As you may recall, a few days back I was able to get my hands on the production N78 for a little while. The N78, a candybar and N73 successor, was first announced at the Mobile World Congress in February. It comes with a 3.2 megapixel camera, WiFi, a 3.5mm plug and all the usual goodies expected in an Nseries device. This latest multimedia computer from Nokia went on sale two weeks ago and is currently retailing at about 450$ sim-free. Based on a short but fairly comprehensive play with the N78, I bring you my take on it.
The N78 at about 15mm is a fairly slim device and coupled with its 113 mm length, it feels nice in the hand. The build quality seemed good with no creaks anywhere. However due to the design of the phone and the placement of the ‘Red/End’ key at first it feels as if there is some play. The candybar form factor means that there are no moving parts involved and this greatly helps in making it durable and something that won’t just wear out over time. The N78 is expected to be available in three colour variants, have a look here. In the sleep mode the N78 features a light that flashes inside the curve of the D pad, a nice visual effect and possibly a good indicator for messages or missed calls with a varying speed of the light flash.
The two things that have been criticised in the N78’s design have been the lack of a camera cover and the keypad. The keypad could certainly have been much better but is not unusable, it certainly gets more marks than the N82 keypad. If you have large fingers then it will take some getting used to but otherwise you will do just fine.
This is one aspect that I can confidently say will please you for sure. The N78 is miles ahead of the N73 in this department and can give any other phone a run for its money. The audio quality over the headphones is finally where it should be – the N91 level, perhaps better. The stereo loudspeakers on the other hand not at the N95 level. Nokia must start giving them prime importance for future products, a lot of people I come across care about them and so do I. Looked at as a complete package, the N78 performs favourably.
After ages, the Radio application has been given a revamp and the Internet Radio now comes inbuilt. When you choose Radio, the user is presented with this option. Finally there is also support for RDS, a first for any Nseries.
On the camera front, in addition to the 3.2 megapixel stills, the N78 will be able to shoot VGA video at 15 frames per second. The one thing the N78 lacks is TV out, admittedly not a feature one tends to use often but is something that makes it worth it, for those few occasions you actually use it. There is UPnP though, in case you really want to hook up your TV with the smartphone.
As you can see the N78 on startup has about 48MB of free RAM, which is enough to multitask liberally. Even installing a few applications that continuously run in the background shouldn’t be a problem, also considering that a 1200mAh battery is powering the device.
The N78 is the first Feature Pack 2 device to be released by Nokia and it comes with all the visual goodness FP2 promises. The transitions are nice and smooth, the interface is snappy and there is hardly any lag while browsing through the menu’s.
THE FP2 AFFECT
Feature Pack 2 makes a lot of small modifications to the platform, it makes it a lot more customisable. Be it changing font sizes or changing the layout of the Standby menu.
Every Options menu will now show an shortcut to the currently open applications, I do not quite like that as it increases the number of D pad presses I need to make, unnecessarily. However it might be useful to those new to S60 to understand the concept of sending an application to the background while still keeping it open.
In case you don’t like pressing buttons, the N78 also features a navi wheel that it available in almost every application to help you breeze through the menus. Its basic function is to help scroll through long lists such as contacts, music playlists, photos and so on – effortlessly.
Well, that was the idea, but its only partly successful as a lot of time when you intend to press the D pad to move one step, the Navi wheel kicks in and messes things up. You will basically need to get used to it or the option to turn it off is always there. Once you get used to it, it works well, have a look at it in action in the above video.
The N78, along with the N82 Black supports inbuilt Geo-Tagging out of the box. Another first for the N78 is the presence of an FM Transmitter which allows us to duplicate the iTrip functional of the iPod i.e. broadcast music over the FM to Radio. It is great for listening to your own music without wires and in the car, through the phone. However, since it has been power optimised – its range is pretty limited. The N78 has to be near to the the Music System in order for it to work, if the phone is broadcasting from the back seat, the car stereo won’t be able to pick it up cause of the distance. All in all its a pretty nifty feature but sadly, not all regional varients will have it.
To conclude I will go back to what I’ve said earlier, if the design doesn’t appeal to you its another matter but apart from that it will be very difficult to find fault with the N78. This is a mass market Nseries and the focus of the development team was not to do cutting edge stuff, rather in just getting the basics right and focusing on the core user experience.
Having said that there is one aspect that currently needs to be fixed – the price. At the current price point the N78 is almost as expensive as the N82. It does have better music capabilities, an FM transmitter and FP2 of course. But the N82 boasts of a far superior camera with xenon and VGA video at 30 FPS along with TV out. Feature Pack 2 for me is nice, but not enough of an motivation to ignore core hardware.
At the current price I would rather pick up a Black N82 for myself than get this, however if the initial hype in price can give way to a more rational figure, the N78 is the phone to look out for.