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Review of GSM-handset Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition
Launch of a top-notch fashion handset by the market’s best company has always been a momentous event. For Nokia’s range the flagships were the models coming from the 8xxx series and the release of Nokia 8800 more than a year ago demonstrated that the market of luxurious device was greatly underestimated. In an eyewink this model outdid all its rivals within the price-bracket and became a true best-seller. Nokia 8800 was such a big success on the Russian market, that Nokia launched Black Edition of the phone exclusively for our country. Even though the price for the Black 8800 was initially considerably higher than that for a standard silvery one, today the gap is not so big. The hype around Nokia 8800 was generated mainly by lack of rivals in the “900-1200 USD” price-bracket. Thus launch of a Special Edition for Nokia 8800 is not just another attempt to vary colors, on the contrary – the new version freshens up almost all aspects of the device. The index has remained the same due to the company wanting the newcomer to make use of Nokia 8800’s success. Hence the new model is seemingly equal to its predecessor design-wise – it features only slightly tuned casing and in-depth upgrade of the hardware filling (camera, memory and features). The renewed model is named “Sirocco Edition” – after the wind born in the Sahara to clash with the cold waters of the Mediterranean.
On the face of it, the model’s design is not that much different from the original 8800 - the thumb rest, located beneath the screen got deeper. Initially meant for helping to slide the handset open, now in some way it is the signature of Sirocco Edition, which on top of that allows for the light to blink and sparkle on the metal. The casing is still made of stainless steel.
The shape of the rest below the screen was changed as well – now it’s not just a curve barely sticking out of the display’s surface. Pressing the sides of this curve reveals pretty-much comfortable soft-keys mounted on the ends. Your finger will hardly slip off and hit the screen, as it occasionally happened with Nokia 8800. The main loudspeaker’s grill has been tuned a bit, so that now it looks more ascetic, but at the same time attracts loads of dust.
Nokia 8800 SE initially comes in two color schemes – Black and Steel
The dimensions of the handset haven’t been modified, or almost haven’t – it got 1mm thicker (107õ45õ17.5 mm). Taking account of Nokia’s honesty when it comes to dimensions, they always state maximum casing’s thickness, so here we have a device being about 16mm thin on average. The weight has increased by 4 grams and now makes 138 grams in total.
Before getting down to reviewing other features of the device, I would like to dwell on the sales package – basically this device is one of the market’s best proposals package-wise, as the owner receives practically every last thing that he might need to use the handset to its fullest. In the box one will find an appealing carrying pouch looking almost like those cases for Vertu. The pouch cannot be attached to your belt, though - it’s only a kind of wrapping for the phone.
The desk stand has become a good tradition for flagship solutions like this device. It looks very solid complementing the phone’s image, but apart from the good looks it packs some functionality as well – with its help you can charge both the handset and extra battery.
What really provoked heated discussion is presence of two batteries in the sales package and indirectly announced lifetime enhancement. As you might remember, Nokia 8800’s greatest flaw was power consumption – on active use the charge went off every day. Even though a carkit with loudspeaker mode and charger saved the day, a few used them with this model. Another possible way out was the desk stand, but the minority could afford placing their phones there every time when the charge went low. As a result – the battery run down daily, so that one needed to charge it the whole night.
Regrettably, the dreams of considerable lifetime boost have remained just sweet illusions. As the manufacturer claims, the handset provides 240 hours of standby time; while for Nokia 8800 that figure was about 190 hours. Increase in lifetime by a quarter looks really interesting, thought it is empiric. In our case the device kept on lasting one day or so, at that it was better than Nokia 8800 by around 10 percent (at comparable number of calls and other interactions). Indeed, the new Li-Pol battery has the capacity of 700 mAh, whereas Nokia 8800’s Li-Ion battey could boast only 600 mAh. As a matter of fact, the understanding of how low the device’s lifetime was, made the manufacturer include an extra battery in package. Judging by the sales volume and experience of handling Nokia 8800, mediocre lifetime turns out to be a disappointing shortcoming, which is, although, outweighed by its status and fashion aspects.
