Sunday, January 06, 2008

Nokia N82 Review

It's been a long time since I've written a review so it's been a very long time since I got a phone I really liked. The Nokia N82 is Nokia's flagship imaging camera phone for the masses. They said the N95 was going to be all that and more so why are they saying it again? Well this time Nokia has actually rolled out a phone with a decent firmware so the camera starts and captures photos in a reasonable amount of time. So for all those action shots you missed with your N95, you might actually be able to get it this time around. I've had a Sony Ericsson W810i for the longest time and it's served me well with great reception, great day and night photos, and a bright LED to use as a flashlight. Let's see how the N82 stacks up to my former favorite phone. The firmware on my N82 is V 10.0.046 (the initial production firmware). The box contains the phone, AC-5E charger (I got a EURO model), CA-101 USB data cable, 2GB MU-37 Nokia MicroSD (SanDisk), HS-43 Stereo Music Headset, CA-75U Video Cables, and Nokia CD with utilities and programs.

Quick facts:
Name: Nokia N82-1
Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 WCDMA 2100
Weight: 114 g
Dimensions: 112 x 50.2 x 17.3 mm
Battery life (stand by): 225 hours (GSM), 210 hours (WCDMA)
Battery life (talk): 260 minutes (GSM), 190 (WCDMA)
CPU: Texas Instruments OMAP2420, 330 MHz ARM1136 + 220 MHz TI TMS320C55xDSP + PowerVR MBX 2D/3D Graphics Accelerator + IVA
RAM: 128 MB (accessible: 90 MB)

My phone was manufactured by: (your phone's country of manufacture could vary) Nokia. It's probably China



The N82 is a bit wider and longer than the Sony Ericsson W810i. The N82 feels light but from the specs it should be heavier. The N82 case does creak a little compared to the W810i, which has developed quite a creak. This phone feel generally solid unlike a wobbly N95.

Placing the N82 beside the Nokia 6230b and Nokia 6682, you can see some resemblance to Nokia's older phones.



Aesthetics
This is a bar shaped phone and bar shaped is not what's fashionable these days. Sliders are what's in style now. You won't see much in design from this phone to differentiate itself from older Nokia phones. The D-pad carries the Nokia ring design with a center key and up/down/left/right all on a ring. The call and end buttons are very thin and all the way at opposite ends of the phone. The keys look very similar to the N91 but thiner, smaller, and more closely packed. The left soft key and the symbian menu are flush together while the right soft key and 'C' key would be flush except for a multimedia button separating them. I found myself using the tip of my thumb a lot because of the narrow keys and close proximity to each other.

The front is silvery and collects fingerprints and smudges easily. The back is ivory and doesn't smudge but is fairly glossy so it can be difficult to grip if your hands are a bit greasy.

The phone has rounded sides so it normally can't stand up on it's own while taking pictures. Unless you use the memory card cover to assist.

The keypad light is very weak. The D-pad is not lighted except light escapes from the gap around the D-pad ring. As with most phones these days, lighting is controlled by a light sensor.


The SIM mechanism is exactly like the one found in the 6682, which I love.



Display
The screen resolution is 240 x 320 and can display up to 16.7M colors. The light sensor didn't seem to vary the brightness of the screen. You can adjust the amount of time to wait before diming the screen in the Settings.

There are a lot of complaints from N95 users that the N82 screen isn't bright enough.

Coming from a W810i, I think the screen is really sharp and if you put it at the highest brightness, it's pretty bright.




Keypad
After writing about the looks of the keypad and other buttons I knew I was going to have troubles. They're raised well enough to be able to hit the right key but they're so tightly packed I still have a difficult time getting the right row or keys without looking. The thinness of the keys makes hitting the keys less comfortable than fatter ones. The flush left soft key and Symbian Menu key make it tricky to correctly hit the intended key. The right cluster of keys is separated by the multimedia key so it makes it a tad easier to distinguish between the right soft key and the 'C'.

The D-pad is raised slightly higher than the rest of the keys but travels pretty far down when you hit them. So when you push the right or left side of the D-pad the pad becomes flush with the right or left cluster of keys. This can cause the phone not to register the right or left push of the D-pad. Because the up/down/right/left on the D-pad is implemented as a thin ring around the center button, you might find yourself using the tip of your thumb a lot.



