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Nokia’s History of clamshell smartphones has been quite predictable: All of them are large in size. Not only that, almost all of them had some funky twisting function that somehow reminds me of the Transformers. Just look at the 6260, N90, N93 and N93i, all large phones with the upper part of the clamshell that either turns or does something that can only be described as Transformer-like. While the N71 couldn’t twist its screen it was what could be considered gigantic.

I’m sure they could have created thin smartphones from the start, but I suspect that for a long time their design philosophy behind these devices in general was aiming for austere looking phones with functionality above design. This of course meant not taking the thin route that a lot of manufacturers were taking. This also meant that to house all those features, the final product would end up a bit larger than normal. Another deciding factor was the general image that people (and Nokia I suppose) have about smartphones: that smartphones are devices with a big screen, sometimes QWERTY keyboards and large dimension like the E61i, N93 and Blackberry phones. When skinny clamshells like the Motorola Razr were all the rage, Nokia released bulky (albeit feature-wise superior) clamshell smartphones.

The sales of these smartphones were good, but just couldn’t match the numbers of the Razr. Most users just tended to go for the more stylish and thin phone, sacrificing a lot features for a svelte device. So it came as a big surprise when Nokia released the N76, its thinnest phone yet and it’s a smartphone! Have they managed to find the perfect blend of style and functionality? Read on to find out.

General

3G Internet in a Beautiful Package

Surf the Internet in landscape on a 2.4″ up to 16M color display

Your favorite Internet services in your pocket including Amazon and more

Find what you need with Mobile Search

Use Download! to personalize your N76 to your daily needs

Send & automatically receive e-mails with attachments

One-Touch Music

Control music and FM radio without opening the product with dedicated music and volume controls

Listen with compatible 3.5 mm headphones

Take up to 1500 songs* with you on optional 2GB micro-SD card

Download and play WMDRM protected music

One-Touch Imaging

Landscape capture without opening the product

Dedicated capture keys

Easy review and edit

Share with your friends & family

Record the memories forever – print

Keep your precious memories safe – backup

Dimensions

Volume: 70 cc

Weight: 115 g

Length: 106.5 mm

Width: 52 mm

Thickness: 13.7 mm

Memory Functions

Up to 26 MB internal memory

microSD memory card support (hot swappable)

Approx. memory capacity indication with 1GB microSD card:

Video (QVGA @ 15fps ): up to 250 min

Photos (2 megapixel) : up to 2200 photos

Music (AAC): up to 750 tracks

Operating times

Talk time: up to 120 minutes (WCDMA) / up to 165 minutes (GSM) [estimates]

Standby: up to 8.5 days (WCDMA) / up to 8.5 days (GSM) [estimates]

Video call time: up to 75 minutes [estimates]

Music playback time: up to 8 hours (offline mode) [estimates]

Form and Function

Landscape capture without opening the product

Dedicated capture keys

Easy review and edit

Share with your friends & family

Record the memories forever – print

Keep your precious memories safe – backup

Displays & User Interface

Main display: large bright 2.4 inch QVGA (240 x 320 pixels) TFT with up to 16 million colors

Cover display: 1.36 inch color display (160 x 128 pixels) TFT with up to 262,144 colors

Operating system: S60 software on Symbian OS

User Interface: S60 3rd Edition

Additional technical specifications

Internal vibrating alert

Dual-mode: WCDMA2100/EGSM850/900/1800/1900 MHz or EDGE only: EGSM850/900/1800/1900 MHz.

Speech codecs supported: AMR/FR/EFR/HR

WCDMA 2100 MHz with simultaneous voice and packet data (PS max speed DL/UL= 384/384kbps, CS max speed 64kbps)

Dual Transfer Mode (DTM) support for simultaneous voice and packet data connection in GSM/EDGE networks. Simple class A, multi slot class 11, max speed DL/UL: 118.4/118.4 kbits/s

EGPRS class B, multi slot class 32, (5 Rx + 3 Tx / Max Sum 6 ), max speed DL/UL= 296 / 177.6 kbits/s.

GPRS class B, multi slot class 32 (5 Rx + 3 Tx / Max Sum 6), max speed DL/UL= 107 / 64.2 kbits/s.

Accessories

Data

Nokia Connectivity Cable (DKE-2) (in-box)

Nokia 128 MB MicroSD card MU-26, Nokia 256 MB MicroSD card MU-27, Nokia 512 MB MicroSD card MU-28, Nokia 1 GB MicroSD card MU-22, Nokia 2 GB MicroSD card MU-37

Power

Nokia Battery (BL-4B) 700mAh (in-box), Nokia Compact Charger (AC-3), Nokia Travel Charger (AC-4) (in-box), Nokia Charging Adapter (CA-44)

Wired headsets

Nokia Stereo Headset (HS-43 (in-box)),

Nokia Music Headset (HS-45/AD-43),

Nokia Headset (HS-41)

Nokia Stereo Headset (HS-48)

Wireless headsets

Nokia Wireless Headset HS-4W

Nokia Wireless Headset HDW-3

Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-800

Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-900

Nokia Wireless Headset HS-26W

Nokia Wireless Headset HS-11W

Nokia Wireless Clip-on Headset HS-21W

Nokia Wireless Headset HS-36W

Nokia Wireless Headset HS-37W

Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-700

Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-200

Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-300

Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-600

Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-301

Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-302

Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-801

Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-202

Loopsets

TTY adapter HDA-12

Messaging

Nokia Wireless Keyboard SU-8W

Nokia Digital Pen SU-1B, Nokia Digital Pen SU-27W

Music

Nokia Music Headphones HS-61, Nokia Advanced Music Headphones HS-62, Nokia Mini Speakers MD-4, Nokia Music Speakers MD-3

