February 18, 2006

Nokia N90 Review by Rendition


Nokia has been the leading cellphone maker since the dawn of the mobile area. They led because they have always been willing to push the design envelope and innovate. Nokia also always had the best “Apple-like” user interface by always trying to make things as simple as possible with the smallest amount of steps.

In the last couple of years, Motorola and Samsung have gained share with new sexier clamshell designs. RAZR anyone? After sticking dogmatically to its small brick design, Nokia is now striking back with new innovative clam shells and large display smart-phones.

N90 is a stunning piece of engineering hardware. It is a unique clamshell smart-phone that transforms and pivots into a camera, camcorder, basic PIM, and last but not least cellphone. The dimensions are 4.4X2X0.9 inches and it weighs 6.1 ounces. It comes with a RS-MMC flash memory slot. When you play with it, it puts a smile on your face like when I first opened my IBM Thinkpad butterfly keyboard a decade ago. It reminds me of the old Robotech cartoons, where the fighter transforms into its three different battle configurations.

On the positive side, the screen display is simply the best I have ever seen. The resolution comes in at 352X416 and its gorgeous. I do think it is “best in class” on the market with amazing contrast and colors. The camera phone with is Carl Zeiss lens supports 2.1 megapixel pictures and once again I believe it is the “best in class” on the market today for quality. Pictures come out sharp and clear in well lit situations. Yes they aren’t as good as the shots on my Canon G3, but for a camera phone, it you can’t beat it.

The MP4 video quality is decent at 15 fps and 352X288 resolution. You won’t be getting rid of your real camcorder anytime soon, but it’s good enough for spontaneous shots. Sound voice quality for regular cellphone calls is also top notch, clear without any issues. It was better than the Treo 600 I use. The basic personal information management (PIM) features of the Symbian operating system work well. The icons are the prettiest you will see on a smartphone today.

On the negative side, there is no optical zoom on the camera. The LED flash isn’t that powerful, it’s kind of gimmicky. Form factor is a bit bulky and it feels heavy in the pocket. I don’t think it is pocket-able for regular daily life. Also for the price of a Treo or RIMM, you don’t get the full smart phone functionality of a built-in keyboard and a fully fledged enterprise class email application.

The worst downside is the phone is not cheap. It goes for $699.99 without phone plan and $599.99 with one. They are running a sale right now where you can get one for $399.99 after rebates and discounts, but it still costs a bundle. For these prices, you might consider getting a real smartphone like a Treo 650.

However if you’re looking for a top notch cellphone with basic PIM features, an excellent camera, this is the phone you want. If you want sometime that is a bit more portable, well we have this N70 that I’m looking in front of me. Stay tuned. Thanks to
Nokia for sending me the review unit. They deserve kudos for really reaching out to the blogger community with these review units.

Score: 7 out of 10 [Discuss]