Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nokia N82: Two Years Review

Looking and functioning like new after two years of use and taking over 5000 photos and 70 videos.

After my year with the N82 review posted back in 2008, I'm here to review the N82 again for its second year.

The Nokia N82 has been out for a little over two years and cell phone trends have left this phone looking dated. It has a small screen, no touch screen, and no slide out QWERTY keyboard. I don't think there's any respectable cell phone reviewer/blogger that still uses this phone. But for me, the N82 still doesn't have a direct competitor.

Full review after the jump.

Two years ago, Nokia was faced with heavy competition from Sony Ericsson (SE) with their photo-centric Cybershot line of phones. To counter this, Nokia's flagship phone, the N95, was retooled into the body of a candy bar to compete directly with SE's 5MP camera phone, K790i. The N82 shared many of the same features of the N95 like integrated GPS, WiFi (802.11b/g), and 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics but it swapped out the LED flash with a Xenon flash to match the K790i's Xenon and Nokia had spent extra effort tuning the camera software for speed and quality. This instantly made the N82 Nokia's best camera phone and one of the best for night photos.

Xenon flash make photos taken in the dark look good.
Xenon flash is the main thing that keeps me using the N82. Most phones these days are using dual LED flash which is a lot better than the single LEDs used back during the Nokia 6682 1MP days. But they don't come close to amount of lumens you get from Xenon. There are a few papers out on the Internet that show LED technology can potentially match Xenon for brightness but the amount of time needed to light up something to match Xenon would be a few seconds, which is too slow for action photos.

But Xenon is not the only camera strength for the N82. The photo algorithm used on the N82 for photo capture and JPEG compression goes neck and neck with the best current N-series camera phone, the N86. Images are sharp, noise is kept to a minimum, and blurring isn't used much. There's good reason why Nokia enthusiasts keep coming back for comparisons against the N82 when Nokia puts out a new camera phone.

Build Quality

After many dents, the N82 still keeps working.
It has really held up well. I've dropped my N82 all over the place and on hard concrete and asphalt and the only thing that shows is the scratches and dents. It never shattered with battery or memory card popping out on any occasion I dropped it.

The N82 has not developed any new creaking since the first year and the D-pad still feels like new. The spring loaded camera lens cover feels a little less springy than last year but it could be dust getting in the way.


Dust goes into the front facing camera through the ear piece.
The front facing camera has gotten about 1/4 covered with dust coming in from the ear piece. If you strongly tap your phone on one of its sides, the dust should drop to one side. The battery cover still leaks in some dust and so does the memory card cover but it hasn't gotten worst. Dust has not gotten under the display yet unlike my E71. I also haven't gotten too much dust into the 5MP camera yet so the lens cover is actually doing a great job

Software Remarks
I've only updated the firmware 3 times on my N82. My N82 is on the latest firmware V 31.0.016 as of this writing. I recall one time it crashed with Garmin running so crashes are very rare on the N82.

With the popularity of touch-based phones, the N82 operating system, S60 3rd edition, has taken a back seat to both S60 5th edition and Maemo. This means less developer focus and little software released on this platform. The multitude of phone operating systems in the market like Android, Windows Mobile, and iPhone hasn't helped S60 3rd edition either. Thankfully the software I need is already available to S60 3rd edition like:
  • Office productivity - QuickOffice
  • Navigation - Garmin XT/Nokia Maps
  • Multimedia - Mobitubia/RealPlayer/Nokia Music
  • Games - NGage (it's been discontinued but still some good games like Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil)/vBag (GameBoy Advanced emulator)/MobiPad (allows you to use your Wii controller with your N82) - I don't see why everyone is so excited by Maemo being able to play SNES games when older N95/N82 phones handled GBA games that are usually ports of SNES games.
  • Browser - Nokia browser (I may need to switch to Opera as the built-in browser doesn't support all web sites or standards)
For me, the N82 has what I need for a smart phone even though it may not be the funnest phone (iPod/iPhone pun intended). But speaking of iPhone, I've been let down numerous times when I've tried to share photos with other people through Bluetooth only to find out their iPhone or Blackberry doesn't support Bluetooth OBEX (file transfer). Bluetooth OBEX has been implemented on phones since the SE T68i from 2002. iPhone 3.0 adds support to connecting to other iPhones however. Nokia definitely embraces industry standards and sharing a lot more than its competitors.