Positioning

Nokia Wireless GPS module LD-3W

Nokia Wireless GPS module LD-1W

Car

NokiaWireless Plug-in Car Handsfree HF-6W, Nokia Wireless Plug-in Car Handsfree HF-35W, Nokia Wireless Plug-in Car Handsfree HF-33W

Nokia Advanced Car Kit CK-7W, Nokia Multimedia Car Kit CK-20W

Nokia 616 Car Kit

Nokia Universal Holder CR-39, Nokia Holder easy mount HH-12

Nokia Mobile Charger DC-4, Nokia GPS Module LD-2

Imaging

Main Camera

Sensor: CMOS, 2 megapixel (1600×1200 pixels)

Focal length: 4.4 mm

Mobile Photography

Still Image resolutions: up to 2 megapixel: 1600×1200 pixels

Still image file format: JPEG/EXIF

Fixed focus

Exposure compensation

White Balance: Automatic, Tungsten, Daylight, Fluorescent

Scene: Auto, user defined, portrait, landscape, sports, night portrait, night mode

Color tone: Normal, Sepia, B&W, Negative

Flash: Auto, Off, On, Red-eye reduction

Digital zoom: Up to 20x

Mobile Video

Video capture: up to QVGA at 15 fps

Video playback: up to QVGA at 15 fps

Audio recording: AAC

Video clip length: limited by available memory

Video file format: .mp4 (high) , .3gp (normal, MMS)

White balance: Automatic, Tungsten, Daylight, Fluorescent

Scene: Auto, night

Digital zoom: Up to 4x

Camera Specifications

LED flash and recording indicator LED

Sub camera, CIF+ (384 x 320) sensor

Edit

On device photo editor and video editor (manual & automatic).

Home photo editing on compatible PC with Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition

View

Main display: large bright 2.4 inch QVGA (240 x 320 pixels) TFT with up to 16 million colors

Ambient light detector – used to optimize display

Cover display : 1.36 inch color display (160 x 128 pixels) TFT with up to 262,144 colors

brightness and power consumption

Share

Video call and video sharing support (WCDMA services)

Online album: image/video uploading from gallery

Store

Comes with Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition

Nokia Lifeblog

Music

Music Features

Digital music player: supports MP3/AAC/eAAC/eAAC+/WMA with playlists and equalizer

Dedicated music keys

WMDRM support for music, OMA DRM 2.0 support for music and video

Stereo FM radio (87.5-108MHz)

Integrated handsfree speaker

Nokia Stereo Headset HS-43, inbox

Visual Radio

Listen to music and interact with your favorite radio stations

Find out what song is playing, who sings it, and other artist information

Enter contests and answer surveys, vote for your favorite songs

Explore

Productivity

Messaging: E-mail (SMTP, IMAP4, POP3), MMS, SMS

Office applications: Supports viewing of common email attachments – Word, Spreadsheet, Presentation, PDF, ZIP

PIM ( Personal information management ): Contacts, Calendar, To-do, Notes, Recorder, Calculator, Clock, Converter

Synchronization: Local/Remote (using SyncML) (Microsoft Windows 2000, XP)

Data: Calendar, Contacts, To-do, Notes, E-mail

PC applications: Microsoft Outlook (2000, 2002, 2003), Outlook Express, Lotus Organizer (5.0, 6.0), Lotus Notes (5.0, 6.0)

Call Management

Call logs, speed dial, voice dialing and commands

Nokia Push to talk (PoC)

Connectivity

Mini-USB with USB 2.0 full speed (up to 12Mbits/second)

Bluetooth wireless technology 2.0 (up to 3Mbits/second)

Video

Multimedia player (RealPlayer)

Stream media files from compatible media portals

Support for MP3/AAC/AAC+/eAAC+/WMA with playlists and equalizer

Package Contents

Standards Sales Package Contents

Nokia N76

Nokia Connectivity Cable (DKE-2)

Nokia Battery (BL-4B) 700mAh

Nokia Travel Charger (AC-4)

Nokia Classic stereo headset with new Nokia A/V 3.5mm (HS-43

The Nokia N76

The Nokia N76 is a Dual mode WCDMA and Quadband GSM (EGSM900, GSM850/1800/1900 MHz or EDGE only: EGSM850/900/1800/1900 MHz.) smartphone sporting the Symbian OS. To be exact, it uses the S60 3rd edition Feature Pack 1 UI on top of the Symbian v9.2 operating system. Form factor-wise the N76 is without any doubt a pretty traditional clamshell with the now familiar external screen and music controls. The device is available in just two colors: Jet Black and Metallic Red and is the 8th available N7X device (including N70, N70 ME, N71, N72, N73, N73 ME, N75 and N77) in Nokia’s multimedia Nseries line. The N76 and the US-targeted N75 are feature-wise identical, except for the US 3G available on the N75. Typically Nokia uses models in the N9x family as flagship phones to pioneer new features. This was the case of the N90 (2 megapixels, autofocus, flip-twist design), N91(multi-gigabyte hard drive, high music quality,3.5mm audio jack), N92 (DVB-H mobile TV standard, flip-swivel design), N93/i (flip-swivel design, VGA video quality, 3.2 megapixel, optical zooming) and N95 (GPS, slide design with hidden keys). It’s only later on that they pass this technology to more mainstream phones with the N7X designation. The N76 mostly follows these rules as it doesn’t pioneer any new feature and includes those that have already been introduced in the N9X line. There is just one exception to this rule: The N76 is the first Nokia Nseries smartphone with a new slim design. This might not seem like much, especially since many phones like the Razr are already thin. But the fact that they managed to cram many features and smartphone functionality in a package thinner than a Motorola Razr is quite an impressive feat by itself.

