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Review of GSM/UMTS-smartphone Nokia N95. Music
Live photos of Nokia N95
Nokia N95 is indisputably the most hyped novelty of this season and sets off to be its segment’s one of the most popular offerings. That is why we are now stepping aside from our usual review structure and instead taking a closer look at the major constituents of the handset, and today we are kicking off with the music department.
Music department. It may be safely said that Nokia N95 is among the music-minded smartphones by Nokia, even though the manufacturer itself does not deliberately spotlight that, preferring to push all features of the device. The package the N95 comes in indicates that this solution will cater for music lovers as well as everybody else.
The left-hand side houses a 3,5 mm audio jack, used for plugging in custom earphones, i.e. those you have grown fond of. The bundled headphones simply radiate style, with the armored cable in transparent braiding. There is a plastic clip on the wire, so that you can always shorten the cord by hooking the cable with it. The headphones that come boxed with the N95 are not in the running for the best-sounding earphones around, being inferior both to those coming with Nokia 3250 and Nokia N91. If you want to make the most of this device, you should better have custom headphones plugged in.
The remote control comes packaged with the phone and bears strong resemblance to that of Nokia N91 – with its help you can manage playback by rewinding, pausing, playing tracks and also answer a call with the dedicated button. The sides are loaded with volume rocker and Hold slider respectively. As someone would say, it lives up to what we have come to expect from the company, and on top of all that, the front fascia of the remote is made of metal. Clipping the remote on your clothes was never an issue.
I should emphasize it again, that the handset’s big attraction is the 3,5 mm audio jack placed on the casing and on the remote, which enables you to go for either of the jacks. However, when plugging headphones into the shell-mounted socket, the N95 fails to identify them automatically, asking you what gadget you have just connected and offering the following options: TV-Out cable, headphones or Music Stand. Although since you have to select only once, this is not annoying.
List of supported formats: AAC, AAC+, eAAC, eAAC+, MP3, MP4, M4A, WMA, Mobile XMF, SP-MIDI, AMR (NB-AMR), MIDI Tones (poly 64), RealAudio 7,8,10, True tones (WB-AMR), WAV. MP3-files with various bit rates, including VBR, are seamlessly played back by the N95. On synchronization with Windows Media Player 11 and higher, you can take advantage of protected DRM-files (Janus DRM).
Player interface found in the N95 sports run-of-the-mill design, but still we feel like dwelling upon it a little more. First, it boasts full-fledged support for Album Arts, thumbnails of images shown on the display are quite large; then you can turn on one of the two visual effects, though if that’s the case, the N95 will initiate the visualization you’ve picked in full-screen mode. It makes no sense at all, though, and more importantly constantly working backlighting knocks the battery life down.
Track title and artist are displayed, as well as player controls. Progressive fast-forward is enabled. Generally speaking, music playback may be managed via the remote control, dedicated player keys and the navigation pad – you are free to choose any way you like and that’s just great. You don’t like the remote, then put hands on dedicated controls and so on.
Equalizers. As equalizer settings are modified, the sonic experience varies considerably. Every of the 6 pre-installed equalizers features 8 bands and is fully user-manageable, saving for the default settings. The list of presets is as follows - Bass Booster, Classical, Jazz, Pop, Rock. In the Sound Settings you can adjust balance, Stereo Widening and Loudness.
The handset has random and repeat (all or one track) playback modes onboard.
While at the standby screen the display gets filled up with data on currently playing song – for the most part, when handling the music player, the display layout switches to landscape, yet flicking the N95 open gets it back to portrait orientation.
Calling up the Music Menu allows you to browse all tracks, playlists, sort the library by artists, albums, genres and composers. The music library (or the track list, as you want) gets updated automatically on every successful synchronization attempt with PC with via Nokia PC Suite, and in case you use a memory card with pre-loaded tracks, this doesn’t happen. Among all other things, we must note the Library Details feature.
Memory cards accepted by the N95 are microSD, some package variations include 1 Gb memory card by default (only for selected markets). At present the biggest card you can get in the market carries 2 Gb onboard and easily gets along with the N95. As more capacious units are arriving in the market, the handset won’t have any problems with handling them either.
Synchronization with PC. Music can be gotten onto the device by the means of Bluetooth, which, as a rule, is not convenient, WiFi, which can be hard to get in every given place. So the second best way to upload music is copying tracks onto the memory card via card-reader, as miniUSB-powered data transfer (the socket is mounted on the casing) is the easiest way to keep the N95 up on the state of your music library. In the latter case you can pick one of the four modes:
Everything is straightforward here, in settings you can enable pop up windows asking you which connection type you’d like to use every time or just set one mode as the default option. A stand-alone application is Nokia’s very own application allowing you to synchronize you music library with the handset, I experienced no hardships with running it.
