Nokia N96 Review: King's New Clothes: Display, Keypad, User InterfaceBy cheatmaster 10:43 Sun, 08 Aug 2021 Comments
Display - a winner
The 2.8" treat of a classy screen is probably the best way for Nokia N96 to salvage some pride. Excellent picture is a perfect complement to its generous size. In all fairness, brightness has been slightly reduced compared to Nokia N95 8GB but still keeps a very high level. The contrast is also commendable.
Nokia N95 8GB has a tad brighter display than the N96
Sunlight legibility has always been the Nokia element. Nokia N96 makes no exception remaining perfectly legible even on the brightest of days. Colors do acquire a bit washed away in the strong sun but this doesn't greatly affect usability.
The picture quality is still commendable
Keypad does the job
Remember that "frightfully frightful fellow, but he does have his uses!" line? Well, we cannot possibly think of any better way of describing the alphanumeric keypad of Nokia N96 (could've assumed the same about the navigation pad).
The cheap plastic looks (6220 classic, anyone?) aside, the keypad of Nokia N96 is OK to type on. Size is adequate even though the rows are a small narrow. There are no distinct borders between keys and the key stroke isn't the best we've seen but that's nothing you can't live with. With some time getting used, you may as well acquire to like typing.
The keypad is a pain to see at but does the job
The keys reveled on top of the phone are quite nice to utilize with their size making them very comfortable even for people with larger hands. They have two modes - "music keys" where all four are usable and "gaming", where only the middle two are actually active.
The keys on top are large and easy to use
The backlighting of Nokia N96 is strong enough but somewhat uneven. It also has a distinct yellow tint, which we don't really like. The white backlighting of Nokia N95 8GB looked a whole lot better.
Nokia N96 looks cheap in the dark, too
User interface: Latest Symbian
Nokia N96 runs on the Symbian 9.3 Operating System (OS) with Series60 3rd Edition user interface. Feature Pack 2 comes preinstalled, bringing both visual and performance improvements that we first saw in Nokia N78. In all fairness, the performance updates are also available to some FP1 devices through firmware updates, but there are still some goodies exclusive to FP2.
The heart of Nokia N96: Symbian 9.3 Operating System (OS) with S60 3.2 UI
One of the most vital benefits of the recent UI is the recent Active standby layout, which now allows quick access to a lot more features. The standby classy screen is organized in vertical tabs with the D-pad used for scrolling them. Other than that, its functionality basically remains the same.
The three available active stand-by modes
The active stand-by classy screen is a nice and convenient way of bringing shortcuts to all favorite applications to your home screen. You can even assign shortcuts to websites of your choice for quicker access.
Active standby or not, you can always change the shortcuts assigned to the two soft keys to best suit your needs.
The Navi wheel functionality is also extended as compared to N81 and it reveals its full potential. Among some of the other FP2 upgrades are a recent picture gallery and picture geotagging. They will acquire their the due attention later on in this review.
The task manager is a well known Symbian application, which has improved in terms of looks with the recent FP. It is also now appearing on top of every pop-up menu. The shortslit used in previous versions of the Operating System (OS) by pressing and holding the menu key still works.
The task manager looks better with FP
Finally, the S60 UI Feature Pack 2 brings some nice menu transition effects. The Symbian Operating System (OS) has been all too well known for offering small eye-candy but now it seems to be trying to catch up. It is still far from, say Apple iPhone standards, but those are too different devices for such a comparison to be fair.
The Central Processing Units (CPU) and the built-in Random-Access Memory (RAM) are probably the two most vital factors concerning smartphone performance. The 128Mega Bytes (MB) of Random-Access Memory (RAM) are a feat in Symbian terms and is almost impossible to deplete. The things with the Central Processing Units (CPU) are however somewhat different.
The dual ARM9 264 Mega Hertz (MHz) Central Processing Units (CPU) used in Nokia N96 is still faster than most other devices out there but is a downgrade from the dual ARM 11 332 Mega Hertz (MHz) that we saw on both Nokia N95 versions. Truth to be told, only heavy apps (N-gage for example) can create the incompatibility as far as we can tell. We still can't assist but wonder why downgrade one of most vital parts of what's supposed to be the recent Nseries flagship.
The Nokia N96 user-available memory extends to a small less than 15GB (it's an recent trick rounding off every 1000 bytes to a kilobyte, plus there's system-reserved capacity). It still is an impressive space to fill up but even if you do there's a microSD card slot to assist you. Accessing content on the card or the phone memory is done at about the same speed.
The multimedia menu is among the Nseries highlights and the Nokia N96 is hardly an exception here. It is launched by pressing the dedicated key and provides quick access to the multimedia features of the handset. It is identical to the ones found on Nokia N81 and Nokia N82 with icons sorted thematically. They appear as drop-down lists when the respective tab is selected. Those can also be freely reordered if the layout isn't to your liking.
The Multimedia menu is in the focus with the Nseries phones
As with any Symbian phone, there is a built-in voice recognition system. It's doing a very fine job actually, being fully speaker-independent and recognizing a high percentage of the spoken commands. You don't need to prerecord the commands nor the contact names from your phonebook, which is really convenient.
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