Nokia N93i Review

6
Introduction
By its i-mproved version (N93i), Nokia is trying to reduce N93’s main shortcomings, at the same time sticking to its basic concept, which, however, is rather outdated. It performs like a multi-functional smartphone, sporting capabilities for high-quality video recording and boasting optical zoom. It can be said to be outdated, because after the launch of N95, the video is no longer a characteristic trait and therefore the optical zoom remains the phone’s only ‘unique’ feature. Nokia N93i is absolutely the same as its predecessor as to its specification and its smaller size and definitely sexier look are the only perceptible changes.

The Nokia N93i set includes:
  • Phone
  • Charger
  • Computer connection cable
  • TV /audio system connection cable
  • Stereo headphones
  • Carrying Pouch
  • Hand Strap
  • User’s guide
  • Software CD

The soft carrying pouch is designed to protect the phone from scratching. It is considerably bigger than the phone itself, so the phone goes in easily and then the pouch is fastened with a string.

Phone Arena's Nokia N93i Video Review


Design:

As was already mentioned, the phone has kept its predecessor’s unique form factor. It is basically a clamshell, but is display, rotating at 120 degrees, makes it a laterally-handled device with a landscape display and a front-panel camera.

Therefore, the two software buttons are dubbed over the main display. When it is turned around, e.g. in order to be used for taking pictures, the buttons remain in its upper and lower part. The landscape mode of the operating system has been optimized in the same way. The 5-directional navigation button is functionally dubbed by the joystick on the right-hand side. It is considerably smaller, but because it is jutting out, it is even more convenient to use. The camera mode and the flash buttons are also located there.

The miniSD hot-swappable memory slot is further down. Still on the right-hand side, but fixed on the rotating hinge, is the zoom ring, equipped with a big central shooter key. The ring rotates anti-clockwise or clockwise for zoom in and zoom out respectively. This was rather confusing for us, because almost all devices with a similar ring work the other way round: clockwise for zoom in.

The central button has two press positions, because the phone’s camera is auto-focusing. By semi-pressing this button, the camera focuses and when the button is fully pressed, the picture is taken, just like a regular camera.
If we disregard the fact that the phone has two navigation faces (one for the phone and one for the camera), we can say that N93i is simply a big clamshell. Although it is downright SMALL, compared to N93, N93i is still in the big phones category.

Model

Dimension (Inches)

Dimension (MM)

Weight (OZ)

Weight (Gramms)

Nokia N93i

4.3" x 2.3" x 1.0"

108 x 58 x 25

5,7

163

Nokia N93

4.7" x 2.2" x 1.1"

118 x 55.5 x 28

6,3

180

Nokia N95

3.9" x 2.1" x 0.8"

99 x 53 x 21

4,2

120

LG KG920

4.3" x 2.0" x 0.7"

108 x 50 x 18

4,6

130

Sony Ericsson K810

4.2" x 1.9" x 0.7"

106 x 48 x 17

4,0

115





It weighs 5.7 oz (163 g), which makes it one of the heavy phones on the market. Holding it is not a problem, unlike keeping it in your pocket. Forget about carrying it in your shirt pocket, for example; you should rather choose a pocket that is big enough to hold it and to bear its weight.

Opening it with one hand is almost impossible and it is no use trying to do it, all the more because there is no spring mechanism to help you in any way. When we tried this operation the upper part would often stop halfway, where, in case the camera was used, the display turned around and we had to turn it further. Even if you manage to open it with one movement, you would definitely feel the middle step, which is not a good experience. Closing it with one hand ends up with the display turned round, which makes the attempt useless and shows you that this operation should be done with two hands.

Overall, the quality of the make is very high, which is only logical for a phone from the upper-market class of a leading and well-known manufacturer like Nokia. In this respect there is nothing we can complain about, we can only enjoy the good combination of used materials: the opaque plastic, the glassy surface and the metal alloys.

