Nokia N85 Review

The Nseries lives on

By Cosmin Vasile on June 26th, 2009 16:15 GMT
One of the most acclaimed handset lineups, the Nseries from Nokia, got a new high-end device that strongly resembles the older Nokia N81. The fresh N85 kept the same slider form and keypad layout as its N81 predecessor, but this time, Nokia made an effort to get some stylish look into the handset. Also, the new Nseries device will be available on the market at a much lower price, even though it is stuffed with all the "goodies" of a usual high-end mobile phone. One of the best choices for those that are looking for a Nokia slider, the N85 is a much better pick than N81 as it lacks most of the latter's negative points.

Announced in August 2008, Nokia N85 was made available on the market in October 2008. The slider can be bought for around USD 500, but you can get it for less in case you opt for a certain plan. There are two colors available for users to choose from: Copper and Black.
Design

The Nokia N85 smartphone features a stylish slider form, but misses the 'wow' factor so needed for the latest phone to be able to have some success on the market. While most Nokia slider phones are not that appealing in terms of design, compared with other brands, users’ interest for quality is still more powerful. I think that Nokia N81 can be considered a failure in terms of design and functionality, thus I didn't expect to see another Nokia handheld with almost the same design. I was pretty reluctant at first, but after spending a few minutes with N85, I could notice the improvements Nokia did compared with previous sliders.
First of all, the feeling of cheap merchandise is gone now, as the new material used for manufacturing it is very shiny and well polished. This also has a bad side as it still catches fingerprints, like his predecessor did. Slimmer than N81, the new N85 smartphone measures 103 x 50 x 16 mm and weighs 128g (including battery). The big 2.6-inch display makes a good impression at first glance and is well protected against scratches. Above the screen, there's a secondary videocall camera, the earphone speaker, and a very small light ambient sensor. Below the display, Nokia kept almost the same layout of the keys as N81. Unfortunately, this doesn't go well in terms of ergonomics. The Accept and Reject calls key have been placed on the edge of both sides of the phone and are somewhat tricky to use.
The Navi-wheel has been improved and can now be used to browse the menu much easier. Still, this cannot be compared with the Android's or BlackBerry's roller-ball that turns the browsing experience into a real pleasure. The Shortcut key has been placed to the right of the Navi-wheel, while the Symbian menu key can be found to the left. The latter is only visible when backlighting is on, together with the two softkeys and the C (Backspace). The numeric keypad is revealed when you slide up the device. The keypad is not that impressive and can only be used with the tip of your fingers. Nokia N85 is a dual slider introduced by Nokia when launching Nokia N95 on the market. When it's slid down, it reveals four music dedicated keys that can also be used for playing various N-Gage games.
The right side of the phone features two stereo speakers, a dedicated camera key, a dual volume key and a Lock/Unlock key. The left side of the smartphone only includes a small microSD memory slot for storage space expansion. On top of the phone, there's a Power on/off button, a 3.5mm jack port and a small microUSB port that is used for charging or synchronizing the phone. The 5-megapixel camera on the back of the phone features dual led flash and Carl Zeiss optics. I have noticed that the phone lacks the usual charging port, so you'll have to use the microUSB port to charge the phone, either through the PC or you can use the charger that comes in the sales package. Overall, Nokia N85 will probably not attract people that are interested in design, but visual improvement compared with N81 is clearly one step forward for Nokia.
Display and Camera

Nokia N85 features an AMOLED screen that measures 2.6", supports 16 million colors and a 240x320 pixel resolution. The AMOLED screen features an accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate, but as with all AMOLED screens, it doesn't have eligibility under sunlight. Even if it can barely be used outdoors, the large display performs very well when the phone is used for Web browsing, movie watching, or gaming.
The screen seems to be somewhat protected against scratches by a thin plastic; still, you should be careful where you keep it. In terms of image quality displayed, it is excellent. Overall, the performance during various tests has been more than satisfactory.
The 5-megapixel camera embedded in this Nseries device seems to be much better than N96's, but also much lower in quality than N82's. Featuring Carl Zeiss lenses, auto-focus and dual LED flash, the module camera appears to be a little bit smaller than that of N95 (5.45, compared with 5.6). While not the best 5-megapixel camera on the market, compared with N96 camera, you can actually take decent pictures with N85.
The camera features geotagging and protection for the lenses. The user interface boasts extensive settings, much like Nokia's N95 8GB camera interface, but you can now choose what settings you want to be displayed on the toolbar. Camera activates pretty fast when you slide down the lid covering the lenses. The maximum resolution supported is of 2582x1944 pixels, while users can choose to shoot in five modes, as seen in the pictures.
There are no specially created functions for this camera, but, as you can see from the screenshots, all of them remain very easy to use. The same goes for the video camera, which can capture VGA (30fps) clips in MP4 format or 3GPP, depending on the quality you choose.
Menu and Software

