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Review Nokia N-Gage. Part 1

Standard kit:

  • Game console
  • Charger
  • Battery BL-5C
  • Portable stereo handsfree
  • Synchronization cable
  • Audio cable
  • Users guide
  • Software CD

Nokia N-Gage, live pictures

Nokia is always looking for new markets and offers new variants of already known devices. Accessories, multimedia devices and game consoles (starting from this year) fall under comprehension diversification. The company has seen big potential in the youth audience. The majority of products are headed exactly to it. As against aged people young people buy phones actively, often change them and look for custom model. During last years the lion's share of sales falls on this market segment. The importance of young people is impossible to be underestimated, but on the other hand all the attempts to release exactly youth device became fatal.

Among Nokias products one can remember music box - Nokia 5510. It has been predicted for big success, but the market fate was other. The reincarnation of this device, Nokia 3300 was also unsuccessful. The product remained a niche solution. The emphasis was laid on music listening in this two products, but Nokia went further in its new attempt to gain new market share.

What, in your opinion, needs average statistical young man or young girl? Try to remember what devices they use, what are fond of. The majority will remember music listening, intercourse by cell phone (mainly SMS-messages), internet and all other leisure types including different PC games. Clearly that one device couldnt replace PC, phone, player; it would need performing too much different tasks. But on the other hand, its possible to create a device, which will perform such tasks partially, so has appeared N-Gage project.

Smartphone Nokia 7650 was taken as a basis for game console, its adaptation for new tasks seemed the least expensive. On the other hand the form-factor was obvious; the device should be horizontal for its comfortable placing in two hands, as it is more convenient in games, which could occupy several hours.

If to take up N-Gages composition youll see some similarity with Nokia 3300. For inexperienced users this similarity forms the meaning about similarity, i.e. the devices differ in minor features. But thats wrong. The differences are in the software, N-Gage has installed Symbian, that makes the device smartphone and in no way usual phone.

Consoles dimensions are rather big (133.7x69.7x20.2 mm), but its little by thickness. Many are deceived its seeming size. N-Gage weighs more than usual phone, but its weight is comparable to smartphones (137g). If to compare N-Gage with competing consoles, it will look attractively.

And now imagine, devices developers have to combine several opposite features in it, on the one hand they have to make keys maximal convenient in games, on the other hand the keyboard should be fit for typing SMS-messages. Clearly, its necessary to choose priorities, so the palm was given to game features. If to take the console in hand, the big left finger will lie on gamepad, and the same right finger will lie on key 5. It was specially lifted up over the keyboard. Its form was also changed. Pressing this key in games means OK. Lower and to the left locates key 7, which also differs. Its function in games is Cancel and browse up.

Such keyboard design helps in games, but it is inconvenient when typing SMS-messages, one can adapt to it. Especially inconvenient are outer keys (3,6,9), they are too sunk in the case. Keyboards backlight is red, the designations are drawn with mid size font. It is not always well visible in different light conditions.

Joystick supports pressing on in, plus it is 8-way, that will be useful in games. In case of usual navigation in becomes 4-way, plus pressing. Send call and release keys are placed above the device, on on each side of the screen. It is not typical placement, but reasoning from the general mounting of elements it is not the worst. When using N-Gage you always think the developers was creating game console, the rest of functions was made maximum comfortable using vestigial principle.

Finishing talking about the keyboard its necessary noting it is convenient in games, satisfactory when typing SMS and relatively comfortable when dialing a number. Anyway you should adapt to such design. This process will take several days.

The phone has separate keys for music player, radio and main menu. The confirmation the phone is not the main function in this device serves its realization. To talk by N-Gage is possible using handsfree (stereo, with 2 connectors) and without it. But in the last case you have to hold the device side part toward yourself. Ill try describing this more minutely, on the remote side-frame is placed speaker, you should press the ear to it. So, the microphone is below, but on the other side, near to mini-USB connector.

Its rather strange feeling when you see a person, holding the phone in such way. But the external manifestations are not very important. Speakers volume is excessive, the device should be rotated traditionally. But here arise other problem, you hear badly the interlocutor, and he doesnt hear you distinctly. It results its impossible talking traditionally using N-Gage, you should use handsfree function or use portable handsfree. The developers didnt consider this lack serious, as young people prefer SMS-messages to call, and they have huge experience using headphones, so such way of communication doesnt cause seizure. Such opinion is disputable, as this game console will be considered as cell phone by many. The purchase of N-Gage becomes impossible for this audience.

You can see mini-USB connector on the left side of the device. Connection to PC is realized using it, the cable is included into the standard kit, but it also can be found in usual PC shops. Charger connector is located near to it.

Power on/off button is located on the right devices side.

On the butt-end of the device are located 2 headset connectors and an outlet. Its a speaker for handsfree function. Such placement makes the sound louder in this mode, its comfortable to talk, especially if to compare it with other models from Nokia.

Some words about the screen. It displays up to 4096K colors and its resolution makes 176x220 pixels (30x42mm). The picture is bright, graphically. It fades on the sun, but the screen is readable (TFT). The matrix shows itself in the best way, the picture is live, no artifacts are visible on the screen when the personage moves fast. If to talk about usual applications the screen displays up to 6 text lines, text labels for soft keys and big header. The screen is similar to other smartphones from Nokia.

This model has changeable face panels, but it was impossible to find notification about this feature on the official Nokias site. The panels are easy to change, but they are fixed surely. The keyboard is also changeable, thats a big plus for the device.

Having released the back panel youll SIM-card holders, MMC-card slot and also battery. The main minus of the device is MMC-slot covered by the battery, so you should turn off the phone when changing card (its necessary when changing game). Such holder is not typical for game consoles, neither for cell phones, its Nokias know-how. But it seems like the reason of such MMC-slots placement is the reduction of development price, because the device shouldnt process card change and corresponding errors.

The device has lithium-ionic battery BL-5C, capacity makes 850 mAh. According to the manufacturer the battery is capable to provide up to 4 hours of talk time and up to 200 hours of standby time. The device operated up to 3 days in case of 35 minutes of calls and up to 45 minutes of using other functions. If you are using handsfree and bluetooth the device will operate up to 2 days.

The console is capable to provide up to 6 hours of game time. But the sound can be played thru headphones or thru speaker, so the power consumption is less in the first case.

In order to receive real data about operation time of the device in game mode it was given to a child, which tortured it for several every evening. The results were rather designing. So fully charged battery runs down after 2-2.5 hours of playing. The difference in 30 minutes depends on game type, in 2D games its grater, in 3D games its less.

Curiously, during playing the console warns about discharged battery, after 1 message you can play about 15 min. So if you are going to use N-Gage as game console and as cell phone, you should recharge it every day. Active users, who plan gaming a lot, should purchase additional battery. Time of full recharging is less than 2 hours.

In radio mode the device is capable to operate up to 20 hours, in music mode up to 8.

Battery level indication is not always correct, it can change rather abruptly, especially when using different functions during small intervals, for example, little conversation, the gaming during 15 min and etc.

Some words about MMC-cards. The device support only following cards: 32, 64 and 128Mb. Memory card is not included into the standard kit. Only phones memory is available by default.

Part 2>>>

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Andreas Von Horn (andreas@mobile-review.com)
Published — 1 October 2003

 

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

 

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