The Unboxing: Package/Design

The N76 I received was a Jet Black Nokia USA “Made in China” model. The N76 is also available in Metallic Red. Taking a closer look at the box I can see that the same new printed design that was used on the N93i and EURO/US N95 is again used on the N76’s box. Basically it’s decorated with geometric shapes and is colored in a light grayish-pink. Nothing against pink, but Nokia’s decision to use this color in their entire line of high-end devices seems a bit odd. (With the launch N81and N95 8GB, black and blue seem to be their new color of choice) So what’s in the box? The standard retail package includes:

-Nokia N76

-Nokia Connectivity Cable (DKE-2)

-Nokia Battery (BL-4B) 700mAh

-Nokia Travel Charger (AC-4)

-Nokia Classic stereo headset with new Nokia A/V 3.5mm (HS-43)

Also included in the package was a 1 GB (MU-22) microSD card, but as always the capacity may vary from region to region. While Nokia states that the N76 can use up to 2GB cards, it’s now confirmed that the N76 is one of the few microSDHC compatible devices and should work with the latest 4GB microSDHC cards like those from Sandisk or Nokia’s own MU-41 microSDHC cards. I recently received a 4GB microSDHC card from Sandisk and it works just fine in the N76. This makes it the third Nokia device including the N95 and E90 to support microSDHC: upcoming 6 and even 8GB cards will also be supported. Nokia should better inform users next time and not keep silent about such a sought-after feature. But it’s nice to know that these are a handful of phones on the market with SDHC support. I’m also happy to see that again Nokia has included a generous 1GB card with the package, something that seems to have become standard now in all their latest phones. Maybe it’s time to include 2GB cards now Nokia? The package is typical Nseries, but of course lacks things like the TV-out cable found on the more expensive N95. I consider the package to be good enough, only things really missing here are a protective pouch/ leather case and a cleaning cloth. The N76 has a beautiful finish that will need some care to keep it looking good, that’s why Nokia should have at least added a pouch/leather case to protect it and a cloth to keep the screen and front looking spotless. It’s kind of odd that they didn’t include a cleaning cloth or case, especially since I doubt that these accessories would add much to the overall price and since other products like the N93 and N95 include such useful accessories.

Picking up the N76 for the first time reveals something totally unexpected, particularly coming from such a thin device: it feels absolutely solid and well- built. With its thin dimension it’s a treat to hold. The N76 gives the impression of consisting of just two thin metal parts that are attached in the center. No unwanted moving parts, no squeaks! Compared the higher-end N95, the N76 wins hand down, besting even the N800 or N91. Popping the battery cover of was really difficult and almost felt as if I was going to break the device. Once the battery cover is of it clearly shows that Nokia has used every single space available. To achieve a package this thin obviously some changes had to be made. This affected both the battery size and the way the SIM card is held into place. The BL-4B Li-Ion battery used is thinner and smaller then those normally found in other Nseries smarphones. Its smaller volume also equates to a smaller capacity of just 700 mAh which is a notch below average. Their have been concerns about the battery not having enough capacity. From my experience it’s clear that with heavy usage the battery will not last a full day. If you’ve ever used N95 you’ll know that it also has a poor battery life. The N76 is just a notch better even with its lower capacity battery, this expected since the N76 lacks the HSDPA, WIFI, GPS and other battery hungry features. The SIM card is inserted in an untraditional way: it’s first placed in a yellow drawer and is then inserted into the body. For those that frequently like to swap out SIM cards this could be a bit of an annoyance. For me this was no trouble at all as I barely have the need to take out the SIM card. From a design perspective I do understand that some changes had to be made to keep the device as thin as possible and the situation with the SIM card holder is an understandable one.

The design looks stunning with its metallic accents and front mirror. The material used on the N76 feels like metal, when it fact it’s not. It’s amazing how they managed to make plastic look and feel the part, the solid feel of the device also helps to conceal this fact. The mirror effect used in front is similar to the one found on the N93i and does a fairly good job in hiding the outer screen when it’s off. For the ladies it could very well double as a vanity mirror. Strangely enough the outer screen has good visibility outdoors even though it’s behind a mirror. While using the N76 outdoors I found one small problem: due to its high reflectivity there’s sometimes a lot of glare. This only happens when it directly reflects the sun’s rays, when it’s in an indirect angle it doesn’t. Thankfully you don’t have to look at the screen to change tracks as it has conveniently placed front music controls. The larger inner screen’s visibility outdoors is not that good and is a shame since Nokia’s own N95 and N93 have excellent outdoor visibility. The N93i also suffered from in outdoor conditions. Indoors the large screen is bright and looks stunning placed on such a thin device, it’s as if the screen and body are one piece. While the mirror effect looks nice I do feel that the targeted audience is not the type that would keep cleaning the device. Coupled with the fact that the mirror takes a big junk of the front, you’ll pretty easily end up with a device that doesn’t look so good due to countless finger print smudges. While a mirrored look is all the rage these days, I just don’t think such a design element is right for real-world usage. While phone aficionados like me will keep polishing their phone throughout the day, most users won’t. Next time it would be best to trade-in some style for materials that could withstand real-world usage. There have been reports of the paint peeling of with time. I’ve used the N76 for a long time (without a case) and I’m happy to report that the paint is still in perfect condition. These reported cases where the paint started to peal are probably isolated cases, it could very well be due to misuse.