Nokia N85 runs the Symbian 9.3 operating system, with an S60 3rd Edition and Feature Pack 2 interface. Feature Pack 2 brings both visual and performance improvements, which otherwise wouldn't be available for devices that only run Feature Pack 1, unless they're updated. This does not mean that you can get all the features of the FP2 on FP1 devices, as there are still exclusive ones that you can only take advantage of on an FP2 handset, such as Nokia N85 or N96. Besides the amazing Gallery with the geotagging feature, you'll get a new kind of Active standby layout. The latter enables users to bring up on the Home screen a lot more shortcuts than usual, such as game, application and link shortcuts. The new Task manager is also a specific FP2 improvement, and gives quick access to any applications running in the background. The Task manager now appears on top of every menu option that the user opens. Moreover, some cosmetic changes have been included, such as better menu transition effects and stylish icons.
The main menu can be accessed by pressing the left key, right next to the Navi-wheel controller. In addition to the usual options and applications that we find in almost all Symbian-powered handsets, Nokia N85 features Search and Maps utilities. Maps is used together with the GPS receiver and enables owners to use Nokia maps, localization and directions when they're on the go. Lots of maps can be downloaded from Nokia's website and then used to pick the shortest route from one point to another. Under the Office category, we find QuickOffice applications, used for reading Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Users won't be able to edit any files without upgrading the application, which, of course, costs money. There's also a PDF reader, a notepad, a Zip archivator, and a currency converter.
You can now find the Calculator under the Applications submenu, while the voice recorder has been moved to the Media one. The Video center connects the phone to a bigger screen (projector, monitor, or TV) through the TV-out cable, in order to get a better view of the videos. The phone features a wide range of 3D games (trial versions) when the N-Gage menu is accessed.

The most thrilling feature of the device is the Motion sensor that grants it the Automatic rotation ability. This means that, every time you want to use your phone's screen in landscape mode, you'll only need to turn its upper left side down, and the interface will automatically reshape in landscape mode. Compared with N95, the accelerometer now works with all menus and applications compatible with this feature, which is a great asset.
The phone includes everything a user may need on the road or in the office, pre-installed on the handset: email, web, calendar, organizer, IM, office tools, messaging, applications manager, connectivity wizard, synchronization tools, GPS navigator, themes, profiles, and even more. Nokia N85 seems to be what its predecessor N81 should have been.
Communication

Nokia N85 is a quad band GSM (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900) handset, HSDPA compatible, which features GPRS class 32 (107 kbps), EDGE 32 class (296 kbps), High-Speed Circuit-Switched Data (57.6 kbps) and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g. Tested on the EDGE and 3G networks, the phone has performed pretty good, as you can see from the screenshots.
The WLAN wizard helps you search and define your WLAN network connection settings. Should you want to connect to the Internet, you must first define an Access point (EDGE, WLAN or 3G). You can do that by going to the Main menu / Tools / Settings / Connection / Access points, and define which access point to be used whenever a network connection is required (Main menu / Home network / Settings).
Other connectivity tools include Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support, and microUSB for PC synchronization (charging included). The Bluetooth connection has reached speeds of up to 122 KB/s when sending, and 154 KB/s when receiving. When connecting the USB cable, you'll be able to choose from four modes: PC Suite, Mass storage, Image transfer and Media transfer. All of them are intuitive and easy to use, so there's nothing more to add here.
In terms of messaging, the phone accepts all available message types, but, given the not-so-friendly keypad, it will be hard to enjoy texting. Anyway, the handset includes no less than four message editors, one for each type: SMS, MMS, audio message and e-mail. The message client works with POP3, SMTP, and IMAP4 protocols, and supports more than one email account. Also, it can download headers and allows for attachments.
The quad-band (GSM 850 / GSM 900 / GSM 1800 / GSM 1900) network compatible slider has a very good GSM signal reception. UMTS signal reception is likewise excellent. The sound is outstanding at both ends, and loud enough. The vibration alert is also above average in intensity.
Processor and Memory

