The Two Day Review: Nokia N81 2GB

Okay, so I’ve been carrying around a Nokia N81 (2GB expandable memory version) for a couple of days. It’s small, it’s sleek, and it’s a Nokia smartphone – so it must be a winner, right?
Inside: firsthand impressions of the “phone that feels like a Chinese toy that kills small children due to excessive lead contamination.” According to IntoMobile, anyway.
Nokia N81
A two day review of the Nokia N81 2GB.

1. Build quality could definitely be better. Hitting some of the buttons on certain areas makes the phone, for want of a better word, creak. The back cover also tends to make squeaking noises when any sort of pressure is placed on it. As for the slide – on my N81 it’s slightly loose, but the slider spring motion is really satisfying.
2. It’s heavy. Noticeably heavier than the original N95 – 4.9 ounces vs 4.2.
3. Activities that are normally processor-intensive on other Nokia phones (scrolling through menus and opening up applications) are super quick on the N81, thanks to a faster cpu
4. The N81′s sound quality is quite amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better set of speakers on a phone before.
5. The navi-wheel is, for the most part, annoying. I find that it’s very hard to get any kind of consistent movement when scrolling around music playlists, unlike those iPod click wheels. It’s not so bad when browsing the Gallery or Multimedia menu though.
6. Gaming. I have a couple games on the phone, and none of them make use of the dedicated buttons nor do they let you change the default keymapping. This isn’t exactly a problem with the N81 specifically, it’s more of a complaint to game programmers, but it’s really annoying that I have these nice buttons and they’re useless. Also, being able to change into landscape mode without having to use rotateMe or some other application would be nice. Can someone tell me why the N95 has the accelerometer and the N81 doesn’t?
7. Okay, the keypad is a little hit-or-miss. Hitting the call/end keys, which have been thoughtfully squished onto the sides is a chore. And I have pretty thin fingers too. I imagine someone with somewhat pudgy fingers having a nightmare with the keypad.
On the other hand, the dedicated music buttons don’t interfere with normal phone operation and are quite handy, in stark contrast to the N95′s dedicated music slide mode. And the new multimedia key gets a thumbs up for speed and placement.
8. One small subtle feature – the dedicated keys light up and function as zoom in/zoom out buttons in the Gallery. It’s surprisingly intuitive combined with the navi-wheel in Gallery mode.
That’s it for now. Expect a full review with the next week or two.