First impressions of the Nokia N96, plus photo samples: Updated

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Guest contributor Nick Anstee signed up to be one of the first to get a Nokia N96, as part of a limited 'wildlife' run. Read on for his first impressions of the N96 [text updated heavily], after almost a week of intensive playing, plus photos of the device and some really nice photo samples taken on the device.

Over to Nick, a self-confessed gadget freak who, sadly, seems to own more phones than I do(!) - heh:

  • Screen: Excellent, the best I have used in bright sunlight and a good size/ratio for watching videos. Colours are more vibrant and saturated than my E90, which looks a bit washed out in comparison.
  • N96 playing a movie

  • The size isn't as large as I'd expected. Admittedly I'm coming to the N96 from the E90, but I was still pleasantly surprised. The N96 is shorter and easier to hold than the Apple iPhone, which I also have.
  • Size comparisons

  • Build quality is very good, though the whole thing is a fingerprint magnet. I was initially concerned about the thin plastic back cover, but once it is in place it feels very secure and probably actually virtually indestructible, the casework is thankfully devoid of the creaks on my E90. The sliding mechanism is very solid and snaps very nicely and accurately back to the center. The keypad lock button is a nice feature. The speakers are very good and probably better than the E90. The kick stand is a very useful and a welcome feature but could be enhanced by making the angle adjustable. All the buttons and keys are generally very good with the exception of the shutter button - there seems to be a patent against designing a decent shutter button for phones! [Nick obviously hasn't used the N95 or N82, both with excellent shutters! - Ed] The shutter button on the N96 is very stiff, and its final 'take photo' stop is well inside the phone's casing.
  • Battery life: one word - IMPRESSED. I took the phone off charge at 6:30 this morning, 16.5 hours later the low battery warning has just come on, during this time:
    i) Approx 1 Hour playing YouTube Videos using the S60 browser through 3.5G
    ii) Approx 1 Hour general Web Surfing using both Wifi and 3.5G
    iii) Approx 1 hour mucking about with settings and navigating menus, etc.
    iv) Setup Profimail and synced my IMAP account, 3,200 Emails, approx 400MB using Wifi, 3.5G and GPRS!
    v) Downloaded the AAS Podcast, approx 20MB directly on the N96, and played the file using a stereo Bluetooth headset
  • The music quality is very good indeed, especially over Bluetooth/A2DP.
  • The built-in speakers are very loud, a good thing.
  • Menu navigation: generally very swift, every bit as fast as my E90, except in some areas where the device seems to hang for a while, maybe early firmware bugs. The multimedia functions are noticeably quicker than on the E90, especially photo handling [Every other device is faster for photo handling than the E90! - Ed]
  • USB is fast, much faster than the N95 8GB or E90.
  • Call quality: Excellent
  • I can't get the naviwheel to work. It turns out that this functionality was disabled by Nokia for production N96s.
  • Browsing the web on a QVGA screen was initially disappointing after the E90 - but this was to be expected! I'm now finding it very good though, the pages load faster than on the E90 and going back into the browser is quicker.
  • Email: I don't use the built in client, I use Profimail. I initially had problems with the button mapping but LCG/Profimail have been outstanding and fixed this glitch by sending me a working beta within 24 hours.
  • Connections: I have experienced problems trying to get my Wifi connection working consistently (no such problems with my E90) but, once connected, it stays connected and is fast. I just ran the wizard for the operator settings for 3.5G and it worked fine. Maybe my lack of familiarity with FP2 and Network Destinations counted against me here.
  • No manual was supplied. :-( But they did throw in a car charger and a T-Shirt :-)
  • Switch was buggy and wouldn't let me transfer my data from E90 to N96. I had to use an unofficial iSync plug-in from the 'net to sync data with my Mac instead.
  • TV out: Worked flawlessly the first time, just stuck the cables in the TV and I was off....
  • Case: I have got the Nokia CP-293, but it is not the ideal case for me because you cannot see the display with the cover shut, unlike the similar Nokia case for the E90, so I am looking for a nice leather sleeve type or a leather cabriolet type case to recess the camera lens a fraction and use in conjunction with a screen protector.
  • The camera's very good, a vast improvement on the E90 apart from the shutter button. The camera loads quicker than the E90 and the shutter lag is much, much less. The burst shooting feature is very useful. I have not tried video recording yet. The 5 megapixels stills look great, with good fine details and contrast. Not tried the flash really yet.
    Here are some photo samples, click each to enlarge/download/print (etc):

Click to download or enlarge/browser-resize   Click to download or enlarge/browser-resize

Click to download or enlarge/browser-resize   Click to download or enlarge/browser-resize

Click to download or enlarge/browser-resize

Overall, excellent device, I didn't think that I would be so pleased with a non-qwerty device and I am looking forward to the BBC iPlayer, etc

Nick Anstee

Thanks, Nick!

See also (from our earlier coverage of the N96)

Preview of the Nokia N96 from MWC (February 2008)

Video preview of the N96

Nokia N96 Gallery (from the phone's launch)

Nokia N96 Memory Cards (available up to 16GB in size).