The N85 was one of the few devices from Nokia in 2008 that actually got people excited. Also, unlike many of Nokia’s other devices, the period between its announcement and its shipping date was brief, almost surprising. It started shipping close to the time when the N96 had finally entered the scene, resulting in people comparing the N85 to the N96 and sending out a verdict which basically dismissed the N96 and crowned the N85 as Nokia’s current top spec Nseries.
When it was first announced in August, for whatever reason it did not make me want it. But with time as more information came out and the N96 got even more delayed, my interest in it piqued. The N85 packs a 5MP camera with dual LED’s and a lens cover, an AGPS, a FM transmitter, an accelerometer, a 3.5mm jack in a dual sliding form factor that runs on Symbian OS 9.3, S60 3.2. The usual Nseries goodies like WiFi, UPnP, Share Online and so are all there too. The two places that it makes a mark are its 2.6″ AMOLED screen and support for USB charging via its microUSB port.
Like I said in my unboxing video of the N85, it is small. The device fits snugly into the palm of the hand and feels quite different from what you may have seen virtually. It is made of plastic, the front sports a shiny black and because of that it becomes a fingerprint magnet. The variant that I have has a copper back that looks good and doesn’t suffer from any fingerprint issues. The right side of the phone is packed with the volume rocker, camera button, the keypad lock switch and the stereo speakers that are located on the extreme top and bottom for better reproduction while watching videos. The left hand side is relatively plain, with it just housing the microSD slot. The bottom is barren because the dedicated charger port is now history (much to my dislike, more later) and the top holds the power/profile switch buttom, the 3.5mm jack that doubles as the headphone and TV out slot, the microUSB port for charging and data transfer and finally the lanyard hole on the top left.
When I had taken the N85 out of its box for the first time, it seemed to be built like a rock. One month of everyday usage has somewhat made it loose its firmness slightly. The slide is still pretty firm, better than the N95/N95 8GB and pushing it upward gives a nice feeling. I cannot however say what when we slide the N85 the ‘other’ way in order to reveal the multimedia buttons. The slide itself is hard and even wobble prone to an extent.
Some people have had issues with the N85’s build quality in general but I have not encountered any issues that do not plague other sliders. In fact, I am yet to get a creak out of the phone, this is partly because the backplate fits in firmly over the battery.
If you were to ask me to name one aspect of the N85 that I hate, I’d say the Navi Wheel and I’m not talking about how well/badly it performs but the simple fact that it is hard to press. I first though that this was something I would get used to, however after almost a month I have not been able to. Apart from this, I don’t have much of a problem with the surrounding keys such as the delete key, menu key and so on although I would have preferred if they were distinguishable without the need for the backlight. The keypad is a pleasure and you can expect high speeds with T9 comfortably. There is amble space between the slide and the keys so there won’t be a difficulty in reaching the 1-2-3 keys even if you have large thumbs.
The keypad lock switch is a nifty little addition and a very welcome one. The switch is ergonomically placed on the right side and feels good, the volume rocker is probably the most convenient of all present on the Nseries. The camera button is nice to press, however it doesn’t offer the two step click most auto-focus cameras do, meaning that there might be times when you press it a little too hard and the camera takes a photos without taking the proper time to focus. This takes time getting used to and even then you might end up making a mistake or two.
Nokia finally decided to implement USB charging after what seemed like ages. Even the Moto Razr had it. What this means is that the phone charges when it is connected to the computer as well as with the new Nokia microUSB charger. On the whole it should have been a welcome addition, but I personally at not too pleased with its implementation. While Nokia did put USB charging in, the usual Nokia charger pin was taken away, so you still have just one charging option.
The problem with this is that you will need to have your new charger/data cable always with you and the convenience of charging at a friend’s place or in a mall etc is gone. There is no doubt that with time this mode will become as popular, but currently I think Nokia should have given us both options.
SCREEN & GAMING
I have already covered the screen and gaming aspect in this post. In short, the screen is wonderful and you will be blown away when you first see it and once you start using it, it will become difficult going to something else.
To conclude, I will simply say that if you can come to grips with a hard Navi Wheel then there is nothing else that should keep you from getting a N85 as far as the harware is concerned, it is after all THE top spec Nseries currently on sale.
In the next part of this review, we dive into the software aspect of the N85.