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Nokia N96 review



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Nokia N96
  • Nokia N96
  • Nokia N96
  • Nokia N96
  • Nokia N96
  • Nokia N96
  • Nokia N96
  • Nokia N96
  • Nokia N96


Our Score:


Nokia's N95 was the swiss-army smartphone taken to its logical conclusion. If it didn't quite claim to be all things to all men, it at least claimed to be a phone/camera/media player/GPS/mobile messager/computer/games machine to them, which is pretty damn close. Some of these jobs it did well, some less well, but it's safe to say that there were a few areas where it fell down. Not wishing to be mean, it was a slightly cheap-feeling porker of a phone with poor battery life, and the design as a whole wasn't quite as well thought out and executed as it could have been. The N95 8GB update did a bit to correct this, and the true sequel - the N96 - does even more. The question is: is that enough?

I won't go into too much detail regarding the design, seeing as the esteemed Mr Bray covered this in some detail in his worryingly comprehensive N96 preview. The N96 isn't hugely different from its predecessor, retaining its chunky black shape, dominant screen and the two way slider mechanism that slides up to reveal the keypad and down to reveal a neat set of media playback keys. Strangely, Nokia has chosen to repeat the latter around the directional pad below the screen, possibly to make it easier to control playback one handed, though at the cost of the simplicity of the previous layout.

More positively, this is a slightly thinner and lighter device than the N95 8GB, weighing 3g less and up to 3mm thinner, though it's also a few mm longer and wider. Despite the new and slightly cheap feeling glossy plastics it feels like a nicer phone in the hand. The slider mechanism seems smoother and from the low-profile keys at the bottom to the media controls at the top, all the buttons have a solid and responsive action. The context sensitive backlighting on the keys, with individual controls glowing depending on whether you're listening to music, watching video or playing games, is still a nice usability touch.

More good news: one of the biggest criticisms of the N95 8GB have been dealt with in a decisive fashion. Not only does the N96 have double the onboard capacity at 16GB, but it also allows for expansion via a microSD memory card slot located on the left hand edge of the phone. Even given the demands of a device that takes photos and plays music, games and video, that should be enough to be getting on with.

For me, the only major disappointment is the screen. Yes, it's lovely and vibrant and those 16.7 million colours are all reproduced with real panache, but having been spoilt by higher resolution displays on phones from HTC, Samsung and - of course - Apple, the 2.9in 240 x 320 LCD screen on the N96 is a little underwhelming. Still, it doesn't affect everyday use that seriously and the switching between portrait and landscape modes, which happens automatically depending on which way you slide the screen, makes a lot of sense when you're browsing the Internet, watching video or playing games.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Dean Apiagyei-Williams

October 12, 2008, 4:13 pm

I suppose that the N96 is really for people who have not experienced the N95; I've got one, but I had a N95 before and there isn't really much difference.


October 12, 2008, 5:07 pm

i was expecting n96 to be more exciting than this..

hate nokia cheap plastic - especially those ones like n81 lot..


October 12, 2008, 5:11 pm

The N85 will be Nokia's new flagship device. The n96 will only appeal to the niche market.


October 12, 2008, 7:14 pm

i think nokia should bring out a really good vpn client with pptp support.

as for the n85 depends on the price it wont be as good as the n96 but i think people will overlook that esp. if they havent had a n95 to compare it to


October 12, 2008, 7:34 pm

@jay I disagree... The n85 will be better than the n96. Here is a detailed comparison between the n85 and n96. Most reviewers that have used both handsets prefer the n85. The n96 is just an N95 8GB with builtin internal storage.

*The n85 has much better OLED screen which also uses much less power.

*Battery life is 1200mah not the meager 950mah in the n96.

*FM transmitter.

*USB Charging.

*Even the focal length on the camera is better.

*Much smaller.

*Faster CPU.


You need to do more research... There is a lot of problems with the n96 at the moment. People reporting poor battery life, extremely buggy firmware etc.

N85 vs N96








Luan Bach

October 12, 2008, 10:20 pm

I hope they've fixed the stability issues in the final hardware/software revisions. My most annoying bug is the phone randomly rebooting while listening to music through the headphones.


October 12, 2008, 10:24 pm

I have had the n96 for several weeks now and have got to say this review is pretty downbeat for a very good phone.