The overall design is very Razr-like and without doubt Nokia has taken some designs elements like the flat keys and hump at the bottom from Motorola’s popular device, but personally I find the N76 to have its own unique character and it looks a lot more stylish too. The keypad is better then what I expected, although the selection does feel a bit cramped. In the end I still prefer larger raised buttons with more tactile feedback. When it comes to keypads, the N93 still has one of the best I’ve seen so far. Overall the N76’s keys do provide just enough tactile feedback to keep me happy, but just barely. While there’s a lot to like, like the excellent built-quality, thin design and good looks there also a few things that I wasn’t too crazy about such as the battery life, difficult-to-get-of battery cover and especially the fact that it’s a finger print magnet. The inner screen is very reflective outdoors, taking away from an otherwise good screen. Seeing how the N95 and N93 perform outdoors it’s a shame how the N93i and N76 perform like they do. They should also consider adding a cleaning cloth and protective pouch/case to the package.

Pictures

Pictures: Hardware

By today’s standards the N76 has a pretty decent, but average camera: this has to do with it’s placement as a “mainstream” device in the Nseries line. 5 Megapixel cameras are reserved for the top solutions while 3.2 megapixel devices generally are high-end mobile solutions from the previous generation. This leaves the bulk of the Nseries with 2 megapixel cameras, with the N73 being the only exception. The N76 has a 2 Megapixel (1600×1200 pixels) main camera that is placed on the back of the lower half of the clamshell. The camera uses a CMOS sensor which typically is known for their high noise immunity and low static power drain. This makes it perfect for usage in a mobile device. The camera has a focal length of 4.4 mm and lacks any kind of auto-focusing found in other Nseries phones. Considering the placement of the N76 this is expected from such a solution. Just like the N95, it too lacks any optical zooming like the N93 and N93i, this is predictable as achieving a thin profile with optical zooming is not exactly an easy task and would surely increase the price and overall size. The camera uses a LED flash that is placed in close proximity to the lens. I initially thought that having a flash so close to the lens would somehow have an adverse effect on the pictures, but test shots proved this to be false. The performance of the built-in LED flash is below that of the Xenon-type, but test shots proved that in most cases it will be enough. It’s only in really dark conditions or in scenes where the subject is placed at a distance greater then 2 meter is where the LED technology starts to show its limitation. To achieve better performance Nokia should consider moving to Xenon flashes as those found in Sony Ericsson’s Cybershot phones. The actual lens is recessed in the body behind a clear plastic cover. I dislike this solution as this leaves the glass cover out in the open, ready to be smudged or scratched. A mechanical cover would have been much better. There’s also a front mounted camera with a CIF+ (384 x 320) sensor. All that’s visible is an almost undetectable circle. People I showed it too were amazed and where looking for this “magical hidden camera”. The main camera is activated by pressing the camera button on the left side. You can take pictures with the clamshell open in a horizontal position or just close the clamshell and use the external display as a viewfinder. In this last position the N76 really feels like a digital camera, but I just wish the external screen was a bit bigger. I found that it worked perfect but just don’t expect to see much detail on the external screen. If you do want more detail, then you’d be better of using the inner screen. With the clamshell closed, a thin profile and a lens placed all the way on the right (instead of center) it bares a strong resemblance to Sony’s T-series line of compact digital cameras. The time it takes for the camera to activate and images to be processed and saved is much quicker then even the more powerful N95 (with its dual CPU). This could be due to the fact that the N76 has a single core, but running at a much higher 369MHz. We also have to consider however that we’re dealing with 2 megapixel images instead of 5megapixel on the N95, as 5 meg images will take much longer to be saved and processed.

What about image quality? The N76 takes images that are in the same league as those produced by the N70, which produced impressive 2 megapixel images with lots of detail. I compared it to the N70 because I still consider it and the N90 as benchmarks in the 2 megapixel category. The N76’s pictures can be best described as those from the N70 with much more aggressive edge enhancement and noise reduction. I’m pleased that these aren’t aggressively applied like on the N73, but there are some cases where it could be toned down a bit .It produces good looking pic with pleasing colors, but this comes at the cost of color fidelity and detail. The images look vibrant, but this has more to do with the image processing applied. It’s no secret that people are known to prefer vibrant colors eventhough this is far from the real thing. The N70 and N90 still have the edge as they produce clean images without the need for aggressive post-processing. Noise reduction on the N76 actually works really well in dark conditions but during the day it comes at the cost of details. Overall I’m pretty happy with the images, but I do think that the image processing can be toned down a bit. The N70 still produces better images, but it’s a pretty close one.

Sample Picture 1

Sample Picture 2

Sample Picture 3

Pictures: Software

The display is used as the viewfinder and by default shows on the left the current capture mode (video or picture) and the memory being used (memory card or device memory) and the amount of pictures you can take based on the amount of storage you have left.There’s also an image resolution indicator that shows the image quality used. Unlike the N95, there’s no “Focus Bracket” in the middle of the display as there’s no auto-focus. Due to the lack of this feature there’s no half-press action to be found on the capture key. The process of auto-focusing by itself takes some time, in this case it is removed and all you need to do is press a button and the image will be taken. On the right we can find the options menu or we can exit. Exiting will give you the menu oriented in Portrait mode. Due to its multitasking abilities you can hit the menu key to temporarily “minimize” the camera to perform other tasks. You could be downloading things in the background or performing similar tasks like for example play you favorite mp3 while adjusting the camera settings, try to do that on your digital camera! The music is paused a few minutes to let you hear the fake shutter sound.

