First Look: Nokia N8
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First Look: Nokia N8

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The Nokia N8 excels as a camera phone, and the improvements of Symbian 3 make it one of the company's best smartphones to date. However, it still has its shortcomings and an expensive price tag, making it a hard sell for the North American market.

Hey, everyone. I'm Bonnie Cha, senior editor at CNET.com and I'm here with your first look of the Nokia N8. This is their first smartphone to ship with the revamped Symbian 3 operating system so let's just dive in and see what the N8 has to offer. As always, I'll start with the design first. Nokia's been known to produce some great hardware and the N8 is no different. Features metal finishes and a glass display so it feels really solid in the hand and not plasticky or cheap. The N8 has a candybar form factor. There's no slider or moving parts. On the front, you get a 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen which is bright and clear, but not quite as sharp as some of the competing products. What's more important here, though, is the user interface. A big part of Symbian 3 is bringing a simpler and more customizable UI, and for the most part, it's pretty successful. The N8 now has three home screens which you can personalize with various widgets. Also, everything now requires just one tap whereas before it was either one or two taps which got to be pretty confusing, so I'm definitely glad to see that was corrected. One other thing I like is the apps feature. If you do a long press on the menu key here, it will bring up thumbnail views of all your open apps so you easily switch between them or close an opened app completely. Symbian still isn't the most user friendly, though. If you're in an app and need to access options, you still have to go through more steps than on Android or the iPhone. For example, if you wanna reply to an e-mail, you have to press options and then reply or if you wanna launch a new webpage, you have to bring up the address bar, enter the URL, confirm, and then press Go To. I just don't think it needs to be that complicated so I think Symbian still needs a lot of work there, especially when compared to Android or iOS. One area where the N8 really shines is multimedia. The music player gets a bit of a makeover with a Cover Flow-like interface for browsing music, but the real star is the 12-megapixel camera. It comes with a Xenon flash and you get a ton of options both for taking photos and after you're done taking photos. The picture quality is amazing. Images are sharp and colors are really vibrant and it also offers HD video capture and compared to some of the other phones that offer this capability, I felt the quality was a lot sharper. As a phone, it delivers good call quality and the battery life so far has been really good. With moderate use, I've been able to go a day and a half and almost two days before needing to recharge. It also works well as a navigator and you get free turn-by-turn navigation with Ovi Maps. Smartphone is a little sluggish, though. There were slight delays when trying to launch or exit out of apps and there were a couple times where the delay was long enough that I thought there was a problem. In general, I think the N8 is one of Nokia's best smartphones and Symbian fans will find a lot to like about it. It's got great hardware, an excellent camera phone, and Symbian 3 brings some much needed improvements, but it still has some shortcomings and when you pair that with the $549 price tag, I think, at least in the North American market, you're gonna be better off going with an Android device or the iPhone. I'm Bonnie Cha and this has been your first look at the Nokia N8.

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