N95 vs N95

 

Demand paging makes the new N95 a super zippy device. 8GB of embedded memory is a great deal of space. The screen is a lot larger than you'd think from the stats and it's stunningly bright. There's 25% more battery power and a slew of other tasty features… but is there a price to pay? Of course! You should know by now that not even Nokia can create the perfect device for every user- so here's a list of ten pros and ten cons that I've come up with over the past month of exposure to this new variant of "the legendary", the Nokia N95 8GB.

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1. Double the RAM- If you consider yourself a power Nokia user, this may very well be the most important reason for switching up, and possibly the only reason you need. With double the RAM, the N95 is a completely different animal- one capable of all you wished from the original device. There are three or four applications I like to have running all the time (emoze for push Gmail, Live Messenger, Jaiku, and occasionally a couple more apps) with my first N95, this was just not possible. Sometimes I could load them all up, but try to do anything else and either the device would kick out a low memory error, or pull some nasty trick like shutting down a program or two in the background (thank you, v12 firmware). Every now and then, the device would just reboot- the worst case scenario, mostly because the thing takes forever to boot up. This brings me to the next advantage-

2. Faster boot up time- The 8GB device beats my old N95 no question on boot-up time by a whopping 15 seconds. I'm not in the habit of powering down my mobile devices, in fact- the only time my devices turn off is when the battery is shamefully run dead-flat, or if I need to swap out a SIM card. Neither activity is something I take part in on a regular basis. However, if this is something you do- you'll enjoy shaving the time off of your boot up times. That's not the only increase in speed…

3. Faster camera- The camera boots up a good 5 seconds faster on the 8GB model. There's a message that the image is being processed immediately after the shutter is activated, and very shortly… about three seconds later- the device is ready for another shot. This is about 3-4 seconds quicker than my old N95, which makes a big difference getting that second shot off.

4. Demand Paging- Demand paging is something I'm very hopeful to see on the original model shortly. This is apparently the reason everything is so much faster on the 8GB. My US N95 isn’t as zippy as the N95 8GB, despite the fact that it too has double the system memory of the original N95. This would be a great help for the early adopting N95 users out there whose devices have such a pitiful amount of system memory as it offers much better memory utilization.

5. Bigger, brighter screen- On paper, the increased screen size certainly doesn't seem like a big deal. 2.6 inches versus 2.8 inches… but in reality this equates to much more real estate than you'd imagine. From what I could see so far is that the Nseries team has seen fit that this increased screen size allows them to add another active standby shortcut and a battery meter in the camera mode.

6. Podcasts in music menu with bookmarking- This is a nice feature, having a listing of the podcasts in the music menu- though I had hoped that the entire podcasting application would have been incorporated in the music player. The problem is that things aren't equal if you load the podcast up via the music player or the podcasting app. There is a new bookmarking feature, which is quite welcomed- but you have to load the podcast up in the podcasting application to take advantage of the much needed feature it seems. So if you're listening to a very long track in the music player, such as a continuous music track from a concert or festival, or a recorded radio program that may last for a couple hours as I do, you're not going to have the bookmarking feature since it wasn't loaded through the podcasting app. Slightly annoying that the feature seems pretty well hidden and possibly a bit tricky. I may even be off on how the bookmarking feature works… but it is convenient to have the downloaded podcast listing in the music menu.

7. New multimedia menu- One major annoyance of the original equipment has been removed. The multimedia menu has been overhauled- functionally for the better, but the menu just looks unfinished and rough. The previous multimedia menu was much more attractive, but utterly useless. Well that's all over with- and it doesn't load up anymore when you operate the slider to expose the multimedia keys. It’s also far easier to avoid hitting the multimedia menu key now that the D-pad is more defined and raised higher than the other keys. I just wish it didn't look so unfinished. There isn’t even any color in the menu. Aside from its looks, it is a vastly more useful menu.

8. Larger battery capacity- The battery has 25% greater capacity. For many N95 users, this is a great feature. I still kill the new battery in less than a day, so I've gotten used to carrying around a 3800mAh portable charging device with me (the quite versatile 45 buck Proporta USB charger). Battery life just doesn't really concern me that much. I'm used to keeping power trickling into my N95 whenever and wherever possible, so it's nearly a non-issue for me. The biggest problem I have with this is that the engineers have decided that 25% more battery life and proper lens protection can't exist in the same device. I'll discuss this at GREAT length shortly, as it's become a very, very sore spot for me

9. Active standby search- I really hope this is implemented in the N95-3 and N95-1 in the next firmware… it's just fantastic.  The search 4.0 plugin for the active standby screen allows you to search for content in a number of categories such as music, contacts, text and email messages, bookmarks, calendar, images, video. You also have the option to search in all of these categories or only one category.

10. Easier to read white keypad-  I noticed this right away when I was at the LA mansion event in September. As soon as I exposed the keypad during my first hands on with the 8 gigger, I noticed how much easier it was to read the keys. I do like the blue LEDs quite a bit- but this is just better. It's easier to see, easier on the eyes…. it's just better and I applaud the change to clear white LEDs.

 

Now- Ten Reasons to Skip It

1. Chunk City!- I think everyone has mentioned this by now. Anyone who is familiar with the size of the original N95 will immediately notice that while the device is no larger by looking at it straight on- however when you open the slider, the larger real estate of the screen and the wider top slider makes the N95 8GB appear much larger in the hand. It's all perception, but it's something you'll have to get used to if you’re familiar with the old N95. With the bigger, chunkier feel to the device and the black color- I really feel that it's a far less classy looking device. A lot of people think the N95 is an ugly beast to start with, but I really like the styling of the device, and the bigger slider and screen really detracts from that for me.

