Review: The sleek black Nokia N82 with Xenon lens lights up the night

I was quite happy to upgrade my Nokia N95-3 with the firmware update that made my device a much better performer. A couple of days before I was able to upgrade my N95-3, I was sent a Nokia N82 to evaluate through the Nseries Blogger Relations program. After opening up the package and seeing that it was not a U.S. model with support for our 3G networks, I was actually about ready to send it back so someone else could evaluate it. I then chatted with Jonathan Greene and he told me to take another look at it and pay attention to the auto-rotation, flush screen, and tweaks to the OS in comparison to the N95. I took his advice and decided to pop in my T-Mobile SIM and give it an honest try. It is now almost three weeks later and my T-Mobile SIM has barely left the N82. Check out my image gallery and thoughts to see why this device is a compelling S60 multimedia computer.

I was quite happy to upgrade my Nokia N95-3 with the firmware update that made my device a much better performer. A couple of days before I was able to upgrade my N95-3, I was sent a Nokia N82 to evaluate through the Nseries Blogger Relations program. After opening up the package and seeing that it was not a U.S. model with support for our 3G networks, I was actually about ready to send it back so someone else could evaluate it. I then chatted with Jonathan Greene and he told me to take another look at it and pay attention to the auto-rotation, flush screen, and tweaks to the OS in comparison to the N95. I took his advice and decided to pop in my T-Mobile SIM and give it an honest try. It is now almost three weeks later and my T-Mobile SIM has barely left the N82. Check out my image gallery and thoughts below to see why this device is a compelling S60 multimedia computer.



I've been trying to figure out where the N82 fits in the Nseries lineup since it really doesn't seem to me to be a direct successor to the N95, especially with the slider form factor Nokia N96 already announced and appearing soon as the apparent successor to the N95. It also isn't a slider like the N80 or N81 8GB and seems to be more of a superior N73 device, but the upcoming N78 really takes on that role. So, it seems to me it is almost a class in itself since it is very focused on still photo quality in a candy bar form factor with a ton of other goodies thrown in.

Specifications of the device include:

  • Intel ARM 11, 332 MHz processor
  • Symbian OS 9.2 S60 3.1 UI
  • 100 MB internal memory with 128 MB flash memory
  • Integrated Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support
  • Integrated 802.11 b/g WiFi
  • Integrated GPS receiver
  • Stereo FM radio
  • TV out functionality
  • 1050 mAh battery (BP-6MT)
  • 2.4 inch QVGA display with 16 million color support
  • 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and Xenon flash
  • 3.5 mm standard audio jack
  • microSD expansion card slot
  • Accelerometer that supports auto rotation of the display
  • Stereo speakers on one side of the device
  • microUSB port for syncing

Data functionality: The N82 that I was sent is not the North American version with support for our 3G network on AT&T so at first I was disappointed that I would have to give that up when compared to my N95-3. However, my T-Mobile SIM only supports EDGE data anyways so I decided to use this SIM card with the N82 and honestly I haven't really noticed the lack of 3G when using the Java Gmail and Opera Mini 4.1 clients. I don't stream video or watch my Slingbox on the N82, but I don't do that too often on the N95-3 so it hasn't been a real hardship going back to EDGE with a fast device. I do miss the ability to download podcasts directly to my S60 device via HSDPA using the Nokia Podcasting application and as a result I have very little music and media content on the device at this time.

Form factor: The N82 I have is the very attractive black colored model (compared to the silver model) and I really like the look and feel of the device. It reminds me much more of the N81 8GB rather than the N95-3. I personally prefer the heft and slider design of the N81 8GB and if the N81 8GB had the same camera and integrated GPS receiver as that of the N82 then I would be all over it and that would be my favorite S60 device. Unfortunately, the N81 8GB has a rather lame 2 megapixel camera (that is still a lot better than just about any Windows Mobile camera device I have tried).

Walk around the device: The N82 has small chicklet keys reminiscent of the keys I saw on the Nokia N91 device. At first they seemed a bit small, but after an hour or so of using them you get used to it and they really are not that bad since they are spaced a good distance apart and offer more feedback than the flat keys on the N81 8GB. You will also find a left and right soft key, send and end keys, menu and C keys, along with the "Tiles" button seen on the N81 8GB. This Tiles button launches the rotating UI that lets you quickly access your music, videos, pictures, games, maps, select contacts, and browser shortcuts. I am still not used to using this much since I am so familiar with other ways to navigate S60, but I can definitely see the benefit in using this smart launcher functionality and will try to use it more.