In order to stabilize the top shell, Nokia have taken the clever decision of making part of the rubber buffer (whose main function is to prevent the lids from slamming) enter into a slit, so as to avoid a horizontal gap. Just like with N95, the battery lid is perfect with no movement at all, but easy to remove. Under it you will find the BL-5F battery and the SIM card slot.

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When it is closed, the front part of the phone proudly displays information on the hinge about the Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 3x Optical Zoom 3.2 Megapixel camera lenses. The rest of the phone is a glassy surface, which leaves place only for the manufacturer’s logo. There is a small horizontal OLED display in the lower part, which, however, is totally invisible when it is not active. From the phone’s Settings menu you can select a few colors for the display’s backlit: White, Red, Green, Blue, and Pink, which looks more like lilac. They are all colors which are contrasting and clearly visible in darker places. Unfortunately, in bright light the glassy surface turns into glass and this display is not seen at all. Just as invisible is also the small LED, which you can adjust to be lit in red, green or blue, used to signal Missed calls and emails, Unread messages, and Battery charging.



To the right of the camera inscription is the shutter button and the zoom ring; the camera lenses are to the left. They are covered by a Zeiss black protective lid. You have to remove it and slide it back every time, which did not appeal to us at all. It would have been much better if Nokia had used for some of its top models the standard lenses protection, which is automatically opening lens-cover. This type of protection is used in most of the compact digital cameras on the market.

Two flash LEDs are located on the phone’s left side, as well as an infrared-eye, Pop-up Nokia port with a lid and the small Nokia port for charging and loudspeaker. Almost always when taking pictures we put our hands over the flash and blocked it. We were also disappointed because a pop-up port was used, instead of a combination of a miniUSB and a 3.5/2.5 mm stereo jack, providing for the convenience to use a cable from another device for the synchronization, without entangling oneself with another one. On the other hand, the stereo jack would allow one to use standard headphones without interconnects.


The two alternative software buttons, the alternative CIF camera, which is used for video conversations, the loudspeaker, used for conversations, and the light sensor are located on the inside of the upper shell. The light sensor monitors the ambient light and corrects the brightness of the display and the lighting of the keyboard accordingly.

The main display is 2.44 inches, a bit smaller than that of the N95. It features the same QVGA 240x320 pixel resolution and 16 million colors, which is the only upgrade in the specifications, compared to the N93. It is difficult to have any complaints here, provided that the images are colorful and contrasting and the high resolution, which is a standard for this size, ensures a detailed picture.

On the lower shell is the keyboard, which has totally disappointed us. In spite of the phone’s large size, it is not even bearable. The twelve digit buttons are big enough, but they are difficult to press and give almost no tactical response. The rest of the keys are pressed similarly, but they are also considerably smaller. The software button and the menu button are among the most frequently used buttons, due to their role in the navigation, but in the case of N93i they are much too small for our liking. The D-pad works a bit better thanks to its comparatively big size and due to the different material of which it is made, it is visually distinguishable. On the whole, the keyboard is almost totally flat and the buttons are hardly distinguishable one from the other, which makes typing even more difficult.

Interface:

We find the fact that an old operating system has been used for a top model weird and unpleasing. The phone features the Symbian v. 9.1 over Symbian S60 Interface 3rd edition, the same as the N73 and N93, rather than N95’s 9.2, which is much more fun to use. Although they are similar in many aspects, the 9.2 definitely wins over with its small but valuable improvements.

The top part of the home screen displays a clock and the date, as well as the usual signal strength and battery, while the name of the carrier or Offline can be seen in the middle. The Offline tag indicates that the N93i works only as an “organizer” and multimedia device with the phone function switched off (that’s handy for using the smartphone during a flight). Just below these is located a row of 6 shortcuts which can be personalized to suit you best. The rest of the display, below them, is used for “notifications” – this is where missed calls, upcoming tasks (or To-Do in the calendar), received messages are displayed, as well as the music player status (the song that’s played at the moment). The various capabilities of this Active Desk can be set to serve you best. It resembles a well-personalized homescreen of a Pocket PC with Windows Mobile OS and is really useful and pleasant to use, and it saves a lot of time. Located at the bottom of the screen are the two software buttons which can also be personalized from the Settings menu.

