Weighing in at just 86g, NEC's new N343i is a sleek, crisp-lined machine. Definitely for the more effeminate of user, its glossy white and silver finish makes it look more like an iPod then a mobile phone, making it a good choice for those wanting extra style with their daily communications without breaking the bank.
In its 109 x 43 x 13mm candybar-style shell, you can't really call the N343i tiny, but it definitely is slender and comfortable to hold. Between the keyboard and screen is a navigational thumb stick that is pretty easy to use, but as most of the menu navigation involves up-and-down thumb movements, it tends to get a bit tiresome with heavy use. Aside from this minor gripe, the handset overall is pretty ergonomic.
The keypad is very practical due to the key size being much larger then that on a lot of other phones we've seen. The keys are responsive to a soft touch, and various levels of key luminosity make finding the right spot in the dark easy.
The LCD screen is also a good clear size. While not top-end, it has a fair resolution of 128 Ãƒâ€” 160 pixels and is capable of displaying up to 65K colours. Brightness settings enable users to see messages and pictures easily, even in sunny conditions. The multimedia viewer supports a wide range of file formats including JPEG, BMP, PNG and GIF.
The NEC N343i comes with standard T9 (text on nine keys) input, so all generation X'ers and above will be able to bang out text at their certified record speeds.
For those with an extra busy life, the N343i comes with a practical scheduler that holds a bundle of times and date warnings, along with the normal calendar functions. Like many phones on the market today, the N343i packs a smattering of features like a voice recorder and Java, but there are also some little extras that make this phone stand out from the crowd.
Multiple recipients and mass-mail lists are simple with the multiple phone book functions. Data can be easily stored and organised between the various lists allowing the user to store eight different phone books and 255 different entries.
i-mode, currently available only through Telstra in Australia, is becoming more common on the carrier's phones these days, but you still have to look at it as an optional extra (NEC's N600 also supports this feature). With the proper subscription, i-mode users can surf the Web through the i-mode portal and send e-mail and multimedia messages. Users can access content, such as downloadable games, cooking recipes and ring tones, through different providers and browse a limited range of i-mode sites in a small-screen format.
The camera, while not as cutting edge as the 2-megapixel models we've seen, turned out fair VGA-sized photos and comes with a few shot functions and effects, such as Sepia and Monochrome. Enough to help you remember a face, but the resolution isn't going to do much justice helping gather images for a presentation. Also, some kind of video record function is sorely missed. The sound composer on the other hand is an uncut gem. Users can flit away hours away on the bus or train trying to bust out Bob Marley tunes with polyphonic steel drums and layered guitar.
The volume capabilities on the speaker are good -- even in windy conditions it is clear, eliminating any need to sandwich it to the side of your head. NEC states that the battery is good for 200 hours of standby or 200 minutes of talk time. During our tests we found that the N343i fell just short of this mark.
What it all comes down to, though, is that this phone really is about having the iPod-style with enough features to keep you satisfied. It doesn't quite rock the boat with its multimedia uses, however, what the N343i lacks in practicality it more then makes up for in class.
The N343i retails for $179 and is available from Telstra stores and Telstra Dealers nationally.