Nokia N79 review

The last great S60 Nokia’s have been available for quite some time now, and one of them is the Nokia N79. By “last great S60 Nokia’s,” of course, I mean those handsets which have been announced and released before the much-awaited S60 5th Edition OS release on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic.

In typical S60 fashion, a lot of the core functionality from older models remain, while new and improved features are seamlessly integrated on top. The Nokia N79 runs on Symbian S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2, and as expected there are a lot of things that remind one of older models with the same operating system.

Nokia N79 key features and design

But first things first: what are the Nokia N79’s key features? Well, it’s got a 5 megapixel camera with dual-LED flash, 2.4-inch screen, built-in Wi-Fi, GPS, and accelerometer. But it holds much, much more under the hood, and so, I guess it would be better to elaborate, bullet-point style:

  • Quadband GSM/Dualband UMTS
  • FM radio with RDS and FM transmitter
  • Touch-sensitive Naviwheel
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Supports up to 8GB microSD cards (4GB microSD card included in the box)
  • Xpress-on color covers with support for automatic changing of theme
  • Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth with A2DP
  • Stereo speakers
  • Built-in accelerometer with auto-screen rotation
  • 1200 mAh battery

And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, the Nokia N79 is the Nokia N78’s successor. Yep, so if you just bought the Nokia N78, you’re pretty much screwed. A comparison between the Nokia N78 and Nokia N79 will commence! Later…

For now, let’s talk about the Nokia N79’s face. It’s assembled in typical Nokia candybar fashion: a 2.4-inch QVGA 16 million color screen sits on top, crowned by an earpiece, VGA video-calling camera and ambient light sensor, while hotkeys and an alphanumeric keypad are laid out beneath it. Strangely, the Nokia logo is drawn sideways on the right side.

The screen is no doubt large, but ever since the iPhone’s 3.5-incher, I’ve been spoiled. So for me, though it’s definitely clear and bright, the Nokia N79’s screen is no good. The great web browser is let down because of the small screen real estate, not to mention the need to perpetually scroll down while reading any type of document. This is especially annoying when you consider that the space for the oft-useless front VGA camera could have been used to extend the screen even just 0.2-inches more.

However, if you don’t consider a small screen to be an impediment, it works quite well in coordination with the ambient light sensor. Graphics and fonts are definitely readable under direct sunlight, and in the dark, the screen looks great. I just can’t get over the fact that it’s way too small to be useful as anything other than a phone and music player. It’s usable, but I wouldn’t prefer it over other devices that I currently use.

The Nokia N79 is well-built all over. At the back, the camera lens is safely hidden behind a slide-down cover (which is also used to activate it). And the plastic used in assembling it isn’t thin and flappy.

It looks robust, but it’s actually lightweight, and definitely solid when you hold it in the hand. Everything from the buttons on the side to the screen to the keypad feel great. This is surely one aspect at which it trumps the Nokia N78.

Nokia N78 and Nokia N79: Camera

I’ve pictured the two phones in question here to compare their cameras, and obvious differences come afloat. The Nokia N79 comes with a dual-LED flash, as opposed to the Nokia N78’s single-LED one. Also, the Nokia N79 has an upgraded 5 megapixel camera, compared to the Nokia N78’s 3.2 megapixel cam. Videos are captured at 30 frames per second.

Both appear to take the same quality photos, though, with the only obvious difference being in the resolution of their captured photos. Long-term usability will be better expected out of the Nokia N79, which comes with a lens protector.

The keypad is another area in which it beats the Nokia N78. They keys on the Nokia N79 are wide, evenly spaced, and well-lit. Tactile feedback was present, as was a complete set of Nokia hotkeys, including a special key for the multimedia menu.

What I didn’t expect was the little learning curve involved in using the new, noodle-like left and right softkeys. Otherwise, the alphanumeric keypad as a whole proved very good.

Nokia N78 and Nokia N79: Keypad

The Nokia N79 and Nokia N78 keypads compared. You may also notice that the 5-way d-pad slash touch-sensitive Naviwheel is a whole lot bigger than that on the Nokia N78. It’s that much more useful in real life, and the hiccups in scrolling found on the N78 are gone.

Music, memory, and connectivity

The Nokia N79 had no problems in connecting with any sort of network or device. Wi-Fi scanning is good, and even hidden hotspots can be detected, while the FM transmitter is also present to broadcast music that’s currently playing on the device’s music player.

It supports Bluetooth with A2DP and uses a microUSB connection to connect with a computer. The microUSB port is hidden behind a latch on the left side which also houses the microSD card, pictured here. It’s an ingenious feature, but not that appealing in the real world.

Here are some random screenshots from the N79. If you notice, there’s an app for the aforementioned FM transmitter feature here, which is used to activate it. It’s quite difficult to find a frequency from which to start broadcasting, but it works well once you’ve finished setting it up.

The music player can also be used to toggle the FM transmitter feature. Otherwise, sounds will come out from either the headphone port, stereo speakers, or Bluetooth headphones. Being stereo, sound quality turned out great on speakers. But it wasn’t as loud as I had expected.

It’s also possible to use your own theme with the Nokia N79, which is what I did here with the Fire theme.

Speaking of user themes, the Nokia N79 comes with smart XpressOn color covers that have electronic chips embedded in them to change the themes automatically. Every new Nokia N79 purchase comes with three different XpressOn color covers, which change the color of the currently applied theme to their own color. The icons remain the same, though, so it’s basically just a quick and fancy way to switch theme colors. Additional XpressOn color covers can be purchased separately.

Final Thoughts

For those who want to experience the next generation of Nokia devices without waiting for 2009, the Nokia N79 is a great choice. It’s quite affordable, and has a lot of features that you would only normally expect on very expensive phones.

And it shouldn’t be forgotten that it’s not just a phone, but a combination of a music player, FM radio, mobile Internet device, digital camera, GPS device, office-on-the-go, and a whole lot more. With the additional power-saving features enabled by S60 3rd Edition FP2, its 1200 mAh battery lasts well over a day–sometimes even 2 days–in use. And it’s not like charging a phone every other day is hard work; in fact, it’s very practical.

It’s also worth noting that the Nokia N79 is cheaper than the Nokia N85. And when you take into account that about the only difference there is between these two handsets is that the Nokia N85 can charge through USB, it’s obvious that the N79 gives the most bang for your buck.

If you would rather have a slider phone, the Nokia N85 is the great alternative. But if you’re OK with a candybar, the N79 offers a very sweet deal.

Author: David Gonzales

I run the blogosphere.

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