The N95 can record video at a maximum VGA resolution (640x480) at 30 frames per second, though you also have a choice of four other quality settings. The N95 can record video with sound in MP4 or 3GP (for multimedia messages) format, and length is only limited by the available memory. There's a handy timer that shows you how much video time you have based on the memory and the quality setting (this feature is available in camera mode as well). Editing options are a little more limited in video mode; you only get two shooting modes (automatic and night) and white balance and color tone settings. In addition, there's a video stabilization feature to help reduce camera shake as you're recording video.
We were impressed by the quality of photos and videos the N95 produced, as one would hope with a 5-megapixel lens. Pictures boasted vibrant colors and sharp lines and edges, and unlike some smart phones, the N95 didn't require you to have a super steady hand to get a clear shot. The camera phone also did a decent job with nighttime pictures, though they were still pretty dim. Video quality was also good. There wasn't any of that graininess that sometimes plagues videos shot by camera phones. We also wanted to mention the camera's interface, as we found it extremely easy to use and change camera settings, which can sometimes be challenging when you don't have a touch screen.
Once you're done, you can touch up your videos and photos with the included image editors. For example, you can add clip art and reduce red eye on still images, or cut audio for videos. There's about 150MB of internal memory for saving your photos and videos to the phone, but we recommend saving them onto a microSD card, especially since the N95 can support up to 2GB expandable media. And sharing your memories is also easy with the ability to view them as a slide show, print them via Nokia's Xpress Solutions, upload them to the Web or Nokia's Lifeblog app, or transfer them to other devices. Also, Nokia includes video-out cables so you can hook up your N95 to your TV to view all your media on the big screen.
As a multimedia computer, the Nokia N95 isn't limited to just pictures and video. There's also an integrated music player that supports MP3, WMA, W4A, AAC, AAC+, and eAAC+ files, as well as OMA DRM 2.0- and WMDRM-protected songs. The music library 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. The N95 also has an FM radio, though 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. Again, we applaud the decision to incorporate a 3.5mm headphone jack, which goes a long way in making the multimedia experience that much better.
On top of all that, Nokia has also packed a GPS receiver into the N95, along with a mapping application. With it, you can get color maps, route planning, and a healthy points-of- interest database. There's also a trip computer that shows you information about the total distance, time, average speed, and so forth. However, to get any kind of turn-by-turn directions, you'll have to download an upgrade to the device that costs an additional $91.93 for a one-year license or $11.81 for a month. The N95's GPS performance was satisfactory, although it took quite a while for the unit to get a satellite fix. Once connected though, it did a good job of tracking our position and gave accurate route calculations.
Aside from the GPS radio, other wireless options on the Nokia N95 include integrated Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi, and an infrared port. The smart phone supports a number of Bluetooth profiles, including wireless headsets, hands-free kits, wireless keyboards, and A2DP for Bluetooth stereo headsets. As far as Wi-Fi, the N95 is compatible with 802.11b/g standards; in addition, there's support for Universal Plug and Play, which lets you use a Wi-Fi connection to hook up with a compatible PC, printer, or home entertainment system, but the number of UPnP devices is limited at the moment. The N95 was able to find and connect to our test access point, and we were able to surf the Net within minutes, using Nokia's excellent Web browser. Now, here's the bad news: the N95 does not work on the U.S. 3G networks. There's support for Europe's HSDPA/WCDMA 2100 band, but not for the U.S. HSDPA bands, so we're left with just regular 'ol EDGE speeds. Granted, we've been a bit spoiled after getting a taste for 3G, but for such a high-end and advanced phone as the N95, 3G support would have been huge.
While all the aforementioned features are great, you can't forget that the Nokia N95 is, first and foremost, a phone. The N95 includes a speakerphone, speed dial, conference calling, voice-command support, a vibrate mode, and text and multimedia messaging. Unfortunately, the video calling feature found on the European version of the N95 is not supported here in the United States. The phone's address book is only limited by the available memory, and the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. There's room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, work and home addresses, e-mail addresses, birthday, and more vitals. For caller ID purposes, you can assign each contact a photo, one of 44 ringtones, or a group ID.
Last but not least, the N95 runs the third edition of the S60 platform on the Symbian operating system for your productivity needs. An app called QuickOffice lets you view Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, and it optimizes the pages for the phone's screen, so you don't have to scroll all over the place to read text. There are some nice shortcuts to jump to the top or bottom of the page to reduce the up-and-down scrolling, and there's also a search function. However, if you want any editing capabilities, you'll have to upgrade the preloaded copy of QuickOffice. For messaging, the N95 supports IMAP4, POP3, and SMTP e-mail accounts and comes with a full attachment viewer. The N95 does support a number of push e-mail solutions, as well as Microsoft Exchange Server synchronization, but this is dependent upon your service provider (for example, Cingular offers Cingular Express) and company's e-mail solution, so check with your IT department if you have any questions.
There's a handy wizard when you first power up the device to help you configure your e-mail, and we used it to easily set up our SBC Global account. Other productivity apps and PIM tools include Adobe Reader, a Zip Manager, a calculator, a notepad, a measurement converter, a clock, and a voice recorder.
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE/GPRS) Nokia N95 in San Francisco using T-Mobile and Cingular service, and in general, call quality was good. On our end, there was a slight background hiss but nothing too distracting that we couldn't carry on a conversation. Our friends, on the other hand, reported clear and excellent audio quality and said it sounded like we were on a landline. They were really impressed that such good sound was coming from a cell phone. Call quality didn't diminish when we activated the speakerphone. We also had no problems pairing the N95 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.
In terms of general performance, the N95 was fairly sluggish. There was a delay in response time whether we were using the camera, launching the media player, opening documents, or just calling up the multimedia menu. All in all, it's just a matter of a few seconds, but long enough to be noticeable and a bit annoying. The Web browsing experience was good, as pages loaded fairly quickly (faster using Wi-Fi than cellular), and we've always been huge fans of the Nokia Web browser.
Multimedia is the N95's forte, as evidenced by the features and performance. Music playback through the phone's speakers was better than anything we've heard from recent smart phones. It still lacks that deep bass, but we're impressed nonetheless. We also watched a couple of MP4 video clips using RealPlayer, and the video quality was decent with some expected pixilation. However, the playback was smooth and audio and video were always synchronized.
The Nokia N95 is rated for four hours of talk time and up to nine days of standby time. In our battery tests, we were able to get 3.5 hours of talk time on a single charge. While the talk time battery life was impressive, the standby time was not, as all the wireless radios and multimedia features take a toll on the device. After just one day of using the N95 in its various capacities--media player, phone, GPS, mobile Web browser--the battery was drained down to just one bar, so keep your travel charger handy. According to FCC radiation tests, the N95 has a digital SAR rating of 0.38 watts per kilogram.