The main menu can be viewed as 3x4 (or 4x3) grid of icons that can also be displayed as a list (it’s chosen directly from the main menu) but the icons are not animated in both cases. The numeric keypad buttons can be used as shortcuts – a function which is much better implemented than version 6 of the S60 interface but still a lot of things should be changed: as the menu not always holds 12 icons (they can be more or less), scrolling up/down shows you different ones that should be associated with the keypad – but they’re not. If you press 3 while at the highest part of the grid, you’ll select the icon located at the top right corner. But if you scroll down to reveal the other icons in this menu, pressing the 3 button will still open the afore-mentioned menu, not the one currently located at the top right of your screen; so these shortcuts only relate to the first 12 icons in a particular menu, while the rest (if there are any) remain without any shortcuts. If a button’s function is dynamic and corresponds to the grid in the menu, you can click the button for a given menu without even thinking about it. Thus, you save the time you usually need to “walk around” the menus, using the joystick.

The menu can be personalized by using themes, and if you combine various screensavers and personalized homescreens, two identical phones can look quite different. Definitely, the operating system provides many good personalization options, so it can be compared to the most advanced system, according to us – Windows Mobile for Pocket PCs.

Phonebook:

All the contacts are displayed as a list and if there is a picture ID, it can be seen in the top left corner of the screen as a thumbnail with a very small size (it’s the same when you have an incoming call and that’s why we find this feature useless) when you select the contact. If you want to search, you type in directly from the keypad and searching is done for the whole name (not only the first word), even if the name is saved in more than one field (first and last name for example). If you want to edit a contact , you can only change the already defined fields. For adding more information you need to select the Add Detail menu. When adding a new contact you are provided with the “basic” fields, but with the “Add Detail” function you have almost no restrictions on the fields and their number and you can add a lot of phone numbers.
We also like having the option for adding a given field several times and in that manner for example we are able to record the numbers of three phones each one with a status “Mobile”.



The phone has a set of voice commands – they are speaker independent and you don’t have to “train” every command, something that can save you a lot of precious time. By holding the right soft key, the “recognizer” turns on and you can say a name (from the phonebook) to be dialed. Names like “Father”, “Brother”, “test”, “John” and “Neo” were no problem, but we had no success with others like “Amy” for example.

The commands can activate various programs or perform different functions, like “New SMS” for example, but a list with different capabilities must be added to the menu - not all of them are added by default so that they’re easier to recognize with any speaker – thus by adding only the ones you need you can achieve best possible accuracy without the annoying training. Аnd it works, the voice commands were very accurate and we rarely experienced mistakes when launching applications.



A voice recorder can record your voice by the means of speakerphone as the duration of the recording is limited only by the available memory. You can record on the memory card, which will allow longer recording times. In that way the smartphone replaces your voice recorder without needing a third party software.

Organizer:

The Organizer is spread into different submenus – the calendar is one of the icons in the main menu and it can be viewed by month or week. Of course, you can easily add notes to a particular day with a few clicks; To-Do notes are also displayed on the homescreen if the corresponding option is turned on (see Interface). An alarm can be assigned to each entry in the calendar.

Other options like Calculator, Notes, and Converter are located in the Office menu. Notes are just annotations with no option for adding an alarm like the To-Do notes. The Converter works with various quantities (Length, Weight, etc.) but the interface has not changed much, compared to older versions, and working with various types is still inconvenient – entering different values requires a quite slow transition from one row to another, while choosing types is done from a drop-down list, which usually takes a lot of time.

The calculator is very simple and is not scientific one, which would suit a smartphone.

Nokia has been wise enough to add third party software that comes with every smartphone as that’s a way to broaden the phone’s capabilities – you have QuickOffice and PDF reader which help you out with the most frequently used document types. Unlike N73 and the rest of Symbian phones, which during our testing always had problems opening large PDF files or Excel sheets, the new N95 displayed everything flawlessly. Word text documents, large Excel sheets and PDFs, even heavier presentations in PowerPoint with pictures are easily open.

