Nokia N9 Review

I have had the Nokia N9 for a couple of weeks now and have put it through my regular work schedule – and pushed it some more too.

It is not everyday that a smartphone like the N9 comes along. This dude packs a rare combination of holistic aesthetics with functionality like no other – and I’m afraid that includes its newer cousin, the Lumia 800.

Nokia N9 Review

The Nokia N9 review In Summary

Strengths

  • superb hardware design and performance
  • Very good display
  • Very good battery life
  • Excellent user interface
  • One-handed use and fluid desktop interface
  • Superb social networking integration

Weaknesses

  • Limited 3rd party apps
  • Limited production units and distribution

If you want to stop there and find out whether I recommend the N9, my answer is a Yes; go buy one.

If however, you want to get the juicy details, do read on.

Nokia N9 review: Operating System and User Interface

The N9 runs Maemo 6 Harmattan branded as MeeGo. True to tradition, the N9’s user interface is sweet and fluid without skimping on functionality.

Its older cousin, the N900, was king of multi-tasking in its day. The N9 handles multi-tasking like a champ – and without draining the battery like the N900 used to.

N9 user interface

As a matter of fact, the N9 is a miracle in terms of performance – a 1GHz processor, a fluid interface, and multi-tasking in a sleek shell. It is paradise for both geek and non-geek alike.

The physical shell and the UI are a seamless blend, and the swiping gestures are natural and intuitive. Navigation is almost 100% by swipes. No button is present, and none is required to interact with the OS.

Nokia N9 review: Display

At 3.9 inches and a resolution of 480 x 854 pixels, it gives a pixel density of about 251 ppi. While the specs read good, non-geeks don’t care about specs. The N9’s AMOLED capacitive touchscreen is gorgeous to behold and to use. The curved glass, with anti-glare polariser translates to sharp images in every condition – indoors and outdoors. Even under direct glare of the tropical sun, you do not lose any legibility. Text and images are sharp and clear.

Nokia N9 review: Web Browsing

N9 Web Browsing


The built-in browser is a mix of simplicity and advanced standards. The interface is clean and offers little by way of options, but it is fast and is one of the top HTML5-compatible browsers in the mobile space.

Sadly, there is no Flash support. I also noticed a bug – when entering text in a text box and the text overflows, there is no way to scroll through the text. This is a serious usability issue for people who use the browser for submitting info online.

Updated: The real issue is with interacting with text input fields – you can’t scroll through or highlight text, and so cannot copy or paste either.

Also, the option to copy text from web pages isn’t here either, which definitely limits usability. Shame, really. It seems a limitation specific to the browser, as Firefox Mobile 10 on the N9 let’s me highlight and copy text both off web pages and text input fields. So, if you need those features desperately, Firefox Mobile to the rescue (and with a more excellent HTML5 score of 314 too).

Nokia N9 review: Email & Sync

Email rocks on the N9 – Mail for Exchange, Gmail, regular POP3/IMAP. All have worked well. With my Mail for Exchange account, my contacts and calendar entries are synchronised seamlessly to my device.

Nokia N9 review: Organizer and Office features

The calendar is superb. The notes app is cool.

There is a Document viewer that supports Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF. The option to edit is not available. I would have expected that a device at this price point would include editing capabilities, so I am a bit disappointed there.

Nokia N9 review: Multimedia

Multimedia on the N9 is good, but coming from the N8, it pales in comparison. Let’s get it right: the N9 stands well on its own with a good 8 megapixel camera, a good music player and nice video playback.

However, let’s put the controversy to rest once and for all, the N8 beats the N9 in all these areas. N8’s camera performs better. N8 audio quality and volume is better. N8’s video codec support is better.

I must add here something that ticks me off – there is no physical shutter button on the N9 (though it’s twin sister, the Lumia 800 has one). It’s a big deal for me, as this absence means that I can’t take self-portraits. Yes; I love my face. Yes; I’m vain. Thank you. The N9 also lacks an FM Radio and Transmitter as found on the N8.

Nokia N9 review: Gaming

Games purr nicely on the N9, whether its Need For Speed, Angry Birds, Real FootBall or any of the other available titles.

The 1GHz CPU, graphics accelerator and accelerometre do a fine job of
keeping games running really nice.

Nokia N9 review: Battery life

Honest to God, I was skeptical of how the N9’s 1450 mAh battery would hold up. I am glad to announce that all my fears have been wiped out. My N9 goes for a full day and a good chuck of the next on a single charge. See my previous article, A look at the Nokia N9?s battery life, for details.

Nokia N9 review: Built-in Apps

The N9 is on solid footing with regards built-in apps. The usual suspects are there on any smartphone platform, plus some nice integration of social networking and allied services.

Integrated apps and services are: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, and SIP. Wifi Hotpot functionality is built in too.

Nokia N9 review: 3rd Party Apps

This is the only serious issue to be picked with the N9. The available 3rd party apps are limited, so if you are after hundreds of thousands of apps, please don’t look in this guy’s direction. The N9 has the basic needs covered well – social networking especially. So if you are like me and don’t need or use 3rd party apps much, you are good with the N9.

Nokia N9 review: My Conclusions

The N9 is spectacular and sublime. It screams and whispers.

It is death and also fresh life. It is the beginning and the end. There will be no more Maemo/MeeGo devices after this. Yet, it is Nokia saying, “Take a look at some of the nifty stuff that we are bringing you on other devices“. In other words, expect to see elements of the N9?s user interface on some upcoming Nokia products. This is just Nokia showing off.

The N9 is open and closed. It is functionality and aesthetics married in superfluity. It is what no other device is.

The polycarbonate unibody of the N9 is nothing short of outstanding craftsmanship. The N9 is the sexiest phone on the block It is a phone that you want to be seen with.

The OS and UI are superb and intuitive. They work. They flow. They wow! The N9 is a drop-dead absolutely stunning piece of work. If you are a mobile enthusiast, you should get one.

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