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Nokia PureView 808 Phone Review

By on June 18, 2012
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Setting new standards for mobile photography.

Good: Best camera ever, included tripod and fast for Symbian
Bad: Symbian is too dated as an OS
Price: AED 2149
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Nokia certainly managed to create quite a bit of hype for their latest PureView 808 smartphone. It is, afterall, the first smartphone in the world with a 41MP sensor for the camera- something no other manufacturer has even come close to. But lefts find out if the PureView 808 is a one-trick pony or can it compete in a world full of iPhones, BlackBerry and Android devices.

Packaged in a reasonably big box- at least compared to what you normally get with a mobile phone nowadays, the PureView 808 comes with a tripod as well as a mount that acts as a bridge between the phone and the tripod. It’s good to see Nokia bundling a quality tripod with the phone. You can watch out complete unboxing video below

[youtube video=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQPFCXbgMyw&w=600]

Build quality & design

While most manufacturers focus on a sleek thin design for their new phones, Nokia turns around and created a phone that could very well be considered chunky by today’s standards. Measuring 123.9 x 60.2 x 13.9 mm and weighing 169g the Nokia PureView and big and heavy compared to most modern phones but you know what- I like it. It feels good in your hands and seems as though it could easily survive a fall or two, although I didnt test this out. The unit is available in black, white and red and I ahd a chance to check out thje black and white versions out of which, I preferred the white one.

On the top you have a 3.5mm jack as well as a USB port and a micro HDMI connector while the right side has volume buttons, a lock switch and a camera button. The front is mostly glass as a touch screen phone generally is with the red and green phone keys that you don’t see on most new phones as well as a menu button in the middle. The front also houses a front-facing camera.

The back side houses the monstrous 41MP sensor and you can see that Nokia has bumped up the thickness of the device towards the top to facilitate the large sensor. The plasticky back side comes off and reveals the battery under which you have trays for inserting your micro-sim and your microSD card.

Specs and Comparison

The Nokia PureView doesn’t exactly break any speed records or wow you with specs compared to some of the latest devices. The following table compares the specs of the PureView 808 with the Nokia N9 (the last high-end Symbian device we looked at) as well as the recently released Android based HTC One X and finally, the iPhone 4S.

Nokia PureView 808 Nokia N8 HTC One X Apple iPhone 4S
Platform Symbian Belle OS Symbian^3 Android 4.0 ICS Applie iOS 5.0
Dimensions 123.9 x 60.2 x 13.9 mm 113.5 x 59.1 x 12.9 mm 134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9 mm 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm
Weight 169g 135g 130g 140g
CPU 1.3 GHz ARM 11 680 MHz ARM 11 Tegra 3 Quad Core 1.5GHz Apple A5 Dual-core 1GHz
RAM 1 GB ROM, 512 MB RAM 256MB RAM, 512 MB ROM 1GB RAM 512MB RAM
Storage 16GB Built-in +MicroSD 16GB Built-in +MicroSD 32GB Built-in 64GB Built-in
Connectivity HSDPA 14.4 Mbps
802.11 b/g/n/ WiFi
Bluetooth 3.0
HSDPA, 10.2 Mbps
802.11 b/g/n/ WiFi
Bluetooth 3.0
HSDPA, 21 Mbps
802.11 a/b/g/n/ WiFi
Bluetooth 4.0
HSDPA, 10.2 Mbps
802.11 a/b/g/n/ WiFi
Bluetooth 4.0
Display 4.0″ AMOLED Display 3.5″ AMOLED Display 4.7″ SLCD IPS 3.5| IPS LED
Resolution 360 x 640 pixels 360 x 640 pixels 720 x 1280 pixels 640 x 960 pixels
Camera 41MP Sensor 12MP Sensor 8MP Sensor 8MP Sensor
Battery Li-Ion 1400 mAh Li-Ion 1200 mAh  Li-Po 1800 mAh Li-Po 1432 mAh

 

The Nokia PureView 808 produced a score of 3715 in the SunSpider benchmark which is pretty zippy as far as benchmarks are concerned.

UI and Apps,Screen and Touch Interface

The PureView 808 is based on Nokia’s latest Symbian update known as Belle. I haven’t really used Symbian since the N8 and while I can see that it has improved over the last year as far the speed and usability in concerned, as an OS, Symbian just looks and feels dated and Nokia knows this too with their recent switch to Windows Phone.

