HOME / PRINT
Nokia N81 8GB
In this age of high-end mobile phones (or should I say handheld computers and communication-cum-entertainment devices?) Nokia is a household name. Its latest addition to the stable is the N81, whose USP is a whopping 8GB of internal memory. Here’s my take on the 'Next Episode' in mobile technology.
I’ve decided to call this model 'Li'l Fatty' – its dimensions of 102 x 50 x 17.9 mm will explain why. At first sight (or second), this plain rectangular slider doesn't look impressive at all. On the top is a slider switch to lock the keypad, a 3.5mm earphone socket (good placement) and the power/profile switcher button. It has a set of stereo speakers on either side, and on the right are the volume/zoom keys and a dedicated camera key as well. At the bottom you’ll find the charging port and the new standardized microUSB port.
I do like the brilliant 2.4 inch display and the fact that in landscape mode, if you’re playing games, two buttons on either side of the earpiece become active. NICE! Since it’s 3G enabled there’s also a secondary VGA camera in front in addition to the 2 megapixel (WHAT?) camera with an LED flash in the rear.
The five way nav-pad under the display also doubles as a navigation touch-sensitive navi-wheel, which is a disappointment if you’re an iPod fan… or not. It only works with when the new shortcut menu (activated by a little gray button near the nav-pad) is on or when you’re scrolling through your music. Not the gallery, just the music files. There are four keys around the nav-pad that are dedicated to the music player. The top two are the track skip keys and the the bottom pair are the stop and play/pause keys.
The problem is the placement of these keys is absolutely ridiculous. You’ll more often than not end up activating the music player rather than deleting a word while typing and it won't activate the music player menu, just the last song that was playing. Trust me, you too will be startled when a song blares out really loud when you least expect it. The buttons are overly sensitive.
On the plus side, the slider is extremely smooth and responsive, and the large keypad is great. But I must admit I was quite disappointed by the overall design.
Features and Performance
There’s nothing extra special with regard to the OS. It runs on Symbian OS 9.2, Series 60 v3.1 UI, which is quite versatile and fast. So no issues there. Except when you open the Gallery. It takes at least 10 seconds to open the images in the Gallery section clearly. What I dislike about the new S60 OS is that it doesn’t have separate options for videos and images. They are collectively placed in a single section and it’s quite painful sorting them out.
One good thing about the India edition is the free content included. There's a bunch of free videos from English music videos to hilarious clips from Hindi movies, the latest Maroon 5 Album, some MP3s, and my all-time favorite Hindi movie – Sholay. The problem is that file rendering and conversion of videos (except the Maroon 5 and the N81 promos) were done very badly and didn’t play very well. But hey, free is free. The free content is activated using a code provided on a scratch card.
The music player is by far the best I’ve encountered: loud and clear all the way. You may wish to use a better set of earphones though. Put through my acid test (I listen to music while I commute by train in the mornings), it was like having my own space – there was no outside disturbance at all. With a customizable EQ, EQ presets, and some fancy visualizations, the N81 music player really comes alive. It’s also quite loud. The Nokia N-Gage application for new phones will be out soon, but in the meantime you can enjoy demos of the new Asphalt Urban 3 street racing game, FIFA 07, and Space Invaders.
Business and Communication
From the business angle, inbuilt Wi-Fi, 3G with HSDPA and EDGE ensure quick connectivity on the go. Having Bluetooth with A2DP is a definite plus. Business features like QuickOffice and a PDF viewer that you can download through Nokia Catalogs are other handy tools. There’s also a Zip manager, and office features like calculator, calendar, notes, converter etc. It also has provisions for reading out your messages and email, as well as a voice-aid feature that calls out details of features you link to it.
The GPS system, though great to have, should have come preloaded with India-centric maps. Perhaps the official release will have them. You can always use Google maps 2.0 as an alternative, though the My Location system is erratic in the city – more often than not, it gives an error on all phones we tried out, including the N81.
Another great feature is a Home Media feature that you can use to control your music, presentations etc with a local Wi-Fi. There are provisions for Push To Talk, making VOIP calls, and using a wireless
Bluetooth keyboard. The search feature helps locate files easily.
I thought iTunes was painful but the Nokia Nseries PC Suite is probably as bad, if not worse. Though you can copy-and-paste music and videos to the phone directly, you will have to create playlists in the phone itself to avoid complications. There doesn’t seem to be any way to rename songs from the phone either.
I’m rather surprised it has just a 2 megapixel camera. But I can’t do much about it. Although there are plenty of options to choose in order to get the best pictures – from white balance to scene modes to manually selecting the exposure compensation and ISO levels – the picture quality is ho-hum. In low-light areas the images look as grainy as a bowl of cereal. The camera is quick to load and take consecutive pictures. That’s a must for spur-of-the-moment Kodak moments.
BAD! I think that pretty much says it all. For a Nokia that is. With regular usage, I expected the batter to last at least two days. But that was not to be. After watching the whole of Sholay, listening to some songs, and making a (very) few calls, the battery was drained to the dregs. Suffice to say I was a little more than pissed off. I hadn't faced any battery problems with Nokia handsets so far, but I guess there's always a first.
This may arguably be the first Nokia phone I’m not happy with. Although I had a blast with the music player and watched many videos (that I personally converted) I was quite disappointed on the whole. While it's great to have 8GB of storage, it’s also a rather bulky device to be hauling around. Then there’s the bad key placement, and the new touch-sensitive navi-wheel is not quite up to the mark.
At its price of around Rs 22,000, I have to give this a thumbs down. If the price drops – and I mean really drops – I just might be tempted to up my rating, but not as things stand.
Nokia N81 8GB
|Network||UMTS, GSM 850/900/1800/1900, EDGE, 3G |
|Physical||102 x 50 x 17.9 mm, 140 g|
|Display||240 x 320, 16m colors, TFT, 2.4 inch |
|Media||MP3, AAC, MPEG4 WMA, Stereo FM, 3GP, Voice Recording|
|Camera||2 megapixels, flash, video (QCIF), secondary VGA|
|Connectivity||MicroUSB v2.0, Bluetooth with A2DP, Wi-Fi|
|Battery||400 hrs standby, 3.45 hrs talk |
|Street Price ||Rs 22,000|