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Nokia Luna 8600 (unlocked) review: Nokia Luna 8600 (unlocked)

Nokia Luna 8600 (unlocked)

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
7 min read


Nokia Luna 8600 (unlocked)

The Good

The Nokia Luna 8600 has an attractive design, solid call quality, and a decent feature set including stereo Bluetooth, a music player, and voice commands.

The Bad

The Nokia Luna 8600 has low talk-time battery life and a cramped keyboard. Also, its photo quality and speakerphone performance were poor, and it lacks an expendable memory slot.

The Bottom Line

The Nokia Luna 8600 is a beauty with good call quality, but we didn't fall for its cramped keyboard and its poor speakerphone quality.

Though we admire Nokia for never being afraid to try a new and daring cell phone design, we must admit that the results aren't always satisfactory. Take, for example, the Nokia 8800. Sure, it's shiny and pretty, but the cramped keys were frustrating and its battery life was miserable. Now, two years later we consider the Nokia 8600 Luna. While it's not an official update to the 8800, the Luna could certainly be a distant cousin. It has a similar slider design with almost identical dimensions, but it replaces the 8800's silver-steel casing with a more subdued black. The feature set shows positive upgrades as well, as it now offers a 2-megapixel camera and stereo Bluetooth. On the whole, the Luna surpasses its predecessor as a stylish and feature-rich cell phone, but we wish Nokia would have given us a better keyboard, an expansion slot and more juice out of the battery. As of this writing, the GSM Luna isn't offered by a North American carrier, so it's only available unlocked for a pricey $729. You can find it at a variety of online retailers including Dynamism.com. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.

Though we got what Nokia was going for on the 8800, we weren't huge fans of the steel casing. Not only did it make the phone heavy, which was only a minor issue, but also it attracted too many fingerprints. That's why we much prefer the Luna's design, even if it's less flashy. Though it retains the steel casing on its rear face, the all-black color scheme looks a bit more professional. Without the reflective silver, the steel doesn't attract as many smudges, and the soft-touch finish feels nice in the hand. The steel does make the phone just as weighty--in fact at 4.94 ounces, it's the slightest bit heavier than the 8800--but in exchange you get a securely constructed phone. At 4.21 inches by 1.77 inches by 0.63 inch, the Luna is just about the same size as the 8800.

The Luna's display measures 2 inches and supports 16 million colors. Though smaller text on the screen looks a tad fuzzy, it's bright and vibrant with sharp color and graphics. And in an improvement over the 8800, it doesn't attract as many fingerprints. The display has a variety of adjustable settings including power-saver and sleep modes. You also can change the font size and personalize the Luna's standby mode to choose which features and information you'd like to be readily accessible form the standby display.

Below the display is the Luna's navigation array, which has a better design than that of the 8800. Fortunately, they are both larger and easier to use. There are two soft keys, the Talk and End/Power controls and a four-way toggle with a central OK button. There are no dedicated shortcut buttons, but you're given other options for easy access. In addition to the standby mode described above, you can set the toggle to give one-touch access to four user-defined shortcuts and you can program a secondary shortcut menu with your favorite functions.

The slider mechanism is well-constructed; you can open it with one hand, but it's not excessively loose. We like that the Luna gives you a convenient thumb grip just above the toggle, but just make sure a finger doesn't get caught between the sliding halves on the phone's rear face. Opening the slider also reveals the camera lens, which is located on the Luna's rear face. Unlike many other slider phones, but like the 8800, the Luna splits apart in the middle. As a result, the lens isn't located on the top of the phone but rather in the center of the rear face where the phone parts. There's is no flash or self-portrait mirror.

The Luna's keyboard is hidden behind the Luna's front face when the phone is closed.

The bottom half of the Luna is composed of a smoked-glass cover. When the keypad backlighting is on, you can see the keyboard behind the opaque cover. The keypad is also visible, though just barely, when the backlighting is off. It's a nice design touch, and it's certainly unique. Also, we like the silver ring that surrounds the display and the silver ring around the phone's spines.

Unfortunately, we weren't so crazy about the keypad. Though it's a bit better than the 8800's, it's still pretty cramped and the keys are a tad slippery. What's more, the bottom row of buttons is too close to the slider; we kept jamming our finger in the wrong place. The top row of buttons is also crammed up against the navigation toggle so we had a similar problem. On the upside, the keys had bright backlighting. Completing the exterior of the phone is a micro USB on the right spine. The volume rocker is on the left spine on the top end. We wish it were a tad easier to use. It's a bit thin, and it's not easy to find when on a call.

