When you think of sleek and sexy cell phones or smart phones, chances are you probably don't think of Nokia. However, the Nokia N76 certainly changes that perception. The Symbian handset boasts a beautiful and slim design, yet manages to pack in a boatload of features. Like its N series sibling, the Nokia N75, the N76 has a heavy music focus, as it's equipped with a robust music player, an FM radio, and a 3.5mm headset jack, so you can finally plug in a pair of decent-sounding headphones. What's more, the sound quality of the phone's speakers for music playback was one of the best we've heard to date.
However, the N76 has a number of shortcomings. First, there are a number of design flaws that make this otherwise stunning smart phone unattractive. Second, it doesn't work on our 3G bands and there's no support for the A2DP Bluetooth profile. And once again, battery life is an issue. So without the backing of a U.S. carrier, is it worth paying $500 for an unlocked version? Well, it's a bit heartbreaking. General performance is good, but for the money, we want a better design and other connectivity options.
From the outside, the Nokia N76 is sexy and fun with its hot red casing (also available in black), but it's not all rosy; there are some major design flaws that detract from the overall attractiveness of this device. We'll discuss them throughout this section. Taking a page from the Motorola Razr's book, the N76 measures a tight 4.1 inches long by 2 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, weighs just 4 ounces, and boasts a sleek profile. It's slightly on the long side, especially when open and held to the ear for phone calls, but it can still easily slip into a pants pocket.
The front cover features a 1.3-inch external screen that displays an impressive 262,000 colors at a 160x128-pixel resolution. It shows all the standard information, including time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID, and it acts as a viewfinder for the camera. In addition, like the Nokia N75, you can use the dedicated music controls located right below the display to call up the music menu and radio, fast forward through your tracks, view song and track information, and more. It's nice that you can do this without having to open the phone. Once the backlight turns off, the screen blends into a mirrored surface that dominates the flip cover. While it looks very cool, it has quite a tendency to hold smudges and fingerprints, and you'll definitely want to take care not to scratch it.
Once you do get the phone open, you're treated with a gorgeous 16 million-color, 2.4-inch internal screen with a 320x240-pixel resolution. Images pop with vibrant color, and reading messages and viewing Web pages is a delight on the sharp display. You can change the display's brightness and font size, and personalize it with various themes and wallpaper designs.
The Nokia N76 comes packaged with a number of accessories, though the contents vary by region. Our review unit came with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, a 256MB microSD card, and reference material. For more personalization options, check out our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
The Nokia N76 offers a similar feature set as its Nokia N series siblings but most closely resembles the Nokia N75 with its focus on music. The N76's integrated music player supports MP3, WMA, M4A, AAC, and eAAC+ formats, as well as WMDRM and OMA DRM 2.0-protected songs. The music library categorizes tracks by artists, albums, genres, and composers; you can also create playlists right on the phone, shuffle and repeat songs, and adjust the sound with the built-in equalizer. To transfer music onto the device, simply use the included USB cable and drag and drop files onto your SD card via data transfer mode or use the Nokia PC Suite desktop software to synchronize your music library. The N76 only has about 26MB of internal memory, so make good use of the microSD expandable media. (The N76 can accept up to 2GB cards.) You can also listen to local radio stations, but you'll have to use the included headset to access the radio, since it acts as the tuner. Without the backing of a U.S. carrier, namely Cingular/AT&T, you don't get the support for the carrier's music services out of the box like you do with the N75. RealPlayer is also on board with 3GPP and MPEG4 video streaming support.
Overall, picture quality was OK. Images had nice, defined lines, but colors were a bit dull with a grayish overtone. Still, for a camera phone, the N76 is better than most. Video quality was impressive for a phone, as we enjoyed fairly clean pictures. That said, we encountered the same problems with the N76 as we had with the Nokia N75 when using the camera. It's awkward to take pictures using the internal display as your viewfinder. The option toolbar is aligned so you can only use it if you're holding the phone horizontally, and though you can hide the toolbar, there doesn't seem an option to switch it to portrait mode. It wouldn't be such a big deal, except it's cumbersome to have the phone fully open while capturing images since you're trying to support the extra bulk of the flip cover/internal display.
Wireless options are a bit disappointing on the Nokia N76. Unfortunately, the N76 does not support the U.S. 3G band. There's support for Europe's HSDPA/WCDMA 2100 band, but not for the U.S. HSDPA bands, so it's EDGE or nothing. There's no integrated Wi-Fi either. You do get Bluetooth 2.0 with support for hands-free kits, wireless headsets, dial-up networking, generic object exchange, and more. However, A2DP is not among the supported profiles, so you won't be able to connect to stereo Bluetooth headsets--a letdown for such a multimedia-centric device.
The Nokia N76 runs the 3rd Edition of the S60 (Symbian) platform with Feature Pack 1, and offers a fairly intuitive and pleasant-looking interface. Most apps and utilities are neatly organized by category. For example, you'll find the phone's PIM tools, such as the Calendar, Notes, and Calculator, in the Office folder. That said, we noticed that organization of programs was inconsistent with previous Nokia models, which led to some confusion on our part. We're also disappointed that the device doesn't come preloaded with the QuickOffice app for working with Office documents, though you can download the suite to your phone. The N76 does have e-mail capabilities, though without a full QWERTY keyboard, this device will be better suited for reading e-mail than sending it. It offers synchronization with Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes, and supports POP3, IMAP4, and SMTP e-mail protocols. For push e-mail solutions, you have your pick of Nokia Intellisync Wireless E-mail and a number of popular third-party clients, including Good Technology, BlackBerry Connect, Seven Always-On, and Visto. There's also a built-in attachment viewer. The N76 also handles text, multimedia, and instant messaging.
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) Nokia N76 in San Francisco using T-Mobile service, and call quality was decent. We could hear a slight background hiss on our end, though it never really interfered with our conversations. In addition, we were able to interact with our bank's automated voice response system with no problem. Our callers didn't report any problems and added that they couldn't tell we were on a cell phone. Speakerphone quality was also good, and we had no problems pairing the phone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.
General performance was good; the device had a fast response time as we opened various apps and tested the multimedia features. Speaking of which, we were really impressed by the sound quality of the phone's speakers as we played a variety of songs, ranging from hip-hop to classical. We enjoyed rich, full sound and there wasn't any of the tinniness that often plagues cell phone speakers. Of course, you get an even more intimate experience when you plug in a nice pair of headphones, but again, there's that problem of the placement of the headphone jack. Watching video clips was fine in short spurts, but you get the typical pixelation with action shots. As for Web browsing, well, it was on the slower side using T-Mobile's EDGE network, but then again, we've been spoiled by our experience with 3G handsets. It's really fine for occasional Net surfing.
The Nokia N76 is rated for 2.75 hours of talk time and up to 8.5 days of standby time. In our battery tests, the N76's battery lasted for 4.5 hours of talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 1.04 watts per kilogram.