The Nokia N82 playing GameBoy Advanced games through vBag. Nseries Freescale phones could not run vBag at an acceptable framerate. It's even more fun hooking up the N82 to a TV and pairing a Wii controller to the N82 for some big screen gaming.

Unfortunately Nokia hasn't released a new firmware for the N82 since 2008 so I think Nokia has ended support for the N82.

Hardware Remarks
When the N82 was released, it was on the bleeding edge with many technologies that were just emerging. Even though the N82 is a two year old phone, it supports much of the features found on the latest smart phones like:
  • 5MP camera with autofocus and macro
  • integrated GPS
  • WiFi (802.11b/g)
  • WCDMA 3G (unfortunately only at 2100MHz for Europe/Japan and capped at 4MB/s)
  • 3D graphics acceleration
  • TV output
  • Bluetooth
  • 32GB microSDHC support
  • 3D accelerometer (Motion sensor)
  • MicroUSB

The only things I can think it misses are digital compass, touch screen, full QWERTY keyboard, and microUSB charging. There's no reason to look pass the N82 as a dated phone because it keeps up with the best in the market.

The N82's built-in GPS is also a lot faster at locking onto satellites than any of the Freescale powered Nokia phones that have been released. I don't have the patience to wait for GPS to warm up. And in difficult situations like New York City, the N82 could obtain a lock but Freescale powered phones like the E71 or N97 never got a lock.

One stand out feature that has kept the N82 without direct competitor is its Xenon flash.

Without Xenon, the N82 would not be the best Nokia camera phone. A bit of dust has got pass the lens cover and onto the lens.

Two main problems come from equipping a phone with Xenon flash is that the charge capacitor is large so the phone won't be thin and charging up the capacitor requires a lot of power so it kills battery life. These two drawbacks have swayed manufacturers to choose small low powered LEDs which don't produce nearly enough light in the short time it takes to capture a photos. Therefore LED flash usually produces photos with ghosting or blurring.

Photos in the dark (N97 to N82):

Dimly lit night mode with flash (N85 / N82)

Dual LED isn't even close to matching Xenon.

I little interesting fact, tummypoints.com, a restaurant review site, exclusively uses the N82 to capture their food and restaurant photos.

Battery Life
In my second year with the phone, it has been lasting me about 1.5 days with little use. With heavy camera usage, it barely lasts 3/4 of a day so I always need my car charger on road trips. If battery life gets worst I can buy a new battery unlike some other phones.

To Conclude
While a long term review of a phone might not be the most attention grabbing blog entry since everyone is excited for any N900, iPhone, or Android news, but a long term review tells you a lot about the quality of the manufacturer. Nokia spents considerable effort to ensure their phones are built to last and it shows with the N82. Nokia equips their Nseries phones with powerful features that keep their phones relevant for years. The combination of Xenon flash and great camera software make the Nokia N82 the premier camera phone with no direct competitors.

I'm looking forward to another year with my trusty N82 as my primary phone!

A little snipplet of the places I've taken my N82 in the second year:


Roshan said...

for browser, have you tried skyfire? I use it on my e61 and it is great.

Anonymous said...


I always carry my n82 with me, mainly for video recording and taking pictures. If it had 3g and larger battery, I'd probably sell my e71 and 5800.

Eric said...

@Roshan I'd consider Opera Mini or Skyfire but I don't like how they go through their company proxies to render the pages. I wouldn't trust it for viewing my banking information.

dsi r4 said...

So far, I have found no flaws worth noting. If you have the money, you will be very happy with it..

mobileyog said...

Fantastic long term review, I am also using it for 1 year 8 months black version. Still cant find any phone which will replace it. Its perfect, sturdy candybar, great camera, battery, GPS , all in one. but sad to see Nokia is not releasing real successor to it. And they want you to believe that dual LED is better than Xenon. :-)

Anonymous said...

i work for nokia and i have to say personaly nothing can touch the n82 for its core feature, imaging! iv used it in water, sand, nite, day, dusk, just about every where, i dont own a camera i own an N82, thats it its my life image is everything! i have both silver and black, not switching just yet, however give it a few months and well see! n86 is awesome to thou for stills in day light, still got another 3 n82's befor i really have to switch! thou!