The 240x320 display is flush with the front of the device, again like the N81 8GB, and overall it looks very good. The display is not as bright as the display on the N95 and there doesn't appear to be anyway to increase the brightness. 90% of the time, the brightness level is fine and many people may not notice the difference. However, I have read of others complaining about the brightness so this may be an issue to keep an eye on to see if an update enhances the ability to increase the brightness. Above the display is a light sensor, front facing camera, and phone speaker.

On the left side is the standard Nokia charging port, microSD card slot (covered with a nice solid door), and microUSB port for connecting to your PC for syncing and data transfer. Along the top is a lanyard opening, 3.5 mm headset jack, and flush power button. The right side is where you will find the stereo speakers at each end of the device. At first I thought it did not have stereo speakers and didn't notice the way they were both placed on the same side. I guess the intent is that you view content in landscape mode so the stereo external speakers work that way. Between the two speakers you will find the volume buttons, gallery button and camera button. The microphone is found on the bottom.

On the back of the device is where you will find the amazing Xenon flash and 5 megapixel camera. Nokia went back to the physical camera lens cover seen on the N95-1 with the N82 and I personally prefer this method of protecting the lens and also activating the camera. The battery cover takes up about 2/3 of the device, below the camera.

Camera and Xenon flash: As you can see in the two comparison photos below that show my daughter in a very dark room shot with a Nokia N95-3 and the Nokia n82, the Xenon flash makes a WORLD of a difference. Even with the high end Nokia S60 cameras, you really can't take good photos in a restaurant, bar, or club if it is dark inside. The N82 opens up a whole new world of mobile photography with this lens and I hope to see it used on other S60 devices in the future.

N95 night photo

Taken in the dark with the Nokia N95-3

Nokia N82 photo in the dark

Taken in the dark with the Nokia N82

I also used the camera to shoot video content and photos in better lighting and find it does very well in both cases.

Operating system and performance: The N82 is loaded with S60 Feature Pack 1, but has the latest and greatest ROM that gives you things like podcast integration into the music player, Share on Ovi status on the standby screen, and snappy performance and response. Even with the N95-3 loaded with the latest firmware the N82 is a bit snappier when switching applications and jumping around the device.

Daily usage experiences: Even though many people state that the Java applications on S60 are not "real" applications, I find the integrated Java support to be one of the big differentiators between S60 and Windows Mobile (left up to rather lame 3rd party utilities). Two of my most used daily applications on the N82 are the Gmail Java client and the Opera Mini 4.1 Java application. These both run just about like native applications and provide excellent email and browsing experiences. I have both Mail for Exchange and RoadSync loaded up for syncing my data to my hosted Exchange provider (4Smartphone) and that's about all I need for a daily device. I do have something like 25 applications loaded on this N82, including VoIP apps, mapping/navigation apps, games, and more and I do use them from time-to-time.

I have been taking some photos and uploading them to Flickr, Share on Ovi, and Vox through the Share Online utility and think the camera functionality is what really sets this device apart from some of the other Nseries devices.

The display auto-rotates between portrait and landscape (except when on the standby screen) and I do find this useful at times. Some people don't like this functionality, but I haven't yet found a setting that toggles this on and off. If I intend to view something on the device in landscape then I hold it that way so the automatic rotation seems natural to me and I understand why Nokia added this functionality.

People have been pretty impressed with the device and 95% state that it is much lighter than they thought it would be when I handed it to them.

I am seeing about two full days with email checked every 15 minutes for 16 hours a day, about 15 minutes of phone calls, and about an hour of surfing with Opera Mini 4.1. In comparison to my N95-3 it seems to get about twice the battery life.

Conclusion: The N82 is a very nice high-end Nseries device and if you are in a country that supports the 2100 MHz UMTS/HSDPA band then I imagine it would be probably the most compelling Nseries at the moment. My T-Mobile SIM has found a new home for now and may live in it for quite some time since it doesn't seem like T-Mobile 3G is coming to high end smartphones soon.

The Nokia N82 is currently available from the Nokia USA online store for US$564 in a SIM unlocked configuration (without U.S. 3G data support) and is actually about US$150 less than the N95 debuted at last year. There are rumors of a version coming to North America that supports our 3G networks (AT&T here in the U.S.), but that hasn't yet been confirmed and with the N78 confirmed to be launching with a North American version we'll have to see if the N82 actually does make it here in this NA flavor.