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Nokia N86 review: Nokia N86

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MSRP: $499.00

The Good The Nokia N86 8MP features an 8-megapixel camera that takes excellent pictures and include advanced options, such as a wide-angle lens and variable aperture. It's also a capable smartphone and offers Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and 3G support.

The Bad The N86 is expensive. Compared with the competition, the phone's display is a bit low resolution and the software feels outdated.

The Bottom Line If you can afford it, the Nokia N86 8MP is one of the more advanced and better camera phones on the market today, but there are cheaper alternatives.

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7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

The Nokia N86 8MP first made its appearance at GSMA 2009 and stepped up as the most advanced camera phone in the company's N series of multimedia smartphones. Nokia even went as far as to say that it could replace your standalone point-and-shoot camera. We can't say we agree with that statement 100 percent but we will say that the N86's camera functions are certainly impressive and it delivers in quality. Not to mention that Nokia made some really nice design improvements, and there's the fact that you also get the capabilities of a smartphone in this compact package. However, it's not the only high-end camera phone on the block. The Samsung Memoir and the Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot C905 also sport 8-megapixel cameras (the C905 actually has a 8.1-megapixel lens) and comes at a much lower price point with carrier contracts. The Nokia N86 8MP is available unlocked for $500. Also, while they might not match the N86 in megapixels, you've got smartphones like the iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre that also take pretty great photos and also feature high-resolution touch screens and more advanced operating systems. The N86 is a perfectly fine smartphone with an excellent camera but at $500, it'll be a hard sell for most consumers.

The overall look of the Nokia N86 8MP isn't too different from Nokia N series models of the past, but a closer examination of the phone reveals some nice improvements. For one, the N86 has a higher quality build and a more solid feel than any of its other N siblings, thanks to new hardware refinements like metal edges and tempered glass on the face of the device. The one trade-off is the phone is slightly heavier at 5.2 ounces (compare that with the Nokia N85's 4.5 ounces). That said, we're willing to deal with those extra tenths of an ounce if it means having a more durable, sturdy handset. Plus, the N86 is still fairly compact, all things considered, measuring 4 inches tall by 2 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick in its closed state.

Other areas of improvement include the slider itself and the phone's buttons. Starting with the former, the N86 features a dual-slider design just like the N85 and the Nokia N96. The difference is that the sliding mechanism on the N86 is stronger than the others, so the screen doesn't fidget or move when you're simply trying to handle the phone or use the navigation controls below the display. In fact, you have to give the screen quite a forceful push downward to access the dedicated multimedia/gaming controls. Meanwhile, sliding the screen up reveals the alphanumeric keypad.

The Nokia N86 8MP is slightly heavier than the N85, but it also has a higher quality build.

Speaking of which, both the dialpad and the media buttons are much easier to press, thanks to the fact that the keys are now raised above the surface and have spacing between them. They're also easy to see in darker environments with the bright backlighting and lime green and white coloring. We have mixed feelings about the navigation controls below the display. The array consists of the standard soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a main menu shortcut, a back button, and navigation toggle, and like the others, the controls are now elevated instead of being flush with the surface, so they don't feel as stiff, and the phone doesn't creak when you press down on them as it did on the N85. Our only thing is we're just not huge fans of the tiny buttons.

The N86's dialpad is much easier to use than its predecessor's since the buttons are raised above the phone's surface.

Above the navigation controls is a 2.6-inch Active Matrix OLED (AMOLED) nontouch display. While not a touch screen, the AMOLED display helps provide a sharper picture with better contrast and draws less power than regular LCDs. However, we wish it was slightly higher resolution since the QVGA (320x240) screen doesn't look quite as smooth as its competitors. On the bright side, the smartphone has a built-in accelerometer, which was quick to change screen orientation when we rotated the phone. Like most Nokia handsets, you can customize the home screen with various themes and wallpaper, and also adjust the backlight.

On top of the device, you'll find the power button, a 3.5 millimeter headset jack, and a Micro-USB port. The left side houses a slider lock switch and on the right, there's a volume rocker and the camera activation/capture button. The camera is located on the back and the lens is protected by a sliding cover. There's also a flash and a kickstand that you can use to rest the phone on a flat surface while watching videos or slide shows. We thought the kickstand felt a bit flimsy, however, so take care not to be too forceful with it. Last but not least, you'll find the microSD expansion slot behind the battery door on the right side.

Our Nokia N86 came packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired headset and remote, a software DVD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

The Nokia N86 8MP's main attraction is obviously its imaging capabilities. The smartphone features an 8-megapixel camera, which is the highest cameraphone in the N series, though certainly not an industry first. The Samsung Memoir and Samsung Innov8 also have 8-megapixel cameras, while the Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot C905 squeaks past everyone with an 8.1-megapixel lens. Getting back to the subject at hand though, the N86 8MP features a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens, dual-LED flash, 20x digital zoom, and video recording at up to 30 frames per second.

The N86 features a 8-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens, variable aperture, and a dual-LED flash.

The phone shares a lot of the same advanced editing options of the N85, such as eight shooting modes, sequence shots, ISO settings, and red-eye reduction, and includes some new tricks like panorama mode, variable aperture (F2.4, F3.2, F4.8), and a 28-millimeter wide-angle lens. The latter two features are pretty rare to camera phones, and provide the means for controlling the depth of field and light exposure, which will surely please camera enthusiasts. On the flip side, the N86 doesn't include some features like face or smile detection, which are present on the Memoir and Cyber-shot C905. The lack of these functions certainly isn't a deal breaker, but for a device that claims to be a replacement for your point-and-shoot digital camera, it would be nice to have them.

Picture quality was very impressive.

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