My original interest was of course in the phones usage of N*Gage gaming. Unfortunately, we’re still a few months from the release of the new gaming platform. Thankfully Nokia includes a multi-level demo of System Rush: Evolution. While I think the game itself leaves a bit to be desired, graphically it really shows that the N93 is capable of in terms of gaming. The game play is impressive in terms of frame rate, video and audio quality, and really makes tremendous use of the units’ large screen.
Sadly, one of the very few issues I had with the unit involve the gaming controls. While most people may find them adequate, I just don’t know that the 5 way scroll key is what I expected in terms of game control. I know this unit isn’t designed to be the “be all, end all” in terms of cellular gaming, but I think that engaging the phone keys may be better option for future games. With a limited sample, it’s hard to tell how other games will perform. This small issue with the controls is certainly easily outweighed by the impressive video capabilities, which easily put my Nintendo DS to shame, and comparable favorably to the quality of the PSP.
To support all of this impressive functionality, Nokia included some equally impressive supporting features. For starters, a 128 MB mini-SD card is included in the box with every N93 so you’re not forced to go off looking for storage the first day you have the phone. At some point, you’ll likely be looking for a bigger card, but it’s certainly more than enough to get the user started. To get files back and forth from phone to PC and vice-versa, the phone comes with integrated 802.11 g/b wireless LAN capabilities and a USB connectivity cable. There are video out ports built in, so you don’t have to transfer video to PC to watch it on a large screen, just hook the phone up to the TV and press play.
The software to support all of this is the Nokia PC suite, along with Adobe Photoshop SE, Adobe Premiere Elements, and Home Media Server. The Nokia Suite is a custom app designed to make file transfers, file syncing and other standard smartphone tasks easy. I didn’t get as much time as I would have liked to explore the software, but the interface is pleasant and easy to use, and transferring movies and songs was simple.
I want to talk specifically about one piece of software that comes on the phone, and that’s the web browser. The N93 has absolutely the best implementation of a phone based web browser that I have ever seen. In what is a combination of the features of the S60 interface and the large screen, the browser combines the ideal level of miniaturization and scrolling to make browsing on the go simple. I still wouldn’t suggest doing it while driving, but I won’t say that I wasn’t catching up on hockey scores at stoplights on the drive home. What makes this especially pleasant is that by continuing to turn the screen past 90 degrees, you can make it fully parallel with the keypad to use the display in a “widescreen” form factor to further reduce the amount of side-scrolling of web pages.
The last feature I haven’t touched on is the basic phone itself. The N93 performed admirably in at its core function, with no problems when used with either the Cingular or T-Mobile networks.
While this phone is truly amazing Swiss army knife of pocket sized electronic goodness, it is not without a few, mostly very minor flaws. To start, I am not impressed with the keyboard. It may just be that my demo unit has been around the block a few times, but a couple of the keys are overly touchy while others are not touchy enough. This is likely just an issue with this unit, but if I were to redesign it, I’d probably replace the keyboard with something closer to the keypad on my Nokia 6103b, which has an excellent keypad and is a bargain priced phone.
Another issue I noticed is that when using the phone I had trouble getting comfortable while using the device as a phone. I’m a bigger guy, so while this phone measures in at 5 inches long, two inches long, and an inch deep, it felt a bit awkward against my face in phone mode. It didn’t stay that way the entire time I used the phone, but due to the size and form factor, it took some getting used to.
The last issue I noticed that most users probably won’t see as a major issue was the battery cover. For a unit with a $700 SRP, this is easily one of the flimsiest pieces of plastic I’ve ever seen. I was switching back and forth between the SIM chip for my personal cell, and the one that Nokia was kind enough to provide to limit the costs incurred in reviewing the unit, and on several occasions felt I was going to break the latches on the battery cover as I removed or replaced it.
These small issues aside, it’s easy to love the N93. While it may not be the final answer in mobile gaming, it certainly offers a lot of amazing features to go with the N*Gage platform in a convenient package. I have to say so long as you can afford one, there really isn’t anyone I wouldn’t recommend this product to. There are a lot of things I get to try that I wouldn’t buy, but this is one of those products that after trying I am definitely going to try to pick up.
For the gamer who has everything, but wants it all in one device, the Nokia N93 is the product for you. With the digital video recorder, digital camera, MP3 player, upcoming N*Gage gaming platform, amazing 2.4 inch color display, FM radio, and fully functional web browser, there’s little not to like about this pocket sized wonder. Were it not for a few flaws (so-so gaming controls, touchy keypad, flimsy battery cover, and smallish phone receiver speaker) it may well be the ultimate gadget-on-the-go. Very highly recommended if you can afford the high sticker price.
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