Having mentioned the two batteries in the standard kit, I simply have to utter some words about the sales package on the whole. The handset itself rests in a cardboard box clipped with a metallic belt, removing it and opening the package will stun you for a few seconds, as the standard kit is really impressive. The wired mono-headset HS-15 found here was shipped with the previous model – it’s made mainly for the conservative ones.
Though there is a thing of real interest – Bluetooth headset BH-801, released specially for this model, which can be found only in its package. The index implies that this accessory is the successor to the BH-800, which is true, but design-wise and, well, hardware-wise too, it reminds more of the BH-700 (a simplified edition of that headset in terms of materials used). The headset’s appearance is made to blend with Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition’s looks, that is how come it retains white metal, black lacquered and dull surfaces. The headset comes only in one trim. The loop can be attached as well, though the BH-801 doesn’t fall down even if without it. You can find the review on the BH-700 made by Mobile-Reivew.com by following this link.
But enough of talking about the package – we are to get back to unveiling differences between the models and therefore we are facing-off the keypads now. Apparently, on Nokia 8800 SE buttons occupy slightly less space, but at the same time they have been made sloped and bulkier, so that they are convenient to use. The bottom row is not always easy to use – you might find yourself brushing the slider’s edge, but on the whole everything is on a pretty high level here.
The slide mechanism hasn’t changed a bit – the cover easily slides back and forth.
The navigation key possesses really splendid looks, but as against the one found on Nokia 8800, its ease of use is not as good. Pick/hang up buttons are made of large metallic plates – quite unordinary, yet fetching solution. The keypad is lit in white, which provides fair illumination level for most conditions.
The screen has been adopted from Nokia 8800 without any changes. It runs on a TFT-matrix (262 K colors) with the resolution of 208x208 pixels at physical dimensions of 31õ31 mm. Being tiny in size, the screen displays very smooth and eye-candy picture. Taking account of the handset’s measurements, the display here is a top-notch one that doesn’t have any rivals in this segment. In fact, the display’s size didn’t allow Nokia to tune the keypad and make it easier to use. The screen can hold up to five text and two service lines at a time. Font size can be adjusted – with the biggest one you will have 4 slightly more readable lines on the screen, while the smallest size increases number of lines to 6. The display handles the sun in a convenient fashion, however tiny font are almost impossible to distinguish. Reduction of the font size has resulted from high resolution applied. Snaps taken with the built-in camera look quite good on the screen mainly owing to the display’s specifications, nevertheless colors turn out to be faded as compared to pre-installed images.
Volume of bundled memory has been expanded to 128 Mb (with 105 Mb being available to user), which is quite something, when thinking of 47.5 Mb found on Nokia 8800. Lack of memory card slot onboard appears to be out of place here, however the manufacturer has reserved this feature for the upcoming model in this range that is to hit the stores in the middle of 2007.
Amplified storage doesn’t allow for freedom of action for you, though – using the handset as an MP3-player is impossible, as the manufacturer has deliberately cut down such functionality. The intention is pretty simple: you want some music? – then go for a tailored device, for example Nokia N91. By the way, radio still works in mono-mode, at that sound cannot be transferred to a Bluetooth-headset while listening to radio. The handset retains support for Bluetooth A2DP-profile, however it matches that of Nokia 8800 and Nokia 6233. Missing remote player management (only sound volume on the headset), quite average sounding, resembling mono more – all that can be found on this handset. So all we have to do is establish the fact that this solution is no music phone, furthermore, the manufacturer itself is trying to leave out those seeking for more feature-packed and youth-aimed solutions. It’s a clever marketing step aimed at segmenting the audience even further and finding the “right” consumers – this adds to the device’s image and motivates other to purchase the handset.
Lack of credible music capabilities does not mean the designers have dropped out sound in this model at all – it is not so. The tunes for Sirocco Editions were written by Brian Eno, the founder of a whole new trend in music (ambient). The melodies sound very nice and somewhat blend with the handset’s appearance. All in all, using exclusive themes is becoming a good tradition for flagship solutions - Nokia 8800 had similar set of tunes onboard, but in their turn, most of them were created by the Japanese composer, Ryuichi Sakamoto.
The handset runs on S40 3rd edition platform – an in-depth review of this software shell and its functionality can be found here.
