Hands on: Nokia N86 review

Nokia sprung a little bit of a surprise on everyone with the sort-of release of the N86 - its first 8MP cameraphone, and TechRadar managed to bag the chance to play with it for a while.

A slider that's available in both white and charcoal grey, the handset is one that builds on Nokia's well-established Symbian OS as well as making headway into the camera market.

First impressions of the phone are surprising; it's a combination of a plasticky feel and solid metal styling... for instance, the menu button is drilled metal, with hundreds of tiny holes to let the light through, but the slide action doesn't feel as solid as the likes of the N96.

It also includes the two-way slide of its N95 and N96 brethren... great for media, but not so good if you forget which way up it goes when getting it out your pocket. Though you can't help but love the redesigned yellow buttons.

The screen, once again showing off the power of OLED technology, is an absolute dream to look at. We're talking a 2.6-inch widescreen display which makes video watching simply awesome.

Where's that fish?

However, we were left with the common question after watching Finding Nemo on the handset (no, not that one. We know that he finds his father in the end): why bother making video look this good on such a small screen? It's like the iPod nano debate all over again: good for watching a music video or possibly a TV show, but for movies we're looking for a PMP to reduce the eye strain.

However, that's not to detract from the appeal of the OLED screen... the N86 and the Samsung OmniaHD have done an admirable job of showing how video should look on a mobile phone. And the N86 packs an N96-a-like kickstand... not only that, it's an improvement as it's bigger!

The handset is certainly feature rich, packing an aGPS sensor with the obvious geotagging you'd expect on a phone with a decent camera, and setting the tag was quick and easy.

The camera itself was obviously of a pretty high quality as you'd expect from an 8MP effort, although we weren't as impressed as we have been with the likes of the Samsung i8510 INNOV8 and the Sony Ericsson C905.

The pictures were obviously fine to look at, especially on a 2.6-inch screen, but we were left without the 'wow' factor other handsets have rammed down our eyeballs.

Waiting for optimisation

However, it's worth noting that Nokia is saying the camera on the N86 is only a prototype and will be 'optimised' for launch... although we're not holding our breath.

The dual LED flash employed on the handset is a bit upsetting as well, as you'd hope to find a Xenon effort on a top-end camera phone... well, at least there's two LEDs rather than one, if you're looking for a positive.

Users of Nokia phones (which is probably everybody in the world at some point or other) will be familiar with the web browser and messaging input, and it's again they're functional without being overly exciting.

It's worth pointing out the slide-out keypad sports raised buttons, which are nice to use and lead to a pleasurable texting experience. The other call, reject and clear buttons are in the same vein, and while it might lend a whole 'N97-esque' feel to whole experience, it's still a decent layout and keyset in its own right.

However, the overall feel of the handset was just a little bit cheap, shorn of the solid glamour of the N96 and N97. It's a very good handset, no doubt about it, and should crucify the others if it appears at a mid-range price point.

It also improves magnificently on the N85... the camera and OLED screen alone push it leagues ahead.

We're awaiting the release of this handset in the second quarter of this year, so not too long to wait now. We're perplexed as to why this wasn't mentioned in the press conference on Monday alongside the E75 and E55, but hey, this if this is Nokia's way of generating interest it's worked.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.