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Remember Nokia's N90? It was an oversized clamshell with an independently swivelling top section housing a Carl Zeiss camera lens. Well, the N93 is similar in hardware design, but offers improved specifications all round and a new star attraction -- video capture capability.
Nokia wants you to think of this phone as a mini camcorder. But would you want to combine the two apparently quite different functions of phone and videocam in a single device? Nokia thinks so, and after trying out the N93, so do we.
The Nokia N93 is a giant. Weighing an obese 180g and measuring 56 by 118 by 28mm it's definitely one for the handbag or baggy pocket.
It's essentially a clamshell handset onto which a second swivel has been built. In this it's not unlike its near relation, the N90. On that handset, the lens sat above the clamshell mechanism and could be swivelled independently, but this time round the Carl Zeiss 3.2-megapixel camera lens is fixed into the upper part of the base section of the clam, and the lid section has two swivel options, both of which rely on hinges on its lower right edge.
Option one is to open the N93 clamshell style. There's a 'soft' lock at 90 degrees enabling you to sit the handset on a desk and see its screen easily, and another 'hard' lock nearer to 180 degrees. Option two is to open the N93 up like a mini laptop computer with the screen in a landscape orientation.
Combine the two and you get into all sorts of contortions catering for camcorder-style holding of the N93 for video recording and viewing. The handset seems to know what you are trying to achieve and juggles the screen between landscape and portrait formats accordingly.
The optimum position for videoing is to have the lens facing outwards from you and the screen at right angles to the number pad and in landscape format. In this orientation your right thumb sits over a bevy of buttons, including a mini navigation pad for accessing many camera settings, the flash toggle, the camera/video toggle, the zoom control and the all-important shooting button. These are on what would more usually be the right edge of the handset. All you need to do is take care not to cover the lens with a finger while shooting.
As far as the rest of the handset design is concerned, the numberpad area is vast and Nokia has managed to build in huge number keys and still have room for pretty big softmenu, call and end keys as well as a reasonable-sized navigation button and a row of four additional buttons that include the Nokia menu button and multimedia key. This gives quick access to some of the media-rich applications on board.
You don't use the main 3.2-megapixel camera for video calling -- that would be difficult, given its fixed position. A tiny camera for this purpose sits above the screen. On the same horizontal plane are two buttons which come into play as menu keys when you are using the N93 in camera mode.
Given its huge overall size, however, we can't quite fathom why Nokia has put such a teeny, letterbox format screen on the front of the N93 and omitted any front controls.
Thanks to the already noted good ergonomics of button positioning, it's really easy to shoot video with the N93. We put the provided 128MB miniSD card into its slot and set the N93 to send both video and stills directly to this rather than saving to the 50MB of internal memory.
You can shoot up to 60 minutes of video at a time, at various rates up to 30 frames per second, and at resolutions up to 640x480 pixels with AAC stereo recording accompaniment. There's a small flash unit next to the camera lens, and this can be used in both stills and video shooting mode, as well as independently as a torch.
Playback on the camera is fine, and Nokia also provides the AV-out cables you need to send video to other devices such as a TV. In fact, you can use this to show more than just video. Connect your handset to the TV and others can watch you Web browse, flick through pictures or do anything else you like on the handset.
There is Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and infrared connectivity too, in case you feel the need to share video or stills that way. Nokia provides some software for Windows XP to help you use Wi-Fi via a UPnP connection.
As the N93 is a fully featured smart phone running Symbian Series 60 version 3, you get a whole host of extras. Calendar and to do list software can be synchronised with a PC and you get the required cable and PC Suite software for this job. Nokia's Lifeblog software is on the handset, as is an FM radio, 'muvee' editor for creating your own mini-video masterpieces, voice recording, unit conversion, music player and a couple of games.
There's also a barcode scanner that retrieves information from ordinary barcodes, which can contain extra details such as phone numbers, email addresses and Web site links. More useful perhaps is the PDF reader and QuickOffice software for viewing Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel and Word documents, and the Symbian Web browser, which works as well over Wi-Fi as it does using a 3G connection.
We found the video output remarkably good. The N93 is clearly not up to the kind of performance you'd expect from a camcorder, but it does a very good job, considering it is also a well-featured smart phone and its video is perfectly adequate for showing on a TV or saving to a PC. Stills, too, were clear and the 3.2x optical zoom also functioned well, though the 8x digital zoom is not so hot.
Video and voice calls were both fine and sound output was good.
Battery life was reasonable. During testing we felt the need to recharge daily, and it was only with great self control we got through a two-day period of use. With battery-draining Wi-Fi, music playback and that video capability on board, you're going to need to carry the charger around.
Thanks to Expansys for providing a review sample of this phone.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide