The Nokia N91 features a 2.2-inch-diagonal screen that shows off 262,000 colors, but it's lower in resolution than the Nokia N80 (176x208 vs. 325x416 pixels), so text and images aren't as sharp. Below the display are two customizable soft keys, the Talk and End buttons, and a five-way navigation toggle. In its closed state, the front cover also holds the music player controls: music access, play/pause, stop, next, and previous. Interestingly, there appears to be a select button in the middle of this control pad, but you can't press it, and it doesn't seem to serve a purpose.
To access the numerical dial pad, just slide the lower half downward; the gliding motion is smooth, and it locks into place with a satisfying click. Unfortunately, what's revealed isn't quite as satisfying. The number buttons are tiny and thin, so it's easy to press the wrong one, especially for those with larger digits. In addition, the bottom row of keys is lined closely with the edge of slide-out cover, making it even more cramped.
On the left spine are a volume rocker, a speaker, and a mini USB port, while on right spine are a menu shortcut key and a button to release the back cover. And as long as we're on the subject, we found the battery cover excruciatingly hard to take off. The release key is small and slippery (long nails help), and the cover doesn't come off easily. Fortunately, it gets easier after a few tries, and in any case, we suspect you won't have much reason to open the back cover after you put in your SIM card and battery. Above the battery cover is the camera lens, but there's no flash or self-portrait mirror. Also, while we realize the camera isn't the main attraction of the Nokia N91, we would have appreciated a camera activation key somewhere on the phone, instead of in the menu. Finally, the power key, the hold switch, and the 3.5mm audio jack (which accepts Walkman-style headphones) are all located on top of the phone.
Nokia packages the N91 with a healthy set of accessories, including a travel charger, a music headset with remote control, a USB cable, a stereo audio cable, a desktop cradle, a CD-ROM with the Nokia PC Suite and other apps, and reference material.The Nokia N series is all about multimedia, and while the N80 and the N90 showcase their photography skills, the N91's talent lies with music. The phone features a 4GB hard drive for storing your favorite tunes; Nokia says it can hold up to 3,000 songs. The N91 supports a number of formats, including MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, Real, WAV, WMA, and MPEG files. What's more, Nokia will release a free software update later in July that will allow the playback of Windows Media DRM-protected files. To get music on to the phone, just use the included USB cable to connect the handset to your PC. The N91 should show up as an external drive on your computer, and you can simply drag and drop tunes; we had no problems transferring our music onto the phone via this method. While Nokia has partnerships with online music services in other countries, there is no such relationship here in the United States at the moment, so you can't download music on the fly.
Once you've transferred your music to the phone, the Nokia N91 organizes them by artist, album, genre, and composer. You can create playlists right on the N91, and there are shuffle and repeat functions. To enhance the sound, there's an equalizer with seven options (default, acoustic, bass booster, hip-hop, pop, R&B, and rock) and an audio settings menu where you can tweak the balance, stereo widening, and loudness. You can also set any song to be your ring tone, and the N91 automatically pauses tracks when there's an incoming call and picks up where it left off once you're done with your phone call. Like a lot of Nokia phones, the N91 has an FM radio, but you must use the included headset to access it since the tuner is built into the accessory.