Pre-installed applications. The company’s luxurious handsets are getting to include more top-notch games than any other model and the 8800 Sirocco Edition is the record-holder in this regard. The corresponding menu offers chess, Golf Tour (exciting 3D golf), Snake III (no introduction needed), and Solitaire (despite our high hopes turned out to be just a Solitaire).
Though there are not so many extras available – only World Time and Converter II.
The distinctive feature of a fashion handset is vast variety of installed themes that can appeal to any taste (here there are 13 of them), on the 8800 Sirocco they all include graphics and some of them are truly eye-candy and blend with the handset’s design really well.
Camera. This handset has 2mpx camera (CMOS) which is not that much as of today’s standards. Nokia decided not to bet on the camera part, it is more of an optional feature, similarly to Nokia 6233. This is why camera’s module that was selected for 6233 is one of the cheapest, and provides average quality, if not to say bad one. In dark conditions camera refuses to work normally, exposure time increases and every movement your hand makes within that time leads to blurry image in the end. Dark conditions are considered daytime in summer on a street where there’s not much of sunlight. Indoors it is even worse. In case you consider the camera to be a nominal solution – it is pretty much comfortable, but taking account of the display’s tiny size, the snaps taken with the 8800 Sirocco look not very good.
Following resolutions are supported:
Two minimal resolutions were added for creating photos that would fit as wallpapers for display. Three JPEG compression types are supported: basic, normal, high. Considering the fact that photos do not blow your imagination away, it is better to set maximal quality, it won’t be worse than it is.
Shutter sound can be disabled, there is 8x digital zoom, but there is no reason to use it. Some effects can be applied to already made photos, should they be used initially – it is up to you to decide. Such effects as Greyscale, Sepia, Negative are available. There is also a self-timer onboard.
I offer you to look at photos made in different conditions, and I believe you will be able to conduct your own opinion about their quality (maximal resolution, best quality).
Video. Handset allows recording video in 3GP format, available resolution – 128x96 pixels, or 176x144 pixels. Recording quality has three grades to choose from. You can limit recording’s length, but it also can be limitless, until free memory runs out (of memory card or internal memory). Effects can be applied for video just as they can be applied for photos, they are one and the same. Video looks quite average when watched on the handset and definitely it’s not impressive.
The volume of 64-tone polyphony is enough for almost any conditions. The receiving part also does fine, as it equals all other phones of the current generation. The silent alarm is average strength-wise, but can be still felt while the handset is in pocket. Potential drawbacks include being dirt and fingerprints magnet, especially the 8800 Sirocco’s black trim; but on the other hand metal surface doesn’t expose dirt stains – the material used refines the handset, if I may say so. Thus most crucial flaw of the model is mediocre one-day lifetime, other things seem to be fine with the device.
Tunes by Brian Eno sound good, but offer no breakthrough. An obvious shortcoming of the 8800 Sirocco, as a product of this class, is pretty moderate sounding of ring tones – single loudspeaker cannot handle the job all alone, so that at maximum volume it sounds a bit raspy. For the very fist time a fashion flagship cannot cope with that a mid-range model has to offer – for example Nokia 6233 does better in the sense of sound quality. Other bits regarding flaws include dust getting under the speaker’s grill and forcing you to clean regularly to make the Sirocco look complete again.
The price for this unit makes 1000 Euro and will not go any lower for quite a while in future. The device is destined to open the “1000 Euro and higher” range – Nokia is aiming at getting close to the edge of 2000 Euro and release such models for the mass market once in a year or two. It’s interesting to know that Vertu-branded products are slowly moving towards lower price-brackets, even though this trend is not very evident. If you are looking for a thing to invest into, Nokia 8800 SE should be on your short list, as the model will be in the group of the most prestigious devices for a long time.
