@MichaelxHell’s Nokia N8 Hands-on Impressions Part 1: Hardware

It’s been very quiet around Nokia the last few months. After the big N-Series failures from the last Years (N97, N96, N85, N76 etc) a lot of people, me included, turned away from Nokia, jumping ship to either Android or Apple. And for a good reason i must say, i’ve experienced Android with a HTC Hero that i bought via Contract and i must say i was impressed. And it continued with the Hero from there, with Android gaining a lot of strength. However, as much as i love the look and feel of Android, i missed the allround capabilities of a Nokia Phone. I’m a multimedia guy, always been, so N-series have always been my choice. I always had love for the Android OS, but not so much for the Devices. HTC puts in some pretty neat internals in the phone, however misses a good camera or decent speakers. Sony Ericsson had okay (although plasticy) hardware, but their OS failed. I have yet to try any LG products, but you see from my Points that, no matter how good the OS is, i always missed the decent hardware. Symbian^1 may look and feel outdated, but the Hardware is what always made me come back to Nokia. Apart from that, the Community that Nokia has built is still unmatched and can never be beaten. This of course not only comes from their devices and its fans, a lot of the following also comes due to marketing stunts from wellknown british PR agency 1000 heads/WOM World Nokia.

However, there was still something missing. As good as Devices like the N900, the X6 16GB or even the N97mini were, i still had days where i went back to my Nokia N82, especially when on the road and i wanted to share some great pics. Now if you note, my N82 is more than 2 years old and still going strong. It’s been 2 years, since Nokia brought out a decent device for hobby photographers like myself. Yes there is the N86, but what did it really bring to the table? An 8 megapixel, carl zeiss equipped Camera, but with a dual LED flash. As good as the device was in daylight conditions, how could they even dare to label it as next photography device!? As soon as the sun went down, the N86 was just another phone with a dual LED.

Anyways, after some initial rumors and one of the most unprofessional preview posts i’ve ever seen on the day before the announcement, Nokia has announced the Nokia N8. And after looking at the Nokia N8 specs sheet for approximatly 30 seconds, i knew that the N8 will be my next Device. I even can get over the lack of a QWERTY keyboard here, which tells something. Time went by and meanwhile i had my hands on a Nokia N8 four times already, thanks to Christoph Mahr from Nokia Austria, who happens to be their Product Manager. We usually met for a coffee with some short demonstrations, and each time i left i got more excited about it. We even had a Demo Evening, hosted by Nokia Austria, where they demoed the N8 in a small Cinema, with the Phone connected to a 720p projector.

The Nokia N8. take it in your hands, feel hows its made and you will understand my excitement. as an avid Nokia fan, but also critic, i was rambling day in and day out about how extremely downhill things went with the hardware Nokia has thrown out in the market. wobbly sliders, cheap chrome imitations that came off after a bit, or how about the legendary (in a bad way) D-Pad of the Nokia N85, that wasnt glued properly and came off a *bit* too easy. Oh, and please dont forget numerous, absolutely pointless “editions” and versions of existing devices. Have you actually seen someone using a N97mini gold? Well, all those problems are gone for good. The N8’s body is made from Anodized aluminium, available in 5 colours: dark grey, silver, blue, green and orange. i have seen all colours, except orange, so far and the N8 will be the first device in a long time, i’ll buy in another colour than black. it just screams for colours.

The Front of the N8 is dominated by the big 3,5″ capacitive, multitouch AMOLED Screen with nHD resolution (640×360 pixels). The screen is very crisp, reacted precisely as it should and was in general, very nice to use. no yellow spots at all. As i said, the screen is multitouch-enabled, so you can pinch-to-zoom in different apps, like pictures, the web browser, the email client, and even some very handy gimmicks, like changing the camera resolution and format. the camera app usually starts in 9MP 16:9 mode, but can be changed to 12MP 4:3 format via pinch-to-zoom. nice, eh? I wasn’t able to check visibility in bright sunlight outdoors, but it should make for a decent experience. Underneath the Screen is the only hardware button on the front, which serves as menu button. its surrounded by a light ring, which serves as notification light as found on previous devices. Above the Screen is the light sensor and front facing video camera for faceti.., i’m sorry video calls. which also works via 3G like it should. As you can see, the front of the N8 is very clean with no design drama, simple and elegant. would i wish more hardware buttons, like green and red call key? uhmm.. not if the software works fast enough. more on that a bit later. To prevent the screen from getting scratched at flat surfaces, Nokia has put a slightly raised border around the screen, so the phone will never lie at the screen directly.

Lets take a look at the sides of the N8, shall we? Starting on the top of the left Side, the Devices features the Memory Card- and SIM Card slot. nothing really new there and the slots are rather hard to get into, but there is something brand new when we go a bit further down. What looks like a normal micro-USB connector.. well, it basically is one, but with the adapter that comes in the Box, you can explore the USB-on-the-go powers. What this is? Simple, the Adapter converts the micro-USB connector to a standard USB port and can go on and connect your USB sticks or Flashdrives with it. Once connected, theres a little sign in the status bar and you’re good to go. fire up the file manager and you can see the files on the flashdrive. immediate and without lags. I have seen USB-on-the-go in action at the N8 Demo Event i recently posted about and its pretty darn impressive. However, a bit annoying is the fact that the USB-connector doesnt have its own cover, its completely exposed, which is.. uhmm.. a bit disappointing on a Device that feels so premium everywhere.

