Battle of the camera smartphones - Nokia N90 vs Nokia N93

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Steve Litchfield takes an objective look at the year old Nokia N90 versus its successor, the N93. Has everything changed for the better? Are there any areas where the N90 beats the new giant on the block?

Aspect  Nokia N90Nokia N93 
 N90 N93
Still photographyPretty good 2mp focussed images, perhaps a little lacking in colour and with only average handling of extremes of light and darkBetter 3mp focussed and optically zoomed image, though still arguably lacking a little in terms of colour and automatic exposure
Video photographyReasonably sharp VideoCD resolution (352 by 288 pixel) video at 15 frames per second, working out to around 4MB of disk space needed per minute of footageSuperior video capture at 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, with optional image stabilisation, working out to around 20MB of disk space needed per minute of footage
Closed form factorUniform monoblock, 112mm long by 51mm wide by 24mm thickRough monoblock, 118mm by 55mm wide by 28.2mm thick
Taking photos without opening the devicePossible through use of the cover display and twistable camera moduleNot possible
Taking photos or videos at flexible anglesPossible by moving the N90 up or down and rotating the camera module to point in the right directionNot practical, whole device has to point in the direction of the camera
Main displayBright, 352 by 416 pixelsLarger and brighter display, though with lower pixel count, at 240 by 320. Extra trick of being able to use it in landscape mode in any applications, plus piping of the display to a composite device such as a TV.
On-device video editingVideo editor, integrated into Gallery, with cut, colour effect, slow motionVideo editor, integrated into Gallery, with cut, colour effect, slow motion
External controlsJust side navigator and shutterSide navigator, shutter, zoom jog dial, flash mode and shooting mode
Third party applicationsWide range, 95% compatible with the high-res screenSlightly limited range at the moment, S60 3rd Edition
Free RAM for applications20MB18MB
Cover UIDisplay of status, text messages, alarms, plus viewfinder for still photos, changing profiles, changing music volumeTime, date, network status, changing profiles, music volume and stop/start/next track, plus visual equaliser
CommsUsual Bluetooth/GPRS, etc.Wi-Fi, UPnP make it something of a consummate communicator, despite the low, low RAM

You might think that choosing between the N90 and the brand new N93 is a no-brainer - but a careful study of the attributes above should reveal that they're slightly different beasts and each have their strongpoints.

The N90 scores with its smaller size (what am I saying - the N90 'small'?!?), the more flexible cover display, the more flexible camera module, greater free RAM and better third party application compatibility.

The N93 mainly scores with its VGA video recording facility and slightly superior optics, with higher resolution, better hardware camera controls and flexible, brighter display with UPnP or direct cable piping to a TV or similar if needed. Plus Wi-Fi, of course.  There's far more of a focus on the camera with the N93 though - the high-spec video recording and its playback is the whole point of the device.

The typical buyer of the N93 won't be that interested in running games or web browsing or listening to music. He or she will buy it to split duties between phone, camera and camcorder, and I'd expect them to use a 2GB card for maximum recording time, with no other files on the card. The N90 buyer, on the other hand, wants a good camera, it's true, but knows there's more to a smartphone than being a makeshift digital camera, and will be using office and PIM applications, games, music players and so on. It's a very different scenario for a very different device.

More thoughts on the N93 in my (and Rafe's) full review, coming shortly.

Steve Litchfield, 27 July 2006