Review: Nokia N79

Andy Betts

The Nokia N79 is another in a long line of candy bar style smartphones from Nokia which emphasises camera and entertainment use among its most important features


The Nokia N79 is another in a long line of candy bar style smartphones from Nokia which emphasises camera and entertainment use among its most important features. There is a definite lean towards the consumer market with colourful snap-on covers making a comeback. These are slightly different, however, and when snapped on, the colour of the theme will change automatically to match. A clever trick, but when you consider that only the back cover can be changed, is it really worth the technology involved?

Specs & info
Price: £305 SIM-free
Operating system: Symbian 9.3 Series 60 3rd Edition (FP2)
Processor: ARM 11, 369 MHz
Memory: 50MB Internal / 4GB MicroSDHC card included
Dimensions: 110mm x 49 mm x 15 mm
Weight: 97g
Display size: 2.4 inches
Display resolution: 240 x 320
Expansion slot: 1 x microSD (supports SDHC)

The screen is bright and clear, but with similar priced Nokia phones including a superior OLED screen, we would like to have seen that included here. On the subject of other Nokia phones, some of these models compete in the same market as the N79 and arguably with better features for a similar price. The N85 is a classic example; it costs £15 more and features the aforementioned OLED screen, an 8GB microSDHC card and a TV-out cable. With this kind of competition, the N79 may feel the squeeze in an already crowded marketplace.

The keys are most definitely a case of design over function, and we struggled to understand why they are so hard to press when situated in a relatively large space. You can use your finger to cycle through onscreen items in a similar way to the classic iPod system, but again we found this to be a hit and miss feature. There are two navigation options provided by the navigation wheel and both are not as easy to use as they could be.

Cameras are always a feature in Nokia phones, and the 5 mega-pixel one in the N79 is no exception. In good lighting the resultant snaps are impressive and we found the close-up mode to produce some highly detailed photos which would rival many standalone digital cameras. Alas, the video recording capability does not reach the standards of the stills side and we felt that it lacked the quality we would usually expect from Nokia, especially when viewed on a larger external screen.

One novel feature is the FM Transmit function which will send music to a pre-set FM channel on a car stereo system. We had it up and running in under a minute and the sound quality was surprisingly rich- this is one feature of the N79 that hits the sweet spot nicely, and one which is sure to appear on many other phones soon.

microUSB is used for synchronisation and the port sits next to a covered microSDHC slot. Both are easy to access, but considering the depth of the N79 maybe miniUSB would have been a better option. There is a very handy lock/unlock switch on top which is a joy to use, unlike the side-mounted volume buttons which are again too flush to use easily when you are in a hurry.

Without doubt the N79 is a fully featured smartphone, and because of this we have not had space to discuss the accelerometer, which is excellent, and the included N-Gage titles. The N79 includes almost everything a mobile phone user would expect in 2009, and the vast majority of owners will be more than happy with the excellent build quality, entertainment features and the usual high call quality standards from Nokia. Those of you who look at phones more closely may feel that the N79 is too similar to some other current Nokia S60 smartphones to stand out, and that the pricing needs to drop fast to give it an advantage.

Essential Verdict
Performance: 8/10
In general the N79 is a speedy and capable smartphone with just enough processing power on board.

Design: 7/10
It will not win any design awards, but it is certainly not ugly. The keys are a case of design over function sadly.

Features: 7/10
In almost every area this is a typical Symbian S60 phone with a couple of extras thrown in.

Value for Money: 6/10
The price needs to come down to stop other phones such as the N82 and N85 affecting sales.

Overall score: 7/10
A capable smartphone which will appeal to the consumer market, but is it different enough to really succeed?

Review originally published in Smartphone & PDA Essentials magazine. Words by Sandra Vogel.

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