Luckily the Luna comes with a leather pouch, a stereo headset, a USB cable, a lanyard neck strap, a software CD, a polishing cloth (quite useful), and an adapter for using a 2.5-millimeter headset (even more useful). We'd prefer to use a 3.5-millimeter headset if we wished, but we'll take what we can get.

Each contact in the Luna's phone book holds five phone numbers, an e-mail address, Web site address, a company name and job title, a nickname, a street address, a birthday, and notes. You can save callers to groups and you can pair them with a photo, a video, and one of 20 64-chord polyphonic ringtones. Essential features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a voice recorder, a speakerphone, instant messaging, an alarm lock, a to-do list, a notepad, a calculator, a countdown timer, and a stopwatch.

The Luna also offers a few work-friendly applications. There's stereo Bluetooth, speaker-independent voice commands and dialing, a world clock, USB mass storage, PC syncing, a unit and currency converter, Nokia's Wireless Presenter for remote control of a PC, and a translator for converting simple words into Spanish, French, or Portuguese. That's a solid assortment, but e-mail was conspicuously absent.

The camera lens hides behind the sliding face on the rear side. There's no flash or self-portrait mirror.

The Luna's 2-megapixel camera takes pictures in seven resolutions, from 1,600x1,200 down to 160x120. You get a variety of camera settings including three quality settings, five color effects, a night mode, an adjustable white balance, a multishot mode, and an 8x zoom. There's no brightness setting, unfortunately, and we miss having a flash and a self-portrait mirror on a 2-megapixel shooter. The camcorder shoots videos in two resolutions (176x144 and 128x96) with sound. Other options are similar to those of the still camera, and you can mute the sound if you wish. The default mode lasts a very short 6 seconds, but you can also shoot longer clips, depending on the available memory. Photo quality wasn't great; colors were somewhat faded, and objects were a tad blurry. And you can forget about taking night shots. For saving your work, the handset offers a respectable 128MB of shared memory. That may be fine for some users, but we expect an expandable memory slot on such an expensive phone.

The Luna had mediocre photo quality.

The Luna's music player plays tracks in a variety of formats, including AAC, MP3, and WMA formats. Its design is similar to those on other Nokia phones, which means it's minimalist but easy to use. Features include random and repeat modes, an equalizer, and stereo widening. Loading music tracks on the phone is easy; you can connect it to a computer with a USB cable and transfer your chosen tracks. The Luna's FM radio offers 20 presets, but you'll need the included stereo headset to act as an antenna.

You can personalize the Luna with a variety of wallpaper, screensavers, animations, and alert sounds. If you want more options or more ringtones, you can download them via the wireless Web browser. The Luna comes with three games--Golf Tour, Highroller Casino, and Soccer 3D--but you can always buy more.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) Luna in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was generally very good. Conversations were clear without any static or interference. What's more, voices sounded natural, and we didn't detect much wind noise. Our only complaint was the volume was rather low. We had to strain to hear our friends clearly when we were in a loud environment. On their end, callers said we sounded fine and some couldn't even tell we were using a cell phone. A couple of our friends mentioned that we sounded faint at times, but that was an infrequent assessment. We had no trouble being understood by automated calling systems.

The speakerphone wasn't as good, however. The volume on our end was too soft even with the side-mounted speakers. We thought the clarity was fine, but we had to stand close to the phone if we wanted to hear anything. Callers reported a similar situation on their end.

The Luna's music quality was satisfactory on the whole. The volume was a tad louder than the call volume, and the clarity was decent. We noticed, however, that the speakers tended to vibrate at high volumes. Like many music phones, the Luna is serviceable for short listening periods, but we wouldn't suggest ditching your standalone MP3 player.

The Luna has a rated talk time battery life of 4 hours. Our tests revealed a talk time of only 3 hours, 30 minutes. That's rather low, for both a Nokia and GSM handset, but unfortunately that seems to be where Nokia is reading these days. We had a similar experience with the recent Nokia 6555 and Nokia Prism 7500. Really, Nokia, don't we deserve at least 6 hours of gabbing time? Fortunately, the promised standby battery life is a more respectable 10 days. According to FCC radiation tests the Nokia Luna 8600 has a digital SAR rating of 0.72 watt per kilogram.


Nokia Luna 8600 (unlocked)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7