Unlike the 9.2 version of Symbian, the 9.1 offers only a single alarm. The even more ridiculous thing is that it can not repeat and has to be set every single day even if you want to alert you at the same time. Option like a few alarms with different times and days is a luxury which the Symbian v 9.1 doesn’t allow straight from the box. Using a third party application you can fix that.

The World Clock is also located in this menu and you can add various cities that you like to view – that's very convenient and saves a lot of time compared to the standard way with “moving across the world map". You can easily review given cities, which you are interested in without searching them each time.

The Tools menu houses the integrated File Manager which we would've liked to feature an improved navigation too. Unlike PPC phones, it does not resemble the explorer we know from PCs and working with files is not quite fast.



Messaging:


The Messages menu has nothing new to offer – you can easily compose SMS/MMS or Email and located in My Folder are templates which are handy for text that is often used in messages. The fast T9 can help you enter text quickly. The EDGE and UMTS connection help for fast retrieving of Emails.

Connectivity:
Nokia N93i could be easily connected with other devices for synchronization, Internet or data exchange as USB, infrared, Bluetooth, WiFi, UMTS (only EU/Asian 2100 Mhz) are available. The main drawback of the phone is the only tri-band (900/1800/1900 MHz) GSM module which makes it suitable mainly for Europe/Asia market and with partial functionality in America.

The phone has an IrDA port, located on the left side of the handset, and offers another option for connectivity with other devices, but it's an outdated technology and it's present in very few phone models these days, so we find it unnecessary.

In most contemporary phones it is completely replaced by Bluetooth. The N93i offers the latest version 2. It is an absurd that the multimedia A2DP and AVRCP profiles are not supported, which means that the N93i cannot transmit music through Stereo Bluetooth. This is probably a limitation of the OS versions and just another example why the N93i should run on v.9.2. As EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) is supported, you can transfer files to compatible devices at high speed (up to 3 Mbit/s) which is convenient when sending large files like photos, videos and music.

Nokia N93i also supports Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), which is a wireless network standard allowing access to the Internet at all hotspots (places with such kind of network), as well as usage of IP telephony via additional software. Through Wi-Fi you can also stream music or video fast (and free) to your phone, or download some new multimedia content. We used it for browsing the internet through the Web browser, for the Maps service and for streaming or downloading Videos from the Internet.

For over-the-air data you can connect through both 2G GPRS/EDGE or through 3G UMTS, but unfortunately the latter supports 2100MHz band only, which means it will work in Europe/Asia, but not in the US, where 850/1900MHz UMTS is needed. Unlike N95, the N93i doesn’t support HSDPA.

Like most other Nokia phones, along with the N93i comes a CD with Nokia PC Suite. The software has a nice interface with logically structured and easy to use menus, but the options supported are nothing special – here we have the standard backup and synchronize, connecting the PC to the Internet via the phone, managing contacts, messages, multimedia and applications. Even if you've never used Nokia PC Suite you won't experience any troubles working with it and establishing a connection between the PC and the phone would be no problem with the USB cable provided with the N95. When connected to the USB cable, you can choose which mode the N95 should enter in: Media Player, PC Suite, Mass storage, or PictBridge. PC Suite is the one we've described above, while the Mass storage is most suitable for transferring lots of images, music or videos from the computer to the phone or vice versa.

Internet browser:

Thanks to the UMTS/HSDPA data (or the WiFi) and the QVGA resolution of the display, loading and viewing a standard HTML web pages is a pleasure. The phone has no problem rendering all pages and reading phoneArena's news was a pleasure. Scrolling left-to-right and top-to-bottom is done with the phone's d-pad, and a mini-map shows you, which part of the page you are looking at. The pages loaded pretty fast and as a whole, we had a great experience with the browser, so we definitely like it more than the Internet Explorer, built in Pocket PC phones based on Windows Mobile. The browser can load RSS feeds for even faster access to information.

What we loved about it is the history: when you use 'back' to see pages you've seen earlier, you see the pages as thumbnails, you can open from the phone's cache.

