Nokia N9. The Review. Part 1.

| October 18, 2011 | 67 Replies

The long and controversial journey of Nokia N9 is finally over. Whether or not one should be worried that it’s the first and last MeeGo phone from Nokia, one thing is clear – it’s an incredible smartphone worthy of attention.

Author’s note: My initial idea was to deliver all my impressions and conclusive thoughts on Nokia N9 in one massive post of awesomeness. It turned into quite the deathball so I’ve decided to lighten up the article by splitting it into two parts, leaving my N9 software impressions for later.


  *What’s in the box? The retail box is extremely small. If you thought X7 box was tiny, think again. The box itself is almost completely devoid of any specific product description, staying true to the minimalist styling of Nokia N9. All the basics you come to expect from Nokia are inside, including instruction leaflets, simple headphones and a charger that also doubles as a data cable.
Surprisingly enough, there was also enough space for a rubber case that comes in a matching colour. There’s really nothing particularly noteworthy to say about it, except that it’s accurately fits the device and stays on there for good. I do think it takes too much away of what makes this phone so unique looking, mainly…
*The polycarbonate unibody. It is simply marvellous to behold every time I have to reach out for the device. The solid unibody design, coupled with the expressively vivid display, makes Nokia N9 the most photogenic phone I’ve ever witnessed. Indeed, the device is very organic looking, giving the impression that its internal components were grown inside the body rather that fitted later in the production process. According to Damian Dinning, it’s been one of the most challenging components Nokia has ever made. I believe.
Soft matte plastic encompasses the unibody shell so, save for the front, the entirety of the phone is very grippy (very much so in comparison to the aluminium clad N8 or the E7) and leaves no visible fingerprints.  The rounded edges help retain a comfortable grip around the sides of N9, but, depending on how you hold the phone, you might find the 4 corners to be somewhat sharp.
All physical keys on the N9 are located the right side. The solid and durable aluminium built of those keys is somewhat offset by their ineffective design. In particular, I found it rather tricky to engage the volume keys while the phone was in my pocket. A little ways down you can also find the power/ lock key, which is also too flat and smooth for my liking.
While N9 isn’t exactly the slimmest phone out in the market, its profile is enough to effortlessly slide the otherwise large phone into a pocket. My only gripes with the unibody design is the microUSB port cover.
That’s not to say it’s poorly executed, but with the port being so busy (charging and local data transfers are all handled there), I think covering it up isn’t the most practical solution. What I’m looking for here is something like on Nokia E7, or perhaps implement slide action door for the microUSB port so you could at least preserve it for as long as possible. Overall, however, Nokia N9 is a remarkable continuation of the solid unibody design inspired by N8, and makes me excited for the Finnish company’s upcoming Windows Phones…
*AMOLED 3.9″ display with 480 x 854 pixel resolution is yet another crown jewel of Nokia N9. It’s crystal clear and bright, and delivers vivid colours at an exceptionally wide viewing angles. Best screen on a Nokia phone, period. The icons truly pop on the screen, with the blacks virtually indistinguishable against the bezel of the display. Leave the phone on a table with the screen on, and it’s bound to catch plenty pairs of wandering eyes. It is, quite literally, eye-catching.
The curved glass display pics I saw from Nokia were exceedingly exaggerated. What you should know is that the display isn’t entirely flush with the front of the phone (to probably help with Swipe UI gestures). I would be especially careful about placing the phone face down, however.
*The loudspeaker on Nokia N9 surprised me. I simply didn’t come to expect such level of performance from a single spakers grill located at the bottom of the phone. Both the volume and clarity of the speaker is simply great, and hands the down best I heard since N900. That is to say, you can’t really beat good quality stereo speakers like on Nokia 5800, but N9 comes close… very close!
*The wide angle, Carl Zeiss 8 Mpix camera with dual LED flash – great, but not amazing, or at least not Nokia N8 level of amazing. I guess it goes without saying that N9 will not fully replace your N8 in that respect – you’ll have to wait for a direct successor from Nokia’s WP lineup instead. Still, it’s a very competent 8 Mpix shooter (in 4:3 aspect ratio, and 7 Mpix in 16:9) as you can see for yourself with these photo samples:
Auto-scene, 16:9 mode
Macro scene, Flash, 16:9 mode
Auto-scene, 16:9 mode
Auto-scene, Flash off, 16:9 mode
Macro-scene, Flash, 4:3 mode 

The number of settings to tweak the camera is quite limited in comparison to the N8. Photo quality aside, the two things that particularly stand out in comparison to N8 is the very clean and organised looking camera interface, and the speed of photo capture. The camera UI rotates automatically in both landscape and portrait modes, which is another nice touch to this sleek looking camera app.
I do sometimes miss the ability to simply hold down any area on the viewfinder to automatically focus and take the picture – instead, you always need to use the virtual shutter key to finish the job. A useful feature I found during my tests – if you have the photo preview mode enabled, you can zoom in the photo you just took without having to visit the gallery app. Of course, if you wish to fully utilize the speedy N9 camera, it’s better to leave the preview mode off.
Overall, I’d be very much interested to see how N9 would cope against the mobile camera powerhouse that is N8 if it also had a 12 Mpix sensor. Sadly I don’t have a Nokia N8 at hand, but judging by some of the comparison photos floating in the web, it would possibly be a very close call between the two in most cases.
*The Li-Ion 1450 mAh battery – With medium to heavy usage, I was initially getting a day on a single charge – quite an achievement with that sizeable screen 🙂 That’s far better than Nokia N900 and still better than Nokia E7; it’s nevertheless impossible to beat the impressive battery life of Nokia N8. Lately I’m getting *almost* 2 days worth of battery life on the N9 by moderately using the web browser, music player, twitter and camera. Did I mention that is with a constant 3.5G connection?
In the second, and, hopefully, final part of my review, I’ll be looking at the software side of N9, including Swipe UI, integrated apps and services, Nokia Store content and something called #N9Effect… So stay tuned! 