So how is the N82 keypad for gaming? I loaded up VBoy, VBag, and VNes to compare it to the pretty decent gaming experience I had with my old Nokia 6682. VBag ran with a slight lag so key presses weren't registered immediately so fast paced games like Contra Alien Wars are very difficult and I found myself dying a lot. I opened up vBag and that ran super smooth. The keypad reacted immediately and I was doing pretty good at the higher levels of Tetris. But because the D-pad ring is so narrow, I found myself pushing a very small area which channels more tension into your muscles. So if you're wondering what that means to gaming, it means you won't be able to play long before the hand on the D-pad gets tired. Because the D-pad is so wobbly and only registers certain points of the pad, playing games like Super Street Fighter 2 on vBag is VERY difficult.

One more thing, while the N82 has auto rotation enabled by default, you might want to disable it if you like playing landscape with the bottom of gaming screen on the left. I personally don't like landscape as you hold the phone fairly ackwardly. This would be sweet on the N81 with it's two extra buttons on the top of the phone.

From a phone perspective, you can use the N82 with one hand but hitting the End or Send key are tricky as they are very narrow and at the edge of the phone where your hand usually holds a phone.



WiFi

With high data charge rates in Canada from Rogers and roaming a lot for my work and vacations, having WiFi will save you a lot of money. While in Japan I was able to quickly scan for hotspots using the Wireless scan plug-in found on the home screen and effortlessly connect. While on the train stopped briefly at a station, I was able to connect and pull up the first page of mobileburn to read until the next stop.

While at the hotel, you will fully appreciate the browser's support for encryption and security certificates so you can log onto Yahoo, Hotmail, and my corporate e-mail without worrying about password sniffers while using the hotel's wireless connection. Too bad the built in image upload feature for Flickr didn't use a secure web page so your login and password are sent in plain text.

Auto screen rotation built right into the N82 make web browsing on the N82 much more enjoyable than without. It helped reduce the amount of side navigation and made web pages look a lot better. At times, the screen rotation was inaccurate so I had to shake the N82 for it to pick up the correct orientation.

iPass for S60 crashes all the time on the N82 so I couldn't access a number of hotspots.

Bug: The browser crashed a few times when loading some pages while sometimes it didn't for the same pages.


GPS

The GPS locking on the N82 was significantly better than when I used the N95-1. It's both faster (within 1 minute) and more reliable (even able to lock on while in my house). The accuracy was high with it being able to follow every turn made by the car. At times it would confuse you for being on the highway when you're on a road running alongside the highway.

Before I went to Japan I downloaded the Japan maps to my N82. It was only about 18MB which is significantly smaller than the whole map of Texas. When I got to Japan, Nokia Maps only showed a few major streets and none of the icons for train stations included were in the right place. I know Japan is not a major user of Nokias but they really need to improve their maps. A really annoying problem with Nokia Maps is that when zoomed in, you can't see most street names until you zoom out enough. I found myself trying to memorize the street names then slowly zooming in so I don't lose track of of the streets when all the names disappeared.

Since the included Nokia Maps doesn't include navigation, I got Garmin XT (supports the internal GPS) which seemed to lock onto satellites faster than Nokia Maps. Don't make a wrong turn in Garmin XT as it takes a long time for it to re-calculate a new route. I found myself figuring out directions on my own when I missed a turn and Garmin was left trying to tell me to make an immediate U-turn which I had already missed by the time it was done calculating the route. Moreover, Garmin's Maps were not accurate to which highways were toll (like the North Dallas Tollway is tolled) and which were not.

Bug: Garmin XT causes text copy and paste issues so the # key doesn't properly turn on/off copy/paste mode. Source: dmo from HowardForums.

Update: Garmin has fixed the above, '#' key behavior for phones without a pen key, bug in Garmin XT 4.10.80 (change log)

GPS kills the battery so if you're planning on going on a roadtrip and using the N82 as your navigation system, be sure to bring along your car charger. About an hour of GPS left me with 1-2 bars of battery.


Connectivity
You can connect the N82 to your computer using Bluetooth or data cable. You can install Nokia PC Suite to synchronize the N82 with your computer. You do not need to install PC Suite to install any applications/games onto the N82 as you can install them from the phone.

Bluetooth
You can pair devices, you can send images/files/ringtones/themes and virtually any content via bluetooth to another device. All files received appear in your inbox so it's not obvious . If your BT is off you can still send media, the phone prompts you to turn on BT but you'll need to manually turn it off.

Transfers occur in the background so you can multi-task during this time.

Pairing the N82 with a PC gives you these features in the included Bluetooth profiles:
Dial up networking
HS Audio gateway
OBEX Object Push
OBEX File Transfer
Serial Port

There's not as many profiles as on Sony Ericsson phones but it's good enough for most people.

