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Review of GSM/UMTS-smartphone Nokia N95 8Gb
Live photos of Nokia N95 8Gb
The Nokia N95 8Gb has been around on Nokia’s roadmap for quite a while, but when the original Nokia N95 started shipping, they bumped into a number of flaws and rushed to rectify them. This patching has brought life to two new products – the Nokia N95-2, a variation of the original Nokia N95 for the North-American market, and the Nokia N95 8Gb. The stateside model is similar to the Nokia N95 8Gb in terms of design and materials used, however its software department is very close to the original phone, which makes it an in-between solution, whereas the Nokia N95 8Gb is the real upgrade.
Recently Nokia has been running with a new indexing system for duos, where all basic editions get standard indexes, while enhanced versions come with suffixes standing for their storages. The Nokia N81 was the first device to exercise this approach; we will also see this for other models down the road.
The most important thing you need to realize is that the Nokia N95 8Gb is not a brand-new handset – on the contrary, it comes in as an update to the original phone, albeit it’s different hardware-wise. Incidentally, the Nokia N95 8Gb’s firmware doesn’t get along with the Nokia N95.
This also stems from this phone’s positioning. The difference between its price tag and that of the Nokia N95 doesn’t make any difference for this price bracket (Nokia N95 goes for 1 Euro as long as you get an 18-month contract with it) – around 70 Euro – which is pretty much what you’ll see with the Nokia N81 and its 8Gb variation. As long as carrier-driven markets are concerned, the only obstacle consumers might encounter is availability of the model in their carrier’s range. For truth’s sake, let us note that Nokia is currently focusing on carriers and pays way less attention to free markets, like Russia, which doesn’t seem outrageous from the perspective of business – carriers place much bigger orders, even though they normally put fewer models on offer.
So the big picture appears to be somewhat complicated. Let’s see what some of the NSeries products will cost you and compare their wholesale prices:
While this comparison could really use the Nokia N93i as well, it is still a very niche product, and it’s better to overlook it here. At the same time, the Nokia N81 and the Nokia N95 are two phones craved by the masses, and in their price-brackets they are definitely sought-after offerings. This way, the new generation of Nokia’s phones is ushered in by the N81, the most affordable phone in its class. The Nokia N82 is almost a hundred Euro steeper, which comes as no surprise, since many see it as probably most popular smartphone, jam-packed with features and on top of all that, the flagship in imaging, just like the Nokia N73 was some time ago. And the Nokia N95 turns out to be very close to the Nokia N81 and the Nokia N82 price-wise, which completely dissolves its positioning strategy and puts it into a situation when it has to battle two other models pushing from below and also a higher-up, the Nokia N95 8Gb. And in these circumstances the Nokia N95’s sales don’t seem as stellar as they were before the aforementioned handsets have stormed into the market.
And carrier-driven markets couldn’t be happier – any operator can pick a model for his retail network and avoid bringing two competing models onto its shelves, while open markets are about to experiences a completely opposite effect, when the Nokia N95’s sales will go down in favor of other Nokia-branded solutions. Is there any gain for the manufacturer? There most definitely is. Here we need to take account of the Nokia N95’s service expenses (the problem with its casing) and mostly negative perception of its plastic by consumers. And while it is a burning issue in all regions, when you can grab a contracted phone for free it gets easier, right? Especially compared to, say, Russia, where everyone will need to pay the N95’s full price and still deal with all these flaws.
So based on all the above, the Nokia N95 8Gb is meant to vary the maker’s range and steal some prospects from the N95. This was Nokia’s original plan and the plastic problems on the Nokia N95 have made the company more determined to roll it out.
Speaking of other bits and pieces, Nokia has always positioned its N9x devices as phones with prowess in some particular fields, be it imaging, music or something else. With the N95 they made an attempt to get everything under one hood; however the major focus was imaging, in other words, the handset’s camera. And in its turn the Nokia N95 8Gb is a video-savvy device.
The handset measures up at 99x53x21 mm and tips our scales at 128 grams. At a glance, it hasn’t changed a bit as compared to the Nokia N95, nevertheless, you are being deluded here. In the Nokia N95 the 1,5 mm thick camera rim added extra girth, while the N95 8Gb’s rear is flat. And since the upgrade enjoys a higher-capacity cell, it is 8 grams heavier, which doesn’t make all the difference, though (the N95’s weight is 120 grams).