After the picture is taken the music resumes. On the right side we can find the Active toolbar; this is very similar to what’s found on current digital cameras and I must say that Nokia really has managed to get the menu right, bearing a strong resemblance to the menu system used by my Canon Powershot digital camera. The active toolbar is comprehensive and serves as a way to quickly change the most used options before taking a picture. The play button next to the shutter button is used as a way to toggle between video and picture mode. The first option on the active toolbar is the scene mode that allows you to select predefined scenes that automatically adjust the settings to get the best shot in a preset scene, there’s: auto, user defined, close-up mode (macro), portrait, landscape, sports, night and night portrait. Going back to the active toolbar you can adjust the flash accordingly to automatic, on, red-eye reduction and off. There’s also a sequence mode that you can set to burst which takes 6 shots at a rate of about 1.5 frames per second. Faster then say the N95. Just like a camera both exposure compensation and white balance settings. The white balance can be set to Auto, sunny, cloudy, incandescent and fluorescent. What other options can we find on the active toolbar? The color tone can be adjusted (normal, sepia, b&w, vivid and negative) and ISO. Comparing it to the N95 both contrast and sharpness are missing. I’m also happy to find the ability to set the ISO, something I asked for when using the N80 and N93/i. Just like the N73 it has found its way on the N95 and N76, interestingly they don’t give you the ISO values, but just let you choose between high, medium, low or automatic. Besides the user selectable options on the active toolbar you can go into the option and then settings to find the image settings. In here you can adjust the image quality anywhere from 2 megapixel to 0.3 Megapixel, add image to album, set if captured images are displayed after they are taken, set the default image name by date or text, change the camera shutter sound, select the memory to be used to store images, rotate images and finally restore camera settings to factory defaults.

If this reminds you of imaging part of my N95 review, you’d be absolutely right. The camera menu is almost identical to the on the N95, which is good not only good for the consumer, but also for us reviewers?. This uniformity in menu should help getting a new phone a much easier experience.

Now I’d like to take say a few words about the camera functionality using the external display as a way to frame your shot. Personally I expected limited functionality while using the external screen. I was impressed and surprised at the same time when I found out that all options and settings are available while using the external screen. I have noticed that Nokia has been gradually making external screens as a true inner screen replacement. This is an area that they should continue to improve, again making the external screen bigger and dropping the mirror is a good start. Extra point for the added functionality.

The Camera menu looks a lot like the one on the N95, which in turn looks similar to those found on most point-and-shoot digital camera. This clearly indicates that Nokia has put an impressive amount of user-configurable options in these mobile devices and can be considered the most advanced in the mobile world. The only other camera menu system that is equally as advanced are those found in Sony Ericson’s Cybershot line of mobile phones. The solution from these two companies can be considered the most advanced. I was equally impressed by the speed of which the camera operates and the surprising amount of functionality added to the external display’s UI. It’s safe to say that every option found on the inner screen can be adjusted using the external screen. Only thing I could ask for is if they could give us the real ISO level instead naming them “high” or “low”. As these cameras get more advanced I also hope that Nokia would consider adding user selectable shutterspeed and aperture value.

To conclude the imaging section I can conclude that the N76 produces good quality pictures that remind me of the N70 which can still be considered as the benchmark in 2 megapixels mobile phone cameras. The N70 still has the upper hand due to the N76’s more aggressive image processing and noise levels. The LED flash performs admirably, but it’s time for Nokia to move to Xenon technology. The N76 lacks any auto-focus or optical zooming, but this has more to do as a more mainstream device. This was also a necessary step to achieve it’s thinness. The N76 has a pretty advanced camera menu and looks identical to the one found on other Nseries devices making the learning curve shorter. The N76 is still a smartphone and has the ability to multi-task while using the camera. It’s also is much faster then the N95 in processing images, but this could be due to the fact that files are much smaller in size. Pretty unual for camera phones is the amount of functionality added to the external screen: you can change just about every menu options. Only thing I could ask for is if they could give us the real ISO level instead naming them “high” or “low”. As these cameras get more advanced I also hope that Nokia would consider adding user selectable shutterspeed and aperture value. In the imaging department the N76 shows an admirable feature set and performance with no real negative points, but small things that could be improved.

Video

I’m going to keep it short it when it comes to the N76’s video capabilities. Basically it records pretty average video characterized by good low-light performance. It captures video at a pretty standard QVGA resolution at 15 fps. The resolution should be enough for some quick video for usage on blogs or to send as short email attachments. But those more serious about video should consider the N95 or N93i.

Music: Hardware

Considering its musical abilities, the N76 could very well be an XpressMusic certified model, but officially it’s not. This is strange as these certified devices are known for: dedicated music controls, 3.5mm audio jack, support for a wide range of audio formats and transfer music through various wired and wireless connections. The N76 clearly seems to adhere to and even surpass these requirements. My guess is that they are reserving this name for purely music-based phones like the 5300 Xpressmusic. It kind of makes sense as smartphones like N76 are not only about music but can be considered as “all-rounders.” Even though it’s not XpressMusic certified it still has all the features of a true modern music (smart) phone: 3.5 jack, music controls, ability to create on-the-fly playlist, pausing the music when you receive a call and auto resume after a call, support for USB 2.0, OMA DRM, support for a wide range of audio formats and even microSDHC support.