Bluetooth connections between my laptop and N82 were not as stable as between my W810i and computer so I will occasionally lose connection or crash the BT driver on the computer.

I found myself using the data cable more frequently compared to previous phones.




Reception

Sound Quality
The outgoing sound quality has static and the receiver will know you're calling from a cell. I tested out calling to a landline from my N82 by walking along a busy corridor, quiet corridor, to a semi-busy hall. I called two different people and both reported static and I switched roles with one and heard the static. I tried to same call from my W810i to a landline and it was clean according to the receiver. I recorded my voice with the voice recorder and I didn't hear the static in the recording as I did in the call.

Incoming sound quality is clear and loud. A lot louder than my W810i in busy places.

I had the chance to use the N82 in Japan, where they are currently migrating to standardized 3G on WCDMA 2100. The incoming sound quality was loud and clear while outgoing sound quality was loud but picked up a bit of the surrounding noise.

Speakerphone
The Speakerphone works well on the N82. Voices come out clear.

Headset use
I haven't tested this.


Multimedia Features

Camera
The camera user interface (UI) in the N82 resembles recent N-series phones and takes pictures in the portait orientation.

Issue: The camera will occasionally have trouble auto focussing and will automatically attempt it a couple times.

This is the best camera on a phone that I have in my collection. This will become my new reference camera for future phones. Night mode requires you to have a fairly still hand to make the shots effective. The N82 stores pictures taken in the Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) format. EXIF is a variation on the JPEG that includes extra interchange information such as shutter speed, focal length, and lens aperture. The W810i provides: Width, Height, Horizontal Resolution, Vertical Resolution, Bit Depth, Frame Count, Equipment Make, Camera Model, Lens Aperture, Focal Length, F-Number, Exposure Time, ISO Speed, Metering Mode, Light Source, Date Picture Taken, Flash Mode, and Color Representation.



There are 5 picture sizes
Print 5M - Large
Print 3M - Medium
Print 2M - Medium
E-mail 0.8M - Med.
MMS 0.3M - Small

Sharpness
Hard
Normal
Soft

Scene
auto, user-defined, close-up, portrait, landscape, sports, night, night portrait

Unfortunately you can't have macro mode (close-up) with night mode at the same time. A real shame for me as I keep a food blog and some restaurants are dimly lit.

Flash
auto, on, red-eye, off
The xenon flash is quick to recharge so you won't be left waiting when taking rapid shots in the dark. Red-eye doesn't really work as you'll likely get red eyes anyways. No matter which mode you use (even "off"), the red autofocus LED light will turn on in dark places.

self timer
Self descriptive, it allows you to set up a timer and get into the shot. Choices are: off, 2 secs, 10 secs, and 20 secs.

sequence mode
single, burst (6), 10 sec, 30 sec, 1 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes

The first takes one photo at a time. The burst mode will take 6 pictures or more until you let go of the shutter button. The other timed settings will take a picture every 10 sec, 30 sec, 1 minute, etc.

colour tone
normal, sepia, black & white, vivd, negative

Show viewfinder grid
Shows 2 horizontal and 2 vertical lines on the camera viewfinder to help you align a photo.

White Balance
Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent

Shutter Sound
There are 4 different shutter sounds to select from. In most N82 firmware, you cannot silent the shutter sound or the autofocus sound even if you switch to Silent mode in Profiles. EURO firmwares allow you to silence the shutter and autofocus sounds in silent mode.

exposure compensation

contrast

light sensitivity
auto, low, medium, high

These are the ISO settings with low = ISO 100 , medium = ISO 200,and high = ISO 400
Source: the nokia guide

Automatic mode

Bright Day

The lantern mesh is very clear even when you zoom into it at 100%


The car is sharp, especially the little rain drops on the hood, but the street is a bit noisy.

Cloudy day


The bricks and branches blur together. A lot of noise cancelling is present. Zooming out, the photo looks very nice.

Night Time


Very high ISO used and heavy noise cancelling present but it still looks good when zoomed out.

Night Mode
There's a night mode as well, but it's fairly hard to use as it requires you to be completely still. These pictures were taken with very little external light.

Without night mode:


With night mode:


With xenon flash:


The N82 takes pretty decent pictures in night mode but unless your hands are super still and your subject is also super still, you should probably use the flash. The colour reproduction is pretty accurate with flash.


Macro Mode
I take a lot of close up pictures so this mode is very important to me. This is where auto focus helps the most.