Also I would like to take this opportunity to note that Nokia-branded phones are very unlikely to come bundled with lens shutters any time soon. This widget does a lot of good to imaging-heavy solutions, since it allows the user to launch camera application with a single swipe, however there are several downsides to it as well – the foremost is that it collects dirt and dust. On top of that, the Nokia N95’s shutter slightly protruded from the casing, and thus was greatly exposed to wear and tear, so the handset tended to lose its pristine condition pretty fast.
Speaking of other things that normally don’t grab your attention, the phone now feels more balanced when you put it on the left spine. Regrettably, this setup won’t be of much use since the angle you get this way doesn’t make for comfortable video sessions.
Let’s be honest, the Nokia N95’s plastic quality was literally blasted – many claimed that its halves seemed to be poorly fixed, and on the whole it didn’t look particularly sturdy due to its thin plastic shell. All these drawbacks have been addressed in the Nokia N95 8Gb, its front fascia is now clad in glossy black plastic, which gets smudgy in no time, yet we didn’t find it prone to scuffs or scratches.
The chromed buttons sitting on the right side have been carried over from the original device and probably all their flaws have hopped on the N95 8Gb as well – specifically, the issue with their coating that wore out to the point where the transparent plastic base of these keys got exposed. At the same time the OK button is now all black and you won’t have any hardships of this kind with it, that’s for sure.
The model still employs dual-slider action, where pushing the upper slide down unveils the player controls. Unlike the Nokia N95, this phone has no multimedia menu onboard – the display will simply toggle to the landscape mode upon opening the music buttons. In fact, the multimedia menu found in the N95 was a mere concept, so the N95 8 Gb currently holds the first version of the Nokia N81-esque Multimedia menu.
The playback controls have been shape-changed as well – sitting slightly above the surface, they deliver a better tactile feel, which gives a reassuring feedback when using the buttons.
The N95 8Gb comes installed with a 2.8-inch QVGA display (230x320 pixels, 42x58 mm).Its 16 million colors and sufficient brightness make for an easy-to-read picture. While in the sun, the display gets washed out, yet remains perfectly legible.
The 8Gb’s diagonal is a clear improvement over the original N95 and its 2,6 inches (which is also quite a difference compared to other 2- and 2,2-inch units). The increased diagonal normally brings about a more blurry image, however thanks to the N95 8Gb’s brighter display, you will hardly notice this effect. The Nokia N95 8Gb’s display is competent enough to ensure that you will come out satisfied after watching videos on it, even though it doesn’t seem all that much of an upgrade over the original model.
As far as the number of text lines displayed at a time is concerned, you won’t notice any significant advantages of the N95 8Gb, although it manages to cramp an extra line into some menus, all thanks to its larger diagonal and properly tweaked fonts. For instance, the Active Standby icon bar features seven items instead of those six found on the N95.
Another change of note is the protective plastic layer covering the display, which was missing in the Nokia N95. Probably Nokia deemed it an essential part, which is quite reasonable, since they will never save much money by omitting it.
The display accommodates up to 8 text and up to 3 service lines. In some modes, though, you may get up to 14 text lines. All fonts are as sharp as they are easy to read.
The buttons are made of bare plastic, while the soft-keys are chromed. The N95 8Gb’s keypad is generally a breeze to handle – the keys are not exactly stiff, nor do they feel wobbly. They are all lit in white (ambient light sensor is onboard), so these buttons visible in various environments. The navigation button is average in size, which may give you some trouble, but all in all it is fairly easy to press. On balance, the handset’s keypad is just fine and won’t be criticized by most users.
The handset utilizes a 1200 mAh Li-Ion battery (BL-6F), whereas the Nokia N95 comes packaged with a 950 mAh Li-Pol unit (BL-5F), meaning that the 8Gb edition can carry almost 25 percent more juice, which allow it to work longer hours, but there are some new power consumers in the N95 8Gb as well – enhanced display and louder speakers.
