written by: S. R. Obbayi•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 6/27/2011
So what does the Nokia N81 have under the hood to cement its place firmly among the Nokia N-Series greats? Could it be the enhancements for gaming, music or video capabilities or could there be something more that is appealing? To help answer that, this review gives a more complete overview.
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Announced and released in late 2007, the Nokia N81 is a smartphone that comes right out of the line of Nokia N-Series smartphones geared towards fun and entertainment. Noticeable from the first glance is this phone's hardware, which is ready to cater for all your entertainment needs with its array of dedicated media keys.
This phone also comes with plenty of built-in memory -- enough to handle a mountain of media files. Of course there is more to the Nokia N81 than meets the eye, so let us take a deeper look at what this phone has to offer starting off with the design.
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The Nokia N81 weighs in at a hefty 140 grams and measures 102 x 50 x 17.9 millimeters. It comes in cocoa brown and gold with a black front face. Being a side slider phone, when closed, this Nokia phone consists of a secondary camera on the front with the ear piece positioned next to it in the center. Below these there is the 2.4 inch TFT portrait display and finally, below the display, we have the softkey panel.
This panel houses two softkeys on each of the top corners. The two bottom corners of the softkey panel are occupied by the Nokia menu key and the cancel keys. Between these keys mentioned, the left side is fitted with the green call button while the right side has the red call cancel button. All these surround a section that is fitted with four media keys for playing, pausing, fast-forwarding and rewinding music and video. These in turn encompass the five way navigation key also known as the Navi wheel.
If you slide open the Nokia N81 you find an alphanumeric keypad. The left side of the phone is fitted with one of the stereo external speakers while the right side houses the other speaker. Below the speaker on the right side are the volume control keys, as well as the camera key.
The top of the Nokia N81 has got the 3.5 millimeter audio jack, the microUSB slot and the power control key. The back of this phone houses the battery compartment and the primary camera.
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The user interface on the Nokia N81 is the Symbian S60 version 3 with feature pack 1. This hints that the navigation is based on scrolling, primarily using the Navi pad. Access to the menu is via the dedicated Nokia menu button or through the left softkey button. The menu icons are laid out in a four by three grid layout and can be navigated by using the North, East, South and West directions of the Navi wheel and selecting the application to launch using the center key.
Applications can also be customized by placing shortcuts on the home screen. Alerts and messages are also displayed on the home screen and can be accessed by highlighting the message and pressing the center key on the Navi wheel. Media on the Nokia N81 can be played using the dedicated media keys surrounding the Navi wheel, as well as similar keys found on the hands-free headset that comes supplied with this Nokia smartphone.
Access to the camera is available through the menu or through the dedicated hardware key on the right side. All actions in the user interface can be completed using the softkeys and they change depending on the application and the function expected within the application.
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The Nokia N81 comes with a 240 x 320 pixel resolution, color display that supports 16 million colors. The Navi wheel is touch sensitive. The internal storage on this phone is 12 MB with support for an 8 GB microSD card and it has 96 MB RAM. There is also a version with a standard 8 GB of internal storage. This makes up for the lack of an external card slot. Being a media phone, the Nokia N81 comes with stereo external speakers and a 3.5 millimeter audio jack.
Connectivity options on this phone are varied with GPRS, EDGE, 3G at 384kbps, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB all available. You can make use of these connectivity options with the full HTML browser and support for downloads of N-gage games as well as Java and other applications.
There is a secondary video call camera on the Nokia N81 as well as a 2MP 1600 x 1200 pixels camera with an LED flash.
Additionally there is a stereo FM radio on this mobile phone as well as a music player that supports MP3, WMA, WAV, RA, AAC and M4A audio formats, while the video player supports WMV, RV, MP4 and 3GP video formats.
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The Nokia N81 is not much of a high-end smartphone as far as speed is concerned. It comes with the fairly old ARM 11 processor at 369 MHz. The good thing with this processor is that it is enough to get great performance out of music and video playback. The sound quaity on the Nokia N81 is great, especially if played on custom high-end headphones. Selected games perform satisfactorily on this smartphone.
Internet connectivity would be better appreciated on 3G and 2G Networks. Using Wi-Fi the Internet speeds are fairly good, as is the call quality of the phone on both ends of the line. This phone does a good job in eliminating background noise and has fairly good reception in most areas.
Battery performance is okay. It will give you just over 400 hours of standby and about four hours of talk time on 2G. Three hours tops when using 3G.
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Despite the lack of modern high-end hardware specifications, the Nokia N81 still manages to perform quite well and is particularly good as a multimedia smartphone. With the 8 GB of internal memory, there is probably a lot more space than you need to save your favorite music albums. Of course this is relative. The phone does not look that cool and is a little over weight. With better battery life, this phone would be ideal for taking on long road trips and catching up on your entertainment. All in all I would not hesitate to recommend this phone to anyone, especially since it can be snapped up cheaply now.