The N81 is Nokia's entertainment powerhouse because not only does it play music, take snaps and let you watch videos, it also comes preloaded with the new N-Gage gaming software.
Our phone was supplied by Carphone Warehouse who offer the phone for free on selected contracts or for around £280 on pay as you go.
Like many of the other handsets in the N series, the N81 is quite a large phone, but still manages to look pretty stylish, thanks to its glossy black finish and cool slider design. Much of the top half of the handset is taken up by the large colour screen. It's very crisp and sharp and has good colours, so is ideal for playing games or viewing videos via the built-in Real Player software.
This handset has been designed to use Nokia's new Ovi Web portal, which is a kind of online hypermarket, offering music, games and GPS maps, as well as a place to store and share snaps from your phone. Unfortunately, the portal isn't fully live at present so we can't give you the definitive verdict on it, but the music download section, which is currently in beta, looks like it's well laid out and easy to use.
Nokia has loaded three N-Gage game demos on the phone and while they're not quite in the same league as games for Sony's PSP, they are a rather large step above the usual mobile gaming fare. With its fast 3D graphics, the racing game is especially impressive. However, there's no guarantees that the N-Gage platform will prove to be a success, so we wouldn't buy this phone purely on the basis of its gaming potential.
What's not in doubt is the handset's music abilities. You can transfer tracks to the phone via the microUSB socket on the bottom and thanks to the mammoth 8GB of onboard memory, there's plenty of space for storing your music. As your tracks are sorted into the usual artist, album and track name categories, it's easy to find the music you want to play and the touch-sensitive music controls surrounding the directional pad mean you can control playback without having to constantly call up the music application.
The supplied headphones are pretty decent, but if you don't like them, the phone has a standard 3.5mm mini-jack so you can swap them for any pair you like, which is handy. The N81 also has stereo speakers mounted onto its sides. They're surprisingly loud and although they lack bass, they're still among the best we've heard on a mobile.