Nokia’s engineers have tried to tweak and tune every last thing that has something to do with the phone’s software, including instantly fading display backlighting (the keypad gets locked outright), and A-GPS, employed wherever possible, and the lack of the multimedia menu when you reveal the music controls. All these tiny and seemingly insignificant details make all the difference in the phone’s battery life. All in all, in some modes you will see nearly 15-20 percent increase in the battery time, while in some applications the N95 8Gb lasts just as long.
For all owners of the Nokia N95 I shall note that the BL-6F won’t fit into its casing, whereas the N95’s cell can be installed into the new phone hands down.
The manufacturer rates the battery as being good for up to 6 hours of talk time (GSM networks, previously – 4 hours) and up to 280 of standby (previously – 220 hours). If you’ll be heavy on the N95 8Gb’s features, it will stay online for around 1,5 days with roughly 1,5 hours of calls, hourly mail checks (via Wi-Fi or EDGE) and 3 hours of music. With average use, however, it will last up to 2-3 days, and hardly more than that. From my perspective, the N95 8Gb is one of those phones you should recharge every evening. Full charging time – a little bit more than 2 hours, although the battery charges up to 80% in 1,5 hours.
Undoubtedly, the 8Gb edition’s 1,5 days of operation is a remarkable achievement, which might even save your day in some circumstances. But for the most part you will still need to plug in the charger every night.
Below is a chart with top times we managed to squeeze out of the Nokia N95 and the Nokia N95 8Gb in various applications:
As you see, the newcomer isn’t all that better than the original N95 – and again, this pretty much means that you will need to charge your N95 8Gb daily, no tremendous improvements have been made to this department.
The device comes equipped with 128 Mb of RAM, after first launch you will get around 95 Mb of free memory at your disposal, which is enough for running a dozen of applications and browsing “heavy” web-pages – the word “slow-down” is definitely not in the N95 8Gb’s vocabulary.
The volume of flash-memory makes 7672 Mb – this storage space is managed in the same fashion as memory cards.
The Nokia N95 8Gb is no different from the original Nokia N95 on this front – technically, this is one and the same device running the TI OMAP 2420 platform. Among the changes is the 8Gb edition’s RAM volume however it has almost nothing to do with the handset’s overall performance, which is proven by the tests you can find below.
USB. The handset comes in with USB 2.0 support (data transfer speeds – 600-650 Kb/s, whereas the Nokia N95 offered up to 900-950 Kb/s), upon a successful PC connection you can choose one of the following modes:
Bluetooth. The smartphone sports EDR-enabled Bluetooth 2.0 alongside the following profiles:
The top speed you can get with the N95 8Gb. Bluetooth connection is around 100 Kb/s.We also tested its A2DP profile in pair with the Sony Ericsson DS970 headset, which worked just fine – we managed our play list, skipped within tracks and adjusted volume seamlessly, however we couldn’t make current track’s title show up on the N95 8Gb’s display.
Wi-Fi. This handset comes armed with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 g) support. All security standards are supported: WEP , WPA , WPA 2, with other advanced settings available. The device supports Universal PnP standard (UPnP), which is the successor to the wired standard PnP. With its help, along with Wi-Fi, you can send slides to a TV, music to a stereo system, and photos to a printer. In a certain sense UPnP is like an add-on to the infrastructure (Wi-Fi, for example) in the form of Bluetooth-esque services, so this looks more like a software upgrade. The sales package includes Home Media Server, which allows connecting the N95 8Gb. through your home Wi-Fi network to a desktop PC.
There is also a Wi-Fi wizard available in the N95 8Gb – it can keep looking for enabled networks in the background mode and tap into them.
This feature has been carried over from the Eseries, as it retains just the same settings pool and is pretty easy to manage. The SIP protocol enables you to make calls bypassing your GSM-carrier (though you will still need an IP-telephony operator). The best thing about this solution is that you can employ Wi-Fi networks to reduce your calls-related expenses. If you would like to have a Skype-esque application on your handset, the Fring or TruPhone are the way to go.
The camera found on the Nokia N95 8Gb hasn’t undergone any newsworthy changes – it employs the same module and software settings as the Nokia N95. The two cameras are totally identical – see for yourself on the shots below.