Part of the reason that Symbian doesn’t look as good is that even though the screen size is reasonable at 4.0”, the resolution is just 640×360 pixels which is lower than your mid-end Android phone- forget the iPhone 4 or the latest Android phones like the HTC One X. Because of the lower resolution, text does not look as sharp as other phones and graphics and icons look slightly pixelated. The Super AMOLED aspect certainly helps with color reproduction but you’re not going to be staring the colorful background images all day.

Thats not to say that the OS is not functional- far from it. Almost all of the popular apps like Skype, WhatsApp and Angry Birds are available for Symbian and like Android, you can place widgets or shortcuts to a number of home screens. Scrolling between the screens or web pages as well as address lists is also pretty zippy and although you will notice a bit of a lag here and there, it’s far from the frustrating experience that Symbian once was on touchscreens. Plus, there are some things that Nokia is still hard to beat such as the free subscription to Maps with navigation and turn-by-turn.

Camera

Almost everyone interested in the Nokia PureView 808 is interested to know how the 41MP Carl Zeiss camera performs as Nokia has really pulled out the big guns with this one. While the Automatic settings and Scene settings (Portrait, Close-up, Sports, etc. ) are fairly standard and can be found in most smartphones nowadays, the addition of custom settings is what makes the PureView 808 stand out.

The control over Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness add an extensive level of depth and color grading that’s not found on most point & shoots. Furthermore in the Bracketing Mode, which allows you to take 3 or 5 pictures with different exposure levels ranging from -0.3 all the way up to +2.0 is unheard of in point & shoot cameras, let alone smartphones. By allowing these base level controls in the shooting mode, the PureView 808 is more than just a fancy smartphone camera with bi megapixels.

Zooming with PureView is also pretty impressive- instead of the digital zoom found in most other cameras that basically takes an image and interpolates it, the Pureiew 808 with its incredibly large 41MP sensor simply crops the image down to a section of where you would zoom into. This gives you an interesting method of zooming while capturing true pixels.

Even the video camera mode of the phone is the most robust video mode I’ve seen outside any Non-DSLR camera in the market. The biggest advantages for adavnced users using the phone for video is the fact that it records at 24 frames per second, which is the framerate that major motion pictures are recorded on. Literally no mobile camera in the market nor does any point and shoot camera out there records on this format, which only Canon DSLR’s and high end film cameras boast.

This means wonders for filmmakers, meaning that you can take 1080p shots with the camera and use them as secondary shots in your short film without any frame rate compatibility issues. As for other manual controls, you can set the exposure level of the video which is unheard of in mobile phones, select resolution and scene modes, saturation, sharpness, color profiles and a lot more. Quality wise, it picks up great audio for a phone and looks crisp in appropriate lighting conditions and only has noticeable grain in the lowest of lights. It’s a revolution in terms of mobile phones and puts it lightyears ahead in that segment. To sum it up, Nokia wasn’t kidding around when they were boasting its camera and capabilities of the PureView 808.

The following is a gallery of images taken from the Nokia PureView 808. Like any camera, don’t expect every single picture to look great- some work needs to be done to plan your photograph such as good lighting and making sure the flash is not too close to the subject.

Usability

The PureView 808 is a Nokia at the end of the day- it’s the company that made mobile phones a commodity so you’re not going to have a hard time getting used to it. The voice quality is as you’d expect from a Nokia- top notch. I didn’t have any issues listening to the person on the other hand and neither did the person on the other end of the line. Network signal was also consistent but then again, most phone I test nowadays are pretty good with connectivity.

While the battery on the PureView 808 is 1400mAh- a bit on the lower side by today’s standards, Nokia has optimized Symbian well enough to make the battery last longer than most phones of today. I was easily able to get two full days out of the PureView 808 even with a reasonable amount of capturing photos and videos and have push emailed enabled.

Conclusion

Most people will want to get the PureView 808 for the camera and in that regards, the phone does not disappoint. Without doubt, it has the best camera on a phone that takes pictures and videos better than any other mobile device. In fact, it takes better quality pictures than many point and shoot camera- especially the ones that cost less than AED 1000. As a phone, the PureView 808 is functional compared to devices of today but the Symbian interface is just too dated and the low-res screen certainly doesn’t help in spicing things up. If photography isn’t your primary concern, the PureView makes a good backup camera but as a primary device, it is purely for someone who is more interested in it’s photo functionalities.


About

Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of tbreak.com and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

Comments
  • Hermilla

    You should include some photos take with more lighting (or outdoor during daytime), most of these seem to have too much noise.

  • Bill Brasky

    Pictures don’t look that incredible I guess. My Nexus takes photos that seem just as good. Eye can only distinguish so many pixels anyway. This phone has a really low res screen too. Would not recommend.

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