Sonic experience. Probably the most subjective and hardest aspect to rate. Everyone has his own vision of the world, thus it is inevitable that some find even excessively loud music very tuneful, whereas the others seek average volume and adequate reproduction of all frequencies. So as not to sway towards subjective assessments, we carried out instrumental measurements, yet the result will be presented to our readers a bit later. And for now we are facing off Nokia N95 against other smartphones by the company - Nokia 3250, Nokia N80, Nokia N91, in all cases we used one and the same headset plugged in the default remote or adapter (for the N80).
The sonic experience delivered by Nokia N95 loses to that of Nokia N91 and loses by a mile. They don’t even stay close to each other – Nokia N91 outputs much sweeter sounding. Subjectively, Nokia N95 seems somewhat better than Nokia 3250, Nokia N80, but the difference is quite subtle. The volume level is good, especially when used with custom headphones. All in all, the N95 provides average sonic experience for Nokia’s solutions, but how the things stand when it is put head to head with stand-alone mp3 players? We picked Sony Walkman NW-S203F for the test, which is not the company’s best offerings, being a typical middling solution at all points. Then we uploaded the same albums onto both gadgets and started playback (identical headphones, for Nokia N95 plugged in the shell-mounted jack). And the first thing we came across was the volume level, which was 20-25 percent higher on the player., even though it has quite sub-standard maximum volume settings.
It turns out that a stand-alone music player puts up higher volume and better sonic experience, keeping the sound similarly penetrating on all volume settings. At the same time at full blast Nokia N95 gave us metallic tones, being unable to cope with the overload.
Basing on the subjective feeling, we will say that a dedicated player comes out on top in the competition against Nokia N95, as the latter is obviously not meant to cater for music aficionados; it is good for the times when you are in underground, where clear and noise-less playback is not possible at all, or just want to listen to radio. But if you are after superb sound quality, this handset will hardly fit your needs. And since the music department is only one-of-the-crowd in this do-it-all phone, there shouldn’t be any problems – first you should adequately look at what Nokia N95 can do and forget about proclaiming it the best music-minded solution around, then you won’t experience any post-purchase frustrations.
P.S. Comparison of the N95’s sound quality with iPhone (it is not a mistake), has revealed total domination with the latter (with volume level being 30-35 percent higher), equalizers have more impact on the sounding, and the sound itself is richer and more penetrating, on top of that there are some extra service modes and interface enhancements. However the gap separating these offerings’ release dates makes such comparison useless.
Playback time. At maximum volume settings and random playback with default headphones and remote control used, the handset lasted for about 8,5 hours. In real life situations, 2-3 hours of music playback won’t have any significant impact on the N95’s battery life, which still gives us 1 day of operation.
Bluetooth. The smartphone retains EDR-enabled Bluetooth 2.0. The handset supports the following profiles:
Bluetooth data connection speed averages 100 Kb/s. We tested out the ability to beam stereo-sound onto a headset with the help of Sony Ericsson DS970 – playback management was never an issue with it, though we weren’t able to see current track title on its display. The sound quality matched what we experienced with wired headphones, providing no breakthrough. Hence we are drawing a conclusion that it is the device we should blame for this sonic experience, rather than the 3,5 mm jack mounted on the casing.
By and large, transferring sound to a stereo-headset brings about no problems.
Visual Radio – online radio that allows not only listening to music, but also viewing corresponding images and lyrics on the phone’s display.
FM radio – this application sports standard interface, with the ability to save up to 20 stations. When tested in city, the radio worked in its usual way.
The handset houses two stereo-speakers placed on either side of the casing. The volume they put up is slightly above average, but in terms of sound quality they are far behind Nokia 6233, and don’t sound too loud, being a tad quieter than those on Nokia N73. Even though you may give it a go and use the phone as a pocketable juke box, it won’t make much sense, as with volume turned full blast you will surely notice sound distortions.
Nokia N95 faced off against Walkman range by Sony Ericsson
We it comes to comparing products, then the market’s best solutions should serve as the benchmark, and as of today, Sony Ericsson branded offerings top the music market. It is important to understand that Nokia is a runner-up on the music front, but has managed to make a major leap up in a short time span. See for yourself:
On the face of it, Nokia N95 is handier as a music-minded device, proposing a tad more abilities (miniUSB, 3.5 mm jack). But on the other hand, such very vital detail as sonic experience, that outweighs all these draws, is not on Nokia N95’s side. So it turns out that creating a convergent solution the manufacturer has intentionally given up on enhancing the sound quality by leaving it on the platform’s default level, without getting it in line even with Nokia N91.
Published 08 April 2007
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