Nico said...

I found your post via All About Symbian. I'm too still using an N82 and loving it! I don't see any reason to upgrade. Great camera, good amount of RAM, lots of functionality and I haven't manage to break it yet (the thing is indestructible). Too bad that Nokia gave up on it already.

Paired with a bluetooth keyboard and a tv, it's like a mini entertainment centre. I didn't know GBA games could run on it. I'm looking forward to try that now.

For a browser, Opera Mobile 10 is great. Just like Opera Mini but without a proxy. Unlike with newer handsets, the N82 doesn't get low memory warnings.

Anonymous said...

bought my first N82 (silver) two years ago, sold it for E71, then bought another N82 (this time black) last year....still working fine. i may buy N86 but NOT to replace N82. so far i'm not convinced that two LEDs are better than one xenon.

eric d gadget freak

Anonymous said...

Bought it for camera,wifi, and GPS.
Rarley use Xenon. Love Podcasting, and Truphone when abroad. N86 tempting but I want candy-bar. FM transmitter and digital compass would be nice. Hope everybody is using JB Taskman. A bigger battery wouldn't hurt. The touch UI's I tried didn't convince.

Anonymous said...

Never hear much said about the fact that dual LED is also a solution for video capture, for which a Xenon flash isn't particularly useful. So if the design brief is for still and video capture then dual LED is pretty good, as well as taking into account the size/battery life consideration mentioned by Eric.


Anonymous said...

Great review with many good points such as the GPS being faster to lock onto position. (It's beaten by the GPS in the E75 with A-GPS and network based turned off)

All of the other primarily functions are still up to date such as video recording and media.
Compared to e.g. the N97 it chunks away more media formats for consumption than the newer Nokia handsets.

Compass is a bit missed, as well as a larger screen. The only really bad thing I find on the N82 is the outdated webbrowser, which can easily be more or less circumvented by installing e.g. Opera Mobile. Minor is video recording in dark places with the N82.

N97 being my primary phone and the N82 being my 1/2 primary one.


Eric said...

@mobileyog - I totally agree. No way dual LEDs on current phones even come close to Xenon no matter what any manufacturer or reviewer says.

@anonymous at nokia - i hope nokia keeps making N82. My replacement for the N82 would be another. Only question for me would be black or silver. LOL

@Nico - yeah you definitely should get vBag. It supports most GBA games like Super Mario World and plays at a smooth framerate. I can even play Super Street Fighter 2, which is very timing sensitive.

@eric d gadget freak - I was considering the N86 but I tried taking photos with the N85 and the OLED screen was VERY difficult to see under direct sunlight. The same would go for the N86.

@dohouch - I totally agree with the FM Transmitter. I miss that after I switched back to the N82 from the N97

@muchado - true, the dual LED would be good for taking video but if you read reviews on AllAboutSymbian, the focus distance for the video on Nokia is set for a far distance so close up video is unfocussed. The LEDs have a very short distance. So in the end you end up getting less than optimal video in all dark situations.

@wampyre - I had the E75 or a few weeks too and the E75 couldn't lock on as fast as the N82 if you only use satellite based for both.

Shane said...

I’m in the same boat as Eric. I love my N82. Whenever I try and buy a new phone I compare features and really it has everything even if the OS lacks transitions and touch screen. I have an awesome podcast app, 16gb memory card so it holds a decent selection of music, awesome camera that is easily capable of taking shots (I have dSLR so I can take awesome pics when I need, best camera is one you have with you), good browser with flash support and the equally awesome new Opera Beta, GPS with google maps and latitude so when my mates are out i can find them and catchup, decent email client that ‘can’ do html when you open link via attachments although most emails are txt anyway, google sync with contacts and calendar although i wish it supported multiple like iphone or maemo5 seems to. After all that it has wifi too and 3.5mm jack to plug into car… And dlna which streams to my tv to share my 2000+ pics or music with friends. It has a multitasking os too internet radio to listen to some new tunes and shazam for music id. Only clear disadvantage is fact my mates ask why i use such old phone and they don’t understand it’s power… So which phone next? iPhone to go with my mac pro, n97 with touch and keyboard or n86 to take even better snaps (maybe) but little wow factor so why bother upgrading from my n82 which I typed this entire rant on?

