Nokia N86 8MP review
The Nokia N86 8MP combines heavyweight smartphone functionality with a sharp-shooting 8-megapixel camera
Verdict: Nokia's debut 8-megapixel cameraphone may not have all the bells and whistles of rival sharp shooting mobiles' top end cameras, but it takes a great pic. An evolution from the Nseries template, the N86 8MP follows a familiar design line from the N85 and N96, and is a heavyweight both in its chunky bodywork and its hefty features count. It may not shake up the smartphone world, but it's a powerful, solid addition to the Nseries ineup
Price: From free to £200 with contract or £375 SIM-free
Pros: high-grade 8-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, HSDPA, A-GPS with Maps software pre-loaded, 8GB onboard memory plus MicroSD card expansion, high quality music player with decent earphones supplied, 3.5mm headphone socket, FM transmitter, FM radio, internet radio, bright and clear AMOLED display, kickstand.
Cons: Heavyweight build and chunky bodywork, front controls small for large-fingered users, sprawling menus could be better organised, no touchscreen, dual LED rather than higher quality xenon flash, average battery life.
Design: No slimline smartphone, the N86 8MP's bulky bodywork may put off some, but it's a solidly built handset with familiar Nseries dual-slider styling. Its front controls are a tad undersized for such a big-boned phone, but it has a very usable numberpad.
Operating System: S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2
More Info: Nokia website
The N86 8MP may be Nokia's first 8-megapixel camera-equipped mobile, but it's also a heavyweight Nseries smartphone. It packs an impressive gadgetry punch, with a combination of S60 smartphone versatility, Wi-Fi and HSDPA high-speed data connectivity, A-GPS positioning technology, plus a stack of multimedia features, 8GB of internal storage, and a built in FM transmitter to complement its music player.
It's not just heavy on the features, though. The natural successor to the N85, the N86 8MP has the chunky build of that device and its other close powerhouse relative, the N96. Weighing a hefty 149g and measuring a stocky 103.4 x 51.4 x 16.5-18.5 mm, it's a solidly built sliderphone, with an N96/N95-style dual slider action – a numberpad on one end, and a small media control panel on the other.
There's no touchscreen action on this device; it runs on Nokia's Symbian S60 feature pack 2 platform, so has a familiar S60 set-up and navigation system to previous Nseries models, albeit with a refreshed look.
Design and usability
The phone has an understated front design. Available in black or white, with chrome trim around the edges, the fascia looks uncluttered. A group of small, thin control buttons surround a typical navigation D-pad. These keys - softkeys plus Call, End and clear buttons are a bit undersized for large hands (and the large bodywork), but work fine. The fve-way D-pad isn't the best defined we've seen from Nokia, particularly for the big-fingered user; occasionally you can find an imprecise 'select' press inadvertently nudging a directional key instead. A slightly more substantial chrome menu button is angled at the bottom of the control pad.
The slide-out numberpad below is well proportioned and has a comfortable texting action, while the quartet of media control buttons - which double as gaming and zoom controls - above the display are equally manageable. The display is a decenty-sized 2.6-inch 16.7 million colour, QVGA AMOLED screen, providing a terrificly bright and clear viewing platform. A small camera for video calling peeps out above the display.
On the back, there's a slider cover protecting the camera's Carl Zeiss optics, which also activates the shooter when opened. Surround the lens array is a discreet kickstand that pulls out, enabling you to rest the phone sideways on a table for a good viewing angle.This is set up out of the box to launch the photo gallery, although it can be personalised for many other features, or simply switched off.
The nuts and bolts of the N86 8MP's S60 user interface is familiar from Nokia's Nseries lineup. The homescreen presents a series of feature shortcuts as a row of six icons, all of which can be customised for exactly how you want to use the phone, with nearly 70 feature/app options and all your browser bookmarks to choose from. Additional information is provided on the standby screen, such as email, messaging and calendar updates, music player info and Wi-Fi status.
Delve into the menus, and its typical S60, with grid of icons and numerous sub menus. It' an easy to follow Nokia system. However, with so many features, apps and options, it can take a little bit of browsing to find what you're after; users should have a good rummage so they don't miss any gadget goodies or feature fiddling options, which can be tucked away deep in the settings.
Nokia's debut 8-megapixel camera grabs much attention. It can produce excellent shooting results, with immense detail and superb colour rendition for a cameraphone. Its autometering system is adept at handling a variety of lighting situations, with settings to adjust these yourself.
Slipping down the lens cover turns on the camera up in just a couple of seconds, and it's very quick to focus on and shoot, using a typical 2-step autofocus system. It can produce sharply focused images, and a close-up setting can be used for shots 10-50cm away.
