The Nokia N82 is ideal for travelers who want to leave their digital camera at home. Not only is this 5-megapixel shoooter sharp, its Xenon flash helps to produce printworthy pics indoors--a first for a camera phone. And with built-in GPS and local search, you can also leave the guidebook in the hotel room. At $629, this unlocked Symbian-powered handset costs a pretty penny, but shutterbugs who want to stay connected will love the N82.
The N82's mirror-like silver faade is accentuated with a large 2.4-inch 240 x 320 resolution display that, thanks to its built-in accelerometer, rotates horizontally and vertically like an iPhone. We wish it were brighter and had snappier colors, but it looked decent in sunlight and excellent everywhere else. Below are navigation buttons and a minuscule keypad whose buttons were surprisingly comfortable.
The sides and rear are a matte silver; on the left is a port for the included Micro USB cable, which you can use for data transfers. The N82 also has a microSD card slot--the phone supports up to 8GB of added storage--and a charging port. A power button and a 3.5mm headphone jack sit conveniently at the top, and camera and volume controls are on the right.
Great Camera, Good Camcorder
The N82 features a 5-MP Carl Zeiss Optics Tessar lens that takes pictures up to 2592 x 1944 resolution. Typically, cell phone cameras are useless at night, but the N82's fantastic Xenon flash let us take impressive shots of friends in a dark pub, with only very slight noise. There's even a second camera up front for video calling and self-portrait shots, although it offers a much weaker 352 x 288 resolution, and the feature isn't supported in the U.S. yet.
Shutter delay wasn't much of an issue, but we wish you could turn off autofocus manually; the phone decides whether to implement it. On the plus side, you can tweak a ton of manual settings, including: color tones, contrast, exposure, flash, ISO, scene mode, self timer, sequence, sharpness, and white balance. Each of the manual settings can be adjusted while you're shooting, so the phone is perfect for carrying along in all environments.
To find out if the phone was a good enough replacement for a standalone digital camera, we compared it to a 10-megapixel Casio Exilim EX-S10 set to shoot at 7 megapixels. We took pictures with both cameras, then printed them out with a Lexmark X3550 and asked people which shot was captured with a camera phone. Most thought the N82's printout was the digital camera's photo, and others couldn't tell a difference. The overall opinion: the Nokia N82 is good enough to stand in for a digicam.
Next, we wanted to see if the N82 was good enough to replace a basic video camera. We compared it to a Pure Digital Technologies' Flip Video camera. Standing in an apartment living room with dark and light areas, we did a panorama scan of the room. On a 19-inch widescreen LCD monitor, the Flip Video's footage looked clearer and had far less artifacts than the Nokia N82. Nevertheless, the N82's VGA footage (at 30 frames per second) is fine for sharing clips on YouTube.
N82 Music and Video Playback
The N82 doesn't come with an over-the-air download service--at least not yet--but Nokia's Ovi portal will eventually allow for music and game downloads over the air to your phone. The store will have an offering of over 2 million tracks, ranging from artists like Kanye West to the Eagles.
In the meantime, you can load your own songs and movies through the microSD Card slot on top of the phone's 100MB of internal storage. The unit supports the following audio formats: MP3/AAC/eAAC/eAAC+/WMA/M4A with playlists, and MPEG4, AVC/H.264, H.264, H.263, WMV, RVOMA DRM 2.0/1.0 and WMDRM video formats.
Dierks Bentley's "Free and Easy" sounded crisp and clear, and the album art displayed on the screen, though we had to provide it ourselves. The N82 also has an equalizer, and you can play one of three visualizations on the screen while music is playing. You can multitask while listening to music, and the track appears on the screen. The N82 packs a built-in FM radio and found all of the local New York City stations from a midtown highrise within a minute.
Videos automatically play in landscape mode, and while scrunched with hard-to-read text, watching a quick clip of South Park was enjoyable.An included RCA adapter outputs the N82's signal to a larger display and allows you to navigate the phone's interface as well as play music, videos, and view pictures. The image was a bit stretched and washed out on a 19-inch widescreen TV, so we imagine it wouldn't be any better on a larger display. Even so, it's a welcome feature.
The N-Gage platform of games was recently launched for the Nokia N81 but will make its way to the N82 device shortly as well. Future titles include Speed Racer and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. On our device, we found the graphics of the FIFA 2008 demo to be beautiful and near the quality of the original Playstation.
GPS on the Run
The N82 comes with mapping software and GPS that links up to five satellites. It also has built-in assisted GPS, which uses cell phone towers to triangulate your location when satellite acquisiton is an issue, such as in New York City, where the buildings blocked reception. The mapping utility is very useful; you can view a location in 2D or 3D mode (an angled-street view or a bird's-eye view) and find the quickest route to a destination on foot or by car.
Unfortunately, maps were slow to load due to the phone's EDGE connection and the map's average download size of about 1.5MB. However, when it finally finished locating us after about 5 minutes, we were pinpointed at 39th and Broadway.
Nokia's Maps application offers local searches for: Automotive, Accomodation, Eat and Drink, Leisure, Service, Shopping, Sights, and Transportation. We searched for a sandwich shop in the Eat and Drink menu, and found that while it offered us 26 locations, it couldn't find the ones directly below our office or across the street, and the locations were spread out across 3.35 miles. The N82 also offers turn by turn directions, otherwise known as "voice guidance" on the phone. The feature costs $138 per year, but you can also buy it on a 7-day ($13.83), 30-day ($15.36), or three year plan ($157).
N82 Web and Messaging
Using the N82's Web browser, we weren't able to load Flash-enabled pages such as AddictingGames.com, and CollegeHumor.com, but CNN.com loaded in 22 seconds on AT&T's slower EDGE network, and NYTimes.com loaded in 17 seconds. Using Wi-Fi, CNN.com loaded in less than 5 seconds. Unfortunately, we were only able to operate on open networks or those with WEP security settings, as the phone doesn't support WPA and WPA2 encryption.
The N82 makes it simple to set up your personal e-mail account on the phone, using either a POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail server. We set up our Gmail account in two minutes. The N82 doesn't have any built-in instant messaging clients, such as AIM or Yahoo, so you'll need to download third-party software like IM+ ($29.95).
It Makes Phone Calls Too?
Calls on AT&T's network were stellar; the phone generally kept a full signal even in spots where other phones, such as the Samsung SGH-a737, could not register a bar.We were always able to hear our friends crisply without echos or static during calls, and the same was true on their end. 3G data connections aren't supported in the United States.
Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP stereo is supported on the N82, and we were able to walk between 15 and 20 feet away before the signal began to give out. While calls sounded a bit more watery than on most phones, listening to stereo music was pleasurable, and we didn't experience any quality issues on that front.
The battery life of the N82 is pretty solid. It's rated at just over 4 hours of talk time. We used the phone regularly for two days making phone calls, listening to music, and surfing the Web and found that we still had about 50 percent battery capacity. We were able to use the N82 for three days before having to charge it.
Nokia N82 Verdict
The Nokia N82 isn't for everyone. Not only does it cost a bundle, but it doesn't yet offer 3G data support in the U.S. Nevertheless, we highly recommend this premium camera phone for its stellar picture quality, GPS capability, fast surfing over Wi-Fi, and excellent media playback.