Nokia Edition N81 Specifications & Features Following in the footsteps of past N-series phones, Nokia's N81 is a 3G mobile handset with a heavy skew towards music playback. While it is a decent phone in many ways, with a robust list of features, poor control and build quality as well as a lack of HSDPA are all let-downs.
That said, if you're after a music phone the N81 does a great job. It comes packed with 8GB of storage, which is the equivalent of a large solid state MP3 player, so it should be adequate for most users' needs. All the features you'd expect are there including an equaliser, shuffle and loop modes and full ID3 tag sorting. There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack, and using our rather expensive third-party headphones, the sound quality was some of the best we've experienced from a phone.
Weight & Size Nokia N81: 140 g, 102 x 50 x 17.9 mm
Screen Nokia N81: 2.4 Inch QVGA 16 Million Colour Screen (320 x 240 Pixels)
Imaging Nokia N81: 2 Megapixel Camera, 20 x Digital Zoom, Flash, Flash Mode (On, Off, Automatic & Red Eye Reduction), Photo Gallery, Photo Editor, Video Player, Video Recorder (MPEG4, H264, H263, 3GPP, RealVideo 8, 9, 10), Video Streaming, Video Editor, Video Call, Second CIF Camera, Theme Wallpapers, Theme Screensavers
Messaging Nokia N81: SMS (Text Messaging), MMS (Multimedia Messaging), Email with Attachments, Picture Messaging, SMS Distribution List, Predictive Text
Sound Nokia N81: Music Player (MP3 (VBR), WAV, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, M4A & WMA), Media Keys (Play, Pause, Stop, Rewind & Forward), Volume Keys, FM Radio, Visual Radio, Playlists Management, 5 Band Equalizer, Music Streaming (UPnP), Bluetooth Stereo A2DP, Integrated Stereo Speakers, Headset, Nokia Podcasting, Voice Commands, Voice Recorder, MP3 & Polyphonic Ringtones, Talking Ringtones
Entertainment Nokia N81: Game Keys, Game Mode (Landscape or Portrait), Embedded Games, Downloadable Games, Organiser, Contacts, Calendar, To Do List, PIM Printing, Calculator, Clock, Call Log (Missed, Received & Dialled Calls), Speaker Independent Name, Dialling (SIND), Internet Calls VoIP, Conference Call, Push To Talk, Handsfree Speaker, Symbian OS, S60 3.1 Software
Connectivity Nokia N81: WLAN, 3G, Bluetooth™, USB, EDGE
Network Nokia N81 : Quad Band (GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800 & GSM 1900), WCDMA 2100
Internet Nokia N81: Nokia Browser with Mini Map
Memory & Talk Time Nokia N81 : MicroSD™ Memory Card with 2 Gbyte Card or 8 Gbytes Internal Flash Memory, 4 Hours Talk Time, 408 Hours Standby
If the gaudy 'rock' style packaging wasn't enough to give away the phone's obvious music orientation, the illuminated music control keys quickly will. Forming a ring around the main directional pad they do make it a little easier to navigate through the music interface; however, this comes at a cost. They take up valuable real estate on the phone's rather cramped control panel, meaning the regular answer and end call keys are squished to the sides. The keys are also a little small at times and those with large hands will encounter more than their share of fumbles.
There is an alternative; the promising sounding "Navi Wheel", which turns the directional pad into a touch sensitivity, iPod-like scroll wheel. While in theory this is a pretty cool idea, in practice it is slow and painfully inaccurate. We found it infinitely faster to scroll using the regular directional buttons.
The poor implementation of this functionality isn't the only bad design element; in fact, the phone as a whole is far from perfectly constructed. Built from thin plastic, it feels quite flimsy and quickly becomes riddled with fingerprints. It also looks quite boxy, which in the age of designer electronics it may deter some users. On the plus side, the slide mechanism works quite well and feels responsive, and the hold switch on the top of the unit is a nice addition, allowing you to unlock the keypad without sliding it open.
Weighing in at 2 megapixels, the camera is a little disappointing. Its pictures are only really suitable for wallpapers, with other camera phones providing a much better alternative if mobile snap shots are your thing.
Utilising the Series 60 Symbian operating system, the N81 is speedy and offers most of the functions you could want. While we would have liked to see a few more applications installed out of the box (such Quickoffice), you can easily get online and download whatever apps are missing. The N81 is a 3G phone and disappointingly it doesn't pack in HSDPA connectivity, so data transfer rates over the phone's network itself are quite slow. That said it was adequate for Web browsing and the S60 interface makes this a breeze. If 3G speeds don't satisfy you however, you also have the option of connecting to a Wi-Fi network and using your regular broadband Internet.
One particularly cool feature of the N81 is the new N-Gauge software package, which bundles three demos from their new mobile gaming platform. Including the likes of FIFA 2007 and a pretty cool top down space shooter, we must say these are some of the best games we've played on a mobile and we're looking forward to seeing what Nokia has in store for the future here.
Battery life is rated at three to four hours of talk time and up to 17 days stand-by, both of which are fairly good figures.