I remember one of the first mobile phones I ever used being a Nokia 5110i. It was among Nokia’s earliest of devices that packed an easy to use and straightforward interface in a supremely well-built package. Since we didn’t have as many phone launches each month back then as there are stars in the sky, the 5110i served me very well for more than 3 years without showing any signs of aging. That was in the mid to late 90’s.

Fast forward to the end of this decade and we see Nokia’s current flagship, the N8-00, continuing to hold on to the Nokia tradition of building what are arguably some of the best constructed mobile devices on the market. In fact in many ways, with the Nokia N8-00 (referred to as the N8 from here on) it seems as though Nokia has let its hardware and industrial design teams have a field day; this phone feels almost over engineered when held in your hands. While the current flagship demonstrates Nokia’s engineering prowess quite well, previous models seemed to epitomize what I felt was the company’s philosophy; build the software around the hardware. This worked just perfectly for as long as mobile phones were just that, devices used to make and receive calls and/or texts.

Sometime in the last decade, Apple, Google, Palm and Microsoft redefined mobile experiences, and as a result old flaws have slowly become gaping holes in the Finnish device manufacturer’s proverbial armor. 

The devil is in the details…

The N8’s symmetric design is attractive in a very understated manner. It won’t immediately grab your attention in any way if you look at it. The 3.5” 640 x 360 AMOLED screen commands the majority of the real estate on the front with tapering edges on all 4 corners. The menu/home button at the bottom left corner is the only detail on the face of the phone which narrowly saves the N8 design from being branded bland. 

While the button did seem a bit oddly placed when I first saw it, the overall profile and weight distribution of the phone didn’t lead to any issues in actual use (although left-handed users may disagree). 

Upon closer inspection, you will find the front facing VGA camera, the ambient light sensor and the proximity sensor sitting behind the (Gorilla) glass on the top right corner. The left side houses a well-constructed but tad finicky and plastic “suicide” door of sorts to cover the microSD and SIM card slots. There’s also a multifunction micro-USB port (more on this later) and a charging light indicator. The right side seems a bit busy with the volume controls, a spring loaded screen lock button and a 2-stage camera shutter button. This is the only part of the phone that I have issues with, when it comes to design. The volume controls have a lot of play and don’t give good feedback when pressed. The spring loaded screen lock button, while a good idea in itself, is not well placed. On multiple occasions, I kept hitting the volume button while attempting to lock the phone. 

The left and right sides of the Nokia N8. Notice how it cannot lay flat on its back.

The top of the phone plays host to a 3.5mm jack (that can also serve as an AV-output if used with the appropriate connector), and a mini-HDMI port hidden behind a plastic flap and the power/profile selection button. At the bottom you will find a lone connector for your charger, although it could easily pass off as a microphone because of its placement and size, along with a lanyard or strap port. 

The top and bottom of the N8

The rear of the phone prominently shows the N-series branding and houses the crowning jewel of the N8; its 12MP Xenon-flash assisted autofocus camera. Because of the complexity of the camera module and the associated optics used in the N8, the camera itself (along with the loudspeaker) is housed in a bulge, and as a result the phone cannot lay flat on any surface. While that in and of itself isn’t an issue, what concerns me is the possibility of excessive visible wear appearing on the lower part of this bulge as it is the only part of the phone that comes in contact with any surface when the phone is made to rest on its back. 

The back of the Nokia N8 (left); What makes up the “bulge” (right)

Also, something I did notice was the fact that just within a week of use, dust started accumulating in the crevice between the top of the bulge and the back of the phone.

While the design may get mixed feedback, what will garner unanimous praise is the build quality and overall construction of the device. The unibody N8 is constructed of anodized aluminum and has a smooth, matte-like finish to it. It is available in Orange, Green, Blue, White and Gray – which as you can tell was the color of our review unit. While not as grippy as the soft touch rubber finish that some devices come with, it is light years ahead of the cheap, glossy black plastic that clads a lot of phones these days. Also, by design, the aluminum back of the N8 acts as a heat dissipation surface. So with prolonged use, it does get a bit warm…but nothing toasty. Another reason why the phone feels so well put together is because Nokia has taken a leaf out of Apple’s design book and gone ahead with a non-user replaceable battery, and hence eliminated the need for a battery opening in the N8 chassis. But reports seem to suggest that the battery isn’t all that hard to get to and replace, should the need arise. So those exposed torx screws aren’t just for show…

The N8's Camera - 12 MP of Awesome
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  • Voldenuit - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    Actually, the camera in the N8 is easily as good as a good dedicated compact, and better in some respects than most (especially the lens).

