The Nokia N81 8GB is a Special Edition primarily because of the Bose headphones that came with it. Oh, there’s that very special packaging too. See unboxing pics here.
And I have to admit, the Bose noise-canceling headphones were a big turn-on. It really does filter out ambient noise very effectively. It even has its own Lithium Ion battery that fits snugly in one of the earpieces for that extra umph. I originally thought it’s wireless and hooks up via Bluetooth but it turns out audio connection is via a 3.5mm stereo jack.
The phone itself though is a little heavy on the hands. I compared it with my friend’s Nokia N95 (120 grams) and it still feels much heavier despite being just 140 grams.
* Nokia N-Gage. The platform is not unique to the phone but it sure does make the gaming experience more enjoyable. I tried the try-before-you-buy games and they were cool but could not switch to multi-player or arcade mode unless I pay the subscription.
* Game Controls. On play mode, you switch the phone sideways (horizontally) so you can use the dedicated game buttons. The 2.4″ screen wasn’t as big as the 2.8″ of the N95 but the display is clear and crisp.
* Multimedia Controls. There’s also another set of controls for music called the Navi Wheel. The navipad is easily accessible on the front panel of the phone. Reminds me of the old iPod trackwheel.
* Storage. Aside from the phone memory and an external microSD card, this unit comes built-in with 8GB of storage — enough room for music, pictures and podcasts. It’s like having a phone and an iPod Nano in one.
* Connectivity. Bluetooth, Wireless LAN, 3G (not HSDPA!) and micro USB 2.0 — it’s all in there.
A couple odd stuff though…
* A different USB connector, not the standard micro USB one. Don’t know why they wanted to change that. What if I lost my USB cable? Where will I get a replacement?
* Music Player can only load playlists of downloaded songs (prolly from the Nokia Music Store), not imported ones from the PC. I had to use the File Manager in order to play my mp3 songs and it wasn’t fun not to have a playlist with that.
Then, there’s the 2MP camera which didn’t get as good picture quality as the N95. There’s no auto-focus either. Sure, this model was made specifically for gaming and multi-media so I shouldn’t be asking more than that — but still, I find the unit a little lacking.
Frankly, if not for those great Bose headphones, I wouldn’t be playing my music off of this phone. Nokia needs to try a little harder on this model.