Nokia N80 hands-on

I got a Nokia N80 last week. Nokia calls their new products “multimedia computers” and not “phones.” This is very true for the N80, in ways good and bad.First, the bad. These units are not in the “phone” price range – more towards the PDA price range. Fortunately I got this since my employer gave me a Smart plan. Next is the size – you need deep pockets (literally) to fit this in, and it’s quite heavy for a phone of today. It also burns battery charge quite fast – right now it’s doing 2-3 days on the first few charges. I hardly make calls or texts yet since my corporate number is not known to many people.

What I’ve been doing was playing with the “multimedia computer” features. The most useful is the WiFi. I tested this on a public Airborne Access hotspot (clunky popup authentication though), and at home using WPA2 Personal. (More details on the wireless home setup). It’s only for surfing and email, though. The firmware does not provide for routing voice or video calls over WiFi. The telcos won’t want that.

Surfing with WiFi and 3G is nice with the new open source Series 60 browser. This lets you surf full HTML websites – including AJAX – in a “panning” view. Simpler sites are easier to view, of course. For email, I set up the client with my corporate SSL/IMAP email (receiving) and SMTP/StartTLS/SASL (sending).

The builtin sound system is good. The builtin loudspeaker is like a good AM radio. The 3.5mm audio out can drive my cheap Boka speakers’ bass well, while the headset with volume control is long enough for mobile use. Keypad tones sound weird when on speakers, though. I haven’t had much luck with the Nokia Music Manager software. This iTunes-wannabe can rip to eAAC+ or M4A, but hangs when ripping CDs on one of my PCs (should try on another). It can copy existing MP3 and offers to downsample them, but it crashes.

The N80 can export the MiniSD memory card (it ships with 128 MB) as a mass storage device, but for Linux use it needs a patch (I haven’t tried).

The camera seems OK. I haven’t tried serious shots with it, just casual pics, and shots of our conference room whiteboard. (I’m not a photographer, and if you’re looking at the N80 for use as a camera phone, you should get a pro review!)

Things I need to try: 3G video calling, UPnP home networking, surfing from a laptop using the 3G network via Bluetooth.

Problems: I get “SIM card registration failed” errors sometimes, cutting off the data connection. The blue standby LED – when it shuts off the display – is annoying when you’re sleeping or driving.So far, so good. I’ll post some more features when I get around to trying them.

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