. Or you could download them onto your PC, then transfer them to your phone with a PC software called Maploader.
Nokia Maps are very nicely rendered indeed. It's a bit more cluttered than my Garmin Nuvi standalone GPS, but no less pleasant to look at. The colour scheme is also very similar to Garmin maps, which is a good thing. The experience is almost as good as a genuine SIRF III one. Very impressive. Here's a little video of it in action:


3) Video Centre now has more content than ever before. Plugins from youtube, Reuters, CNN, Jamster, Sony Pictures...etc keep you *kinda* entertained (not much choice in terms of content), especially when you have a wifi connection. Here's a little video of how it looks:


Again, the execution is nowhere near as elegant as Apple's:


One thing about N series phones that impresses me is this little detail: if you get a call/SMS while watching a video, the sound of the audio fades out and your ringtone fades in you alert you and your video pauses. After you're done talking and return to the video menu, the video resumes from the point that it paused and the sound fades in. It's all very smooth.
Sometimes when you get patchy internet connection and the video gets choppy, the audio doesn't just stutter. It fades in and out. The same thing happens with the Music Player. Not a big deal, but it's these kinds of differences that make a Bentley feel better than a Toyota.
4) It plays Ngage games

5) Search 4.0 is now permanently embedded on the desktop (just like the N95-8GB). I love it. It works just like my Apple OSX Finder. You can find anything on your phone really quickly.
6) When inputting text, the new positions of the SEND and END keys make it less susceptible to accidental quitting of the text input menu compared with an N95/N95-8GB. For example, on the N95, while tapping out an SMS, when I need to press the cancel key to erase something, I often press the END button and quit the SMS application due to them being right beside each other. It doesn't happen anymore on the N82 as it takes a deliberate effort to go from cancel to END.
7) It's FAST (by Symbian standards of course). It's one of the faster Symbian devices I've used. Slightly faster than the N95-8GB, much much faster than the original N95 and faster than an E90. You can throw anything at it and it will eat it up. Multi-tasking for this guy is a walk in the park. I tried to cripple it by deliberately leaving applications running, within normal usage parameters of course, but it didn't work at all. Maybe I didn't try hard enough.
And a few things that irritate me:
1) The white on silver keypad markings are impossible to see in bright sunlight. Not good.

2) The shortcut/options/exit buttons are now on the same plane as the Menu and cancel buttons (like an N81). This makes it far less tactile to use (see picture above).
3) The centre button of the 5-way rocker switch is awkward to use. Why? It not only functions as the left button on a mouse where it selects what your cursor is pointed to. It also duplicates the function of the 4-way rocker square ring surrounding it. I can actually navigate around the menus without ever touching the square ring. The sides of the centre button move the cursor around. So it gets a bit frustrating when you don't press the sizable centre button right in the middle. Instead of selecting what you want, you end up moving the cursor to somewhere you don't want.
4) The screen is a bit on the small side. At 2.4 inches (QVGA, 16 million colours), it's smaller than the original N95's (2.6 inches). The resolution remains the same for both phones at 240x320 pixels. It makes web surfing on an N82 a slightly less enjoyable. That being said, the screen (TFT with ambient light sensor) is very readable in bright sunlight, like most Nokia S60 phones.
5) The location of the charging port bothers me. I'd much prefer it to be at the bottom of the phone. If you're like me, often using the phone while it's being charged, you'll find the N82 extremely awkward to use while it's charging. The cable just gets in the way of everything.

6) This thing can't stand by itself! I don't about you, but being a phone whose camera is one of its biggest selling point, I can't just put it on a flat surface and shoot! Especially for shooting videos of yourself doing something with your hands (now now, don't be naughty), this ability is absolutely crucial. This very next video (shot handsfree with an N95) is an example of how I can use a phone that can stand by itself (like the N95) in this specific situation, but is impossible to use an N82 for the same scenario:

7) This has nothing to do with the phone, but why does Nokia give us half-baked content? Now we have youtube, but we can only watch what they say we can watch. You can choose from all 25 (wow.) crappy (double wow.) videos. If Apple can give us unrestricted access to youtube content, why can't Nokia, the LARGEST MOBILE PHONE MANUFACTURER IN THE WORLD, do that too and more? Is it because youtube deems Nokia to be uncool? Is is because Apple paid more? Is it because Nokia can't afford to pay youtube?
I don't really care. All I know is that I, and everyone in the world, want content that we can choose, not content that is chosen for us.
Overall, I like the N82, very much. It's got everything an N95 has and more. If only it didn't look and feel so cheap in real life. Even if you have an N95, I feel it would be worth the while to upgrade to the the N82. It's fast. Press a button and there's hardly any lag before something happens, unlike the N95 where it's press a button and then fall asleep waiting.
It's got a xenon flash that makes taking pictures that require flashes much better looking than with LED flashes. Assisted GPS (AGPS) makes navigation very pleasurable. With micro SD cards of capacities up to 8GB available now, you're not missing much by not getting the N95 8GB. Overall, it definitely offers a much better user experience than the original N95.
HSDPA turbo-charges 3G connections and it works great in real life providing broadband-like speedy web surfing. Integrated software on the phone makes creating and sharing content from anywhere a breeze.
Again, my observations are derived from a PROTOTYPE device and may not represent the final consumer version. From experience, the final release is always better.
So what's my conclusion?
Let's put it this way, if I can have only ONE phone today, a phone that can do most things well, it would have to be the Nokia N82.
But dear Mr Nokia, can you please make a device that has the N82's capability to create content and the iPhone's ability to consume content? That would be close to perfection indeed...
**update 1: The final release of the N82 will not have Navi wheel, so I edited this blog entry to reflect it.**
**update 2: Nokia came back to me regarding SDHC support.
Their answer was: "The N82 technically DOES support SDHC (SD High Capacity) if it means cards that are 4GB and bigger (FAT32). Due to card availability, we have only verified cards up to 6GB.". Also, the SAR rating for the N82 is 0.62W/kg**
Originally posted at Me and My Phone


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