N82 Macro


W810i Macro


The colour from the W810i is warmer and actually more accurate. But the N82 is much sharper.

N82 Macro


K800i Macro


The higher pixel count gives the N82 a much cleaner photo. Because the auto focus window is so large compared to Sony Ericsson W810i, K790i, and K800i, focussing on narrow objects like your finger or straw against a background will be difficult.

I miss the bright white LED found in the W810i that I used as a flash light.

I took a lot of pictures when I was in Japan and the feel of the spring loaded lens cover is amazing and gives the impression of a high quality build.


Video
The N82 also records video. You can record directly to the memory card and length of the movie is only bound by the amount of free space available. It's the same settings as the N95.

Different quality settings:
* TV high quality (MP4) - 640x480 pixels @ 2796kbits/s
* TV normal quality (MP4) - 640x480 pixels @ 1446kbits/s
* E-mail high quality (MP4) - 320x240 pixels @ 715kbits/s
* E-mail norm. quality (MP4) - 320x240 pixels @ 370kbits/s
* Sharing quality (3GP) - 176x144 pixels @95kbits/s

Video Stabilisation

Audio Recording


Applications

Multitasking
With over 90MB of RAM free on phone boot, you can multitask with all sorts of applications with little worry about running out of memory.

I never had any issues with applications automatically closing on me due to lack of memory. This is a big difference coming from an old 6682 which only had around 2MB of RAM.

I'm glad I can now open the camera application and leave my web browser open so I can take a picture and immediately upload it to imageshack.

Symbian
The menu and navigation is fast, almost as fast as my W810i.

Seeing the N82 has more power than the N73 (baseline n-gage platform) and includes 3D hardware acceleration like the N95, I don't see any issues running the upcoming n-gage games. It can play vNes and vBoy with no issues. vBag had a slight lag so it can throw off your timing in Super Mario World and especially Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo.

Java
I tried WPT (World Poker Tour) Hold Em 2 on the N82 and it played a lot slower than the W810i version. Bejeweled was equally slow. Java was slow on my 6682 so I suspect it's a Java implementation problem on Nokia's end. I guess it doesn't really matter as they're pushing S60 software/games over Java. Since games that run on the N73 run on the N82 there are plenty of games available. The N82 comes with the 3D version of Snakes and two n-gage demos.


External Memory
The memory card is hot swappable so you can take it out while the phone is on. The N82 prompts or alerts you that the memory card is being removed when you open the rubber protector. The rubber cover is sturdy on my phone but I don't recommend playing with it as I think it will wear out quickly and become loose. Some people have also found that you can use the battery cover to keep the phone up when leaving it up to take a picture.


Battery
I found myself out of power after about 1.5 days of use. I would have GSM only, make around 30 minutes of calls, browse the web for 10 minutes, and launch GPS for about 15 minutes. Charging from 1 bar of battery to full took less than an hour.


Ratings:
Performance...........9
Build quality...........8
Keypad...................6
Connectivity...............9
Features for $.........9
Software................9
Camera..................10
Battery life.............4

Overall.....................9


PROS:
*lots of memory to run apps simultaneously
*WiFi
*Relatively fast locking GPS
*Strong RF
*Great build quality
*Fast high quality camera
*Xenon flash
*Great incoming sound
*Amazing phonebook organization
*traditional phone design
*fast navigating menus
*lots of existing S60 games/apps
*great built in web browser
*accelerometer and screen auto rotation

CONS:
*bad battery life, at least it lasts over a day for me
*Paying for navigation in Nokia Maps
*small screen
*no way to turn off active standby plug-ins
*static in outgoing sound

Originally posted on HowardForums

6 comments:

b.p. said...

wow, so thorough and on hwforums too! next career move: professional reviewer/critic :)

Anonymous said...

very detailed review. Nicely done! Highly appreciated :)

Anonymous said...

Hey, Thanks for the Review. While you were in Japan were you charged for the Wifi? I live in Japan now and wondering if I can use the internet when I go back to Canada for Christmas

cool owl said...

hey, grat review. the battery life is good. but if you keep using it all day along making tests and using the xenon flash battery will be dead by the end of the day. his is normal. I think it has a good bat. life.
thx for the photo samples! It helped to make comparassions!

Eric said...

@anonyous #2: My hotel offered free wifi and a number of the train stations had a hotspot so it was no problem. Yes, you can use Internet when you go back to Canada over EDGE or WiFi

Farhan said...

Nice review!