Nokia N96 Review
Review Date: 04/03/2009
Mobile Phone: Nokia N96
- Easy to use
- Great connectivity
- Massive range of features
- Huge in-built storage
- Top overall package
- Battery life
- Similar to previous editions
The Nokia N96 smartphone excels in its ease of use and range of features. While there is nothing groundbreaking over previous N95 models, the overall package is slicker, slightly smaller and with plenty of space to store your stuff (16GB). You will feel a distinct sting in the wallet department compared to some other available options, but this mobile device shows it is a top-level contender among the best mobile phones out there at the time of writing.
Nokia N96 Review
Nokia N96 Mobile Review In Depth
Nokia has never failed to prove why it is one of the big boys with its N-Series smartphone range, and the N96 has enough cojones to run with the best on the market. Like its predecessors, the N96 is a goldmine of modern features that are easy to use and useful to a wide variety of tasks. This is not a device to leave in the confines of your pocket – it wants you to play with it.
Before we look closer at the N96, it’s worth casting a gaze rearwards at the N95 and the N95 8GB. These two phones were largely seen as market leaders in their day that blazed new trails on mobile phone landscape. With that in mind, does the updated N96 offer that much more?
In short, the N96 gives you more memory, a slightly smaller size phone and a generally slicker feel to operations, but overall this version of the N-series smartphone is very similar to its predecessors. It also carries a similar hefty price tag, so we would probably wait until the N97 or similar if you’re thinking of a purchase for pure upgrade purposes. However, for those new to the N-Series or upgrading from an older, lower level phone, the N96 has the potential to spin you sideways.
Nokia N96 Mobile Phone Features
As far as looks go, the N96 is very similar to its older brothers. The phone is slightly slimmer (3mm to be exact), but it’s still fairly chunky. That said, you still feel as though you are carrying a mobile phone and not a PDA, and it’s more compact than some comparable devices with similar features.
It is sturdy enough, and accessing the keypad is not an issue. Some people have commented they like the feel of the N95s better, but it’s a fairly close race that ultimately comes down to personal discretion. You still have the dual-slide capability too (you can slide the phone down to reveal multimedia buttons).
A 3.5mm headphone jack (able to fit normal headphones) allows you to make good use of the dedicated multimedia buttons, and there is a quick navigation button on the top keypad that gives speedy access to all applications. You will have plenty of room to store them too with 16GB storage space and the ability to upgrade.
That’s the kind of heft that could see you storing multiple movies, and there is even a kickstand on the back so you can watch the 2.8in LCD in all its 16-million-colour glory. This is one area that the N96 appears to trump its N-series siblings.
The Symbian S60 operating system is fully customisable, and your mobile phone start-up screen becomes more like a desktop that you can use to program shortcuts and easily access accessories. There are plenty of applications to choose from, and we’ll attempt to give you the need-to-know info on the big ones.
Sitting in a McDonalds around Australia? Connect here and other places using the mobile’s in-built WiFi. You also have the laundry list of 2G and 3G applications including HDSPA (read: fast), plus there’s the Bluetooth and USB connectivity that you would expect.
Web, Email and Messaging
All that internet access is no good without being able to surf the web, and the Nokia web browser has HTML, Java and Flash support. There’s the built-in YouTube and Gmail applications, and a fancy TV tuner too, but that will do no good unless you are in the USA (our networks don’t support it). There’s an easy-to-use email client – in most cases, just put in your name and password and the phone does the rest. SMS and MMS use is a no-brainer.
Maps and GPS
We were impressed with the map and GPS capabilities of the N96. Even without downloading anything, you can access the map and GPS readouts, which give you information like bars, restaurants and petrol stations. Of course, a quick download will see the N96 telling you where to go in the nicest possible way. Very handy.
Music and Video
The most common music and video formats are all covered, and the one-touch button on the front gives you quick access to multimedia menus that are easy to navigate. Just turn the phone into offline mode to conserve battery if youre settling into a movie.
5 Megapixel Camera
Nokia is known for its Carl Zeiss lenses and good quality cameras, and with 5mp, you can’t complain about digital resolution. However, would you ditch your regular digital camera in place of the N96? Unfortunately, as good as it performs, it’s still not a substitute for a good-quality digital camera.
In fact, if you look closely at the N95 and the N96, you will notice a slight downgrade in picture quality. Technically, the important points here are a shorter focal length and smaller sensor. In real terms, this means the camera tends to overexpose photos messing with the colour and losing a bit of detail.
