Nokia N90 review: The great mobile revolution

David Polesný, 31 July 2005.

The best display on the market; 2 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics; Symbian OS; multimedia player; memory card slot; voice recognition; Bluetooth EDGE; 3G network support ... And all this in just a single phone - the futuristic clamshell Nokia N90.

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Nokia N90 in the official pictures

Key features

  • Top-class main display
  • Big high-quality outer display
  • 2 megapixel rotating camera with autofocus and Carl Zeiss optics
  • Slot for the RS-MMC memory cards (3V and 1.8V)
  • Active stand-by mode (Today)
  • Stereo MP3 player

Main disadvantages

  • Bigger size and weight
  • Long starting lags
  • Worse battery durability
  • Dictaphone manages one-minute records only
  • No vibration

When Nokia presented its first models of the elite N series in April this year, they took many people's breath away. The idea of the Finish manufacturer about this series is to offer mobiles that feature top class-technologies and to provide this way the best possible equipment in a mobile device. As a result of these efforts the new models N91, N90 and N70 were brought to the world. All three models are equipped with the operation system Symbian Series 60 and feature an exceptional variety of functions.

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Nokia N91

The first one constitutes the very top of this Series. The main lure of this device is the built-in hard disk with a capacity of 4 GB. Most of all, this phone is meant to serve music fans. However, it also offers a 2 megapixel camera and a serious amount of functions. The phone has a classic construction with a slide cover keypad, but it is marked by a notably bigger weight and size. On the lowest step of the virtual evaluative ladder is situated the N70 model. Its design could hardly impress most mobile users, but at least, it fits into the weight and size category of most current smart phones. Its target customer group is the one of the most pretentious users, who need a phone combining both work and fun.

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Nokia N70

The futuristic clamshell N90 stands on a step lower than the N91 model. There is no doubt that it will be welcome with excitement by all fans of digital photography. Beside the standard extended functional menu, it also offers a 2 megapixel camera, whose optics pride on the hallmark of Carl Zeiss, the manufacturer, whose optic equipment and lenses made him famous all over the world. Of course, here you will find a memory card slot and also one of the finest displays ever. This last model is the first one to hit the market, so it also was the first to undergo our severe tests.

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Nokia N90 displays all its beauty

We are testing the final version of the phone with firmware V2.0527.2.3 RM-42 (from June 7th, 2005)

Update August 1st: In fact two phones were tested - both with final firmware and in retail package, both phones with no vibration. Let's see if this will end the vibration saga in the opinion section.

A solid piece of phone

Nokia N90 is the second Nokia smart phone, which has a clamshell type construction. The first one was the 6260 model, known for its square body and metal covers. 6260 used to be criticised for its enormous weight and slightly bigger size. In this aspect, however, the new model scores even worse. It weighs the shocking 173 grams, due to which Nokia N90 overruns even big communicators like Sony Ericsson P910i (155 g), for example, or even Nokia 9300 (167 g). As for the size, this mobile is a real "fatty boy". It is 112 mm long, 51 mm wide and 24 mm high.

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Equipment had to be fit somewhere...

Due to its bigger size and weight, N90 is not another small pocket toy anymore. I did not stand this stone in my pocket for a long time and soon it was travelling into my bag. Even though the phone feels quite comfortable in one's hand, the place, from which one's pointing finger usually backs up the phone, is now occupied by the bulgy bed of the camera. As a result, the phone is likely to overweight forwards.

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Unpacking - beside everything else, the box hides a software CD and a data cable

Is this still a clamshell?

Apparently, Nokia engineers felt like letting out the ghost from the bottle when they were working on N90. It has two joints instead of the standard one, opening this way space for a tiny cuboid, on which the camera was mounted. In addition, the camera works on the principle of rotating - if the lens looks to the left, you can turn the camera part to the right up to an angle of 180° or to the left in an angle of 135°. Unfortunately, a full 360° rotation is not possible. Every 90° the camera runs into a lock, which prevents it from possible unwilling rotation.

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Is this a phone at all?

The main display rotates as well. It does so from its standard position to the right only, up to an angle of a little bit over 90°. The display stops in two arresting positions: its basic position and at the end of its rotating move to the right. In addition, there are four locks in the main joints of the phone, which determine the four basic positions of the whole mobile:

1. Phone is closed – both main parts are closed, the camera is aligned to them, which makes the phone look as a cuboid. The camera lens can look to both sides.

2. Camera mode – both main parts are closed, the camera part deflects in such way that the lens can look to the side opposite to the side the outer display looks at. The outer display also serves as a viewfinder of the camera. The camera application is managed through the control buttons placed on the top edge of the device. It starts automatically once the lens part is even slightly turned. The display can also be used as a mirror for self-portraits, provided you direct the camera to the opposite side.

3. Phone is open – main parts are fully open, the camera part gets into a crosswise position (it allows rotating, which does not make the camera application start running automatically). The main control elements here are the main keypad and the main display. All functions of the phone are freely approachable.

4. Camera mode – the top part of the phone gets opened up to a position, in which it contains a right angle together with the bottom part. The main display turns by 90°, the camera lens get set to look to the side, which is opposite to the one the main display looks at. The display itself fulfils the functions of a viewfinder. Having been even slightly turned, the camera application automatically starts running. This mode also allows you to activate the video recording application or view the picture gallery. The main keypad is non-active. The right hand controls both the joystick and the release button on the sideway of the phone, whilst the left hand controls the buttons above the display. This mode is also used for video conversations in 3G networks.

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Holding the phone in a the camera mode

The quality of the construction is superb. Rotating parts smoothly bottom into their resting positions. The moment of locking is accompanied by a muffle click. Everything moves effortlessly, contra reactions are light. Moving parts show no signs of contra will. Even though all mentioned details should be considered relevant and expected from any mobile of such a class and price, Nokia deserves our congratulations. My only uncertainty was awakened by the creaks given out by the cover of the phone's bottom part in the area around the keypad. On the other side, they are not constantly present, but come out under stronger pressure only.

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The joint often resembles a brain-teaser

Manipulations with the phone (AVI, DivX 5.2, 2.8 MB)

Reader comments

  • nokia lover

this is not a bad phone at all.yes it's true:it is very big.but not at all you know, nokia managed to make big phones beautiful.sorry about the battery issues... at this point nokia does seem to be retarded.

  • andre

Yes it's true, it s a piece of art. it has an excellent design in my opinion unlike other phones! still, i think nokia n70 is better than n90. Nokia d best!


sorry my friend but this phone is only a piece of ART.