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  Nokia 9500 review
1. Hardware
2. Software
3. What's on CD
  Nokia 9500 in short
Nokia 9500 Communicator is equipped with Symbian OS 7.0s operating system and 32-bit RISC CPU based on ARM-9 series. It supports GPRS, EGPRS (EDGE, up to 236.8 kbps), Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN, up to 11 MBit/s), Bluetooth and USB 2.0 connectivity. The 9500 comes with 80 MB user storage memory and a MMC slot for further expansion. Stereo sound and two high resolution, 16-bit color screens along with VGA video camera make it a strong multimedia device. Faster CPU and bigger operating memory allow running much more advanced applications. The device offers improved keyboard and navigation key and Opera-based HTML 4.1 Web browser.
  Availability
Nokia 9500 Communicator is available in two separate tri-band versions: EGSM 900, GSM 1800/1900 for world-wide use and EGSM 850, GSM 1800/1900 for America. Planned availability: 4th quarter 2004.

Nokia 9500 Communicator - Preview (20.06.2004)

This review is based on our tests of a pre-relase unit. Please, note that some functions are not implemented yet at this time, some existing funtions may change, some features may be added or removed before the device becomes available. This (p)review mainly descibes differences between the new Communicator and its direct predecessor - the Nokia 9210. If you are not familiar with the 9200 series of Communicators, please read this review.

I. HARDWARE

1. Size and weight

The new Communicator is both smaller and lighter than the 9200. It weighs 222 g (22 g less) and measures 148 x 57 x 24 mm (it is 10 mm shorter and 4 mm thinner). Not much less, but still less, and with lots of new features inside.

Smaller casing has been achieved mainly because of moving the loudspeaker to the right side (or top, depending on how you look at it) of the device and getting rid of the external antenna. And those 10x4 mm and 22 g really make a difference! The device looks and feels smaller and is much more comfortable to handle and carry.

2. Casing

The 9500 looks much more modern than the 9200, mainly because of its slightly streamlined edges and 'facelifted' phone part. 9500 suppors exchangeable phone covers - it is enough to press a small button located above the PopPort to release the entire front face along with the keypad.

The earpiece has been moved from the back of the device to its front. It is now located above the phone display. Both hinges of the PDA cover now look much more solid. The ribbon is now hidden from the outside and only visible from the inside, which should provide additional protection.

The back side of the device mainly consists of a huge cover that provides access to the battery, SIM card and memory card. Unfortunately, there is no hole in it which means that although hot-swappable, the MMC card is not as easily accessible as it should be. Instead of four tiny rubber feet, the 9500 has two long rubber stripes which make it very stable.

The bottom part of the phone is occupied by the PopPort (accessories and USB), Infrared port and charger connector.

3. Displays

Like all Communicators, the 9500 is equipped with two screens - large PDA screen inside and small phone screen outside. As opposed to the 9210, the phone screen of the 9500 is now 16-bit color TFT matrix (128 x 128 pixels). It is of high quality and its white background makes it very clear even without backlight (which doesn't happen too often as the backlight turns on automatically on any key press).

The PDA screen is of the same 640x200 resolution, but now it is 16-bit (65,536 colors), too. Its quality can be described with just one word: amazing. It is much brighter than 9210's display, colors are vivid and the contrast is very high. Both contrast and brightness can be adjusted in Control Panel, there is also a keyboard shortcut for quick brightness adjustment (four levels). The screen is covered by an anti-reflective layer - one can hardly notice any difference in quality even in direct sunlight.

4. Keys

Nokia 9500 offers new, improved phone keypad and totally redesigned PDA keyboard. Phone keypad consists of the same keys as in previous models, with several exceptions. "Profiles" key has been removed and switching profiles is now available using the Power key. Arrow keys have been replaced with five-way rocker key. Phone keypad is a separate element and it seems that exchangable phone covers may also contain keypads of different shapes and layouts. The keypad works OK; central keys could be a little bit larger, though.

The PDA part offers the usual full QWERTY keyboard. It depends on your personal preferences, but for me the new keyboard is a huge step forward over the 9210 keyboard. Keys now work much more reliable, with much shorter way down and with firm resistance. You will always know that the key has been correctly pressed because you can feel that without having to check the screen or listening to the "beep". There are no spaces between keys but they are slightly convex which prevents from accidentally pressing two or more of them. The new keyboard has two Shift keys on both sides. Besides the usual brightness, zoom and Infrared activation shortcuts, the 9500 keyboard offers also Bluetooth activation/deactivation shortcut and Synchronisation shortcut. Help key now requires pressing Chr simulaneously, which prevents accidental Help activation (it loads many times quicker, anyway). The 9210's four-way navigation key has been replaced with 9-way rocker key (8 directions + OK/Enter). This is a huge improvement and it provides comfortable navigation and control, not only in the built in WWW browser but also in all other applications. For compatibility with older software, the keyboard also offers traditional arrow keys and the Enter key.

