I have been using the N95 as my primary device for well over six months now. Needless to say I am used to it and also to the new v20 firmware which has made it an almost different phone. Two weeks ago I shifted to the N81 with mixed results. While there were a lot of things that I missed at first, but gradually the gap is getting smaller as I get used to it.
Both devices are based on the same S60 v3 platform and share the same Feature Pack 1. Therefore in essence they are almost identical as far as the software part of it is concerned and the switch application about which I had written earlier takes care of my data very efficiently and takes it out of the equation. In this series of posts I will talk about what did I gain/loose in my journey from the N95 to the N81 and in the process try and bring out what the N81 stands for!
The Physical Aspect
Weight– The N81 8GB weighs 140g which is 20g more than the N95. This might seem a lot but isn’t much when you actually hold the device in your hand; unless directly compared, hardly noticeable. As for its size its slightly smaller than the N95; very pocketable.
Build Quality– This is almost the catchword as far as Nseries is concerned and I am pleased to say that the N81 has much better build than some of the other nseries devices I’ve played with. (Read N95, N76) The slide is nicely spring loaded and has no sideways movement and works with a minimum of fuss. Although I might have got a few creaks on the back while using the ‘D’ pad. Over a period of two weeks the slide has also lost a little bit of its firmness, but if the N95 slide can hold I am sure this will too. Overall much a better build.
Buttons & Keypad– The N95 Classic has a great keypad but I cannot say the same about the multimedia keys (The successors fix that). The N81 has a keypad that needs a little getting used to, but once you do that fast T9 typing is not a problem. One of the reasons for that is that all keys are flat and only the small ridge all around gives you a feel of where you are. There could probably also have been a little more space before the first row of keys; however even the current setup isn’t problematic.
The multimedia keys are placed around the D pad and also take time getting used to. On the first day, I really missed the double slide feature present on the N95. Since then I have got to appreciate the convenient access they offer specially when you are multitasking; something I really liked while browsing (Caveat: I have large fingers I also did keep pressing them accidentally, something that with time has gone down). But once the device is in the pocket with the music player running they become almost useless as it is exceedingly difficult to hit the right spot without looking. This is where I miss the N95-1 and the elevated keys on the newer versions.
As for the rest of the usual keys its a mixed bag again. While the menu and ‘c’ key are very easy to hit, the call and end key take a lot of getting used to. I still have a little difficulty ending a call and press the right softkey and activate the loudspeaker instead! (I might have my fingers to blame for that). The N81 also has two new gaming keys in the form of the sides of the earpiece which offer great tactile feedback. To me they have been a waste; there was so much they could be used for, something as simple as switching tracks. Currently they only work in the Gallery as zoom keys and in the Ngage application. I hope a future firmware brings greater functionality.
SIM Slot – While this isn’t something you will use everyday, I had to mention it. The N81 has one of the most clever SIM slots ever. As you can see the tray slides out, takes the SIM in and vanishes. Very neat! It is a refreshing break from some of the slots which are terrible to use.
Screen– This is a big bone of contention. For a music and ‘gaming’ device the N81 has a 2.4″ 240 x 320 pixels (QVGA) screen. While the smaller screen size and higher resolution as compared to the N95 should have looked better, it doesn’t. The smaller screen will go down as one of the weaknesses of the device specially when it also is a little tough to read in sunlight at low brightness. However if you are not coming from a bigger screen the N81 experience will be very enjoyable. I passed the device to friends who did not seem to notice the screen size even while playing games and the odd video.
This was all for the physical aspects in case you feel I’ve missed out on something, just drop me a line!