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Review of Nokia N-gage QD. Part one

Nokia N-gage QD, live pictures

Review. Part two

Standard delivery kit:

  • Console
  • Battery
  • Battery charger
  • Mono-headset
  • Manual
  • CD with software

The first Nokia attempt to produce a multi-purpose device encompassing the portable gaming-console and the phones function has failed. Nokia N-gage was already heard of at the end of the year 2002 although it entered the marked only in the fall 2003. Time of the release was truly beneficial-right before the heated Christmas sales. Nokia had spent tremendous amounts of money advertising Nokia N-gage project. The release of consol was followed by an incredible advertising campaign and various PR-projects.

However, sales of the consol turned out to be minimal even in the first month. In the first after-release week, sales of Nokia N-gage were less than sales of its rival GameBoy Advanced. At first, the company was refusing to believe that the project failed and the cheerful words of company being content with the sales were said along with expressed hopes of sales remaining on the high level. The price of gaming-console was decreased by one third (the price fell from $300 to $200). This measure did not help. Finally, the Nokia Company officially acknowledged the disappointing results of Nokia N-gage.

The main causes to bring disappointing results may be the following:

  • Ergonomics disadvantages. When elaborating on the design, the developers counted on N-gage being used primarily as gaming-console and only then and after as a phone. The device appeared too large for the phone. To talk on the N-gage phone, one must hold it with its side against the ear. To change the game card, the battery has to be removed. Overall, with the ergonomics considered, the device was far from perfect;
  • The price remained high even after its decrease especially if compared to the main rival of the moment GameBoy Advanced. The price of the games themselves was high too;
  • The distribution channel was faultily chosen. N-gage was mainly distributed through the traditional for the cell phones shopping areas. However, it was troublesome to find Nokia N-gage in the traditional game-consol spots;
  • The week content protection. N-gage games were broke open almost immediately. Now the games are easy to access and download from the peering networks. Moreover, the games were easy to download using other smartphones working on the Series 60 platform. This factor also influenced low sales of the devices;
  • The advertising company primarily emphasized the fact the gaming console allows participation of several (ten-meter distance using the Bluetooth). For this-function realization, a broad usage of gaming console is necessary. This were the classical network effect comes in-the quality service becomes a variable depended on the number of players. If there is no one to play the network game with, all its value vanishes. For the blockbuster sales, it is crucial to be behind the intermediate point, but this did not happen yet. Consequently, what happened was that in the middle of the marketing program there was a barely useful service

Nevertheless, the failure of the first Nokia N-gage gaming console does not mean the failure of the entire N-gage QD project. This was the first model in the series only. The company has enough time to work on the blunders and eliminate the disadvantages.

Today the second product of the series-Nokia N-gage QD-is to be reviewed. This is not the follow up on the original, but rather a cheaper variant of the first version. The design had changed for the better due to the ameliorated ergonomics and dimensions. On the other hand, N-gage QD has a smaller number of functions-radio, MP3 support are lacking here; there are some other worsened features that are to be examined in the course of the review.

As it was noted above, the design changed for the better (although the design as such is a very controversial term and it is difficult to persist on one view point-probably some will say that the previous design was better). The shapes are more rounded. The overall style is preserved-the display and the keys are located horizontally. The screen is located in the middle with alphanumerical keys on its right and left sides along with the joystick and the operating keys. The color of the frame case is of gray-greenish-black fades. The colors flow from the display joining in circles (or ovals rather), which is very nice designing solution.

The materials of the frame case are cheaper than the ones used in the original. The frame case is encircled into the rubber edging. The frame case leaves a nice impression-N-gage would not slide off your palm even during the long usage due to the rubber inserts. Other frame case parts are not likely to slide in your palm either. Overall, N-gage is very convenient as gaming console.

The dimensions of N-gage QD are 118x68x22mm, so the frame case is lower than the original although a little thicker (133.7x69.7.20.2mm-these are dimensions of the original Nokia N-gage). The weight is slightly bigger -143 grams as compared to 137 grams, which is a considerable weight for the phone-such weight is normally typical for the PDAs or for the smartphones. During the testing time, the device was usually carried in the front jeans pocket together with the main phone and although one could tell you had that thing in your pocket, one still felt at ease.

Let us review the exploiting advantages of the N-gage QD phone functions. The speaker is located on the front side of the device, so you can converse as you are used to without holding the butt-end of the phone against your ear, as you would do with the first N-gage. If judging from the side, a person conversing using N-gage QD does not look strange. It is also possible to type in the SMS and to dial the number with one hand although it is not perfectly handy since the left side overweighs. Overall, it is mostly convenient to work with this device holding it in both hands (when holding it vertically, one will face certain difficulties).

