If you like your mobiles in classic candybar flavour, Nokia’s N82 could be the smartphone you’ve been waiting for. With a 5-megapixel camera fitted with Carl Zeiss Optics promising top grade cameraphone pictures, integrated A-GPS offering satellite navigation in your pocket, plus high-speed 3G HSDPA and Wi-Fi connectivity, this Symbian S60 device is Nokia’s most sophisticated candybar-style mobile to hit the market.

There are plenty of similarities, in fact, between the spec list of the N82 and the latest update of the best-selling N95 sliderphone. The N82 isn’t packed with 8GB of internal storage, like the recently released N95 8GB and N81 8GB models (it has 100MB of internal memory), although it can support MicroSD memory cards with that capacity if heavyweight memory is required. A 2GB card comes in the box too.

The N82 does though tick off all the 3G multimedia essentials – a multi-format music player (with a 3.5mm jack allowing for proper headphones), a RealPlayer media player for video playback, and 3G-powered video calling capability plus support for high-speed downloading and streaming of multimedia content.

The N82 is also geared up for a growing portfolio of Nokia downloadable content and services, including support for Nokia Music Store over the air music buying service, provision for the newly relaunched N-Gage interactive gaming platform, and Nokia Video Centre for over the air video streaming from a variety of content suppliers.

The N82 is effectively the successor to Nokia’s previous candybar favourite, the N73. It’s slightly bigger overall, measuring 112(h) x 50.2(w) x 17.3(d) mm, although it weighs fractionally less, at 114g – and feels surprisingly light in the hand for its size.

Cheap Design

The plastic materials used in the N82’s casing help account for the well-balanced handling, but they do raise other issues – notably a cheaper-than-expected feel for such a high-spec handset. The lower half of the front panel, where the control and numberpad action takes place, is finished in chrome-effect plastic, and the back panel is patterned plastic too.

The front design isn’t typical Nokia, with quite a distinctive belt of controls across the middle, and number buttons that are thin, small and too close together. The keys appear out of proportion to the rest of the large phone and are fiddly to use, particularly if you have big fingers. Their white on silver labelling isn’t the easiest to read either. It’s a strange look for a Nokia phone, although it may appeal to some simply because it isn’t standard issue Nokia.

The central navigation D-pad takes centre-stage in operating the N82; the outer ring could be a little more raised to avoid mis-pressing of adjacent keys, but otherwise familiarisation with the controls is quick and easy.

Nokia’s standard S60 ‘squiggle’ main menu access button makes an appearance, as does a Multimedia menu key, which takes you into a carousel of recently used imaging content and music, internet links, contacts, games and mapping details. There is a pair of standard softkeys, while the call and end keys are unusually located on the edge of the fascia.

Tidy Display

Taking up much of the front panel is the display, a 2.4inch 240x320 pixels, 16.7-million colour screen, a decent-sized piece of visual real estate that’s bright and clear. A secondary low-resolution video-calling camera perches above the screen.

To complement the tidy display, Nokia has slipped a welcome bit of new technology into the spec – automatic screen rotation using a motion sensor. This technology, switches the display orientation from portrait to landscape and vice versa depending on how the handset is held.

The N82’s top-billing 5-megapixel camera is designed to be used in landscape format, like a regular digital camera. It has a sliding switch-operated lens cover that flicks on the camera when opened. Above the Carl Zeiss-sourced lens is a powerful Xenon flash.

In established cameraphone fashion, on the side of the phone the volume rocker button becomes the digital zoom control – 6x at maximum resolution – while there’s a dedicated camera button to take snaps. Autofocus is included, pus there’s a decent variety of imaging adjustment controls to optimise shooting.

The imaging user-interface on the N82 has been carried over from the N95 8GB, so you get scope to change the default automatic settings to suit shooting conditions or adjust to add a bit of creativity to your cameraphone snaps.

The internal automatic metering system works commendably well, adjusting quickly and effectively to compensate for changing lighting conditions. This makes for an easy to use point and shoot camera, even though the results you can get from the N82 are really very impressive. Exceptional in fact, with fine quality images you’d be proud to print. It can produce sharp, precise images that are well exposed, with natural-looking vibrant colour.

The autofocus system works well, and macro mode enables you to get to within 10cm of a subject and still get well defined, tightly focused images.

Flash photography – which can sometimes be a let-down on a cameraphone – is good too, with the Xenon flash and internal metering combining well to illuminate subjects without overexposing them.

The imaging capabilities don’t stop there. The N82 is also a high-scoring performer for mobile phone video capture too, taking footage at 30 frames per second in maximum VGA (640x480 pixels) quality. This is at the upper end of quality for a cameraphone.

There are options to upload images or video online directly via Flickr or Vox accounts. The Nokia N82 does its own Lifeblog onboard mini-blogging in the background too, with a time-lining application for imaging and messaging, which you can back up on a PC or upload online.

Built-in Sat Nav

The N82’s other star attraction is its built in sat nav capability. It uses Assisted GPS (A-GPS), combining GPS location finding with network-based positioning when necessary to provide faster and more accurate location fixes.

The N82’s in-box 2GB MicroSD memory card is supplied with mapping information and points of interest for the whole of the UK and Ireland ready-installed. You can pinpoint your location, get turn-by-turn routing information, navigate to nearby points of interest listed under numerous categories – from restaurants to garages, tourist sites to high street stores and much more - and search the software for addresses or postcodes. You can also hunt across categories by tapping in keywords, or define your own landmarks for looking up favourite locations.

Nokia is marketing the N82 three months’ free access to its premium turn-by-turn voice guidance service. You usually have to subscribe to this, at various rates depending on how long you sign up for.

This voice guidance upgrade gives the N82 the sort of sat nav capabilities you’d get with third party applications. You can navigate as a pedestrian or in in-car mode, and get 2D or 3D views.

The Nokia Maps application offers further upgrades including downloads of guides, while the mapping service is also updated if you travel to an area not covered on your software.

Looks: 3/5
Ease of use: 4/5
Features: 4.5/5
Call quality: 5/5
Value: 4/5