Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:54:02 PM
A typically strong Nseries feature set.
The keys and keypad layout makes for a difficult user experience.
Nokia has now released over 20 Nseries phones since the genre-launching N70 first wowed us with its beefed-up specs back in 2005. Since then, we’ve come to associate the Nseries tag with the very best in multimedia smartphones, due to a consistently impressive selection of cutting edge multimedia features.
With the Nseries production churning out new models apace, the announcement of another new mid-range device is no longer the stop-the-press event it once was. That said, Nokia’s ‘multimedia computers’ rarely disappoint.
Shamefully however, we have to confess to disappointment followed by apathy when the N79 first landed on our desks, as we had it muddled with the forthcoming N97 internet phone. Damn those repetitive model names. Realisation immediately dawned that this wasn’t Nokia’s flagship internet phone, with its huge touch-screen and affinity for social networking applications. Instead, it was a rather more conventional-looking candybar with a resemblance to an older Nseries model, the N73.
On a positive note, the feature set – which includes a five-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss lens, accelerometer and built-in A-GPS – is undeniably strong, so we’ll look past our misgivings about the design and focus for now on the N79’s many positives.
The N79 appears to be setting its sights on a younger target market with a choice of three interchangeable clip-on battery covers, in lime green, dark reddish-brown, and a greyish turquoise. The N79’s boldly hued battery casing contrasts sharply and effectively with its stark white fascia and chrome surround, and it all adds up to a very fresh and neat-looking candybar phone.
Unfortunately, it’s less pleasant to use than it is to look at. Although the phone’s S60 user interface is as straightforward as always, its keypad design makes everything a faff.
The keypad really is quite poorly designed. The four soft keys are far too thin, making them uncomfortable to press and difficult to click. Even with these economically proportioned keys, we found that there’s barely enough room between the soft keys to adequately house the multimedia and cancel keys.
More annoyingly, the joypad, or navi-wheel, is an absolute pig. It’s stiff, creaky and unresponsive, and, because of the raised menu-select key, it’s very hard to get your thumb on it to scroll up or down, left or right through the menu. As a result, we found ourselves regularly selecting the wrong menu options. It all makes for a rather frustrating user experience.
This is a shame, because you can’t usually go wrong with the Nokia S60 UI, which can be accessed via the ‘yin-yang’ multimedia key to the left of the joypad.
Directly to the left of the multimedia menu key, there’s also a vertical chrome lozenge key, which gives you access to a secondary customisable carousel menu that allows fast access to the key multimedia features like music, games, TV and video, internet and maps.
It works differently to the regular icon-based menu because it presents all of the sub-menu options as well as the menu headers.
Nseries cameras rarely disappoint and the N79 serves up another fine bit of photographic kit. There’s a sliding cover that protects thefive-megapixel Carl Zeiss lens, which automatically activates the camera as soon as you slide it open.
Everything about the camera is a joy to use. Processing speeds are fast in all conditions, it has a decent flash and the settings are simple to navigate. However, most importantly, the quality of the printed photos is very good indeed, especially in macro mode, where close-up photos display tremendous detail.
Ok, so you don’t get the frivolous trimmings, like smile shot, beauty shot and smart contrast, which you find on some of the eight-megapixel camera phones currently available. But, the N79 does include auto-focus and fine components, and for a simple to use camera phone that produces great results, it’s definitely hard to beat.
The phone also makes it easy to edit and print photos, add tags and share photos by posting them online in a couple of clicks.
Meanwhile, the video is just as easy to use and the results equally as impressive.
The N79 boasts HSDPA data speeds of up to 3.6Mbps so browsing and downloads are fairly speedy. The device also features the Nokia web browser with Mini Map, so you can zoom out of a full internet page and scroll directly to the part of the page you wish to visit. Although it’s a decent sized display, it’s just a little too small to view a full HTML website in all its glory, but the device does feature smart text fit, which renders a website’s text perfectly to fit the width of the screen. There’s also an RSS feed reader on board.
Nseries phones are also compatible with Nokia’s excellent N-Gage games platform and the N79 features a pre-loaded N-Gage application. This means you can rush out and buy top console-to-mobile titles like Asphalt 3, Sims 2 and FIFA 2008.
As with all Nseries phones, it’s almost impossible to run through all the features in a two-page review, so it goes without saying that this is another very well-equipped phone from the N-Gage stable. However, despite this functionality, the user experience is somewhat lacking.