First impressions of the Nokia N96

Summary:The Nokia N96 was announced back at Mobile World Congress and I was able to get some hands-on time back then. I was just sent a Nokia N96-1 (European version) to evaluate as part of the Nseries Blogger Relations program and posted several photos in my image gallery and am posting my initial thoughts on the device below. I also shot a video walk around of the device and showed a couple of other functions I tried out so far. Please let me know if you have any questions you want answered in a follow on post after I have had a couple of weeks to use the device.

The Nokia N96 was announced back at Mobile World Congress and I was able to get some hands-on time back then. I was just sent a Nokia N96-1 (European version) to evaluate as part of the Nseries Blogger Relations program and posted several photos in my image gallery and am posting my initial thoughts on the device below. I also shot a video walk around of the device and showed a couple of other functions I tried out so far. Please let me know if you have any questions you want answered in a follow on post after I have had a couple of weeks to use the device.


 Image Gallery:A walk around the Nokia N96 multimedia computer. 
Image Gallery: N96 retail box
 
Image Gallery: N96 and N95
 

Specific versions: The Nokia N96 is the newest flagship device that is shipping now in countries outside the US, but Nokia posted a press release specifically stating that a North American version of the N96 (N96-3) will be coming in the 4th quarter of 2008. The device I have at the moment does not support US 3G networks, but does work with T-Mobile and AT&T with EDGE and GSM.

Out of the box thoughts: The first thing that struck me when I opened up the box was the apparent width of the device compared to other Nseries devices I have played with before. It seems a lot wider, but after checking out some other device specs it actually is only 2-5 mm wider with the large display giving me the impression it is much wider. The N96 measures 55mm wide, the N95 is 53mm, the N81 8GB 50mm, the N82 is 50mm, and the N78 is 49mm.

The N96 follows the same design elements as some of the other latest Nseries such as the N81 8GB and N78 with flush keys, silver border and curves, black lined back cover and flush display. The slider is smooth and locks securely into place. The device feels solid in your hand too.

The display is large, but in this day and age I expect the flagship products to have VGA displays and the 240x320 pixels resolution display is a bit disappointing.

The box shows that Transformers is included on the N96, but I couldn't find it on the device or CD so it appears it was taken off my evaluation device. It should be included on devices that you purchase so you can check out what a movie looks like on the device.

I also made a couple of calls with the N96 and a constant, but faint background hiss sound is present. It sounds like some audio connection is opened to an external source and it is a bit annoying. I expect near perfection with Nokia in phone calls and think this probably can be fixed with a software update.

Specifications: While the Nokia N96 may not have the best specifications of any device (VGA display is missing) it has just about everything you could think of and the specifications list is pretty impressive. Here are the technical specifications:

  • N96-1 (RM-247, Global) WCDMA2100/900 (HSDPA) / EGSM900, GSM850/1800/1900 MHz (EGPRS)
  • N96-3(RM-472, Americas) – WCDMA1900/850 (HSDPA) / EGSM900, GSM850/1800/1900 MHz (EGPRS)
  • DVB-H, 470-750 MHz (Functional only in certain regions of the world)
  • 16GB internal flash with microSD storage card slot
  • 128MB RAM and 256MB system memory
  • 2.8 inch QVGA display
  • S60 3rd Edition, Feature Pack 2 with Flash Lite 3.0 support
  • BL-5F 950 mAh battery
  • Advanced video codec support (H.263/H.264/WMV)
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • Integrated stereo speakers
  • 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, supports 30 fps video capture
  • Integrated GPS receiver with Nokia Maps 2
  • Integrated 802.11 b/g WiFi radio
  • Integrated Bluetooth 2.0 radio with A2DP support
  • Nokia Mobile Charger (DC-4) included for car charging
  • Dimensions:
    • Weight: 4.41 ounces

    • Length: 4.06 inches

    • Width: 2.17 inches

    • Thickness: 0.71 inches

Initial impressions and experiences: Since it has the large 2.8 inch display and a ton of available memory (I put in an 8GB microSD to go along with the 16GB flash) the first thing I did was transfer some movies over to the device to see how they looked. Movies that I had formatted for the Nokia E71 (I'll give more details on formatting next Friday) played perfectly on the N96. I then used Handbrake to convert a couple other movies to try and found that movies formatted for the iPhone in MPEG-4 format played well. I also read that the N96 supports WMV, but the couple of older movies I tried just had audio with no video playing. Even though video plays well, the Apple iPhone is still the superior phone for watching video content with its large, high resolution display. The integrated kickstand is a nice idea that works well for watching video content with the N96 resting on a table or airplane tray table. The speakers are very loud too DVB-H doesn't work in the U.S. so I am unable to test out this capability.

I like the inclusion of the car charger, but the small capacity 950 mAh battery may have made that a necessity too and I don't understand why the larger (and almost same size) 1200 mAh battery found in the latest N95 models wasn't use.

I don't like that closing the slider does not lock the device and will have to install HandyLock to get that functionality, but it should at least be an option on ALL Nokia slider devices.

There isn't much left that can be done in these latest mobile phones to completely blow people away since all the high end devices have all the wireless radios you could ask for and it may actually seem a bit boring for use mobile geeks. Again, VGA would have swayed me more with this device. As the flagship product it should have had a VGA display, larger capacity battery, and the Xenon flash to really lead the pack. However, the N96 takes everything the N95 had and improves it with Feature Pack 2 and a slicker design so if the N95 did so well throughout the world, the N96 may follow suit.

The N96 is currently priced from US$750 to US$800 through U.S. importers and unless you need to large amount of integrated storage capacity I think the N95 8GB North American version is the smarter purchase.

Topics: Nokia, Mobility

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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