Nokia N90 review
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The camera, for the first time in a Series 60 phone (and any smartphone/PDA, too), uses glass optics (Tessar lens, 5.5 mm, f/2.9) from the famous Carl Zeiss (Germany).
I'm not sure if it changes much, though, as the quality seems to be similar as in e.g. the Sony Ericsson K750i using 'traditional', plastic optics. But it is actually a praise, not a criticism, as it simply means that the N90's camera offers quality comparable to the best camera phones currently available.
As it heavily depends on everyone's own preferences, please see the samples below and judge the quality yourself (taking into consideration that they come from a pre-sales hardware and software, so it may look better with commercial units).
As mentioned, the camera has a 2 Megapixel imaging sensor producing 1600x1200 pixel images. There are also two lower resolutions available: "Email" (0.5 Mpix, 800x600) and "MMS" (0.3 MPix, 640x480). One can choose between a rich set of options, including Scene (Close-up mode, Night, Sports, Portrait, Landscape, Automatic and User defined), Flash mode (Automatic, Red eye reduction, Forced, Off), White balance (Automatic, Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent), Exposure correction (-2 to +2 EV with 0.5 EV step) and Colour tone (Normal, Sepia, Black&White, Negative).
So it's like in a real digicam - you have advanced control over various exposure parameters. Other options include self timer (either 2 seconds or 10 seconds) and sequence mode (6 images at around 1 fps). As I wrote earlier, the camera can be fully operated using both the large, internal screen and the small, external screen, with the flip closed.
The camera supports 20x digital zoom, LED flash and features auto-focus mechanism moving the optical elements inside the lens to obtain focus depending on the distance of the photographed object. This works similiarily to AF function found in digicams: press the shutter button halfway to obtain focus (green square flashes in the focusing frame and becomes lit when the focus is set) and then press it fully to take the picture. JPEG Images are saved with metadata (standard EXIF format known from digicams).
Video recording time is only limited by the amount of free storage space. There are three video quality settings: 'High', 'Normal' and 'Sharing'. In the 'High' quality mode the phone records movies in 352x288 pixels resolution, at approximately 15 frames per second, in MP4 file format (MPEG-4 video codec). Sample movie can be found below (click on the picture to download the movie). In the 'Normal' mode movies are recorded in 176x144 pixels resolution at around 12-14 fps and stored in .3GP files (H.263 codec). The 'Sharing' more has the same resolution, frame rate and file format but it seems to be slightly more compressed as it produces smaller files. Like with still pictures, also in movie mode users have control over various settings, including: Scene (Normal or Night), White balance (Automatic, Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent) and Colour tone (Normal, Sepia, Black&White, Negative). One can also choose whether to record audio or not, which memory is in use (Phone or MMC) and whether to add new movies to the Gallery or not.
As you can see above full screen video playback takes place in the landscape mode. You can also watch videos in the portrait mode but in such case the movie only takes part of the screen.
8. Connections, data transmission, 3G functions
The phone is equipped with full-speed USB 2.0 Pop-Port and Bluetooth 1.2. Data transmission speed reaches up to 286.8 kbps in EGPRS (EDGE) networks and up to 384 kbps in 3G networks. N90 supports two-way video calls and video sharing.
N90 generates high quality stereo sound. The built-in music player supports following audio formats: MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, MIDI (64 voices polyphony), AMR, RealAudio, True Tones, WAV. Music can be played back through stereo headset (or any other audio terminals connected to the Pop-Port) or via the monaural loudspeaker. The external screen shows current song's name and allows changing the volume using joystick. I couldn't find how to change tracks, though.
10. System software
N90 offers the Active standby screen known from Nokia 6680, supporting 5 icons providing quick access to frequently used applications and displaying information, about current Calendar entries and To-Dos. The menu and system applications look great in the new, high resolution, with smooth fonts and hi-res skins but they are mostly the same as in previous Series 60 phones, so if you are not familiar with the S60 platform, please check one of the earlier reviews for their detailed description. The only application working in the landscape mode (of course besides the Camera application) is the Gallery.
The N90 supports speaker independent voice recognition technology so it is no longer needed to record voice tags. Just say the name and it'll be recognized. The same applies to voice commands (choosing a profile, connecting to the voice mailbox, activating Bluetooth, opening Voice Recorder or launching any other application) and if you don't like using their original names as voice commands you can key in any other text.
Even though N90's main screen uses new, higher resolution, it is still possible to run older software written for previous Series 60 phones. The phone resizes such programs to fill the hi-res screen by doubling (or rather: quadrupling) each pixel. The result looks similiar to how computer LCD monitors compensate lower-than-native resolution modes, which is quite OK. Many programs and even games work OK, but you can expect some more advanced games and applications (like e.g. full screen movie players) to refuse working on N90, but it should not be a serious problem as developers will surely release updated, compatible versions. N90 can use old themes but it also supports new, enhanced themes including support for the external screen (e.g. wallpaper and screen saver).
What I liked:
What I liked a bit less:
- huge amount of free RAM memory - no more "Insufficient memory" messages when browsing web or using advanced 3rd party software, possibility of creating even more advanced programs
- 2 Megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss Tessar lens and autofucus provides good quality 1600x1200 pixel pictures and smooth 352x288 pixel video recordings
- high resolution 352x416 pixel display provides SUPERB quality - you have to see it
- external display shows current information and allows basic control of the phone and full control of the camera
- fast data transmission in EDGE and 3G networks, support for 2-way video calls
- high quality stereo audio (you'll want to use some better headphones than the ones offered with Pop-Port plug, though)
- fast processor
- hot-swappable memory card (it seems Nokia no longer hides it under the battery :-) )
- good quality materials; feels sturdy, doesn't make squeaking sounds
- good quality, convenient keypad and 5-way key
- compatibility with system-friendly software written for lower resolution screen.
Verdict: amazing phone with lots of RAM memory, fast processor, good camera and superb quality, high-resolution screen. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
- may appear too bulky for some people
- slightly sluggish UI (may result from early software and hardware build of the tested unit)
- smaller capacity battery, may provide shorter standby time with heavy use
- no industry standard audio mini-jack connector, i.e. no easy way to use high quality headphones to take full advantage of stereo music playback
- shiny chrome bars on the sides of the phone looking good but susceptible to scratches
- external screen should provide more options (e.g. switching between songs on a playlist).
- no Vibration alarm
- the plastic Pop-Port cover does fully come out so it may get lost.
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