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The Nokia N81 will rock you (and your wallet)

Company unveils the N81 multimedia smart phone--built for music and gaming, with a 3.5mm headphone jack and dedicated game keys--for European markets.

Nokia N81
Nokia N81 Nokia

Remember back in May when we teased you with some enticing photos of the yet-to-be-confirmed Nokia N81 and Nokia N82? Well, my friends, we tease you no more. The company today officially unveiled the Nokia N81 multimedia computer, with expected availability in Q4. It's likely that the N81 will ship in certain European and Asian markets first--possibly in October--but Nokia said there shouldn't be too much of lag between those launches and the U.S. release. Thank gawd.

There will be two versions of the Nokia N81: an 8GB model and one with a microSD expansion slot that can accept cards up to 4GB. Both N81s are built for music and gaming with a 3.5mm headphone jack and dedicated game keys (when held in landscape position). The Symbian S60 device will also work with Nokia's newly launched Ovi Internet brand, where you can download songs from the Nokia Music Store and games from the N-Gage service. Music fiends should also be pleased that the N81 includes A2DP support for stereo Bluetooth, an FM tuner, side-mounted dual stereo speakers, and support for a number of file formats, including MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, and M4A. As part of the Nokia N series of multimedia computers, the N81 also has RealPlayer onboard for full-screen video playback and a 2-megapixel camera with video recording capabilities.

Built for gaming Nokia

The Nokia N81 ain't all about having a good time though. It's still, first and foremost, a phone with quad-band world roaming and integrated Bluetooth 2.0 and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g). The Symbian smart phone also includes e-mail support (Push, SMTP, IMAP4, POP3), Nokia Mobile search, and Nokia Maps.

From a design standpoint, the N81 is gorgeous. We had a painfully brief hands-on time with the device and the slider design is sleek and smooth. The 2.4-inch, 16 million-color QVGA screen is beautifully sharp and bright, and the alphanumeric keypad spacious. We listened to some tunes over the phone's speakers--lots of volume but we were still wanting a bit more richness and bass. Obviously, battery life will be a concern with such a feature-filled phone. Nokia couldn't give us MP3 playback battery numbers, but the N81 is rated for 4 hours of talk time (GSM) and up to 16 days of standby time. The toughest pill to swallow? The price, of course. The 8GB model will retail for $599 for an unlocked version, while the regular Nokia N81 will go for $499 unlocked. Though there weren't any carrier announcements today, it doesn't rule out such a thing in the future. Fingers crossed.