Camera:

Nokia N93i is intended as an upper-scale cameraphone and camcorder with a rotating display and interesting form-factor. As well as its predecessor, N93, this is one of the few phones, featuring a real optical zoom, which in this case is 3x. This is neither too much nor too little, actually this is the most frequently used zooming factor for the pocket cameras and the down-market ones. Just like with the camera’s resolution, the rule here is „the more the better”, but Nokia have not made an effort to surprise us with an improvement compared with N93.

To use the camera, you have to turn the display in “camcorder mode”, because otherwise, even if you turn on the software, only the small 0.1 megapixels self-recording camera (the one for video conversations) will be switched on. Naturally, you’ll have to remove the black lid if it covers the lenses, because otherwise you will only see blackness. However, the software will not warn you of this, like in the case of active lens phones with cover like that of Sony Ericsson K800, for example. The landscape display is used as a viewfinder, showing the most important information (flash mode, resolution and number of photos left) and shortcuts to the settings.

Compared to N95, the settings here are nothing special! This is again entirely due to the outdated operating system. The flash settings are adjusted by a button, but options like „Self-Timer”, “Sequence mode”, “Light Sensitivity” (ISO), “Contrast”, and “Brightness” are simply non-existent. Shooting Modes, White Balance, Exposure Value Compensation and Color tones are available on the phone. Just like N93 and unlike N95, in close-up mode the autofocus is switched off and you have to work with a fixed focus which results in a poor quality of the pictures.

The quality of the pictures is average for a 3-mega pixel device and it does not live up to the advertisements for a ‘high-quality camera with Carl Zeiss optics’, just like N93, which performs even worse than N73, K800 and D900. Unlike N93, the i-version has a stronger noise reduction system and when viewing images at 100% you can see that the details are blurred, which is typical for most phones. Most of the pictures have good contrast and vivid colors and are well-exposed. When taking pictures of close-by objects, the lack of autofocus is noticed only when the pictures are viewed in large size.

        Without Zoom                         3x Optical zoom                                                                                                                         Macro







Videoing is really at a high level and sets a benchmark for other manufacturers. Just like N93 and N95, the video has a 640 x 480 pixels resolution with 30 frames per second, which allows for moving objects not to be choppy, which happens when you video with 15 frames. Only the digital zoom can be used when videoing, which has again a very negative impact on the quality of the image and therefore we recommend that you do not use it. Without the zoom, the quality is very good for a phone and quite similar to that of a pocket camera, although the quality of the detail is lower due to the compression.

The pictures taken can be viewed in the gallery. It displays a single image at the centre of the display, which is surrounded by small thumbnails of the other images in the phone. Navigating left-to-right the images move at the centre position to be displayed in bigger size. It's nice that the phone caches different sizes of every image, so they load pretty fast once you've previewed them in the gallery.

Multimedia:

The Multimedia key opens a dedicated menu, which has shortcuts to various applications, with the Music, Radio, Web and Slide Show by default (they can be defined by the user). On N73 it pops up with animation which was boring to wait, and now N93i fixes this issue with NO animation at all.

The phone comes with headphones in the box, but can also play the music through its single mono speaker, which should be cool for the incoming ringing alert but actually isn’t. The sound through it cannot be compared to N95’s as it is not detailed and pretty weak. If you put your hand over the openings, the sound will almost mute. The interface of the music player is the same as those used in other Symbian S60 9.1 phones (N93, N73, E50). It's not quite comfortable – moving through the options can only be done with up and down directions and the buttons are so small that you have to stare at the display if you want to see what each of them does which is a total waste of space and resolution.

The Music Library menu allows you to sort the songs by Artist, Album, Genre, Composer, and we find the Track Lists option to be an interesting idea as it allows you to select the most played songs for example. The music player works fine in background mode thanks to the multitask capabilities of the smartphone, while the beautiful homescreen displays the songs that's played and the time elapsed – by pointing at it you are allowed to adjust the sound volume of the player without even opening it but you can not pause it or change to the next track. When you close the phone you can control the music player by the joystick on the right side.