I really like the presence of the media keys, but the implementation of these keys on the N95 is much better. On the latter model you can start the music player in the background and start playing the last accessed song just by pressing the play button. The music can be controlled from any other app without ever having to open the music player. Unlike the N95, the N76’s Media keys are only accessible when the clamshell is closed, this limits the use of the keys while doing other tasks. When closed, the N76 is pretty much limited to be being used as a music player or digital camera. This limitation is obviously due to the clamshell form factor, but if Nokia somehow manages to add full menu and app functionality to the outer screen these keys could prove to be even more useful. The microSDHC support is another big plus, this basically means that N76 can support the latest 4GB microSDHC cards or even the upcoming 8GB models which comes down to tons of music! This also means that the N76 could rival the latest N95 8GB or N81 8GB in storage capacity with the added convenience of being able to swap out cards. This is something that some of these latest models lack. But the biggest selling point of N76 is without doubt the 3.5 mm jack. I just can’t stress how useful this feature is. Unlike the iPhone the N76 does allow you to use just about any standard headphones, this means you could swap the ones included in the package for high-end models, which is exactly what I did (More on this later on). This is a huge improvement when you look at Nokia’s previous clamshell offerings like the N93/i which needed Nokia branded audio adapters to use third party headphones. Included in the package are the Nokia HS-43 stereo headset . The audio quality from the included stereo headphones is just “ok” and should do the job just fine. But I would recommend getting better headphones to get the most out of the N76. Of course you could always unplug all the earphone or adapters and just use the earpiece.

A loudspeaker is placed on the bottom part of the N76. The divider made a lot of people think that this is a stereo solution when in fact it’s a single driver. The speaker is not as loud as the one found on the N95, but surprisingly performs better in the lower tones. With the latest firmware the N76 now adds support for the A2DP wireless Bluetooth standard. The standard provides enough bandwidth to wirelessly push enough data to sound close and in some cases even beating wired headphones. The experience is wonderful, but will drain the battery pretty fast. The best audio quality is without any doubt achieved using a wired connection through the 3.5mm jack. I recently compared the audio quality of the N800, N95 and N76 while suing the built-in speakers and the audio output quality using high-end Etymotic passive noise canceling earphones. This should give you an idea how the N76 stacks up against the N800 and N95. While doing a MP3 player review I decided to put the N76, N95 and N800 through the same test to see which one would come on top. It’s no secret that the N91 is still the best in terms of audio quality, but what about the rest? Armed with the fairly high-end Etymotic ER4-P and my ears I listened to everything from Pop to Jazz using the Ety’s through the 3.5mm jack. I also did some listening using each device’s built-in speakers. Before the test I pretty much expected the N95 to come out on top, but in the end I was kind of surprised with the results. Starting of with the earphones/3.5mm jack combo, it was from the beginning quite apparent that both the N76 and N95 had a faint hiss that was present whenever a button was pressed. As I speculated before this could be due to poor audio samples used to create the sound effect for the key press. This hiss could not be heard during the actual audio playback. The N800 on the other hand exhibited no hissing, neither during playback nor when doing a button press. From my subjective listening I concluded that both the N95 and N800 had good volume, but needed just a bit more volume for certain songs with a lower audio volume. Overall quality for both these two devices was good. The N95 had a characteristically more aggressive attack, while the N800 sounded more laid back. The aggressive sound of the N95 could very well be due to the fact that it emphasizes a lot more on the higher frequencies. The N800 sounded much more neutral with no apparent emphasis on any frequency range, but the base was clearly more defined then the N95. In the end they do sound similar and only through very critical listening can these differences be heard. The clear winner was the N76 with enough volume headroom to match its sonic output. Several times I had to compare the N76 to other devices using the same song to make sure that what I was listening was true. I just couldn’t believe that N76 was beating the higher-end N95. Its sound has a lot in common with the N91, which is a good thing, but overall the N91 wins due to more volume headroom and less “strain”. If you listen closely to the N76 you’ll hear that it soundsl slightly “on the edge” when really pushed. The N91 on the other hand will happily drive most earphones without any apparent strain, even at higher volumes. The N76 exhibited a meaty sound that was very pleasant overall. The N800 does have a slight edge when it comes to detail. The N76 is the clear winner here. When it comes to the N95 and the N800, the N800 has a slight edge due to its neutral sound and more defined base. It also is the best, in terms of audio detail.

Listening to the built-in speakers reveals that N95 is the loudest of the three, while the N76 has the least volume . In terms of volume the N800 sits right in the middle of the two. The N95 will happily fill a room with quite a bit of sound, but again there’s an emphasis on the mids and highs with no real low frequencies to speak of. The N76 sounded throaty; this helped the mids and showed better low frequency performance. In turn it showed a slightly recessed performance in the higher frequencies. The N95 clearly has the upper hand when compared to the N76. The clear winner here is the N800 which offers fairly good volume and lots of details. It offered details that was lost when listening using the N95 or N76. I just wish the N800’s volume could go little higher though. Based on my subjective listening the N76 wins when using 3.5mm jack, while N800 wins when you want to use the built-in speakers.

Music:Software

The Music player is pretty similar to the updated one found on the N95. To get an in-depth review of the music player, have a look at the Mega N95 review. The only real difference is that just like the N73 Music edition the music player can’t be closed. On phones with limited RAM like the N95 this wouldn’t matter, but on the N76 there’s tons of RAM so it wouldn’t really make much of a difference. With a single press of the menu button the music player is instantly recognizable. Having it always has it benefits and I’m not going to hold this against the N76, but Nokia should consider making the “always on” feature of the N76’s music player an option.