Nokia N85 is powered by a dual ARM11 family processor running at speeds of up to 369 Mhz. It's the usual CPU mainly used for Nseries handsets. I have noticed some lags and hiccups during games. This is definitely not a snappy device, but if you have had a Symbian phone before, it won't be noticed.
The handset embeds an 85 MB user free internal memory and 128 MB SDRAM memory. The storage space can be expanded up to another 8GB through the hot-swappable microSD slot card.

Furthermore, the device comes with an 8GB microSD card in the sales package, so there's no need for supplementary expenses.
Multimedia

Nokia N85 is a multimedia device, thus the 3.5mm jack port doesn't come as a surprise. The jack port enables users to attach any compatible headphone, which will improve their experience. The integrated music player looks very cool, and supports almost any type of music file you can think of: MP3, AAC, eAAC, eAAC+, WMA, M4A, as well as playlists. Files are automatically sorted by artist, genre, and albums, or by using the PC Suite.
The music player can be easily controlled with the Navi-wheel, but you can also take advantage of the four music keys, which are revealed when the phone is slid down. The included HS-45 Stereo Headsets do not make for a good addition to the sales package, that's why I encourage you to use different headphones. There's also the option to take advantage of the Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support, which will enable users to listen music wirelessly.
The music player features all kinds of options and settings: Equalizer, Visualisation, Balance, Loudness, Stereo Widening, or Shuffle. Some of these are also available for the included FM Radio, which can memorize up to 50 base stations and features RDS and Visual radio capabilities.
The reception is excellent, and the quality of the sound likewise. Nokia N85 delivers one of the best music quality sounds, much better than its N81 and N96 predecessors, especially if you change the mediocre headset provided in the sales package.
Furthermore, videos can be played with the help of the integrated Real Player application. The video player is fully compatible with both orientations, namely landscape and portrait, and can run movies in full screen.
Battery

The 1200 mAh Li-Ion (BL-5K) battery has an officially stated life expectancy of 363 hours in standby (360 hours for 3G) and of about 6 hours and 50 minutes in talk-time mode (4 hours and 30 minutes for 3G). What we have got has been 4 days of use: approx. 2 hours of calls and 10MB of overall data transfer. While this might seem low at first glance, there are other Nokia devices that are doing much worse than this.
Impressions

Nokia N85 seems to be a good choice for slider fans, especially as it includes so many features at a decent price. While the offer on the market is quite rich, N85 will probably go unnoticed, as it doesn't have such an astonishing design. I would recommend the N85 as one of the best value for money options for a high-end device, in case you're not getting the new touchscreen smartphones from Nokia.

The Good

Everything stuffed into this smartphone works pretty much above average, except maybe the screen, which is low consuming (AMOLED), but can barely be readable outdoors. Nokia N85 is solid built and offered at a decent price, which should attract more people than the actual design. I should enlist almost all the technical features that the phone includes, but also the quality of music sound.

The Bad

I think the layout of the external keys, the Navi-wheel, which is still hard to control, as well as the AMOLED screen are the only letdowns of the device. Also, I was surprised to find that Nokia dropped the usual charging port and chose the microUSB port as the only method of charging. I don't understand this choice, as you will still need to carry two cables with you in case you cannot attach it to a PC.

Sales Package

Nokia N85 handset
Nokia Battery (BL-5K)
Nokia Travel Charger (AC-10)
Nokia Video Connectivity Cable (CA-75U)
Nokia Connectivity Cable (CA-101)
Nokia Music Headset (HS-45, AD-54)
Nokia 8 GB microSD card (MU-43)
User Guide
Quick Start Guide.
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