Find our take on the N95’s camera here
Nokia N95 8Gb vs Nokia N95:
The utility marries the local search abilities and browsing. Furthermore, the search engine used in the N95 8Gb may vary by country – for Russia it is Yandex.ru. Generally, you can pick a search engine you like manually or keep the default one – Yahoo. The reason behind this differentiation between regions is that the maker deems local search engines better tweaked for respective countries.
Local search is performed in all categories, which are:
All you need to do is punch in first letters of a word and the N95 8Gb will instantly display how many matches it could find in every section, which is really handy. For the time being, Samsung-branded devices come with a quite similar feature onboard; however their search engine is somewhat less sophisticated, even though the abilities are pretty much in line with Nokia’s search.
This is a wheel-shaped menu (made its first appearance with the Nokia N81), where every tab features kindred functions. You can navigate through these tabs with the help of the navi-key or the numeric keypad.
The current version sports only six pages, whose order of appearance may be easily varied – by the default, the first tab you see is all about music (with this tab on, you can check out your library, start random playback of your tracks or view podcasts). The Games tab proposes exactly the same options as the N-Gage section. The Gallery allows you to view your last captured shot and calls up the Album. You can submit some entries to the Contacts tab, so it acts like a speed dial menu, which may come in handy on certain occasions. Internet – links to your favorite pages, Maps – points of interests and locations.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that there are a whole lot of functions typical of stand-alone apps duplicated in the N95 88Gb – in the multimedia menu you can add new bookmarks, but the browser can serve the same purposes as well. You can throw some contacts into this menu, but adding them to the list of Fast dial makes more sense. Ergonomics-wise, this menu is a complete blank, bringing nothing new to the table. It is just another way to display the phone’s contents, and that’s about it. Let’s call it a “contemporary” way.
Much like the Nokia N81, the N95 8Gb comes preinstalled with the N-Gage section. When the service is released into the wild, however, this application will be available for download for the Nokia N95 as well, so there is no real difference between these two in this sense. The 8Gb edition ships with three games –Space Impact, Asphalt 3D, Fifa07, all of them are demos, with full versions retailing for 20 Euro and more.
The handset comes with no buttons for games, even though its music controls could well double as gaming-minded keys. In my opinion, it is not very consistent of Nokia to put the Snake and some other games into a separate menu item, which somewhat fragments the handset’s gaming experience – some are N-Gage branded, some not. It is a clear misstep in the concept, bringing about ever more complexity into the phone’s menu.
The Nokia N95 8Gb comes armed with LifeBlog – application that gathers all your multimedia content in one place and then allows you to browse it via a timeline, which is interesting in a certain sense, but as far as I know very few people actually find some use for this feature, while others prefer employing the phone’s Gallery or the File Manager.
Video Center– enables the user to subscribe to various channels offering an assortment of video clips, including YouTube’s mobile version. All videos get uploaded onto the device, so that you will be able to watch them whenever you want. You can expand clips to full screen in the landscape mode, plus there is the portrait mode available with the N95 8Gb. The best way to upload clips is via home or office Wi-Fi networks.
QuickOffice comes in its shrunk edition. Specifically, with the version found in the Nokia N95 8Gb you won’t be able to edit office documents. To go beyond the Read Only mode you will need to pay extra money.
Adobe PDF – allows reading PDF-files, no complaints about the application.
ZIP – enables you to extract files from archives or create new archives.
Barcode – reads bar codes, as its name suggests. Almost of no real use these days, though.
In fact there are a multitude of things setting the software department of the N95 8Gb and the original N95 apart, however all these differences can be divided up into two camps: vital and those which will be overlooked by most users. Generally, most software enhancements found in the Nokia N95 8Gb are already available for the owners of its predecessor in one way or another – be it though software or firmware updates. Let’s run through the most vital changes:
RightMark Audio Analyzer tests:
General performance: Average
Alexander Dembovsky’s take on the Nokia N95 8Gb’s audio performance:
At the end of the day, a standard audio jack is an integral piece of any music-minded solution. It doesn’t matter how good your adapter looks, or how functional it is – any adapter is a wall separating you from a superior sonic experience.
