Living with the Nokia N95

Our reporter put the high-end, feature-packed handset through the rigors for several weeks, and came away mostly pleased

How well does the Nokia (NOK) N95 work? This reporter tested one for about two months, and found it impressive, though with some shortcomings.

The biggest disappointment was the global positioning system, which I tried out in several European cities including Frankfurt, Paris, Vienna, and Barcelona. Invariably the handset took many minutes to pinpoint its location, by which time I had lost patience and pulled out a map. Like all GPS devices, the N95 has trouble picking up a signal in cities where buildings often get in the way. But of course, strange cities are where you most need help finding your way.

In rural areas, you may have the opposite problem. While touring Omaha Beach in Normandy, I thought I might be able to download some historical information about the D-Day landings there. The device picked up the satellite loud and clear but couldn't find a mobile network.

Solid Camera, Music Player

On the plus side, the N95's camera delivered outstanding quality once I got the hang of it. (My 11-year-old daughter was able to master the camera functions almost instantly.) The buttons controlling the shutter and zoom are awkwardly small, which is probably unavoidable on a multifunction device. But otherwise the N95 packs plenty of camera for a casual photographer like myself. I also like the software that replays photos as a slide show, complete with an effect that simulates a camera panning across the scene.

The quality of the music player was as good as any MP3 player I've used, and it was easy to upload CDs using software included with the handset. For my taste, the slide-out music controls are an unnecessary gimmick—the standard Nokia keypad does the job just fine. And I'll still use my iPod Shuffle when I go jogging, simply because it's so much lighter.

The Internet browser works well and is very handy when you want to get information on the go. Yet because of its size, and the lack of a full keyboard, the N95 is still undoubtedly inferior to a PC for Internet browsing.

Fully Loaded

There's a lot more the N95 can do that I never got around to testing out. With the help of software easily available on the Web, the device is capable of connecting to Wi-Fi networks and using the Internet to make phone calls. You can upload photos to Yahoo's (YHOO) Flickr photo sharing site. The N95 even has built-in software for editing video clips.

All in all, the N95 is probably the most feature-packed mobile handset on the planet, says Gartner (IT) analyst Carolina Milanesi. It's not yet a replacement for every digital tool out there, but it's a substantial step in that direction.

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