2. No camera lens cover- This is quite a point of contention for me. After not even a week's usage my N95-3 already has tiny scratches on the Perspex window blocking the full glory of my Carl Zeiss optics. The miserable excuse for lens protection is, in my honest opinion, and insult the name of Herr Zeiss and his legacy. Sure it's just a tiny little sensor, but it is a 5mpix sensor and doesn't deserve such an injustice. I've noticed a quite visible glare from off frame light sources in night shots. When there is a strong light source that is not perfectly perpendicular to the lens, one can also notice how difficult it really is to properly clear all the grease that will inevitably build up on a lens cover that is not properly protected from fingerprints and the like. No- I'm not thrilled at all with the omission of suitable lens protection on the new devices. It's excusable on a 2mpix camera or even a 3.2mpixer- but on a device that claims to be a reasonable replacement for a stand-alone camera, the Perspex window is simply not a well devised solution. After spending a good deal of time with all three N95 variants, I can honestly say that I seriously doubt there is anything anyone can tell me that will change my mind on this point. Please, Nokia, don't ever offer me another mobile with such a great camera without proper lens protection!

3. More noise in low level light shots- There is a quite noticeable difference in the amount of noise that is present with the 8GB's shots over both the previous model. I can only assume that this has to do with optimizations made, or not made, to the 8GB device- and hopefully not the extra layer of plastic the optics need to pass through. With a new firmware apparently on the horizon, I hope this will be a non-issue soon, but there's no question that the N95 8GB doesn't handle low level photography as well as the N95-1. Let’s hope this is rectified shortly.

4. No video edit- Not that this was something I ever used other than once as a novelty- but it's been inexplicably removed on the 8GB model. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that it took FOREVER to complete the editing of even the shortest video clip. Maybe this issue was just an embarrassment to the Nseries team and they felt it was just better to leave the bloody option out… either way, gone!

5. The backplate is not as grippy, shows greasy fingerprints easily- Another thing that is apparent right off the bat is that the texture on the back plate is not the same. Not only is it less grippy (even Steve Litchfield mentioned dropping the device shortly after opening the box because of the new texture!) but quite easily shows fingerprints on the back plate. Greasy handlers are sure to spot this right away. This was not the case with the original units- and I can't imagine why it was changed.

6. You'll need a whole new line of accessories- Screen protectors, car mounts, and most cases- you can toss them on eBay with your old device if you go for an upgrade because of the added thickness of the device and the bigger slider. This might not be much of an option for some, but for me it means ditching my beloved Brodit car mount, three cases and a couple packs of screen protectors. This is a small price to pay for so many new features- but it could very well be a deal breaker for a few. It's definitely something to think about if you've spent a good deal of money on accessories that are specific to the dimensions of the original device.

7. The N82. This might be the biggest reason yet to hold off on an upgrade. If you're outside of the US, and therefore don't care about the 3G on the US N95 variant, then there's little reason not to wait for this new device. If it wasn't for the fact that I've got the taste of 3G in my mouth for the first time in my area with my N95-3, I'd be all over this new model. The xenon flash is simply amazing and makes a world of difference- even when you're not photographing at night. I'm terribly partial to sliders, but the solid construction of the N82 is really inspiring and might tempt even the most die-hard slider fan to have a change of heart. If a big selling point of the 8GB for you is the larger screen, this might also be a non-issue as the N82 has an even smaller screen than the N95 8GB.

8. Slider wobble- If you think you're upgrading to a higher quality build with the N95 8GB over the previous units, you can think again. After a week of good solid usage of the 8GB, my unit had already developed a slight wobble and a distinct "click" in the bottom right corner of the slider when closed. This is a bit disappointing, mostly because it seems to be a random build quality issue. Some N95s come with the patented slider wobble out of the box, some develop a wobble after a bit of use, and some remain "pre-prom night tight" for the life of the device. Very concerning for a Nokia fan that is used to solid build quality for over a decade. Hopefully they get it right sometime down the line, but it hasn't been nailed with the N95 8GB, that's for certain.

9. US 3G. The N95 8GB is a 2100 MHz UMTS device. The N95-3 would offer you lightning fast data on your mobile. I've tethered up my US variant to a laptop and an Internet Tablet- both were very impressive and it's gonna be a hard task to sell me a device that doesn't have a set of US 3G frequencies ever again. Now that I've tasted 3G, I can't ever imagine going back. Slingplayer alone is well worth the price of demand paging (at least for now…?) a smaller screen and everything else that would tempt me from the first list of ten reasons.

10. Memory card slot- The biggest reason that the N95 8GB isn't /for me, aside from US 3G, is the lack of a memory card slot. I have several memory cards that I like to swap between devices. I like the option of taking a bunch of photos, pulling the tiny memory card and popping it into my N800, a laptop, a friend’s computer… whatever. It's a just a nice option for me. It's also impossibly slow. Even though the spec is USB 2.0, it takes FOREVER to transfer several gigs of music, photos and/or video over a USB cable. Another thing to think about is the fact that 8GB cards are now available. Whether you want to keep a couple 8GB cards with you, or if you want to hold out for the 16GB cards that are due to be rolling out in a couple months- you might be kicking yourself to not have this ability now, or in the future.

So there it is. After a month of solid usage of the N95 8GB from a former N95-1 user, I've come up with 10 reasons why an N95 user should upgrade, and 10 reasons why it should be passed. You'll certainly have to weigh the pros and cons to your personal preference- but there it is. Several solid reasons to ponder before taking the plunge and sucking up the possible couple hundred dollar loss on your old unit- and the higher price you'll pay for the screen, the embedded memory and a slew of other features.