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N95 - Warts & All

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#1
Sp00k

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Back in Feb. '07, I posted on Modaco regarding the then upcoming N95 from Nokia, as follows...

"Sorry Windows Mobile... but for me, you just ain't hacking it, you had the spark of innovation, reliability and good design at one time but I consider that you've lost your way and dropped far behind in the race...

I've been wanting to replace my C600 for some time now with an all-singing all-dancing candy-bar style device. The recent round-up of the very latest models displayed at the last show has left me feeling very disappointed indeed.

I'm looking for a candy-bar phone with at least the following features:

01. GPS Built-in (minumum Sirf II).
02. 3G (HSPDA).
03. Mini USB - USB2, not 1.1 !
04. Easily accessible memory card (Hot swappable)
05. Stereo FM Radio
06. WiFi (802.11 b/g)
07. SIP Compliant for VOIP providers apart from Skype.
08. Listenable audio from stereo speakers.
09. Good quality camera with flash, zoom & macro.
10. Portrait and landscape display.
11. 3.5 mm Audio-out jack socket.
12. TV-out connection.
13. Video calling facility.
14. VGA Video recording at 30 fps.
15. All the above contained in a compact casing little bulkier than a C600.

Now you may consider that I am asking too much... I accept that I am, that's evident from the latest WM models revealed to the public... I'm evidently asking far too much... from Windows Mobile.

However, just such a device is shortly to become available in March I'm led to believe, having all these listed features and more... but unfortunately running an alternative OS.

If it lives up to its promise, I shall probably be returning from whence I came... I still occasionally use the old reliable 7650."


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Well, now that I've used an N95 for over a month, I'd like to expand on the above points and add some further observations... Please understand that I am trying to be objective. I was looking for a replacement for my C600 candy-bar phone, one with a similar form-factor and size, but with much greater capability... and I was unable to find anything that satisfied my requirements in either current or forthcoming WM devices, much to my disappointment.

So I'll start by taking the points that I made previously, one by one...

01. GPS Built-in (minumum Sirf II).
The GPS is unfortunately not SirfIII standard, the best available at the present time, it is however slightly more sensitive than my current GPS receiver, the Fortuna Clip-ON, which is SirfII.

Maps can be downloaded at no charge via a VERY slow server, from the Net and are installed to the phone automatically. The initial operation, the very first time that it's used, can take up to 10 or 20 minutes to aquire a full lock, according to reports, mine took about 8. On subsequent trials, it takes less than a minute to aquire from 4-6 satellites, so I would term it satisfactory in this respect. The major drawback IMO is that you need to pay a fee to obtain turn-by-turn directions, I consider that if GPS navigation is included in a device, it should be fully functional, not partially crippled.

02. 3G (HSPDA).
My first experience of using 3G... and it's fast! :rolleyes: I selected 'Use 3G when needed' rather than 'when available' to help reduce power-drain. I'm in a reasonable 3G area and it works well, there's not much else I can add.

03. Mini USB - USB2, not 1.1 !
The speed of USB2 is definitely worth having! Plug the Mini-USB cable into the device and you have instant access to your phone as an external HDD, very convenient indeed... Never any problem to connect btw! Regrettably, it's ONLY a USB connection, the device doesn't charge through it... bad point!

Incidentally, as the memory card is a Mini-SD, it's probably just as well that you don't need to remove it and place it in an adapter to get faster read/write speeds each time... I say this as I spent 30 minutes on my hands and knees searching for the darned thing after I dropped it the other day, whilst swapping it from one N95 to another... Those cards are TINY!

04. Easily accessible memory card (Hot swappable)
As dealt with above, a point being that like many others now, you don't have to power down the phone and remove the battery to get at the memory card... at last!

One possible further advantage of this device, though I'm uncertain as yet as to how true the information is but MobyMemory at least, are of the opinion that, unlike most phones currently available, the N95 will accept 4GB cards as it is believed to be miniSDHC compatible, no-one yet knows for sure.

05. Stereo FM Radio.
This is a feature that I thought that I wanted in a phone... but I'm not so sure now! To operate it needs a headset plugged in, not something I like using, I prefer to listen to, in my case, recorded radio programmes through its own speakers, which are quite adequate for the job, rather than have trailing leads or the inconvenience of wearing a BT headset.

As I have an 'unlimited' (ahem!) data plan, I can stream radio stations from around the world if I so wish, meaning that quite apart from the trailing wires, the choice of local FM stations seems very limited by comparison, so it's a feature I will probably seldom use.

06. WiFi (802.11 b/g)
The efficiency of this is somewhat of a disappointment so far... It always rejects the pass-key the first time it tries to connect, yet always accepts it on the second attempt, a very irritating quirk... Although the wifi side of the system is supposed to have been improved in the latest firmware upgrade, which I haven't tried yet.

Another down-side is the sensitivity of the wifi reception, It's less sensitive than my Wizard, which is itself no great performer... I expected a better ability to receive and maintain a connection than appears to be the case, again the firmware upgrade may improve on this.

07. SIP Compliant for VOIP providers apart from Skype.
It's certainly suitable for VOIP-use and has been reported as working well... BUT... Only on devices that providers haven't tampered with... The facility has been totally removed on Vodaphone and Orange-sourced devices, much to the annoyance of many users. T-Mobile and O2 have left it well alone, to their credit.

08. Listenable audio from stereo speakers.
Given the size of the built-in speakers and the dimensions of the whole device, the audio output and phase-shifted separation stereo-effect is remarkable! I would compare it to listening to a small, decent-quality pocket-portable radio, there's even a degree of bass perceptible!