The N76’s truly shines as a music phone with the added plus of being a smartphone: 3.5 jack, music controls, ability to create on-the-fly playlist, pausing the music when you receive a call and auto resume after a call, support for USB 2.0, OMA DRM, support for a wide range of audio formats, A2DP and even microSDHC. The N76 provides excellent audio quality through the 3.5mm besting the N95! The speaker used on the N76 is single driver and are not stereo speakers. The built-in speaker’s performance is characterized by it’s good performance but lacks some volume headroom found on the N95. It surpised me that it performed better in the lower tones, but this comes at the cost of more recessed sounding higher tones. The music software on the N76 is the same found on updated 3rd edition Feature Pack 1devices like the N95. One difference is that the music app cannot be closed, but this doesn’t affect the overall performance and there’s tons of RAM available. This makes multi-tasking with music possible, something that can’t be said about the flagship N95. All is not perfect with the N76 as it too has the faint hiss found on the N95. Once the music starts playing the hiss does go away. Also the N76can’t be fully opened with headphones plugged in the 3.5mil jack. But all-in-all the N76 performs exceptionally well in the music category and should be one of the main reasons to get this device.

It’s a smartphone! S60 inside

For obvious reasons, many will compare the N76 to the Razr, but the thing is the Razr is just a “dumb” phone with no smarphone features. The N76 is a smartphone with a full blown browser, including the ability to install apps, multi-task, cut and paste. If you consider the amount of technology and features stuffed in such an extremely thin device you’ll start to appreciate the N76. The idea of building such a phone, even if it doesn’t have the high-end specs of the N95 is a very ambitious task. And I must admit that looking at the N76 you would never expect it to be a fully featured smartphone. The N76 uses the S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 UI on the Symbian OS (v9.2). It feels very speedy and even beats the N95 in this area. Putting it next to a N95 shows that it can sometimes open apps a few seconds quicker! This is impressive considering the N95 was pretty speedy for a smartphone. A quick check at the N76’s specs reveals a possible reason: It sports a single CPU running at an impressive 369MHz compared to the N95’s dual CPU running at 332MHz. Another impressive fact about the N76 is that it has a total of 96MB of SDRAM, with about 40+MB being available after boot. Even the flagship N95-1 (Classic N95) sports a mere 64 MB with only 18MB being available after booting. I’m happy that Nokia finally learned this lesson and is now equipping even mid-end devices like the N76 with oodles of RAM. This makes the N76 perfect for multi-tasking allowing you to leave all your apps open and just switch between them at your heart’s content. This is much quicker then opening apps and hope that they’ll stay open (In the case of the N95 Classic). Of course being a FP1 device, the N76 is fully backwards compatible with all S60 3rd edition apps. The menu seems to be more logically arranged and there are notable enhancement like showing what apps are open (small circles appear next to the open app) and the floating bar in the browser. I’m happy that Firmware-Over-The-Air, a much touted S60 3rd edition FP 1 feature has made its way on the N76.

The N95’s smartphone abilities are similar to the N76, save for the extra RAM that really improves the amount of apps you can have open at the same time. To give you an idea what the N76 is all about I’ll use a small paragraph I wrote some time ago for the N80 review, but it’s still applies to current phones like the N76 and N95: “My PC broke down the other day so that gave me a good chance to really use all the features. With the N70 I knew what it could do but didn’t bother to use it all, but with the N80 I decided I will use everything at once: I turned my router on and of course was connected very quickly as it automatically connects and scans for available connections. I fired up the music player and setup a play list to play in the background, in the mean times I also opened the browser and went to hotmail to check my mail. I also started Agile Messenger to do some chatting, I took my Logitech diNovo keyboard (Yes it’s a Bluetooth PC keyboard, not mentioned that it is for use with mobile phones) connected it using the wireless keyboard app, and in no time I was surfing and chatting using the Bluetooth keyboard while I played songs in the background. At the same time I was downloading some podcasts for listening later on. Thhis is all very impressive. The second thing I like about the S60 platform is the ability to literally add the features you want, hence the S60 slogan: open to new features. On a PC you install programs to add functionally, right? Well with S60 based phones it’s the same thing. There is this huge library of both free and pay apps available online made and supported by the very active S60 community. There is literally an app for any task you could think of. Let me give some examples. If you want to make free Skype calls there’s the wonderful (and free) Fring app. There are various IM clients like IM+ or Agile messenger. Or how about an app to track your daily work out? For that there is the Nokia Sports tracker. Or maybe you are more interested in astronomy? For that there’s an app called Micrsoky that can show you the sky with points-of-interest, while also being able to sync with a GPS module to pint-point your exact coordinates. There even a widget app called Widsets. There are literally thousands of apps available. Worth mentioning is also the ability to just like a PC to copy, cut and paste throughout the operating system and open apps.”

