Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:49:04 PM
Along with the 8800 Sirocco, the Luna is one of the finest-built handsets around with a supreme slider action.
Limited memory hampers an otherwise great-sounding music player, while camera quality is average.
The Nokia 8800 and its Sirocco successor are the ultimate in style over substance. Both stainless steel armoured handsets have shown favour with the poseurs, City boys and nouveau riche. The 8800 series has become a little too exclusive and wallet haemorrhaging for us more humble punters (check out the 18-carat gold Sirocco Gold model, which costs £450 on a £35 monthly contract or £800 SIM-free). So it's good to see Nokia dropping its luxury range down to a more mainstream level in the guise of the Nokia 8600 Luna. Carphone Warehouse is giving up this slider for free but on a £50 contract. This is still not cheap enough for some, but it's a small price to pay for a slice of quality phone engineering.
Mobile Choice has had the Luna weighing down our pocket for a while (it's 7g heavier than the Sirocco and a hefty beast at 143g) and despite the feature flaws, we have to admit we've been seduced by its precision and grade A construction. The Sirocco's more sophisticated metallic finish has been replaced with a mysterious noir, but it is still fashioned from stainless steel giving it a highly tactile but indestructible feel. The new-look sliding fascia is also mined from a tough glass and the keypad radiates white through the smoky cover when lying dormant.
Probably the most satisfying aspect of the 8600 Luna is the slider mechanism. The 8800 series sports the best skater action we've ever seen, using ball bearings for amazingly slick traction. The 8600 retains this incredible spring and glides open like a greased-up Torvill and Dean. It also opens and shuts with a resounding snap. The 8600 exudes Nokia's famed user friendliness from every pore, from its intuitive UI, through to its spacious and responsive keyboard, soft keys and five-way navigation pad. It feels far more lucid to use than the Sirocco and its QVGA-quality display is also surprisingly better than the 8800 duo, bursting with 16 million colours and crisp, bright detail.
When it comes to playing music, the 8600 Luna is incredibly frustrating. Just like the 8800 Sirocco, it stems from its limited memory and with only 128MB of internal storage and no memory card slot, you can see why its music abilities are severely hampered. Realistically, you can only store around 40-odd music tracks and that's if you don't share it with other multimedia content. This is a real shame because the 8600 Luna has all the right credentials and music features to do well. You can use the supplied Nokia PC Suite software for transferring songs via a quick USB 2.0 connection.
Once your songs are on board, you can tamper with the sound via a seven-setting equaliser - Normal, Pop, Rock, Jazz, Classical plus two customisable manual modes are available - and we settled with Rock for a punchy sound. Because the meagre memory only stockpiles a limited amount of tracks, you don't access your song through the standard Tracks, Artists, Album, Genre menu, rather through the track list. Likewise, you're not able to create playlists because the tunes are too few, but you can choose Random to shuffle the songs.
The 8600 Luna does pack Stereo Bluetooth (A2DP) support for wireless streaming music to compatible headphones or speakers. We paired the Luna with the comfortable behind-the-head MOTOROKR S9 headphones and the audio was surprisingly loud and energetic. This great performance just compounds the fact that the music player is wasted without expandable memory. Still, if you quickly get bored with the same old songs, you can turn to the built-in FM radio. The aerial is integrated into the supplied earphones so you will have to plug these in to get it working. Radio reception can fluctuate, but once you lock into the strong signal, it sounds pretty good. So, the Nokia 8600 Luna has a very capable music player that's restricted because of the absence of a memory card slot. We're not sure why Nokia couldn't find space on the Luna's chunky frame for a microSD card, but right now the Luna is a mobile music leper.
With the emphasis on design and style, Nokia has only fitted the 8600 Luna with a basic two-megapixel camera lens. Not the end of the world, but unfortunately it's bereft of auto-focus, any kind of flash or light and macro focus for close-ups. A dedicated side shutter button has also been left off to keep the Luna's design nicely streamlined, so to fire up the camera you must first slide open the phone then either delve into the main menu, use the shortcut homescreen bar or customise one of the more accessible soft keys.
The 8600 Luna shoots in a 1600x1200-pixel resolution and Nokia has thrown in some camera settings to tinker with including self-timer, night mode, five white balance options plus six effects like sepia and solarise. The centre button on the five-way joypad is your capture/shutter key and a 4x digital zoom is on hand, but remember, picture quality deteriorates the further you zoom in.
Despite taking some photos in good and natural lighting conditions, the Luna's camera still struggled to produce decent photos. Highlights were a little blurred, while strong white areas were over saturated and overblown. Focus was also uneven, especially around the edges. Anyone who is sniffing around the 8600 Luna probably won't be too concerned by the camera's disappointing performance (focusing instead on its stunning looks), but we've seen better at this level. The same also goes for its video-recording talents. It shoots in a 176x144-pixel resolution and quality really is negligible.
If you went on design, first impression and handling alone, you would stump up the cash for the 8600 Luna without batting an eyelid. And if you can live with its feature faux pas, then the 8600 Luna is a stunning premium phone we can all afford.