The UI is regular Nokia S60 camerawork - quite easy to use with plenty of adjustments, if not the full complement of gadget (and gimmick() options seen on other top-end cameraphones from Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson. There is a clever motion-sensor aided panorama mode which does an impressive job.
The dual LED flash - one of the better of its type - does an adequate illumination job over a 3-metre range, but doesn't have as much power or precision as a xenon set up. Images can be edited when taken, with options too to upload to online services, including Nokia's Ovi, Flickr and Vox.
Video quality is good for a mobile, shooting at top VGA quality at up to 30 frames per second for relatively smooth playback. Other video featues include support for viewing streaming and downloaded content in a variety of file formats, including MP4, 3GP, H.263 and H.264 files. RealPlayer software is included, plus a a Video Centre app enables users to find and view video online via Ovi. Video is well presented on the screen, playing in full landscape mode – though heavy video-watching users may well prefer a larger display.
The N86 8MP is well kitted out as a music playing mobile too. It has good quality, if not flashy, tune playing software that works smoothly in organising tunes loaded onto the phone or an inserted MicroSD card (up to 16GB cards are supported) into familiar player categories (including podcasts). It's easy to use; you can use the top slider controls, although it's just as easy to operate using the D-pad.
Nokia supplies a good quality set of in-ear buds that provide enjoyably dynamic audio quality, with a fine range and presence. A 3.5mm headphone socket on top allows you to easily upgrade these too.
As well as an FM radio, software for getting internet radio is supplied too, which is a real bonus. In addition, unusually there's an FM transmitter, which enables users to broadcast tracks playing on the N86 8MP to any FM radio within 3 metres, including in-car stereos or home hi-fi set ups. It's easy to set up and tune-in to free stations, and works a treat.
With Wi-Fi connectivity and HSDPA (up to 3.6Mbps), online activity can be pretty speedy. The full web browser, which supports Flash, is the latest S60 iteration, which features optional toolbars and numberpad shortcuts for browser features. The browser itself renders pages quickly and effectively, is easy to navigate for a non-touch user interface, and is easier to control than before, thanks to the shortcut options. It's not iPhone slick, but it's still not bad, and that little bit of improved usability is welcome.
The N86 8GB's satellite location finding is rapid too, its A-GPS technology locking on to satellite signals quickly and responding almost instantly to movements. An electronic motion aided compass kicks in too to improve map presentation - you get to view maps from your current perspective. Nokia's Maps software is embedded, with maps for the UK and Ireland pre-loaded.
The app is nicely laid out, with route planning options for walking or driving, plus search options for all manner of businesses and services, and addresses. It works snappily too, and the latest 2D and 3D maps are well detailed. Nokia also offers a Sat Nav voice guided navigation service - though you only get a 10-day trial included in the in-box package.
The heavyweight functionality continues into the messaging side, with fine support for setting up and using email via the simple to use Nokia Messaging service (only your email address and password are needed). You can use instant messaging with appropriate free downloads from Ovi.
Ovi downloads, accessible via a dedicated app on the phone, enable you to customise the out-of-the-box set up with additional applications and content, some of which is free. Facebook and YouTube apps provide links to the services (though upgrades can be downloaded).
Nokia's N-Gage gaming is supported too, with the upper slider controls adding to the sophisticated game-playing experience.
The N86 8MP carries the sort of personal information manager features and tools we've come to expect from Nseries handsets: an exhaustive set of contacts info input options, calendar, notes, voice recorder, text to voice reader software, plus a dictionary function.
There's also a search option for on-phone or online searches. Syncing of contacts, calendar and notes and backup of content is supported too, with a USB cable or using Bluetooth and the provided Nokia Ovi Suite software. Remote syncing is also supported.
With such heavy duty functionality, battery performance is acceptable if not exceptional. Nokia quotes figures of up to 363 hours standby or 4.5 hours talktime (6.9 hours in GSM-only coverage). We managed around two days with typically moderate usage, though of course the more you work particularly power hungry features, the less battery life you can expect.
The basics of voice calling are handled commendbly well, with an impeccable performance for voice calls and reliable network sticakbility.
Nokia has certainly upped its cameraphone firepower with the N86's 8-megapixel shooter; it puts in an impressive snapping performance for a mobile. Camera apart, it may not be a ground-breaker as far as Nokia's smartphone design goes, with its heavyweight build a follow-on from the likes of the N85 and N96. That chunkiness and its styling may put off some users. But crammed with higher-end features and functionality, the N86 8MP is another powerfully equipped addition to Nokia's Nseries S60 smartphone range.
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The N86 8MP utilises a dual slider mechanism, with a regular numberpad below the screen and media player controls above
The 8-megapixel camera is equipped with a dual-LED flash and slide-down lens cover
Images and video clips can be uploaded straight from the handset to online content sharing services