Connectivity

The N76 lacks all the latest internet connectivity options offered by the N95, the most obvious omissions are HSDPA and WIFI. When it comes to data you are pretty much left with UMTS at a maximum transferring speed of 384 kbps, EDGE or GPRS. Having HSDPA would have really helped the N76 with faster speeds, but on the other hand this would have really taken a toll on the battery. When it comes to the latest technology it’s pretty much expected for companies to reserve the latest high-speed connections for the range-topping devices like the N95. It’s only later on that they introduce these features to lower placed devices. But I just can’t understand why they decided to leave out WIFI. The lack of WIFI to me is the only true downside of the N76. There are free WIFI hotspots all over the place and having a phone that is capable of using this is truly valuable. I like to listen to podcasts and these can be pretty large in size, so usually I just use my N95 connected to my WIFI at home to download these files. This is not only faster in most cases, but also saves me a lot on my data bill. The Nokia N76 is a feature-packed phone, but not having WIFI is something that potential buyers should seriously consider. Due to the lack of WIFI there’s no UPnP as this standard uses the WIFI specs to do its magic. There should absolutely be a successor to the N76, but when they plan to do this adding WIFI should be the number one priority. When it comes to other connectivity options, luckily there’s Bluetooth and USB 2.0 via the miniUSB interface. As for Bluetooth, version 2.0 is onboard, as compared to the older Bluetooth 1.2 specs it has:

• Three times faster transmission speed, up to 10 times in certain cases (up to 2.1 Mbit/s).

• Lower power consumption through a reduced duty cycle.

• Simplification of multi-link scenarios due to more available bandwidth.

• Further improved (bit error rate) performance.

Just like the N95 miniUSB has made its way on the N76. I’m happy that the Pop-port is finally gone for good and Nokia should use mini or even microUSB in all their future phones, but I would like to see USB charging. I must say it’s about time Nokia! The old Pop-Port interface which was used for a long time on Nokia phones is way too bulky and wasn’t very reliable. I suspect that it was this Pop-port that caused many bricked phones during the firmware upgrade process. The miniUSB standard is a much more universal standard which uses a more compact and secure connector. This shows, as I haven’t really heard of bricked N76s due to failed firmware update. The USB connection to the PC supports mass storage, PC suite and Media Player standards. If the Media Player option is selected the N76 is seen as Media player that is capable of syncing with Microsoft Media Player. There’s no TV-out, another feature expected in higher placed devices. Pictbridge to connect to compatible printers, Infrared and Remote over-the-air synchronization are all there. I’m glad they are still offering infrared; it seems this is still popular, especially amongst businessman.

The N76 has all the connectivity options of the N95 minus the HSDPA, WIFI, UPNP and TV-out. Considering the product placement as a mid-tier device it’s expected that HSDPA, UPNP and TV-out did not make their way into the N76’s feature set. We also have to consider that the N76 is pioneering smartphone functionality with an overabundance of features all cramped in a thin package. Expecting full N95 functionality would be a bit unfair to the N76. The connectivity options for such a thin solution is already pretty impressive, adding more would surely raise the price dramatically. What I don’t understand is the omission of WIFI connectivity. This is the biggest drawback of the N76.

Conclusion

I must admit that at first sight the N76 seemed as a simple mid-tier Nseries device aimed at the fashion market. It’s only after using the device did I notice its importance to the line-up. It’s no secret that feature rich devices aimed at the multimedia and business market are not only large in size, in most cases they aren’t the most fashionable devices either. The Nokia N93, Eseries or RIM devices are prime examples of this. Even the N95, which is fairly good-looking still is not something that the fashion market would consider and that’s exactly where the N76 steps in. While it’s still a compromise in the sense that you don’t get the full 5 megapixel camera, HSDPA connection or other high-end specs of the N95, it does manage however to come close and on top of that with full smarphone functionality. The N76 not only shows that feature-rich devices don’t have to be big, but this should also set a trend for Nokia to make their Nseries sleeker and slimmer. The N76 is a pretty ambitious project and I believe that they have succeeded pretty well. There’s a lot to like here:, the excellent build-quality, thin design and good looks. There were a few things that I wasn’t too crazy about such as the battery life, difficult-to-get-of battery cover and especially the fact that it’s a finger print magnet. The inner screen is very reflective outdoors, taking away from an otherwise good screen. Seeing how the N95 and N93 perform outdoors it’s a shame how the N93i and N76 perform like they do. Indoors the screen is a treat to behold. They should also consider adding a cleaning cloth and protective pouch/case to the package. Nokia should continue with a thin model in the line-up, but next time it could do without the mirror effect. As an imaging device it performs quite well: it produces nice looking pictures while managing to quickly save and process them, something that can’t be said about the more expensive N95. The N70, another 2megapixel shooter does produce better looking pics with alot less noise. Feature wise it lacks the fancy Auto-focus and Carl Zeis lens, but this is expected from mid-level device. Just like the N95 it features a very advanced camera menu that looks more like something taken from a camera then from a phone. It’s amazing how they managed to give the outer-screen full camera functionality. The N76 really shines as a music device with excellent audio quality through the built-in 3.5mm audio jack. Another big plus is the microSDHC support. The built-in speaker is not a stereo solution and needs some audio volume to sound just right. The N76 has all the bells and whistles of a true modern music-based smartphone. This should be one of the main reasons to get this device. It’s expected that the N76 has less connectivity features then the N95, but the lack of Wifi is the N76 real true flaw.

The N76 was never intended to be the most feature packed Nseries device, but rather be a blend between style and functionality. It delivers admirably well on this, but it some points have to go due to the lack of WIFI. It still manages to many things right, that why it gets a 8.1 out of 10.

Pros

Power of a smartphone in a thin package

Fast (a bit faster then N95)

Stylish

Excellent build-quality

Big, Vibrant screen

Exceptional audio quality through 3.5mm jack

3.5mm audio jack

A2DP support (with latest firmware)

Tons of available RAM

One of the first phones with microSDHC support

Good external controls and display

All music application and camera settings are accessible from the external screen.

Cons

Battery life below average

Finger Print magnet

No WIFI

No HSDPA

Inner and outer screen poorly visible outdoors

No camera lens cover

External screen should be bigger with full menu/app access

Written by Devin