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Nokia N96 16GB smartphone

Heavyweight upgrade packs in a hefty multimedia punch

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Operating the phone using Nokia’s S60 3.2 user interface is straightforward, and will be familiar to anyone who’s spent time with the N95 or other N-series Nokias. A row of icons at the top of the display offer fast access to seven user-definable features. Further down are additional readouts for search, calendar entries, Wi-Fi status, music player info, plus a shortcut for online sharing. Hit the ‘squiggle’ S60 menu button and you get the busy menu grid of icons. If you’re looking for images, video or audio content, mapping, games and recent web links, tap the multimedia key and you’re propelled into a rotating carousel of multimedia options.

There’s the now inevitable accelerometer built in, so the screen changes automatically between landscape and portrait view, depending on how you’re holding the phone. Here, this feature can be switched off.

Nokia N96

The 5Mp shooter holds its ground against the 8Mp camera competition

There’s an impressive amount of applications to work through on this multimedia device. In some ways, this can be a drawback for the N96. Although it has a delightful set of features and functionality to play with, it can sometimes be a touch languid accessing them, particularly if you have several processor-heavy apps open at once - something that’s likely on a smartphone - slowing it down noticeably.

The N96’s main camera is constructed around similar high-quality Carl Zeiss optics as the N95. Although its five-megapixel sensor is no longer the most pixel-packed around, the N96 still has one of the best shooters available.

Image quality is superb for a mobile, with a fine level of detail and excellent colour rendition. Its auto metering system is very responsive, and adjusts quickly to changing lighting situations, while its autofocus set-up, with a two-step camera button and macro shooting option, helps produce crisp and precisely focused images. The usable camera interface offers a wide variety of picture adjustments, but the automated performance is reliable and hassle free.

The large display provides an excellent viewfinder, automatically flipping into landscape mode when the camera is activated. Snaps are taken and processed almost instantly, with no discernible lag. Indoors in dark situations, the flash throws some light on proceedings, though in our opinion Nokia’s xenon flash-equipped phones, like the N82, are better in low light.

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