More than a year ago, in “Impressions” part of Nokia 8800’s review I wrote literally the following: «The main advantage of the phone is its design. There are no copies on the market now. Considering the price of 850-900 Euro, the device may be named as one of the most expensive on the market (not taking into account the Vertu series). There are no rivals, neither Samsung (no metal in sliders, the image oriented on the general public mainly) products nor Motorola's solutions (RAZR, PEBL are interesting but also oriented on the general public). The Nokia 8800 is ideal to demonstrate personal status, since the principle "the more expensive - the better and more prestigious" is still present on many markets. Reasoning from this, no disadvantages in the software or functionality may be mentioned, the very radio is not interesting to the target group. The Nokia 8800 will have no direct rivals in the course of a year; Motorola will launch a similar product only in the end of the 2Q next year. Considering Nokia has already prepared a renewed version of the device, the product by Motorola has some perspectives in the 600-700 Euro segment. The Nokia 8800i (let's consider all written below a malicious supposition only) will distinguish from the original device in the colour solution (lacquer in a Dart Wader style or, precisely, his mask, very pleasant and unordinary), a 1.23 MP camera, stereo output and the presence of a memory card (microSD most likely, though that is a question to discuss). The battery capacity will increase slightly, which will keep the same battery life approximately. All the other characteristics will be principally comparable (if not considering the presence of Wireless USB Storage principal). This product may be expected a year after the Nokia 8800 sales started. Another question is this announcement will greatly depend on similar models by other manufacturers.»
The conclusion written about a year ago holds true for the up-to-date Sirocco Edition as well. The success of Nokia 8800 on market has prevented the company from releasing upgraded versions, featuring better functionality, since such approach could have negatively affected both the sales volume of Nokia 8800 and its image of a high status-holding gadget. If the sales were only a bit poorer, the manufacturer would have definitely tried to come up with a more feature-packed model to stir up the sales; but that didn’t happen after all.
Motorola’s solutions (KRZR, RIZR) arrived on the market with huge delays, and in light of the company experiencing technological difficulties, they were equipped worse that it had been expected. All this resulted in a different way of positioning, different target segment, other than Nokia 8800 SE’s one; in other words the devices were released a quarter too late as compared to the original schedule.
Reasoning from the current situation on the market, we are to expect the next renewal of Nokia 8800 in the summer of 2007. Apparently, the device’s main features would be stereo-out, support for memory cards, updated software version (FP1 or 2 for S40 3rd edition). Similarly to Nokia 8800, which was a replica of Nokia 6230i in many respects, today’s Nokia 8800 SE copies Nokia 6233. In a nutshell, launch of a flagship for S40-based devices will bring to life another flagship in the fashion range. Many are keen to know “what features would be cut down in the new model as compared to its brother-in-arms coming from the 6000 series?». In my opinion, the answer is quite obvious: a fashion device doesn’t need WiFi too much, thus this feature would be missing.
And finally, I’m going to answer the question I have been asked by our readers, my friends and colleagues in course of this month over and over again: is Sirocco Edition worthy of taking the place of Nokia 8800’s previous editions? Visually, the differences aren’t too sharp, as well as the gap in prices. The previous editions have managed to maintain their attraction as fashion solutions, at that haven’t undergone major drop in prices, and as a result they still do the job. So, is there any real need in replacing older models? As for me, it’s not worth it, however, if you have both desire and money, why shouldn’t you please yourself?
Possible alternatives of Nokia 8800 Sirocco are Vertu-branded phones, costing four time plus as much and bringing their owners to a truly another level of status in return. Functionality-wise the new Constellation collection scheduled for release in November equals Nokia 8800 SE saving for camera, outweighed by various appealing services, though.
In case you are not willing to lay 4000-4500 Euro on the line for a handset, but still would rather have a luxurious solution, the only option on your shortlist will be Nokia 8800 SE. Among mass off-the-shelf products, this is the most expensive one – speaking of mass sales, it’s important to realize that here “mass” should be applied only to the solution’s target audience, where penetration level will be topping out. Basically, this very model is doomed to being a bestseller owing to its price and honorable legacy of the predecessors.
SAR value for this model is 0.5 W/kg
P.S. Curious facts about this model are seemingly not going to run out – for the Sirocco Edition, over at Nokia they applied encryption of themes and other content for the very first time, in order to restrict use of Nokia 8800 SE’s exclusive features outside the handset. The similar approach is made use of in Vertu-labeled phones, which forces users to get a microphone and record the tunes to share them in mp3 afterwards. However Nokia 8800 SE’s content is not worth all that hype, as it would hardly go for other models’ images.
Published 03 November 2006
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