Nokia n8 review

Nokia's N8 is the flagship model for the firm, and it's clear to see that it's tried to make it the most premium phone it can.

The main thing was supposed to be the price: the phone was initially announced with a price tag of €370, which would have been much, much cheaper than the comparable iPhone 4 (at £499) or the Samsung Galaxy S (at £449).

However, now Nokia is selling it for £429 direct and SIM free, which means one of its main USPs has now sailed out the window.

It's towards the budget end of the high end smartphone set though - like the Galaxy S and HTC Desire it costs just £30 for a two year contract with a free phone, whereas the ridiculously expensive iPhone 4 will set you back nearly double that each 30 days.

We liked

We enjoyed a lot of things about the Nokia N8 once we had become used to the foibles of the UI.

The media experience is cracking, if a bit simplistic at times, and the performance well above average.

The camera works very well in most conditions, and the video recording lives up to its word – it really is high definition and looks it.

Nokia n8 review

The range of video and audio codecs supported is dizzying, and even those it's not supposed to play back still work.

Widgets are a nice touch, and one we wish Apple would get involved with. Talking of which, being able to watch Flash video on the handset was brilliant too (when it worked).

The anodised aluminium shell is likely to win a fair few admirers, and the Nokia N8 is streets, towns, even counties ahead in terms of battery life compared to some phones, easily offering a two day use under normal conditions.

We disliked

Everything that we didn't like about this phone can be traced back to the user interface and Nokia's stubborn approach to updating its ageing platform and user interaction.

Basically, the Nokia N8 feels like a phone the old version of S60 with a spot of spit-and-shine and some new features on top – more home screens, added widgets and multi-touch do not suddenly make it a decent smartphone.

The menu systems are still too convoluted in our opinion, as is moving things around for personalisation.

Essentially, the Nokia N8 works in the same way as the Nokia N97 and the Nokia X6 should have worked when they were released, offering swift operation and a bevy of cooler features, instead of the bug-filled handsets we were given.

The internet browser still feels like a throwback to phones of yesteryear, and the lack of QWERTY keyboard option in portrait mode is really annoying, as is the lack of auto correct for the full QWERTY in landscape.

Verdict

The Nokia N8 is a tricky one to judge: it's a phone that will do very well with the Nokia fans, as it's easily the best Symbian device ever made, and those that have bought similar handsets will be delighted that nearly all of the foibles from the older S60 are gone.

But for the smartphone user that's coming to the end of their first Android or iPhone and thinking of a change, it may be less of a joyful experience. The lag on the home screen jars and if you're running too many things in the background the Nokia N8 can struggle to open menus or shut down apps.

There's no doubting this is an industry-leading camera experience, although manufacturers are concentrating less on megapixels these days and more on making good enough sensors more functional.

The hefty-looking shape may put some people off as well, with the ridge at the back adding depth to an otherwise fairly slim device.

The Nokia N8 is a good smartphone, a very good smartphone - but it feels like a well-optimised touchscreen version of older handsets rather than the superphone reboot Nokia needs.

Nokia n8 review

The headline tech specs are wildly impressive: a 12MP camera with Xenon flash, HD video recording with superior sounds, USB on the go, HDMI output with 5.1 support as well as a glossy OLED screen are all really worth taking a look at as they all do what they say on the tin.

But we'd bet a majority of users won't use most of these functions to their fullest on a regular basis, and would rather have a user experience than delights rather than one that's just reliable and functional.

In short, if you're a Symbian fan who loves the look of the high end specs on offer here and really feels like they could get the full use out of Symbian^3 and its excellent set of drivers and supported functions, and aren't that bothered with the speed of the UI, you'll love the Nokia N8 like it was your first born child, as it's the best Nokia device by a street at the moment.

But if you prioritise things like a speedy home screen UI, simple photo uploads to Facebook and Twitter and a top-notch internet experience over high power games and a top-end camera (as many smartphone users do these days) then make sure you have a good play with the Nokia N8 before locking yourself in for two years.