Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition Preview

Part I

The Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition is an upgrade to the last year released 8800 slider. The handset draws its name from the powerful Sahara desert-born wind hinting at the graceful, yet solid looks and feel of the device, while it also features a special soundtrack composed by Brian Eno, considered the "father of ambient music". The phone is part of the Premium series which consist of phones that are regarded as high-end models not because they have any extraordinary functionality but because of their unique fashionable design and built quality.

The 8800 Sirocco Edition has two color variants - black and white, as the latter is the one we had at our disposal. The sales package of the handset consists of the phone itself, a cradle, charger, a wired headset and a BH-801 Bluetooth headset that fits perfectly to the looks of the phone.

Just like the original 8800, the Sirocco Edition's slider is made mainly of polished stainless steel with some slight changes to the design. The first difference you will notice, even before you've opened the phone, is the top part of the slider which covers the keypad. Its surface is slightly lowered, shaping an oval thumb rest, designed to make opening the phone easier. As a result, the original 8800's non-functional key that was located between the two soft ones is now no longer there. The slider has the same lowered oval form at the back, but unfortunately lacks the chemically etched Nokia branding that would've given the phone a much more authentic look. Instead, the manufacturer's logo is engraved on the plastic part.

Upon opening the phone, the 2-megapixel camera at the back is revealed. It replaces the SVGA unit that was in the 8800 and is in fact one of the main hardware upgrades of the handset, along with the doubled amount of internal memory - now 128MB.

The surface around the camera of the Sirocco Edition is now matte, instead of the glossy one in the original 8800 model. It's not a bad idea as it gives the back of the device a very different and yet nice looks. Yes, the trendy glossy-surfaced phones are eye-catching but can be really annoying sometimes as they're like a magnet to fingerprints.

The opening mechanism of the device is the same like the original, utilizing stainless steel bearings that make sliding the phone in both directions really easy, smooth and pleasant.

When the phone is closed, almost half of what you see is the 208x208 pixel TFT display which is capable of displaying up to 262k colors. It is covered by a special scratch-resistant sapphire coated glass, which combined with the stainless steel built of the rest of the handset gives it a really solid look and feel.

Just between the screen and the slider (when closed) are located the two soft keys. As we already mentioned, the non-functional button from the original 8800 is gone, so those two are in fact comprised in a single button. It should be pressed at the left or the right half, in order to use one of the two keys respectively. Located just below it are the Answer and Reject keys, the navigation button and the keypad, which are all very different to the 8800's ones. The first thing you will notice is that the Answer and Reject keys are now quite bigger, almost double-sized, and far easier to use.

The five-way navigation button has also had some major design changes but it's still very inconvenient and difficult to use. The four directions are once again used by pressing the four sides of a square, but these sides are even thinner in the Sirocco Edition. The up and down directions are very uncomfortable to use as when you press “up” your finger hits the metal part above the square, while by pressing “down” you'll find yourself hitting the “2” key quite often as it's located just below the navigation pad. However, the OK key in the middle is a completely different story. It is lower than the square-shaped button around it, but it has an unusual form as it's slightly raised in the middle and feels like you're touching the top of a sphere when you put your finger on it. This makes it really easy to distinguish by only placing your thumb on the D-pad, and there's almost no possibility that you press any of the direction keys when you want to use the OK button.

The buttons of the numeric keypad also have a quite strange shape, as only the middle column of keys are flat are not worth a mention. The rest of the buttons are slightly raised at the top-left and top-right corner respectively for the keys located in the left and right columns. This is a very good idea as it's designed to make it easier for you to easily distinguish the buttons and dial numbers without looking at the keyboard. Their tactile response is quite better than those in the Nokia 8800, but unfortunately the keys are still inconvenient to use as they are very thin and you will very often find yourself pressing two buttons at the same time.

The keypad's backlight is as bad as the one in the original 8800 phone - the light is bright and concentrated in the center so the keys located there are highly visible, while the rest (like the 1, 3, *, #) look dim and are almost impossible to see in the dark. Another thing is that the navigation buttons are not lit at all which is a major inconvenience, in spite of the unique design of the OK key.

As far as the interface of the device is concerned, it is very similar to the one used in the original 8800 phone, as the only obvious thing we noticed was that the Sirocco Edition's menu had no animated icons, which makes it a bit dull. Otherwise, there are no major changes in that department and we were not able to notice any during the little time we had the Sirocco Edition at our disposal.

As an upgrade to the original 8800, the Sirocco Edition features a slight facelift that, we particularly think, makes the phone look sleeker and more stylish. The improved tactile response and design of the keypad are a good idea by Nokia, but it's still quite uncomfortable to use as the numeric keys are very small. Meanwhile, the shooter has been upgraded to 2 megapixels which is important as that has become like a standard lately. You will also be able to store more multimedia content now as the amount of internal memory you have at your disposal is doubled, but unfortunately, there's still no cards support for expanding it. However, if you're looking for a stylish and fashionable handset that would make people around you go “WOW” and you cannot afford a Vertu phone, then Nokia's 8800 Sirocco Edition is definitely a good option.

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