The 9500 is equipped with eight application keys: Desk, Telephone, Messaging, Web, Contacts, Documents, Calendar and My Own which provide quick access to the most important built-in applications. My Own key can be configured to launch any system or 3rd party application of your choice.

5. Memory and CPU

This is where the power of the new Communicator comes from. The 9500 will offer over 80 MB of internal storage space - over 20 times more than 9210 and 5 times more than 9210i. Forget about any storage restrictions of the previous models, especially that, unlike in 9200 Communicators, all system software is in ROM drive, which means that you don't have to install any system packages on the internal drive and you can keep it solely for your data and applications.

RAM (operating memory) has been expanded to 64 megabytes, with most of it available for applications. This is over 10 times more than in 9210/9210i!

The CPU (ARM-9 based TI OMAP 1510 dual-core RISC processor) is now three times faster (~ 150 MHz) and it uses more advanced ARM core and chipset. This, along with much faster memory chips, makes the device really fast.

Storage memory of the 9500 can be further expanded using MultiMediaCards (MMC). Large cards work without any problems. With new, v4.0 specification compliant MMC cards to be available very soon (capacities up to 2 GB) we can fairly say that lack of SecureDigital format support is not really important as it wouldn't provide any serious advantages. The same for SDIO - with the 9500 already supporting Bluetooth and WiFi there isn't much left you could use via SDIO, anyway.

6. Data transmission

The 9500 is the first Communicator to support GPRS (53,6 kbps). And it goes even further with its support for EGPRS (EDGE), providing download speeds of up to 236.8 kbps. Of course, it still also supports CSD and HSCSD GSM data calls (up to 43,2 kbps). Users can also take advantage of the IP passthrough function which allows using desktop PC's broadband connection via USB cable.

Nokia 9500 is one of the first PDA-phones with Wireless LAN (WiFi, IEEE 802.11b) onboard. Quick and easy configuration in Control Panel's "Connections" tab is the only thing you have to do to start browsing the Internet or your company or home wireless network at 11 MBit/s.

7. Connectivity

9500 Communicator supports Bluetooth data and audio. Supported Bluetooth profiles include: Generic Access Profile (GAP), Service Discovery Profile (SDP), Fax Profile (GW), Dial-up Networking Profile (DUN), Handsfree Profile (HFP), Serial Port Profile (SPP), Generic Object Exchange Profile (GOEP), Object Push Profile (OPP - client and server), File Transfer Protocol (FTP). The 9500 also supports Infrared connectivity and USB 2.0 cable connection (PopPort).

8. Sound

The new Communicator finally generates stereo audio. The only disadvantage is that there is no mini-jack connector which means that 9500 owners will have to use Nokia dedicated stereo headsets equipped with PopPort compatible plugs. Fortunately, a range of stereo accessories (including FM radio headsets) will be available from the manufacturer. Sound quality via both headset (stereo) and loudspeaker (mono) is very high.

9. Battery and standby

The 9500 uses new 1300 mAh Lithium-Polymer battery (BP-5L). According to Nokia, it provides up to 200-300 hours (WLAN off) or up to 180-240 hours (WLAN idle) of standby time and 4-6 hours of talk time. In real world it still gives up to 2-3 days of standby with average use, but of course it can be much less with heavy WLAN use and many GPRS and Bluetooth connections. However, even in such case it is very unlikely that you will have to recharge your phone during the day, which makes 9500 much more reliable and usable than power-hungry PocketPC PDA-phones often giving up the ghost early afternoon.

10. Camera

The 9500 is also the first Communicator to have a built-in digital camera. The resolution is VGA (640x480 pixels) only, but the main purpose of the camera is to support Multimedia Messaging (MMS), in which case it is more than enough. The camera is only accessible from the Phone side and the phone screen works as a viewfinder with pretty good refresh rate. The quality of pictures is slightly "above average" of VGA CMOS cameras (better than 9210's Concord camera) but it could be better. Both still pictures and video recording with audio are supported by default.

11. Phone

Nokia 9500 is a tri-band phone. The device will be available in two separate versions, depending on region: EGSM 900/GSM 1800/1900 MHz and GSM 850/1800/1900 MHz.



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