The sound quality of the music player is not the one we'd like to hear in a high-end multimedia phone … neither from the phone's speaker(it sounds awful), nor from the stereo headphones, which also produced almost no bass and had low quality of middle and high frequencies – unfortunately it is hard to connect decent hi-fi headphones to the phone, and you have to search for Nokia adaptor (Pop-up Port to 3.5mm jack). It's sad that it is not in the box, as it is with Sony Ericsson Walkman phones and LG Chocolate KG800. As you can expect, the built-in equalizers don't help for the sound quality at all but if you are fan of them, you can even add your preset one.



The FM Radio (and Visual Radio) comes as a bonus. It has a standard Nokia interface: you wouldn’t call it beautiful, but it is convenient. It can memorize up 20 stations with their names.



Software:

The phone can use applications based both on the Java platform and Symbian S60, which provides wide 3rd party software compatibility like any other smartphone. Installation is a piece of cake, while additional programs increase the software's capabilities very much and thus it can be personalized to better suit you. The phone comes with several applications, as well as a game, called Snakes, which is a 3D version of the well known from other Nokia phones game. The other game is just DEMO and is 3D racing game called SRE but the demo doesn’t allow you to play even one stage.

N93i has 50MB of internal memory and you must expand it with a miniSD card to take advantage of the phone's functionality.

Performance:

Although generally the smartphones are much slower than regular phones, which do not avail of a smart OS, N93i can well be called fast. Thanks to the sophisticated TI OMAP 2420 processor and the Arm 11-based CPU, N93i is one of the swiftest Symbian Nokia smart phones, together with N95. Still, some delay is felt when opening specific menus, but this is typical for the system.

‘Strong signal’ is a synonym for Nokia and therefore it is disappointing that this is not true for N93i. In our tests, which we carry out underground, we found out that, although big in size, Nokia’s top model performs below the average when we compare it with other tested models of all classes.
Typically for Nokia, the sound produced by the phone is good, as a whole, although a bit strange. The outgoing sound is clear, pure and strong at the same time. You can hear the other party very well, but the voices are slightly shrilly due to not perfect low frequency reproduction. If you turn up the volume to the maximum some sounds are reproduced with great peaks, which feels like hissing.

We were surprised at the performance of the speakerphone, which is definitely more advanced, compared to all other models that we have tested. The microphone manages to transmit our voice from about 9 feet (3 meters) distance so that we can be heard at the other end. Naturally, the quality is not perfect and the voices are not so clear, but they are understandable. The loud-speaker, which is not adequate for listening to music, is good enough for reproducing incoming voices during conversation, although there is more to be desired as to its purity.

Conclusion:

We started this review, pointing out that N93i comes with a smaller size and a much better vision, compared to its predecessor, but, unfortunately, ‘that’s all, folks’! The functionality has not been changed at. Some say ‘better late than never’, but we are not sure that this is true for N93i. If it had been launched years ago, before its bigger brother, it would have definitely been a success with its 3 megapixels and optical zoom, but since the smaller N95 with the same quality video, 5-megapixels, GPS and the new improved operating system is on the market, we do not see the point of buying a N93i, which is actually a N73, equipped with WiFi, optical zoom and VGA video. Its niche has already been occupied by the N95 smartphone, with the only comparable disadvantage is the lack of an optical zoom. N93i’s shortcoming position it in the past, rather than in the future, where N95 is. What would have justified the launch of this phone would have been an exceptionally good camera of over 5 megapixels. But since the phone does not feature such camera, its group of potential buyers would be rather small.

Pros

  • 3x Optical Zoom
  • Swiveling display allows for camcorder-like experience while shooting a photo or video, with one hand only
  • Good speakerphone
  • Very good looking external display

Cons

  • Mediocre camera quality compared to other hi-end cameraphones
  • Less functionality but in bigger dimensions, compared to the N95
  • Your fingers often stay in front of the flash and it has no effect

PhoneArena Rating:

7.6

User Rating:

9.0
7 Reviews

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