Category: MeeGo, Nokia, Reviews

About the Author ()

I'm Journalism and English student with a passion for mobile phones and the industry.
  • StylinRed

    side note Sergejs we have the same laptop by the looks of it but yours is soo clean it doesn’t make sense 😛 (and i take mine apart all the time to clean)

    • Yeah it truly doesn’t… I mean, how can one type anything with a perfectly clean keyboard, right 😛

      Here’s my shameful little secret – I keep the lid closed during the night… hope that helps 😉

  • Adalbdl

    was waiting for expasys usa to get one but, $750 16 GB & $890 64GB is too high the price. Let see if the price comes down a bit in couple of months.

    • I’m also thinking along those lines… but next month there’s bound to be some new Nokia WP that could catch my eye… so yeah, it’s not easy to be an N9 these days – what with all the crazy price and limited availability going on :S

  • doc76

    The GSMarena review says that the loudspeaker is very soft. In your review you say the oposite. Who is right?

    • In the GSM Arena review they say that the speaker is good but the volume on the ringer is not to loud

      • I haven’t overslept my N9 alarm clock, that’s for sure xD

  • aboodesta

    Great device 🙂 and fantastic review. But I agree with some of the people, I’m not impressed by the loud speaker. It should have been louder. Either ways, the N9 looks brilliant, and thats portrayed nicely in your pictures!

    heres my own first impressions video of the N9

    let me know what you guys think 😀

  • Michael

    The design/build quality and UI is simply awesome ! The N9 beats iPhone 4 in all daily use perspective that I switch N9 as my primary phone ( they all shares the micro SIM card ). Although I still prefer N8 over the camera quality ( not even close ) . N9 really rocks !!

  • jklubi

    Sergejs on the side note, what camera do you use to take your pictures
    I would really would love to know.

    I like how in all your reviews your pictures look shard crisp and clear.

    Holla me

    • Hia, thanks a lot for the compliments 🙂 If you take a peek at the Exif data in my flickr gallery here you can see for yourself that I used a SONY DSC-W35 Cyber-shot camera. It’s amazing how much life one can get out of a 4 year old 7 Mpix camera, right?

      I do wish to transition to DSLR cameras one day…

      • jklubi


        Thanks for the reply, did you particularly tuned it with any special settings. I could get the same camera around here in GH

        I just love how it takes very good shots, any special settings i should look at

        • Not really – I’m using the pre-set macro mode with flash turned off (whenever it’s possible). The camera should be really cheap if you can find one now…
          The video recording quality is quite crappy (480p was it?) and the camera goes only as far as 3x optical zoom, but for just taking close ups of phones, this fits the job relatively well 🙂

  • if u remember in one of the reviews it was said that with the tag line – “Once in a life time” it was heartly true and this device deserves appreciation,
    and if there are any flaws then i don’t think that they are as big as the iphones.

    • Well, there are some serious flaws in N9 that I will discuss in the second part of my review. As you might have already guessed, the problem has to do with apps. At the moment, the situation is looking quite dire…

      Now, depending on the person, that problem might not be such an issue. I , for example, was quite happy with my N900, although it was far from being a mass market device. Obviously the N9 isn’t one either.

  • migo

    Can you do a more comprehensive overview of the screen in sunlight? I’d like to see pictures of the screen from more angles under various levels of lighting. Thanks!

    • I’d love to mate, but the problem is I don’t really own anything worthwhile to compare against N9… just my HTC Desire and iTouch 4th gen 🙁 I do agree it would be very interesting to see how N9 stands against the likes of SGS2 and iPhone 4S. I’m sure you can find similar tests somewhere…

      • migo

        iPod touch would be fine to compare to. It’s a screen a lot of people would be familiar with. Even without comparisons seeing what the N9 looks in various lighting conditions would be helpful.

  • Brilliant quality photos.

    Thanks a lot for great review, indeed.

  • I hope we could get an improved battery life on the upcoming update for N9. 😀

    • More battery life is always welcome but I can’t say I’m even remotely disappointed in N9 in that respect 🙂
      I really want folder integration in the next update though…

  • Cod3rror

    Are we still on the N9? That phone is old and discontinued, get over it.

  • Damian

    Hi Sergejs, good review by the way, what about the signal (antenna), call quality (listener and speaker)?
    On the other side, do you know if this phone will migrate to Tizen or it will remain MeeGo supported by Nokia?

    • I hadn’t encountered any problems with the signal so far… and no, N9 will not migrate anywhere as it’s supported by Nokia (and it’s not a full fledged MeeGo phone).

  • ruth

    this is probably.a.stupid.question.. first i got.the N9 YESTERDAY and its awesome still getting.used. to the touch screen typing lol. Just wondering what the small camera looking thing in.the bottom right corner is??? its frustrating me trying to figure it out. thanks ruth

    • ruth

      ok google jusy told me its a camera.. can someone telk me how to use it 🙂

      • I’d guess it’s for Skype video calls? Wonder if that feature has been fully implemented yet, gotta look into that in the second part of my review…

  • ruth

    im on an optus cap plan can i use my mobile internet on my lap top with the n9.. tethering or personal hotspot? or is that just iphones

  • Max

    Hi, I have a question. I bought this device a few days ago and I noticed that the screen turns more “blue” if I watch the display just a little from a side. Is this normal?