The bottom of the Device gives some basic Informations and the small needle charging connector. I have been told that the N8 will support both ways of charging, and thank god for that, i dont wanna change all my chargers at home and in the Car lol. Switching to the right Side, there is not exactly anything new, but what you see is damn well made. The Camera Key, which i think will be even more used than the Menu Key on my future N8, but you just need to look how its actually built. the metallic shape of all the buttons surroundings just screams quality. to be honest, after the horrible experience on the X6, i was a bit scared to see the screen-lock slider again on the Nokia N8, but the build quality again delivered on the N8, with no wobbling shakiness at all. The slider doesnt feel like it would come off in any minute. it goes up and down, just like it should.

Things get really interesting on the top of the Nokia N8. In between the 3,5mm jack and the power-button hides the next brandnew Feature of the Nokia N8 – a mini-HDMI port. With the Adapter that comes in the Box as well, you’re able to connect your N8 with your HD TV and well, you’re good to go, in 720p, on your TV. I can only imagine how awesome my Pictures will look up there and i really can’t just wait to check this out. But it even goes further, i hope you now have all seen the N8 Bluetooth Video. So how nice will it be to connect it all together, just leave your Phone right next to your TV and do all work from a few meters away!?

If we turn around the Device, first of all, you notice 2 things: one is the 12 Megapixel Camera, with Carl Zeiss optics, Xenon Flash, 720p video recording, which is all done via the biggest sensor ever built in a mobile device. I haven’t seen Videos yet done from one of the Devices i have had my hands on, but i snapped some pictures with one and well, what can i say, i wouldn’t be so excited about the Device if they weren’t mindblowing. However, i will get back to the Camera in a separated review and will hopefully somehow get my hands on some sample pics too. the other thing you notice, is just how nicely the anodized aluminium. I doubt there will ever be Problems with colours coming off. Apart from that, the anodized aluminium makes the colours on the N8 just that bit much better. As i said already, i won’t get the N8 in dark-grey, thats for sure, blue or orange are my colours of choices.

Hidden deep inside, is the the BL-4D, Nokia’s 1200mAh Battery. There are two Things wrong with that: a) You can not get to the battery as it is fixed inside. The only Way you can actually get to the Battery, is via the 2 screws on the left and right Side of the device. Once you open it anyways, your Guarantee will expire. Bye Bye spare battteries because, b) the N8 only has gotten 1200mAh. I know and I have actually experienced the battery improvements Nokia is doing on every new OS version. You will last a lot longer with 1200mAh on a recent Device, than on an old one, that for sure. However, it absolutely grinds my gears, that Nokia decided against a 1500mAh powerhouse. How hard can it be for christs sake!? The Battery is still an Issue, even on the most modern Devices, simply because Nokia won’t give up their effin standards and get something new, more powerful in the N8. And well, with that being said, the times of buying a spare battery and plug it in if the used one dies, are over as well. I can see a lot of guys coming back from a weekend-long Festival or a long Trip with the Family, having to rely on a backup device, rather than a backup battery. I know it all goes for the build quality but you can easily make the bottom cover removable so that we can get to the damn battery!!! Oh and by the way, if your Phone is dead and you can’t access the Menu for the IMEI number, plus there is no way to find the IMEI under the battery, just open the HDMI port cover..

Conclusion – Hardware:

Okay, the Battery really is a headscratcher for me and its just making me crazy if i think about it. With Nokias flaws over the last few years, they had a LOT of work to get their loyal fans back. there were a lot of annoyed Nokia Enthusiasts that were and are already switched over to other Brands and OS’s, and to be honest, i just can’t blame them. However, Nokia is on a Mission now to please fans again – did they succeed, hardware wise? Oh yes, they did. The Nokia N8 is hopefully  a first look at things to come. I have never ever had my Hands on a Nokia Device feeling as great as the anodized aluminium body of the N8, the 3,5″ AMOLED screen looks fantastic and dominates the device on the front. As soon as you have found out, how to access the fiddly SIM Card slot, you are good to go – but it might take some time. No Matter how you hold the Device (hintedy hint hint), it feels extremely well, the buttons are surrounded by polished, chromed edges, which i definitely like. The miniHDMI port has a nice cover, however, the microUSB connector does not, which gives a bit away from the overall premium feel of the device. The big Cam Part will get its own Review in the next few Days, its not too big, yet still produces fantastic pics!

Just look at the Hardware, and most of all, touch it as soon as you have the Opportunity and tell me you dont like it. Coming from all the faulty past Devices, this (and the Cam) i love the absolute most! It’s been quite some Time since i was THAT excited about an upcoming Nokia Phone…

Author: Michael Hell

Michael Hell, certified geek, mobile jedi, amateur photographer, music addict. Down to earth and always up for new challenges. Also blogging on www.michaelxhell.com, which is my private blog for things like Photography and personal things :) Feel free to add me on http://twitter.com/michaelxhell or http://www.facebook.com/michaelxhell