Editor's note: Portions of Features section of this review were taken from our original evaluation of the unlocked Nokia N95 North American Edition, as both devices share many of the same features.
It's no secret that the Nokia N95 has been quite popular here in the States, garnering rave reviews from users and giving the Apple iPhone some stiff competition. Fortunately, Nokia has also caught on to our love; whereas before, we had to settle for buying unlocked versions of the European model and thusly, sacrificing some features (namely, 3G), the company has released a U.S. version of the N95 and now a North American Edition of the 8GB Nokia N95.
If the name didn't give it away, this model offers 8GB of internal flash memory so you can fill it up with music, videos, photos, and more. It also features a larger 2.8-inch display and 3G support along with all the old goodies, including a 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. However, it isn't a complete lovefest. Despite the 8GB, we still would like the option of an expansion slot, and performance and call quality wasn't the greatest. Plus, there's the fact that it costs a gut-wrenching $779 for an unlocked version. Still, if you can afford it and crave the convergence, the 8GB Nokia N95 is certainly one of our top picks. (Note: When buying, be sure you are getting the Nokia N95-4 (8GB). There have been several iterations of this smartphone and the 4 indicates U.S. 3G support.)
The 8GB Nokia N95 is slightly different in design than the other versions of the N95. While it keeps the same boxy shape and overall dimensions (3.8 inches high by 2.8 inches wide by 0.8 inch deep), it's slightly heavier at 4.5 ounces (compared to 4.2 ounces) and comes cloaked in a sexy all-black casing with a soft-touch finish on the back.
The 8GB N95 also features a slightly larger 2.8-inch (versus 2.6 inches) QVGA nontouch display that shows off 16 million colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution. Though we're only talking 0.2 inch here, the extra screen real estate is noticeable and very nice when viewing photos, Web sites, and so forth. Images and text continue to look sharp and vibrant as well. There's an ambient light detector to automatically adjust the brightness of the screen based on your current environment. You can also customize the home screen with various background images and themes and adjust the font size.
Below the display, you will find a navigation array of two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, shortcuts to the main menu and the multimedia menu, an Edit key, a clear button, and a four-way toggle with a center select control. Given the larger screen, the buttons are smaller and squished but they're raised more above the phone's surface compared to the N95 North American Edition so they're easier to press. Still, the cramped layout will most likely give users with larger thumbs some problem.
The 8GB N95 has the same dual-slider design just like the other models. When you push the screen up, you get access to the alphanumeric keypad for dialing numbers and texting, while pushing the screen down exposes the dedicated multimedia controls. The media buttons are slightly improved over the previous N95s, as they're more bubbly and give better tactile feedback. On another note, sliding the screen down automatically switches the screen orientation from portrait to landscape mode, but closing the phone won't automatically switch it back to portrait mode. You'll have to push up the display again, which is kind of annoying.
On the left side of the smartphone, you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, while there's a volume rocker, a photo gallery shortcut, and a camera activation/capture key on the right. As a multimedia-centric device, both sides are equipped with speakers. The camera lens and flash are located on the back of the device. Like the North American N95, there's no lens cover, which was sacrificed in order to make room for a larger capacity battery. The power button is on top, and the power connector and mini USB port are on the bottom of the unit.
Now, you might be wondering about the expansion slot, and well, there is none. Given the 8GB of internal flash memory, Nokia really didn't feel it was necessary to include one, and while we certainly understand that logic, we would still have liked the option for expanding in the future or sideloading content through a memory card.
The 8GB Nokia N95 comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired headset and remote, video-out cables, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
It's all in the name. The biggest difference between the previous Nokia N95 models and the version we are reviewing is the 8GB of internal flash memory, which you can fill up with music, video, pictures, and more. Just to give you an example, that's about 6,000 songs (tracks of around 3 minutes at 48 Kbps eAAC+ (M4A) encoding) or 20 hours of video (H.264 750-kbps video at 320x240 resolution combined with 128-Kbps audio) if you were to load it up with music alone. Plus, there's up to 100MB of internal dynamic memory for messages, applications, appointments, and so forth.
So what can the N95 handle? Well, the built-in music player supports MP3, WMA, W4A, AAC, AAC+, and eAAC+ files, as well as OMA DRM 2.0- and WMDRM-protected songs. It categorizes tracks by artists, albums, genres, and composers; you can also create playlists right on the phone and adjust the sound with the built-in equalizer. If you get sick of your current library, the N95 also has an FM radio, but you'll have to use the included headset to access the radio, since it acts as the tuner. RealPlayer is also onboard with 3GPP and MPEG-4 video streaming support.