Saturday, May 16, 2009

Nokia N85 Review

The Nokia N85 is positioned as the successor to the Nokia's prized N95. The N95 introduced a number of firsts for Nokia such as the 5MP camera, built-in GPS, and dual slide. There is high expectations for the N85 to replace such an amazing phone. Nokia has chosen the safe route with only slightly improving the N95 formula with a spring loaded lens cover, adding dual LED flash, changing to an OLED display while keeping the camera at 5MP, GPS, and wifi. No significant new features were added. The firmware on my N85 is V 10.045 (the initial production firmware). The box contains the phone (N85-1), battery (BL-5K: Extended 850 mAh), charger (AC-10), Nokia 8GB microSD card (MU-43), Nokia Video Connectivity Cable (CA-75U), USB cable (CA-101) and stereo headset with controls (HS-45, AD-54), and Nokia CD with utilities and programs.

Quick facts:
Name: Nokia N85-1
Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 WCDMA 900/1900/2100
Weight: 128 g
Dimensions: 103 x 50 x 16 mm
Battery life (stand by): 360 hours (GSM), 360 hours (WCDMA)
Battery life (talk): 414 minutes (GSM), 270 (WCDMA)
CPU: 32bit Freescale MXC300, 369 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP

My phone was manufactured in: (your phone's country of manufacture could vary) Finland

The N85 continues with Nokia's Nseries design with a simple glossy exterior, square ring dpad, and minimal markings.

Front Closed

The D-pad carries the Nokia ring design with a center key and up/down/left/right all on a ring. The ring is fairly narrow so playing fast paced games is a little tricky with it. The call and end buttons include a little sliver of green/red respectively to easily feel out where the buttons are. The actual call and end buttons occupy a larger area and the ends of the phone but are flush with the rest of the phone.

Back Closed

A simplistic back with a textured look. I'm not keen on the mocha brown but it does bring up the texture better than if it were all black. The difference between the black front and rear brown isn't as noticable in person

In my hands

The N85 has a good weight giving it a solid high quality feel. The N85 doesn't creak while it's closed but does have a wobble on the slide mechanism when the phone is opened. It has a better slide than the N95 but not as stiff and solid as the E65.

The phone has a glossy finish on both the front and back so the N85 collects fingerprints and smudges easily. The side is a non-glossy metallic color so it doesn't smudge. Since the phone is so smooth, I found myself having to nudge the bottom of the top half to open the N85. Not really convenient but I'd probably get used to it.

N85 compared to the N82

The N85 is a tad thinner than my N82 which is a good feat for a feature packed slider.

The phone has slightly rounded sides so it's tricky to get standing up on it's own to take photos.

The SIM mechanism is similar to the E71, which I'm not a fan of. Taking the SIM out is very tricky and I end up using my nails to slowly pull it out.

The N85 is a dual slider like the N95 and N96 before it so you can slide the top half up to reveal the number pad or slide the top half down to reveal the 4 media keys.


The number pad:

A rubber separates horizonal keys from each other so you can feel the top keys from the lower keys. However there is no separator between keys vertically beside each other so it's hard to feel the difference between 1 and 2 keys.

The 4 media keys are unlit when the phone is off:

Clicking either the number pad or media keys gives the user a click feedback to confirm the key was pressed. The click is loud and feels a little sticky like the number pad of the Motorola Razr or the Nokia 6650.

The keypad light is strong, evenly lit, and no light leaking. This is one of the best lighted Nokia devices. The D-pad is not lighted however. As with most phones these days, lighting is controlled by a light sensor.

The stand out feature of the N85 is the 2.6 inch OLED screen used. The screen resolution is 240 x 320 and can display up to 16.7M colors. The difference between an OLED display and a traditional LED display is the lighting where each pixel lights up on the OLED so black is when pixels don't light up while traditional LED is backlit so black is still lighted up. Thus blacks look very black on an OLED giving better vibrate colors.

Unforunately there is a drawback to the OLED that is its visibility under direct sunlight. As you can see in the following photo, there is too much glare to comfortably see what's on the screen.

Multimedia Features

The N85 features a 5 megapixel (MP) camera with a Carl Zeiss lens which has been featured in numerous Nseries phones since the N95. The camera user interface (UI) in the N85 resembles recent N-series phones and takes pictures in the portait orientation.

A small spring loaded cover protects the lens. I prefer the side switch found on the N82 over pushing down on the actual cover but both work.

For a list of all the different settings and modes, please refer to my Nokia N82 review.

Daylight with Automatic setting (N85 / N82)

The N85 produced a slightly more detailed photo as you can see in the bricks around the "For Sale" sign. But the N85 photo had a slight yellow tint to it.

Daylight with Automatic setting (N85 / N82)

The N85 photo shows a lot better detail on the branches and leaves of the tree. The N82 seems to have a very narrow focus area so most of the tree ends up being a blur.

Dimly lit night mode with no flash (N85 / N82)

The N85 produced a far noiser photo but was brighter than the N82.

Dimly lit night mode with flash (N85 / N82)

There is just no competition here. The N82's Xenon flash produced a much sharper photo as you can see from the box label and less noise in the photo.

Macromode with Automatic setting and no flash (N85/ N82)

The N85 produced a noiser photo but detail is comparable.

Macromode with Automatic setting with flash (N85 / N82)

The N85 produced a slightly yellowy photo. Detail is comparable on each. Flash doesn't make as much of a difference up close.

The N85 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 and N82. Videos came out my fuzzy and desaturated than the N82.

As with most recent Nseries, the N85 packs an internal GPS that connects to GPS satellites and does not require data. I heavily rely on this functionality to help me get around so the GPS sensitivity is an important factor for me.

So I compared the lock on time after a cold boot of the phone:

E71 vs. N85

The N85 was faster to lock on than the E71.

N82 vs. N85

The N82 locked on a lot faster than the N85

GPS sensitivity is no where close to the performance of the older N82 but at least things have improved compared to the E71 which shares the same GPS chipset.

External Memory
The memory card is hot swappable so you can take it out while the phone is on. The N85 prompts or alerts you that the memory card is being removed when you open the rubber protector. The thin plastic 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.

I found myself out of power after about 2 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. It's unfortunate that Nokia had to shrink the battery capacity to fit the slim profile of the N85.

Build quality...........7
Features for $.........9
Battery life.............8


Nokia has produced a worth successor to the uber popular N95 with a smaller phone, same sized but better quality screen, and impressive imagine quality. For me, what holds the N85 from replacing my N82 is the lack of Xenon flash, poor night photos, and slow GPS lock time. I definitely recommend new users to Nokia S60 check out the N85 as their first power phone.

*attractive design
*Strong RF with triband 3G
*Fast high quality camera
*Large, sharp, and brilliant OLED display
*impressive 5MP camera quality in daylight

*Poor display visibility under direct sunlight
*Lack of Xenon flash
*Unimpressive dimly lit photos
*Slow GPS locking


David said...

i would add that the build quality is bad here, i found a small crack under the dpad and some scratches at the very bottom of the numeric keypad, how did I did that? the slide is scratching the phone somehow.

Anonymous said...

Eric----what is the speaker phone like? Is it as good as previous nokia spearkerphones?

Eric said...

The speakerphone isn't as strong as the N95 or N82 but stronger than my E71.

Nokia phones said...

I have not seen it till now but I think I should have a look at it. Review is very impressive.