From a functionality perspective, few phones do as much as the n96 and as your review states, individual items will do a better job (if you want to carry around a separate GPS device, MP3 player, camera etc) but the n96 does actually make a pretty good job of doing them all (arguably better than any other phone out there). Yes, it's early days and the firmware could probably use a couple of revisions, but unlike many other phone manufacturers, that is one of Nokia's strengths.

If you look at what's out there, the 2-year-old n95 is still a very accomplished phone because it pretty much does everything. I wasn't expecting many extra features from the n96 because there aren't any phones out there offering a great deal more. 8mp cam would be nice, but as has been said many times over the MP count means very little. Is a bigger screen necessary - maybe for some, but I think the current size does a great job, especially with the clean interface - if the phone ran WM6 then sure extra pixels would be useful.

A lot of what is good about this phone are the little things that are not headliners. The design is much nicer (personal taste I know), but they have fixed a few irritations from the n95 - 3mm Jack on the top, additional screen lock key, better placed speakers amongst other things. They have updated the phone too (mine now has 32gb of music on it and I do regularly download BBC iPlayer programmes to watch on my commute). I was hoping the phone would be thinner, and DVB-T would have been much more useful but TBH, I looked at every phone out there and every phone likely to come out in the near future and the n96 and the i8510 were the only phones that came close to ticking all the boxes.

I think the main issue most missed in phone reviews is that you have to look at the market it is aimed at. So many people review phones and compare them to the much-hyped (and highly overrated) iPhone, complaining about lack of WOW factor. But they fail to understand that there are a lot of people out there who want a phone as a functional item rather than a piece of designer jewellery. Touch screen is great for playing with, but actually a lot of people want phones that can be used with one hand.

Oh, and again I would complain about the consistency of the rating system used for this review, but after seeing several debates on TR I get the feeling that regular readers do not pay much attention to these.


October 12, 2008, 11:34 pm

@ILoveGagdets - you'll never find someone who defends a product more vociferously than those who have bought it ;)

For my money the i8510 beats the N96 hands down, I'm afraid. We did also preview this handset months back, so you were warned ;)

Very pleased you are happy with it though - at the end of the day that is the main thing.


October 13, 2008, 1:24 am

@Gordon - I agree, and I'm not defending the product, but just trying to set a decent perspective about what is available for the intended market at this point in time.

The i8510 was a very close call and I can see that some will rate it higher (in fact I did almost get it over the n96) however there were a couple of really niggling things that put me off. Firstly, all the shots I saw produced by the i8510 seemed to be too vivid, unrealistic even. I would love to have a mix between the two. The lense & s/w of the n96 with the mp and the interface / usability of the Samsung - oh and optical zoom too (I actually hate the n96 camera button). The other thing that put me off was that I would have to buy the route 66 maps for the i8510 whereas the nokia ones are free and easily updateable. Topped with Nokia's more complete suite of s/w and historical attention to s/w updates put the n96 a nose in front.

In the end, battery life doesn't make that much difference because I expect to charge my phone every night - oh and cost makes no odds either because most people will be getting the phones free or massively discounted as part of their contract.

Got to say though, I would rather carry the Samsung around in my pocket.


October 13, 2008, 1:45 am

@ILoveGagdets - fair statements. Those are strong points with the N95 (though I do believe the i8510 camera to be better overall). Saying said, I would still pick Samsung's - quite frankly - own version of the N96, over Nokia's. To me it isn't even close.

Then again, I own (and vastly prefer) an iPhone to either so what would I know ;)

*Bows out of any impending Apple verses x,y,z conversation*


October 13, 2008, 1:54 am

@ AlmostDone

thanks, I'll defo be waiting for the n85 before making any decisions on what phone at all to get. there are just so many excellent phones out now im at a loss to which to choose to buy


October 13, 2008, 1:59 am

*Drags Gordon kicking and screaming back into impending Apple versus x,y,z conversation*

actually, i should make a law forcing everybody to use firefox's dictionary add-on. eliminate typos for almost good.


October 13, 2008, 2:02 am

It's 10pm on a Sunday... not happening ;)



January 12, 2009, 2:04 pm

It's been brought to our attention that there is actually an accelerometer but the auto rotate function had been turned off on our device. The setting can be found here: Menu > Tools > Settings > General > Personalisation > Display > Auto-Rotate - Set to On

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