- Stylish and eye-catching design, external display can read messages, external music controls, interface speed
- No HSDPA, flip design, only a 2 megapixel camera, impossible to keep clean, headphone jack obscures flip, rear cover difficult to remove, flimsy SIM card adapter, battery life
The N76 is an attractive multimedia phone with a fair features list, but a few issues in design prevent it from being great.
Price$ 879.00 (AUD)
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Sporting one-touch music controls on its exterior, an eye-catching design featuring chrome and glass, a 2 megapixel camera and 3G connectivity, Nokia's clamshell N76 seems like an ideal multimedia phone, but some faults in design prevent it from being great.
The N76 is a GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) and 3G (2100 MHz) handset, but it doesn't support HSDPA. Call quality is a mixed bag as we felt volume could have been a little louder. In addition, calls aren't as crisp or clear as some recent phones we've reviewed, although this is a common issue with smart phones and not a problem directly attributed to the N76. On a positive note, the hands-free speakerphone works well. Being 3G, and therefore capable of video calls, the N76 has a front mounted VGA camera just above the display, and it can also be used for taking portrait photos.
With front mounted media playback controls it's clear that Nokia is pushing multimedia on the N76. Conveniently, you can control music and listen to the built-in FM radio without opening the flip, thanks to the external display. There is also a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a standard mini-USB port for uploading music and other files. The N76 supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+ and WMA formats as well as OMA DRM 2.0 and Windows Media Digital Rights Management (WMDRM) files for music playback.
The N76 also has a dedicated multimedia key that opens an interactive multimedia menu. From here you can access the web, the music player, listen to FM radio (with the included headset acting as the antenna), view your photos in a slide show and configure any settings. The display is adequate for watching videos (MPEG-4, H.264/AVC, H.263, 3GPP and RealVideo files), but we really think a larger screen is needed to fully immerse yourself in a video experience. Sound from the N76's speaker is solid and volume is loud enough. Nokia includes just 26MB of internal memory, but a microSD card slot, located on the right side of the handset, caters for extra memory. A 512MB card is supplied in the sales package, but the slot supports cards up to 2GB in capacity.
The N76 includes a 2 megapixel camera with flash. We are surprised that Nokia didn't include a higher spec camera on this model, especially as it comes hot on the trail of the N95, which has a 5 megapixel camera. Poor colour reproduction, image noise and lack of sharpness are general issues, and the presence of a flash does little to improve night time photography. Despite this, the camera has plenty of features to tweak including close-up, portrait and sport scene modes, a flash with red eye reduction capabilities, a two, 10 or 20 second self-timer, sequence and burst shooting modes, and the ability to adjust exposure, white balance, colour tone and ISO settings.
Like the N95, the N76 has the option to upload any images taken with the phone's camera to a Flickr account. You can perform some basic editing on photos and create slideshows and albums directly through the phone itself. Lifeblog, a digital photo album tool for mobile phone photographers and bloggers, is also included. Lifeblog automatically sorts the digital media between the N76 and your PC so you can view, search, edit, and share your images and messages. You can blog directly from your phone to the internet by registering for a weblog account using your phone, selecting a message or image to post, adding a title and text and pressing send.
The N76 has push email capabilities with support for POP3, IMAP4 and SMTP protocols, and it can view a range of attachment file formats including JPEG, 3GP, MP3, PPT, DOC, XLS, and PDF files. Connectivity includes Bluetooth 2.0 and USB 2.0, and Nokia includes a standard mini-USB cable in the sales package. The Web browser has the ability to scroll through each page with a feature called 'Minimap'. This view shows a full Web page shrunk to fit the screen and a selection box is used to navigate to the part of the page you want to view in more detail.
The N76 runs on the Series 60 3rd Edition OS and it is equipped with a full array of smart phone applications, including QuickOffice Word, PowerPoint and Excel document viewers, a host of PIM features (calendar, to-do list, notes, voice recorder, calculator, clock, converter) and both voice recording and dialling. A more advanced search function allows searching online through Yahoo! and Windows Live search engines. The handset is also fully compatible with Adobe Reader and there is support for standard SMS and MMS messaging with T9 predictive text input. Most notable was a speed increase over previous models; the N76's interface is much faster and loading times are excellent.
Our first thought on the N76's design is that it looked very similar to Motorola's RAZR V3. Measuring 106.5mm x 52mm x 13.7mm, and weighing 115g, the N76 is thin, but tall and quite wide. It's finished in a combination of chrome and glass, together with black (also available in red) plastic. It may look sleek and stylish, but the glossy finish combined with the mirror-like means it's almost impossible to keep clean.
Perhaps the best design feature of the N76 is the external screen, which conveniently allows you to read incoming messages, listen to and control your music, and take photos - all without flipping open the handset. The media controls under the display double as selection buttons and icons for music, now playing, and FM radio appear at the bottom of the display when the phone is flipped close.
The N76's flip is disappointing. It's almost impossible to flip open using a single hand, and when you do finally get it open, the hinge doesn't feel smooth as it lacks a spring mechanism. Further, the 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the phone is poorly positioned, as headphones plugged into it prevent the flip from fully opening. Despite these issues, the phone feels solid and well built, especially with the flip closed.
The left side of the phone has a microSD memory card slot that is covered by a well concealed chrome flap. Unfortunately, removing the memory card is frustrating as the tiny space means it's an issue to get your finger into. Similarly, removing the SIM card is also difficult as it sits on a tiny SIM card tray and is intricate to grasp; it doesn't help that the rear battery cover is stubborn to slide off.
Battery life is below average according to Nokia figures of up to 120 minutes of talk time and up to 8.5 days of standby time using 3G. Talk time slightly increases to 165 minutes on a standard GSM network, but the figures remain disappointing. Nokia also states a music playback time of up to eight hours, but this is an estimate taken in offline mode, when the phone is without a SIM card.
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