The Nokia N85 is a classic Nokia Nseries device, which means that it's shaped like a brick and packed with features. Nokia has managed to turn their stodgy old Eseries business phones into drool-worthy, stylish devices, starting with the Nokia E71x, and we hope the company's best designers will turn their attention to these Nseries phones soon. In any case, the Nokia N85 is not an unattractive brick, with curved edges and a glossy black paint job up front, but the design seems a hodge-podge of ideas, with an unappealing two-tone color scheme and loads of unnecessary seams and ridges.
Of course, once you turn on the Nokia N85, you might forget all about the boring design. Nokia phones have always had impressive displays, but the OLED screen on the N85 is among the most attractive phone screens we've seen. The resolution comes up a bit short at 240 by 320 pixels (QVGA), but even the aging Symbian S60 interface looks great on this screen. Text, icons and videos all look dazzling and colorful. The OLED screen is also noticeably brighter than other LCD screens we have in house, while at the same time maintaining deeper blacks for a more vibrant look.
Nokia could have done a better job with buttons and menu navigation on the phone. The Nokia N85 uses a center button with a touch sensitive rim. You can press in 4 directions, or you can circle the metal button with your finger to scroll. Unfortunately, this scrolling action didn't work everywhere on the phone. When it did work, it didn't seem very sensitive, and had a tendency to slow down or jump a bit as we circled the so-called Navi wheel button. Likewise, the buttons on the face could have been designed better. Besides the "Send" and "End" keys, the other buttons on the face jut too close to the edges of the device. A multimedia key seems stuck in the center of the face, an easy place to find it, but not the best design choice.
Call quality on our Nokia N85 review unit was very good in our tests. The North American version uses AT&T's 3G networks for voice and data. Sound quality during calls was top notch. Our callers sounded clean and clear, and they reported the same quality on their end. Battery life was also very good. We were happy, but not blown away, by the 5 hours of talk time we got from the N85, even though that did exceed Nokia's promise of 4.5 hours. What impressed us more was the standby time. Nokia claims the phone can last 2 weeks on standby, but we let the phone sit an extra week and it still held enough of a charge to complete a call. Reception was also solid. The phone reported full bars as we roamed the greater Dallas metro area, and we held onto 3G data reception during our entire test period.
For contacts, we downloaded Nokia's Mail for Exchange app using the Downloads menu on the phone. Though MfE doesn't provide all the features you'll find on a Microsoft Windows Mobile phone, the app did a fine job synchronizing our contacts. If you don't use an Exchange account, the Nokia N85 can also synchronize contacts using the included Nokia PC Suite software. We also like the Log app on the phone, which keeps track of incoming and outgoing communications, including text messages and phone calls.
Otherwise, calling features were a bit mixed. The speakerphone was good, with a clean sound from the N85's stereo speaker, but we wish it could be a bit louder. Voice dialing was a disappointment. Like many Nokia phones, the Nokia N85 just can't get the voice recognition right. We tried again and again, but the speaker-independent app never once chose the right contact to call. For Bluetooth, we paired the Nokia N85 with our Plantronics Voyager Pro, and we were happy to find the Nokia N85 is smart enough to guess the correct PIN for Bluetooth headsets.
With a little push, the Nokia N85 can be a capable messaging device. The phone can send text and multimedia messages, obviously, and it also comes with a basic e-mail app. For more power, we downloaded Mail for Exchange, a free, over-the-air download from Nokia, and synchronized the phone with our Microsoft Exchange e-mail account. We didn't get full Exchange support. The phone couldn't display our Inbox subfolders, for instance.
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