The first from the new Nokia's Series 60 based N-Series, the N90, is just about to become commercially available. Below you can find some thoughts and impressions based on 3 weeks of testing.
1. CPU and memory
Based on Symbian OS 8.1a, Series 60 2.8 (Second Edition Feature Pack 3), the N90 is equipped with 220 MHz ARM9 based CPU, the same as the one found in Nokia 6630 or 6680. This is a good news because the CPU is quite fast and power efficient; it's the fastest processor currently used in Symbian OS phones. Aplications work very fast, but the user interface (selecting options, switching between screens) as well as the external display's reaction time seem to be a bit sluggish. Having only tested an early SW version, I do not want to elaborate on it at this time; I'll write more when final, sales version becomes available.
The most exciting news, however, is the amount of operating memory (RAM): the N90 reports 48 MB total RAM memory of which about 20-21 MB RAM is free for the user! It's almost three times more than in previous Series 60 phones (e.g. 6630 or 6680 only have about 8-9 MB free RAM) and about 6 times more than the first S60 devices like 7650 or 3650. Now you can forget about any "Insufficient memory" messages when using complex, memory hungry applications like for example the Opera browser. It will also allow developers to create much more advanced software and better games, as low memory in Series 60 devices was always a serious restriction. Well, not anymore!
The phone also has 30 MB of built-in Flash memory for storing user data and applications (internal disk C:) and supports storage memory expansion with hot-swappable Dual Voltage RS-MMC memory cards (64 MB card comes with the device). N90 is a tri-band GSM (900/1800/1900 MHz) and UMTS (2100 MHz) phone.
The N90 is one of the biggest and the heaviest Series 60 smartphone made so far. It's dimensions (112 x 51 x 24 mm) are almost identical to Nokia 7650 and Sony Ericsson P910 and it's also quite heavy (173 g), a bit heavier than the 9300 Communicator(!). That's the first thing you should take into consideration when you think about buying it. I can't tell you if it is "too heavy" or "too big" or not; it depends on personal preferences. It is still much smaller and lighter than e.g. Motorola A92x or Nokia 7710, and there are many people using (and liking) them, so the N90 is definetely usable. Remember that it is a clamshell, which means that it simply HAS TO BE thicker than "candybar" phones for obvious reasons. The good side is that thanks to its size it is very convenient to hold in hand. It's probably also healthier as you keep the antenna (located in the "lower part") far away from your brain.
The N90 is made of plastic, but it feels sturdy and solid. No squeaking sounds, no bending parts, nothing to be worried about here. The phone will be available in two color versions: silver-black (that's the one on the pictures) and silver-blue. Shiny chrome-like elements on both sides of the phone make it look elegant but they seem to be quite susceptible to scratches so you'll have to take care not to carry the phone in your pocket along with other hard things like keys. I did and I regret it.
The N90 is the first Series 60 phone from Nokia equipped with two displays and also the first S60 device with high resolution 352x416 pixels (262 thousand colors) screen.
The physical dimensions of the internal screen remain the same as of 'older' Series 60 phones, which means that it uses four times smaller pixels! And YES, it is visible on a first sight; the quality, smoothness, contrast and colors of the internal display are simply the best in its class. All fonts, icons and UI elements are unbelievably smooth, even smoother than what you can see on desktop computers' LCD monitors. It is really a PLEASURE to look at it. The screen can be rotated by up to 90 degrees and it automatically switches to landscape mode. The phone also automatically launches the Camera application and turns the display into a viewfinder.
The following screenshot shows the actual resolution of the internal screen. Other screenshots are scaled down to better fit page layout.
The external screen (128x128 pixels, 65k colors) provides quick access to the most important information. In standby mode it shows a simplified standby screen with the information about current network, signal and battery indicators, active profile, current time, Bluetooth and GPRS/3G status, etc. It also shows the caller ID (including picture from the phonebook) and lets you pick up / reject the call or mute the ringer, it informs about missed calls, reports new SMS/MMS messages and can be used to change profiles. When you rotate the camera "barrel" with the fold closed, the external screen turns into viewfinder and you can record movies and take pictures without having to open the flip.
You also have direct access to various camera settings and modes using the joystick located on the right side of the phone. After selected period of time the external screen can be switched to diplay a configurable screen saver and/or power saver (large date and time, floating clock or user defined text). One can also set the brightness of the external display and change its wallpaper (can be set by theme).
The following images show the external screen. It isn't possible to make screenshots of the external display and I had to take pictures of it using a digital camera, hence the quality.
5. Keypad and buttons
The keypad is of good quality, with very good tactile feedback. The very same applies to the 5-way control key; it's precise, with the central button clearly separated from the direction buttons. All keys are large, traditionally shaped and very convenient to use.
There are two additional funtion keys located above the internal display. They are used (along with the joystick) to control menus when the screen is rotated and the display works in landscape mode: you can switch between Gallery and viewfinder and change all kinds of settings of recording video or taking still pictures.
On the right side of the phone you can find the already mentioned joystick and a button. As I wrote, the joystick provides control for the external screen and also works when the flip is open and rotated and the display is in landscape mode. The other button is a camera shutter button. When the camera is inactive the button is used for voice dialling and voice commands; just press and hold it to hear a beep, then speak. The button can also be used as the Push-To-Talk key.
On the top of the phone (i.e. on the camera) there is one more button serving as the Power on/off switch and the Profile button. As already mentioned, you can change profiles using the external screen, without having to open the fold.
6. Power and battery
The N90 uses Nokia's BL-5B Lithium-Ion battery, which is sligtly smaller (shorter) than the BL-5C cell used in 6680 or 6630 phones (it is 760 mAh vs. 900 mAh). The reason for using smaller accu is that the bigger one probably wouldn't fit (even though the N90 is bigger, certain part of it is the camera "barrel", not the actual phone). Despite the smaller battery, I didn't observe any serious difference in battery life compared to 6680 in normal conditions and with 'typical' use, maybe because the internal screen shuts down as soon as you close the flip and the external screen is of lower resolution than 'older' Series 60 phones' screens so it uses less power. However, recording videos and taking pictures seems to have a noticeable impact on battery life, so be prepared to recharge your phone daily if you're a keen photographer.
N90 has a different, smaller charger connector and the charger has a smaller plug. However, the phone will be sold with an adaptor which will make it possible to use the N90 with older chargers equipped with the 'typical' plug.
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