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Nokia describes the composition of the latest 8800 as a "unique synthesis of high quality glass and metal", however, unique seems a misnomer considering how similar the Arte looks to its predecessor the Sirocco. That said, there's definitely something alluring about the simple elegance of the Arte.
The 8800 feels great to hold and to use. It's noticeably heavier than other handsets, and while we'd often mark the extra heft as a bad point, the Arte has a pleasing weight; it feels solid and durable. The sliding mechanism is amongst the best we've used, and again gives the impression of a high quality build and of a level of craftsmanship absent from cheaper mass-produced models.
The keypad is comprised of small angled keys which we found easy to differentiate when typing quickly, despite being smaller than we'd typically like to see. The glass OLED display is bright and clear, and displays 16 million colours, like most Nokia handsets.
The Arte is also bundled with similarly attractive accessories. Alongside the standard CD-ROM and user manual we discovered a sexy suede carry case and a sleek-looking USB charging stand.
This is where it gets a tad confusing. While there is no denying the quality and style of the 8800 Arte, its feature list resembles a mid-range handset. The Arte runs on Nokia's S40 operating platform, which is solid but unextraordinary, and lacks the flexibility of the S60 platform.
It's a 3G phone without HSDPA, and while the review unit we tested came with a version of the Opera Mini Web browser, it's far from being one of the most Web-friendly phones we've seen. Unlike the slew of new Nokias expected mid-year there's no Wi-Fi or GPS receiver onboard the Arte either. There is, however, a 3.2-megapixel camera which is about the standard of a low to mid-range Nokia handset. Auto focus and 8x digital zoom are handy, but the lack of a flash is limiting.
One feature that does stand out is the "exclusive" video ringtones composed by DJs Kruder and Dorfmeister. We're not entirely sure who these electronic virtuosos are, but the tones sure beat the usually horrific selections of Beethoven's Fifth or La Cucaracha.
As a mobile phone, the 8800 Arte is an excellent performer. Call reception was never a concern during our tests, and the quality of the internal speaker was superb. The menu is fluid and responsive, giving you immediate access to most menus and applications.
The 8800 employs a 1000 mAh battery which is larger than Nokia typically uses in phones of this size, and the results are obvious. With moderate use of calls and messaging we saw up to five days between charges, which is outstanding.
Would we recommend you buy the Arte? The answer to this question is more about personality than functionality. If you'd gladly pay the extra for a Ferrari rather than buy a Toyota, then you may be in the market for the Arte.
There's simply no denying there's art in this 8800. As fashion phones go the Arte far surpasses the garish Dolce and Gabanna handset from Motorola, or the popular LG Prada phone. Definitely not a phone for specification hungry tech-heads, but a beautiful handset nonetheless.