The fact that the performance of the speakers belies their tiny size, coupled with an extremely sensitive and evidently well-damped/insulated microphone, enables what to me is one of the major plus-points of the N95... namely a hands-free speakerphone that works beyond all expectations. I can place the phone on my desk, lean back in my chair, putting me about two feet from the phone and chat away in a normal tone of voice... Yes, I can do the same with a WM phone in most cases... BUT... Using the N95, no-one I've talked to has yet realised that I'm on the speakerphone, all have been surprised when I've told them... Most can't tell the difference when I switch it off, either!

09. Good quality camera with flash, zoom & macro.
The camera, bearing in mind that this is a phone, not a dedicated digital camera device, is best described as being phenominal! IF you can hold the phone steady enough (not easy!), the quality and clarity of the pictures it takes are astonishing, the colour balance, detail, exposure and auto-focussing are superb, I can't praise the camera highly enough.

The flash, zoom and macro don't really come up to scratch though... The flash is barely adequate, though infinitely superior to that of the Wizard... It should ideally have been a Xenon flash, not an LED one. Zoom is only digital, which renders it virtually useless, far better to shoot at 5mpixels and crop later on the pc. Macro is better described as extra close-up, not really a true macro IMO.

10. Portrait and landscape display.
Nice to have when watching video, useless when typing as the keyboard is at ninety degrees to it... The feature of the slider also moving in the opposite direction to normal (the well-advertised dual-slider function), is pure gimmickry in my opinion. In addition to switching between Portrait and Landscape displays, it exposes 4 additional keys of the cheap membrane variety, supposedly to be used for Stop, Pause/Play, Forward and Rewind. In my estimatation any music or video-player that didn't map these functions to the standard keypad would be an example of shoddy programming, as all those that I've tested do this, the extra membrane keys are rendered redundant, meaning that there is no need for the necessarily-complicated slider mechanism... more of which later.

A far better solution would have been to do away with the extra keys, thereby simplifying the slider action action and its' current inherent instability and to action mode-switching by using an attitude sensor, as in the i-Phone.

11. 3.5 mm Audio-out jack socket.
Very nice, no more fiddling with adapters, just connect almost any headphones to it, or use it as an output to an external amp.

12. TV-out connection.
Outputted from the same 3.5mm jack socket as the headphone audio, quality cabling supplied, ending in three phono connectors. Results on my (old) 15" CRT telly are very good.

13. Video calling facility.
Never used this, probably never will, again a function that I thought that I wanted... Nice to have the option, nonetheless though.

14. VGA Video recording at 30 fps.
Used indoors in relatively dim lighting conditions it results in a perfectly watchable recording, I haven't experimented much outdoors, though I've seen the results of others' video efforts and been quite impressed.

15. All the above contained in a compact casing little bulkier than a C600.
It's indeed very compact, amazingly so when you consider what's packed into it...


OK, so far I've spoken in mainly favour of the N95, now we come to the bad points.

My major bone of contention about the Nokia n95, is of all things, the build-quality... You would think that a device costing upwards of 500 GBP sim-free, would be assembled with care and that quality-control at Nokia would be some of the best available anywhere... It seems that this is not the case, unfortunately.

There are two main complaints about the build-quality, both widely-discussed on the Nokia forums. The first is the fast-becoming infamous 'Wobbly Slider'. The N95 whose slider mechanism works perfectly, sliding smoothly from one end to the other without appearing to be loose at any stage of its travel is, I think it fair to say, the exception, rather than the rule.

Most have an annoying amount of play in the slider in an up-down motion, when pressed into the main body of the phone. This gives rise to a second 'click' when pressing the keys, as the slider moves under the pressure and contacts something or other.

With the aid of a Torx driver and the judicial application of self-adhesive tape, this can be cured fairly simply, as many have done.... But on an expensive flagship device it's ridiculous that this action by owners is necessary!

The second major fault is experienced mainly by young users with very good hearing... It takes the form of an extremely high-pitched whistle, varying in intensity on different phones, coming apparently from the screen. This is found to be intensely annoying by some, though I'm (blessed?) with the fact that, having 'old ears', it doesn't affect me :D

One thing that I personally find very annoying indeed is the stance taken by 'Nanny Nokia'... for example, unless profiles are set to 'Silent', the camera makes a shutter sound or something similar, you can't mute it, (this get-round doesn't work on the asian-market models at all!). Even more annoying is the fact that Nokia has decreed that neither photographs nor video can be taken discreetly... There is always a bright red light showing, briefly when taking a pic, or constantly whilst making a video.... So anyone thinking of buying an N95 to smuggle into the womens changing-rooms... you can forget it! :D

There are several other minor niggling aspects that irritate, one being the fact that SMS details shows the time that you received the message, not the time that it was actually sent... not much point in that information! There are other minor disadvantages compared to the WM devices but that's only to be expected, as this works both ways and so is part of the equation when considering your choice of handset.

Despite these faults and irritations, on balance and by a rather narrower margin than I first anticipated, I've decided that the N95 is best suited for my intended purpose.

As I started by saying... I've tried to be objective and not praise one device and disparage another, the foregoing is my opinion of the N95, based upon my experience with it over approximately six weeks of ownership. I hope that it's proved informative to some who have read it.

In the end it's a case of, 'To Each, Their Own' :P

Edited by Sp00k, 21 May 2007 - 03:02 PM.

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#2
Confucious

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There are other minor disadvantages compared to the WM devices but that's only to be expected,


What are the other disadvantages? Having not used a symbian device for some time I'd be interested to here.

Cheers

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