Eric said...

@Shane - I whole heartedly agree with your comment. People see a bar phone and think it can't do much but they're in for a surprise! Thanks for sharing that with us.

Dill said...

hi Eric! Love your 2 year N82 review! Your N82 looks really shiny even after 2 years. I was wondering, how would the N82 cope with liquid. Lets say sweat, because I sweat a lot living in a hot country. Would the n82 survive it? Thanks =D

Samwise said...

I'm a fan of digital photography and own a few compact digital cameras. N82 is certainly a phone that got very close to a standard compact camera, particularly the powerful xenon flash and its optimization is usage with the 5Mpx camera. In some of my shots with N82, they are even better than the compact. As for the battery consumption of xenon flash phone like n82, it actually offers better power management due to the use of capacitor over the dual-led solution today. LED draws current directly from the battery, and with the higher power white LED used in the high-end phones today exceed 1Amp per LED, the high current drawn from the battery is a big issue for power consumption and system stability. With the n82 comes to age, I'm looking forward and hoping Nokia will soon release a worthy replacement of N82 with xenon flash.

Anonymous said...

Just curious. Why is there dust inside the camera? I find it odd that despite many years of experience manufacturing phones, dust still gets under screens and cameras.

Eric said...

@Dill - I've wiped my N82 with a fairly wet paper towel so generally it's OK but try to keep water away from any openings like the microUSB slot, ear piece, mic, speakers, and between the keys. The only thing I've oddly noticed on the N82 in hot climates is that it becomes slower. For example re-calculations on Garmin are slower when the phone is hot.

@Samwise - I'm planning to put together a review of the power draw comparing the N82's Xenon to the N79's dual LED. Thanks for your comments.

@Anonymous - There's a lot of openings on a phone as a mentioned to Dill. Because a phone is so compact, they couldn't perfectly enclose every opening.

Anonymous said...

The n82 is a great phone. Had mine for just under 2 years. Finally did end up getting the n86, but the n82 was definitely a solid phone with a great camera.

Stephen Angelo said...

I have the black one with 1 year and 7 months now. On v31 too and this maybe the last we will be getting. It doesn't matter cause the phones so stable right now (mine crashes maybe after two weeks of no restart and when I have the music player, the messaging app, the browser all open and then shifting back and forth between them while switching tracks using the remote control I 'borrowed' from my n95)
Dropped mine only twice and it was during it's early days and I've been very careful since then, I use a pouch and that may have been why I kept the phone from accumulating dust.
The only thing that makes my phone aged is the faded silver coat on the lens area just beneath the xenon and below right near the '5MP' label.
Xenon is very hard to give up, my coworkers even prefer using my phone rather than the company one because n82 give better pictures.
If I were to replace this, it has to be a xenon and not just LED's but still this one is for the keeps, not going to sell it or give it away... I love this phone..


John the Monkey said...

Still using an N82 here as well - the only thing I think it lacks is QWERTY, tbh, not overly bothered by touch screen, personally.

Rock solid, reliable little phone that's also my compact camera, music player, calendar, podcatcher etc etc.

dogears said...

'Linked' this blog on my 26Feb2010 entry. N82 user here and loving it since I learned more than I bought it for (the camera).


mobile said...

I hope you will again write after 2 years on N82.
Latest Mobile Phones

Anonymous said...

I've just bought a N82 second hand. In 2011 !
I wanted a pocket camera that can also make phone calls...

Santos said...

I have a N82 for two years and six months. It is a fantastic mobile phone. Never gave me any trouble. I have 47 applications installed, including Garmin Mobile XT and Route 66. Powerfull Wireless, fast and acurate GPS, takes great pictures with the xenon flash, makes good quality movies.
What more can you ask? No actually touchscreen mobile phone can have this level of quality and be so complete like the N82. Finally you can install unsigned applications with helloOx2. There are themes to imitate the iPhone and android gingerbread. Congratulations for the blog!