Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:53:55 PM
The N85?s navigational experience is among the best we have ever encountered.
Despite being boxed with an 8GB memory card, 85MB of internal memory is rather pitiful.
It is a common gripe of younger siblings that they get overshadowed by their older brothers or sisters. Well, spare a thought for the Nokia N85. It is a handset with high specifications that could hold its own among some of this year’s very best smartphones, but has been overlooked as a result of the more publicised N96.
The Nokia N85 is almost a carbon copy of the N96 in terms of build. Both have a nifty dual slider action, and, despite being smaller and more pocket friendly, the N85 is in fact 3g heavier. Perhaps the Finnish manufacturer is feeling the credit crunch as much as the rest of us, but its preference for building handsets out of plastic, rather than metal, is bordering on obsessive. That is not to say that the N85 is poorly crafted. The back does feel a tad on the flimsy side, but it still maintains a robust feel. The back has an unusual truffle brown colour, in contrast to the jet black front-facing fascia. Now we are not style gurus, but we were always under the impression that brown with black was a fashion faux pas. Well, it shows what we know. The two shades complement each other excellently, leading to a rather
At 2.6 inches, the N85’s OLED screen is 0.2 inches smaller than the N96, but the phone still displays up to 16 million colours with a resolution of 240x320 pixels, ensuring the quality is top notch. Beneath the screen Nokia has opted for a minimalist approach. The D-pad surrounds the command key, a thin green and red strip represents the call and call end keys and a shortcut key to your menu options is located on the handset’s right side. However, here is the clever bit. Fire up the N85 and, as if by magic, four other keys light up – two soft keys, a menu key and a cancel button. It is a simple yet effective approach that we were quite taken with. What is more, the D-pad can be turned into a touch-sensitive Navi wheel that enables you to scroll through menu icons, albums and pictures. It was not quite to our taste but it is great that Nokia has given us the option, one you may well be happy with.
As we mentioned, the N85 is a dual slider. Slide it one way to reveal the standard alphanumeric keypad (if we were being ultra critical we did find these keys to be on the small side) and slide the other direction to unveil four media control keys. The keys provide a great way of starting your music player without having to go through your menu options.
Music plays a big part in the N85. While it may lack the mammoth 16GB of storage capacity the N96 offers (the N85 has a measly 85MB of internal memory), Nokia does make amends by bundling in an 8GB microSD card, which should house around 8,000 tracks. There is also easy access to the Nokia Music Store. Users can choose from over 2.5 million tracks at a cost of 80p per song. Once downloaded, tracks can be transferred to a PC via a USB cable, as well as remaining on the phone.
The sound quality is spot-on whether played through the loudspeaker or the accompanying headphones, though when we plugged in our Bose ones (Nokia has been kind enough to include a 3.5mm headset jack) we noticed a marked improvement. However, in using your own headphones you will miss out on being able to take and make handsfree calls, as well as a nifty voice command function. A control pad forms part of the handsfree kit, emblazoned with call, call end and volume keys. Press the call button when idle and after five seconds you will hear a tone. This is your signal to speak your command. For example, ‘call Amy’, or ‘music player’. A robotic sounding voice repeats the command and brings up a list of functions it thinks most relevant.
The idea is that a selection of options is preferable to activating the wrong command. It is not the polished article it could have been, with around a 60/40 success rate, but it is another string to the N85’s bow.
While Nokia has shied away from the eight-megapixel camera phone rat race that has so engrossed other manufacturers, it still remains a dominant force in the snapper arena. The Nokia N85 is no exception with an excellent five-megapixel camera. We are seeing an increasing amount of handsets that protect their lens with a cover. The N85 has one, and slide it back to reveal the Tessar lens complete with Carl Zeiss optics. This will instantly fire up the camera, though it can also be done via the dedicated camera button on the side of the handset – do this when the lens is not open and you will simply activate the secondary camera situated next to the screen.
The Nokia N85’s arsenal also includes an LED flash capable of achieving excellent night time shots, without that rabbit in the headlights look that occurs with overly bright flashes. Zooming in with the N85 can be juddery, but we are pleased to say that the quality of shot is not affected.
Being an Nseries device, the N85 is compatible with Nokia’s Ovi service. For those unfamiliar with Ovi, it’s the ‘umbrella concept’ that all of Nokia’s Nseries services fall under – one of which is the ability to upload and share your pictures. Once signed up, each time you take a photo, you are given the option to upload the picture directly to Ovi. It is a great way of storing your photos and sharing them with the rest of the Ovi community.
Both recording and playing back video was seamless, with the OLED screen capable of displaying some marvellous imagery. It is also reassuring to see videos played back with the aid of a media player that is as recognised as RealPlayer. However, our one gripe with the N85 lies in its ability to stream YouTube video content. Our experience was very stop start with continuous buffing, and visually the videos were juddery. It was surprising as both HSDPA and Wi-Fi are on board. The rest of our web experience was flawless.
The N85’s widget function is cool. Download any number of widgets or web applications and they will sit conveniently on your home screen for quick and easy access. While there are other shortcuts situated at the top of the screen, they take you to specific applications, whereas widgets can be far more precise. For example, download the Ovi widget for instant access to your account, or avoid that unannounced downpour with a weather report application.
A huge push on mobile navigation took place during 2008. This was particularly the case with Nokia, which produced handsets that could hold their own alongside dedicated sat nav devices. The N85 is no exception; in fact, it is right up there with the best. Taking our phone on a stroll through the streets of Soho, we were amazed by how quickly
and accurately it located our exact location.
At the top of the screen, the N85 displays not only the name of the street, but also the number of the building you are walking past. The excellent Nokia Maps is present, with a red dot indicating your position.
As the GPS signal becomes weaker – though even in doors we maintained a fairly decent signal – so does the dot. Choose between displaying the maps in a traditional format, 3D version, satellite or hybrid (a map-cum-satellite version). Apart from a slight delay in loading the satellite version, we are really struggling to fault it. When planning your route the N85 will show you the distance, travelling speed and how long it will take for you to arrive at your destination.
Add in a useful virtual compass and the N85 suggests 2009 will be another excellent year in terms of navigation for the Finnish manufacturers.
Gamers will be pleased to find 10 pre-loaded N-Gage titles to demo. Recreate that classic win (or in our case defeat) with the excellent FIFA 08 or place your bets with World Series of Poker Pro Challenge. Downloading the full version of a game will cost you £6.
It is difficult to fault the N85, so we won’t. Despite it slipping under the radar, Nokia has created a wonderful multipurpose device. Everything, from the excellent five-megapixel camera to the impressively accurate GPS, has been expertly thought out and packaged in a well-crafted design. The N96 may be taking all the plaudits, but the N85 should get the recognition it deserves.