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NEC N908 (Unlocked) review: NEC N908 (Unlocked)

The NEC N908 is a beautiful design-centric phone with a luscious touch screen interface. Dialing and texting were a bit difficult due to the lack of a keypad, so it's not a phone for everyone. But those who love compact and uniquely beautiful handsets will not be disappointed.

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
6 min read


NEC N908 (Unlocked)

The Good

The NEC N908 is a credit card-size phone that's stylish and elegant. It has a beautiful 2.2-inch touch screen interface, and its features include a 1.3-megapixel camera, a camcorder, and an MP3 player. It has great audio quality and call performance as well.

The Bad

The NEC N908's touch screen interface can take acclimation. You have to remove the battery to access the microSD card slot.

The Bottom Line

The NEC N908 is a beautiful design-centric phone with a luscious touch screen interface. Dialing and texting were a bit difficult due to the lack of a keypad, so it's not a phone for everyone. But those who love compact and uniquely beautiful handsets will not be disappointed.

At first glance it's easy to mistake the NEC N908 for a slim digital camera or maybe even an MP3 player. It lacks one of the major features on a cell phone--that being a keypad--so you're left wondering just how it makes calls. Yet look a bit closer and you'll discover the device really is a phone, albeit one with a unique touch screen interface. The lack of a keypad means that the N908 is able to pack a large 2.2-inch display into a body the size of a credit card but it also means that like the new Apple iPhone, the N908 may not be for everybody. While the sheer elegance of the device combined with an intuitive menu system makes it a great choice for techies who want a cell phone that is not like any other, dialing and texting may an issue for more novice cell phones users. Fortunately, it's not only a pretty face either, as the feature set was admirable and the performance was satisfactory. The N908 is not available with a carrier in the U.S. but you can get it an unlocked version from Dynamism.com for $329.

One of the most outstanding design elements of the NEC N908 is its slim and compact design. At 3.28x2.09x0.5 inches, the N908 is smaller than most credit cards and slimmer than most wallets, which is around the same size as the Samsung SGH-P300. It fits so comfortably in a pants pocket, you might not even realize it's there, which can be tricky as it's difficult to feel the phone when it vibrates. At 2.96 ounces, it's actually a bit heavy for its size but this is good since it gives it a nice heft in the hand. Outfitted in a cool gun metal, the overall body of the phone has tiny unnoticeable grooves so you can grip it more securely. Holding it next to the ear is fairly comfortable but you probably won't want to hold it there too long since you can't cradle the phone between the ear and the shoulder.

The NEC N908 is a compact phone.

As we mentioned, the 2.2-inch QVGA display is simply stunning. Decked out in 262,000 colors, images look great on the screen and the text is easy to read. You can adjust the screen's backlight time, color theme, and brightness. You can't adjust the font size but we found the default font size large enough. There are five shortcut icons on the bottom row of the main display that lead to the main menu, the contacts list, text messaging, the Web browser, and My Menu, which is a list of often-used applications. The menu interface is really intuitive and easy to navigate, thanks to the bright animated icons and the arrangement of the menu options. On the left spine are the dedicated camera button, the volume rocker, and a power button, while the charger jack and the keylock button are on the right. The N908 comes with an earphone adapter that fits neatly into the charger jack so you can use your favorite earbuds instead of the ones provided. The camera lens is on the back and there's a stylus sleeve on the top-right corner of the phone. There is a microSD card slot, but unfortunately you have to remove the battery to insert it.

The NEC N908 has a 1.3-megapixel camera.

As noted earlier, the 2.2-inch display is entirely touch screen, so you have to dial numbers and type out text messages via the touch screen interface. You simply tap the main display once, and a number keypad will show up on the screen. Enter in the number, and tap the Call button to make the call. During the call, you also can place the call on hold, transfer the call to your headset, or drop the call entirely, all from the touch screen. There is no handwriting system in the N908, so you're forced to use the virtual QWERTY keyboard. While you can get away with dialing numbers with your finger instead of the stylus, you should use the stylus when typing out text messages simply because the keys are so small. The screen attracts finger smudges, so that's even more incentive to use the stylus instead. Obviously, you can't dial by feel, and texting may take a bit longer than usual.

The NEC N908 has an impressive feature set despite its diminutive size. It comes with a 500-entry address book, and each entry can accommodate up to four numbers, an e-mail address, a company name, a department name, a title, a street address, a birthday, and a memo. Each contact also can be assigned a group and a photo for caller ID. Though you can't assign one of 16 polyphonic ringtones to an individual person, you can assign one to a caller group. You also have the option of sideloading your own MP3 tracks to be used as ringtones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, e-mail, a wireless Web browser, a voice recorder, a scheduler, an alarm clock, a notepad, a calculator, a dictionary, a currency converter, a world clock, a stopwatch, a countdown clock, and a unit converter. The NEC N908 is a tri-band world phone, and you can tether it to a laptop via Bluetooth or USB to be used as a modem. However, since NEC N908 is only a GPRS phone without support for EDGE or 3G networks, you would get a really slow connection.

NEC N908 took pretty good photos.
The NEC N908 took pretty good photos.

The N908 has pretty good multimedia offerings. The 1.3-megapixel camera is fairly good, with camera settings that include six resolutions (64x64, 176x144, 240x320, 320x240, 640x480, and1280x1024), three image quality settings, five brightness settings, up to 6x zoom, five frames, three shutter sounds, a self-timer mode, a single and burst mode, lighting adjustments for daylight and night environments, and three photo effects (Normal, Sepia, and Monochrome). The phone only has about 31MB of memory, but the N908 does come with an included 128MB microSD card for more space. We were disappointed that the N908 did not come with either a flash or a self-portrait mirror. There's also a built-in camcorder feature. The photos we took from the camera looked impressive. They were a bit blurry, but still good when compared with VGA camera phones. Video quality was fairly bad -- grainy and low resolution -- but that's to be expected with a camera phone.

The NEC N908's MP3 and video players are fairly basic. You can load your favorite music and video files from your PC to the microSD card, and it can support MP3, AAC, AAC+, 3GP, and MPEG-4 file formats. The interfaces for both the music player and the video player are very similar, but music features are limited to a repeat setting. The audio quality of the music was fairly good when heard through headphones, and although the stereo speakers sounded a bit tinny, it was pretty decent overall.

Personalization options are good with the NEC N908. You can choose from a variety of wallpapers and ringtones, but you also can load your own images and MP3s via the microSD card. The N908 comes with two Java games, Boxman and Balloon.

We tested the triband (GSM 900/1800/1900; GPRS) NEC N908 world phone in San Francisco using T-Mobile's service. Call quality was excellent, with callers reporting us coming through loud and clear and vice versa. They could even hear us when we were walking along the busy city sidewalk. There was a slight amount of static but nothing too obnoxious. Reception was fairly even throughout the city, though it faded out a bit when we headed toward the outskirts of town. We paired the phone successfully with the Plantronics Discovery 665 Bluetooth headset Plantronics Discovery 665 Bluetooth headset The NEC N908 has a rated talk time of three hours and the rated standby time is four days.


NEC N908 (Unlocked)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8