    Also, the free lifetime worldwide GPS with offline capability and turn by turn navigation is a great touch. Other reviews have had no problem with the GPS lock, so it could be that mithun's review unit had problems. I've had very fast and accurate GPS reception myself, even indoors and in urban areas.

    HDMI out and mkv support is also a rare feature.

    Battery life has also been outstanding in my experience. While the review paints a middling or negative picture of the battery life, in my experience, I have had to recharge my N8 much less frequently than my friends using Android (GalS, Desire, Bravo). My last charge cycle was 5 days and 21 hours with 15% battery remaining (light use including email, facebook, a couple calls - on GSM and music).

    Build quality is unmatched by most other smartphones. Unibody aluminum construction is something last seen in the HTC Legend and Schubert, and gorilla glass is very nice (though fortunately becoming more common in modern phones).

    The screen has also been favorably compared to the iPhone4 retina display, although the upcoming E7 with its Clearview screen which is polarized to reduce glare will be even better outdoors. Resolution is low, but viewing angles and color are great and it is very legible outdoors once you turn up the brightness.

    Having good telephony features (call quality, reception, speakerphone, LED notification light) is a feather in its cap as too many smartphone makers neglect basic telephony tasks.

    It's not for everyone, but don't knock the people who pick it as their phone of choice, because it really does very well in many categories.
  • chick0n - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    wow, what a moron.

    I mean please, please make sure u have a f-king clue b4 u start another bs again.

  • melgross - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    Brilliant post. Keep it up.
  • Clint_ZA - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Really? All those reasons not to own it?

    I have two in my household. First one was acquired for myself and after three weeks I was so impressed I got one for my GF. I, therefore, speak from personal use.

    "Wifi pathetic" - This one is particularly strange. I have three computers scattered around my house, a wireless receiver for a media player, I have an HP wireless printer, I have used a wireless-G router and a wireless-N router. With the wireless G router I had dead spots where the PCI adapters in the PCs would not pick up wireless. My N8 did. My printer often battles to pick up the network but in the same spot my N8 has no issues. My N8 also switches between my wifi at home, wifi at work and my SPs 3G connection with total ease and no intervention from me.

    So this begs the question as to why you think the wifi is pathetic?

    "screen res" - the screen resolution is perfect for the size of the screen, The chasing of higher resolutions is similar to the megapixel battle where numbers are increase to fool the unknowing public while never bothering to improve quality. Many people have viewed my N8, including iPhone owners, and not one has commented on poor resolution!

    "battery" - My N8 comfortably lasts a full day with intense use! I have never pushed it further so would not be able to tell you how much longer it would last because, since acquiring my first smart phone, I am in the habit of charging my phone next to the bed every night. Perhaps the good battery life is linked to your previous complaint regarding the processor. All these Ghz processors are just battery eaters and not necessary on a symbian device.

    You are clearly an Android fanboy so probably worthless trying to convince you but perhaps others reading your comments will take them with a pinch of salt!
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    who cares about which OS a phone is running, as long as it runs the apps you need ? To me, this is geek snob, same as disserting on where your coffee beans come from is coffee snob: nobody cares except geeks.
  • melgross - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    No. A geek snob is someone who asserts that even though his phone only has1% of the apps other phones have, it's enough, because who needs all those great apps that he can't get?
  • Exodite - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    I agree completely.

    One thing I, even as a tech geek myself, have truly come to appreciate with the boom of mobile platforms and devices in the recent years is that we're finally moving away from software execution platforms to service-providing platforms.

    The hardware, OS and software shouldn't be relevant as long as the device offers the services its user needs.
  • Samus - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    6+ months to market? I've had mine on T-Mobile since October. The E7-00, basically the same phone with a physical keyboard under a flip out screen and an 8MP camera instead of 12MP is schedules to be released within the next 3 months as well, along with TWO other, less expensive models based on Symbian^3
  • guoxing - Monday, June 27, 2011 - link

    this phone is really good !!! but if anybody want to buy it
    I suggest you go
    to know more about it !!! i think it wil help you very much
  • jigglywiggly - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - link

    Just give me the camera, and this phone can go to hell lawl. It's awful.

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