The alphanumerical keypad has plastic key of the glossy cover. The game key 5 and 7 are transparent and so is the joystick. All of these keys are easy to operate as they quick to respond to the first click. During the two testing weeks there was not a single but to be said about the keys and the four-positioned joystick.

The orange keypad backlight is not that successful, since the backlight is not even and some letters are not seen in the darkness. There is no backlight for the joystick, which is logical actually.

The upper and the bottom butt-ends and equipped with two apertures, consequently one can carry the device on the neck. The power button is located on the right side. The prolong press of this key would turn off the device, the short one would call up the menu. The menu allows you to change the profile, to key lock, to prepare the MMS-card for the safe removal. The backside is equipped with another speaker for the ring tones and the games sounds.

The bottom butt-end is equipped with the MMC-card slot covered with the rubber muffler. Finally, the removal of the card without the battery removal is possible. The muffler looks safe and should not fall off as the time goes although the device must be well treated still. One gigabyte-is the maximum capacity of the MMC card; its price had already decreased to less than $200 while the price for the MMC card of 512 Mb is no $85. The SD cards are not supported-they simply do not fit into the slot.

The upper butt-end is equipped with the 2.5 mm interface connectors for the mono headset and for the battery charger. The connectors are also covered with the rubber muffler. There is nothing else on the butt-ends. There is no more miniUSB (it was used in Nokia N-gage for the files transmission, the synchronization could not be done through it) and no more IrDA. It turns out, that the Bluetooth becomes the major device for the connection of N-gage QD and the computer. Either the card-reader of the Bluetooth module must be purchased for the computer.

Battery

The SIM-card is standartly fixed beneath the battery. The battery cover is fixed well and does not crack.

The produces claims the working time of the Li-Ion BL-6C of the 1070 m capacity to be eleven days in the stand by mode, five hours in the talking mode and ten hours of gaming. As it was expected, the reality is different. N-gage QD worked approximately two days in the case of ten minutes of talk and one gaming hour per day with the Bluetooth turned on. If the device is barely used with the Bluetooth turned on, the smartphone will work for approximately four days. The results obtained after testing the battery using SPMark 04 are as follows. With the settings chosen by default (constantly running during the entire test) and with the maximum intensity of the backlight (was turned on during the graphics test only), the game phone worked for exactly 13 hours. At the 3D testing with the SPMark04 (the backlight intensity is maximum, the keypad backlight is on and constantly working) the device autonomously worked for eight hours and forty minutes. The results are not bad and are actually much better than those of the PDAs (the energy consumption primarily depends on the display size and the backlight intensity and then on the processor). The working time of the N-gage QD is slightly longer than that of the original.

Bluetooth Realization

The Bluetooth left a dual impression. On the one hand, Bluetooth in the N-gage QD is well equipped functionally and all the necessary profiles are offered. On the other hand, the software leaves you wish for the best. To work safely, we had to switch the Bluetooth on and off several times; the synchronization with the PC is not perfect either.

These are the following profiles the Bluetooth (1.1 version) supports: Generic Access Profile, Service Discovery Profile, Serial Port Profile, Dial-Up Networking Profile, Fax Profile, Headset Profile, Handsfree Profile, Generic Object Exchange Profile, Object Push Profile, and File Transfer Profile. The was no problem connecting the internet through N-gage QD using the PDA Asus A730; the file exchange through the FTP profile was also possible. It took us twenty minutes to establish the synchronization of the PC and the Bluetooth. The files, even the big ones of ten to twenty Mb were transmitted to N-gage QD through Bluetooth without any problems. Nokia N-gage QD was also tested using the Jabra BT250 headset-the results were satisfying, that is it. The sound was transmitted to the headset not only during the talk, but also during the working time with the device (for example, the call melody was transmitted as it was in the phone). The voice recognition is also supported. One disadvantage was that in the case of disconnection, the reconnection had to be done manually.

Display

The display reflects 4086 colors and has the resolution of 176x220 pixels (35x41 mm, diagnol-2.2). The image quality is a bit better than that of the original. There are 15 levels of the backlight. The quality of the display is to be discussed during the discussion of rivals. Date and time or icons of the missed calls/unread messages are dispalyed on the screen in the standby mode. It is possbile to display any note on the screen instead the time.

This is the end of part one. Tomorrow in the second part you will be able to read about the software, the impression from the first two weeks of the QD usage in games, productivity (testing with the SPMark 04), comparison with Nintendo DS and PSP, and about conclusions.

Part two>>>

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Maria Kapustina(maria@mobile-review.com)
Published — 2 August 2004

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com

 

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