The autofocus and dual-LED flash still work really well, and you will be able to take good photos on the run, but the N95 wins this race. If you want that hang-it-on-the-wall quality, you will have to keep a pocket spare for a dedicated digital camera.
For those interested in taking a few video clips, the Nokia N96 provides a great quality video camera that shoots 30fps and saves files to MP4. That makes for easy viewing and uploading if you want to store captured videos on your PC.
N-Gage For Fun
The games selection on mobile phones has come a long way from the old snake days. The Nokia N96 makes attaining the latest games a breeze with its N-Gage package, and apart from one pre-loaded game, you will have to do some downloading. With this phone, that shouldn’t be a problem and it gives you access to great entertainment on the go.
Office and Organising
Built for busy people, the N96 has built-in capabilities to view office documents such as Microsoft Word and Excel, and you can also view PDF files. The organiser is also very user friendly. If you want to edit Microsoft Office documents, you will have to download the full applications from Nokia, which will cost you a nifty fee.
As you can see, you’re in flavour country when it comes to the feature-rich Nokia N96 mobile phone. With the exception of some heavy-hitting N-Gage games, all those applications failed to make the hard-working CPU stutter when we tested the phone (even though the CPU is technically downgraded from previous models).
Taking advantage of all that fun at your fingertips does take its toll on the battery though, and you can count on charging this thing most every day. For average users, this isn’t too big of a deal, but hopefully there will be room for improvement here in the future (the N97 has plans for an increase in battery capacity).
There’s not much to complain about with the Nokia N96 smartphone – it has huge memory, works well and does everything reasonably quickly. Whether you are lost in a strange city, checking your email on the run or sitting back to watch a movie, the Nokia N96 does it all and more. There’s not too many people that wouldnt like to have one of these buried in their pocket, and the only major drawback is a price tag that prompts a fair bit of pain in the wallet department.
However, prices are dropping all the time and we’ve seen these available in quite a few reasonable plan packages, so if you can pick one up at the right price, we doubt you will be disappointed. The N96 is still one of the pack leaders in the elite class of mobile phones.
Nokia N96 Mobile Phone Specifications
- 2G Network: GSM 850/1800/1900 MHz (EGPRS)
- 3G Network: WCDMA 900/2100 (HSDPA)
- Windows Media Video (WMV9), up to CIF/QVGA 30 fps,
- RealVideo QCIF at 30 fps
- DRM support: OMA DRM 1, OMA DRM 2, WM DRM
- FM Radio applications
- Flash video support in browser
- RSS reader
- Microsoft Office reader
- PDF reader
hardwareaccelerated codec, scaled to max QVGA on device screen
- Size: 103 x 55 x 18 mm
- Weight: 125g
- Colour: Silver/black combo
- Standby: up to 200/230 hours (WCDMA/GSM)
- Talk Time: Up to 160/230 minutes (WCDMA/GSM)
- Video playback: up to 5 hours (offline mode)
- Music playback: up to 14 hours (offline mode)
- 2.8in QVGA (240 x 320 pixels) LCD TFT display with up to 16 million colours
- Internal memory: 16GB internal flash memory (128MB RAM, 256MB system memory)
- Memory card: microSD memory card slot (hot swappable)
- WLAN IEEE 802.11gb with UPnP support
- Hi-Speed USB 2.0 with Micro USB type B interface
- 3.5mm stereo headset plug, TV-out support (PAL/NTSC)
- Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP stereo audio and Enhanced Data Rates (EDR)
- Symbian S60 3rd Edition, Feature Pack 2
- RSS reader
- email client
- Polyphonic (64 channels)
- True Tones
- 5 megapixel
- Carl Zeiss Optics Tessar lens
- Auto-focus, auto-exposure
- F-number/aperture: F2.8
- Focal length: 5.2mm
- Focus range 10cm to infinity
- Dual-LED camera flash
- Auto-focus assist light
- Video capture in MPEG-4 up to VGA at 30fps
- Digital Video Stabilisation
Nokia N96 Features and Entertainment
- Built-in GPS receiver, including support for assisted GPS (A-GPS)
Nokia Maps application
- Free downloadable maps of over 150 countries, millions of locations, location details
- Satellite imagery available for download
- Upgrades available for purchase (Multimedia city guides, Drive or Walk turn-by-turn guidance)
- Video playback
- Quality MP3 playback
- Practically unlimited phonebook entry