Just like the original Nokia N95, the 8Gb edition allows you to plug in custom earphones into the 3,5 mm jack on the casing or into the socket found on the remote control. Personally, I prefer the former way, and generally, from the perspective of audio quality, that’s the best way to go.
The Nokia N95 8Gb edition’s results in our test came as no surprise, since it had sounded just like a pretty good stand-alone audio player even before we put it through its paces with RMAA. Its Frequency response is fairly smooth, however the lows could use some boost – those who can’t live without decent bass will need to use the equalizer here. As for all other parameters, the N95 8Gb is a solid performer – good noise level, few distortions. The phone’s spec sheet will satisfy the average music aficionado, and given its 3,5 mm jack and a slew of options, the Nokia N95 8Gb is a pretty decent solution for playing music.
The output signal strength is pretty average here, the Nokia N95 8Gb is tweaked to handle earbud-style and some clip-on headphones (with low level of input resistance).
The Nokia N95 8Gb’s music department is no different from that of the Nokia N95. Learn more about it here
As you see, the N958Gb doesn’t come with any fundamental software upgrades – most new features it packs under the hood are available as add-ons to the Nokia N95. Maybe the integration of LifeBlug into the context menu will count as an improvement for some power users, but the majority of the phone’s owners won’t even notice that.
The table below puts all points we have made throughout this review together.
The reception quality provided by the N95 8Gb is up to Nokia’s standards, nothing to worry about here – the sound in the earpiece is clear, and people on the other end of our calls reported no problems. The vibro alert is pretty average strength-wise. The volume of ring tones, all thanks to the phone’s stereo-speakers, is over the roof, you will hear it from your bag, not to mention outerwear. Compared to the Nokia N95, the top volume level has jumped even higher (subjectively, by 10-15 percent).
There are a lot of ways to think of the Nokia N95 8Gb – some will see it as another Nokia N95 that has had all its flaws dealt with, and some might reckon it as a brand-new offering. But since it was initially planned as an addition to the Nokia N95, its arrival is neither surprising nor shocking. The market will have both versions of the handset, whose ways will be crossing only on open markets, like Russia. Carrier-driven regions won’t allow for conflicts between these two phones.
Actually, the foremost benefit you get with the Nokia N95 8Gb is its RAM volume, which is now twice the size of the original N95 – this lends a whole new feel to the device, renders it much easier to use. The current version of the Multimedia menu brings no exciting touches – it still hasn’t replaced the main menu in the NSeries devices and isn’t really popular as of today. In fact we are now being told this menu is possible and also shown the way it might look.
The model comes in as a video-savvy solution, hence its huge diagonal and storage space. For the time being, Nokia doesn’t focus the audience’s attention on that, but video is what this phone is all about. Among all NSeries-branded solutions, the N95 8Gb fits in the role of a pocketable video player best. Furthermore, it is pretty much in line with contemporary players, being second to, well, only the Apple Touch – the king of video-inclined portable players.
In Europe the handset will retail for around 570 Euro (before taxes), while in Russia the official sales kick off at the level of 750-800 Euro. The reason for a gap this big is not exactly in VAT, but in Nokia’s strategy, when the company openly overprices its products for Russian distributors, increasing its wholesale prices by 10-12 percent. There is a multitude of reasons for that, yet we won’t go into detail in this particular write-up. The bottom line when officially supplied N95 8Gbs will still be profitable is 700-730 Euro – the market will reach it by February. At the same time, unofficial supplies of the handset from other regions will offer more affordable prices – even today these units go for 700-750 Euro, and are expected to get even cheaper (around 600 Euro) in the future.
If you don’t own a Nokia N95, but consider this device for your next phone purchase, here is a piece of advice from me – grab a Nokia N95 8Gb, it is the safest way to go in our case. And if you already have a Nokia N95, and by and large you feel content with it, the new model is definitely not for you; given the substantial price gap it won’t be an adequate replacement. Better wait for the end of summer 2008 to buy the company’s next flagship.
The Nokia N95 8Gb faces no direct competition on the market, expect for the NSeries offerings we listed above. The best thing about it is that today consumers are offered to pick the feature pack and the form-factor they need from this line-up.
Published 22 November 2007
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