There's a built-in equalizer with six settings: default, bass booster, classical, jazz, pop, and rock. We were impressed with the sound quality of the phone's speakers, which offered fuller sound than most smartphones and a pretty decent balance between treble and bass. Even at lower volume levels, there was plenty of boom and, in fact, we found that quality deteriorated at the higher levels. Most of you will probably listen to your music through headphones so it's good news that the N85 is equipped with a standard 3.5mm jack, so you can plug in your pair of earbuds or 'phones. We enjoyed our tunes with a pair of Bose On-Ear Headphones but we also used the included earbuds, as uncomfortable as they were, to try out the FM radio. We were able to tune into local radio stations with no problems and using the Visual Radio application, we were also able to see the song title and artist displayed on the screen, which was awesome.
As we noted in our Nokia N79 review, the Nokia Music Store has not fully launched in the United States and it feels as if company is no rush to get it out there, so we weren't able to purchase and download any songs over the air like our friends across the pond.
We were able to check out Nokia's N-Gage gaming service and downloaded several titles, including Tetris, Brain Challenge, FIFA 08, and System Rush Evolution. With the purchase of the N85, you get an activation code that will allow you to download the full version of one game for free; afterward, you'll have to pay for each title, but you can download a free trial to test before making the full commitment to buy. The N-Gage platform isn't just a place where you can buy games, however. There's also a community aspect to it, where you can create a profile, build up points and status, and interact and play with other N-Gage members.
Download and installation of games typically took about a two minutes, and we encountered a couple of network problems when trying to download new games from the phone. Actual game play was decent, considering that we were using a phone. As we played System Rush Evolution, we were impressed at the smooth performance as we navigated a spaceship through various levels of combat. Again, remembering the fact that we were playing on a cell phone, graphics looked sharp, partly due to the N85's OLED display. If anything, we had some difficult with the game control. You use the phone's various navigations buttons for play, which was fine in some cases but not in others. For example, in FIFA 08, we found it somewhat difficult to maneuver the player using the navigation toggle, given the stiffness of the control. Though no replacement for your Sony PSP or Nintendo DS, the N85 is pretty decent stand-in for a handheld gaming device.
Now as much focus is given to the features mentioned above, we also found the Nokia N85 to be a great camera phone. The device is equipped with the same 5-megapixel camera as the N79, with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens, dual LED flash, 20x digital zoom, video recording at up to 30 frames per second, and advanced editing options. Picture quality was sharp and bright, and there wasn't much of a lag when trying to capture pictures. We weren't as thrilled with recorded video clips, but it was better and smoother than a lot of the smartphones we've seen. To store all your images and other multimedia files, the Nokia N85 offers about 74MB of user accessible memory and the MicroSD expansion slot, which can accept up to 8GB cards.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; 850/1900 HSDPA) Nokia N85 in San Francisco using AT&T service and call quality was quite good. On our end, we weren't distracted by any background noise or echo and the audio had a nice clear and rich sound to it. Our friends reported positive results as well and we had no problems using an airline's voice-automated system or dealt with any dropped calls. The speakerphone wasn't quite as sharp as calls had a hollow sound to them. We successfully paired the N85 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
General performance was somewhat mixed comparatively speaking. The N85 wasn't as snappy as the N79 but not as slow as the Nokia N96. The biggest delays came when trying to view photos, as it took the smartphone a few seconds to render pictures and get them into focus. However, the rest of the time, the N85 felt responsive and never crashed during our review period. The N85 was able to find and connect to our Wi-Fi network with no problem. It took about 25 seconds for the smartphone to load CNET's full site, while it took about 5 seconds to bring up CNN's and ESPN's mobile sites. The N85's Web browser is pretty easy to navigate despite the lack of a touch screen. There's an onscreen cursor that makes it easy to click on links, and the minimap mode gives you an overview of the page to help you determine what section of the site you want to check out. You can also have multiple windows open, bookmark pages, block pop-ups, and more.
The Nokia N85 comes with a 1,200mAh lithium ion battery that has rated talk time 6.9 hours (4.5 hours on 3G) and up to 15 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, the N85 was able to get 9.5 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the N85 has a digital SAR rating of 0.91 watt per kilogram.