Nokia N86 8MP review: Lens wide open

GSMArena team, 24 June 2009.

The active kickstand folds around the camera deck and by default it starts the image gallery when you flip it open. Nokia have also added an option to customize its behavior to your needs.

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Making the kickstand active is a pretty good idea

The 1200 mAh Li-Ion battery under the rear cover sounds quite decent on paper. It's quoted at up to 312 hours of stand-by and 6 hours and 18 minutes of talk time in 2G networks, while with 3G you can count on 264 hours of stand-by and 3 hours and 54 minutes of talk time. That's about what it manages to deliver in reality too: we had to charge our handset three times over a week of quite heavy use.

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A 1200 mAh battery powers the whole thing

The slider action is spot on, the effort required to put it in motion just about perfect. It gives away a nice click every time it locks in one of the three positions. The build quality raised no concerns and the phone was commendably comfortable to navigate and handle, even at such a considerable weight. The materials used on the casing are the same as the superior Nokia N97 so you can rest assured you get the Nseries - if not Nokia's - best.

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The N86 8MP in hand

This is Symbian S60

Nokia N86 8MP runs on the Symbian 9.3 OS with Series60 3rd Edition user interface and Feature Pack 2 preinstalled.

It's been a while since we last welcomed a classic Nseries device at our office. Nokia N85 was the last one to call by, and now we meet its successor - the Nokia N86 8MP. The seven-month long gap naturally brings some new UI graphics and some changes under the hood and there they are implemented on the Nokia N86 8MP.

The layout is quite familiar with status icons displayed at the top of the screen and the soft key labels taking the bottom. Quite naturally, Nokia N86 8MP also supports Active standby with two optional layouts.

If you have experience with Nokia S60 smartphones, the first difference you will notice is the new look that the menu icons have. We already met that styling in the touch controlled 5800 and N97 and now they have been transferred to the S60 3rd edition as well.

The standby theme and main menu have no changes in terms of functionality. All the usual suspects are here and remain the same - Maps, Tools, Settings, Messages, etc.

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Nokia N86 8MP runs on Symbian 9.3 OS

The standby screen has the three familiar layouts to choose from - a vertical bar, a horizontal bar and a basic view. They are also updated with the Symbian touch edition icons.

The active standby screen is a typical Symbian option and is a nice and convenient way of bringing the shortcuts to all favorite applications to your home screen. You can even assign shortcuts to websites of your choice for quicker access.

The screen can either be organized in vertical or horizontal tabs which can then be scrolled with the D-pad. If active standby is disabled the direction keys of the D-pad can also be assigned four shortcuts of your choice.

Active standby or not, you can always change the shortcuts assigned to the two soft keys to best suit your needs.

Enough about graphics, the UI is alive

Nokia N86 8MP can automatically rotate the user interface thanks to the built-in accelerometer. Quite not typical of dual-slide Nokia the UI does not automatically go landscape if you slide to reveal the music player/gallery keys. Even more interesting, there's no app launching when you slide the phone that way and there is no option to configure that behavior. That is definitely strange, as Nokia promised that the short side of the slider will be active (launching a certain application) and most of all customizable (you can actually pick the application).

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The UI can also work in landscpape mode

There is also a new Flash-based screen saver which is very fancy and quite eye-catchy. It is a digital clock build by small squares and is always landscape oriented. We first saw that on Nokia N97 and it suited its slide-and-tilt desktop position quite well. With the Nokia N86 8MP, you can get the phone to the same position by placing it on its back kickstand. Still, you won't be able to enjoy the clock for much long with the default power-saving options.

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The new screensaver

Nokia N86 8MP also features the new and improved task manager that comes with Feature Pack 2. It is also now somewhat better looking and is appearing on top of every pop-up menu. The shortcut used in previous versions of the OS by pressing and holding the menu key still works.

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The task manager is really convenient

The Nokia N86 8MP uses a single ARM 11 434 MHz CPU with no dedicated graphic accelerator. This still fares quite well in Symbian terms, as far as UI responsiveness is concerned. The phone reacts quickly, if not instantly, to most commands across menus. Lately, Nokia are using processors with 1.5x the clock speed, so the N86 8MP is definitely not their top performer, but is still nice.

The Nokia N86 8MP user-available memory extends to a little less than 50MB topped with the 8GB that are already on board. While the 8GB on board are pretty all you'll ever need, there are cases when the limited system storage of 50MB will get in your way. For example, when downloading files from the internet, the web browser always saves them to the system partition, meaning you will bump into the 50MB limit sooner than you've thought.

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