Vlad’s Nokia N9 Review (ThisIsMyNext/TheVerge, ex Engadget)

| October 21, 2011 | 63 Replies

Back in June during the Nokia N9 launch, we collected the myriad of positive Nokia N9 reactions. One that sticks to mind is from Engadget and Vlad – Nokia (more Symbian) often having snide jibes there, with one particular N8 camera comparison against the N8 causing great controversy.

So it came as such a surprise when Engadget, in particular, Vlad (along with Myriam Joire who has always been quite fair of Nokia devices) had such a positive experience with the N9, both in hardware AND software. You can check out that previous Engadget, Vlad&TnkGrl reaction here.

Well, Vlad’s review is ready and you’re going to like reading it. As a Nokia fan used to hearing harsh criticisms, it’s a tsunami of compliments that really catches you off guard. As things play out though, that won’t be posted on Engadget as he’s joined the rest of the Ex-Engadget crew who are now on TheVerge/ThisIsMyNext. No problems though, that’s a really awesome site.


So some things to pick out. There are quite so many positives that I might as well copy and paste the whole review.

  •  one of the most fascinating phones of the last few years.
  • 9 finally demonstrates some of that dormant software innovation from the labs in Espoo.
  •  blown away by how intuitive, responsive, and fluid the whole interface was. I wasn’t alone, either.
  •  Just about everyone who got a chance to play with the N9 remarked upon its superlative design
  • I say this without any qualification: the Nokia N9 is beautiful.
  • verything about this phone’s design exudes elegance and harmony. Lines flow seamlessly into one another, fit and finish is perfect, and the feel in the hand is sublime.
  • evocative of supercar design in the way it simply transitions from one curve to another, albeit in the pursuit of a cohesive, unified look rather than aerodynamic excellence
  • I’ve used the N9 alongside an iPhone 4S and an HTC Radar over the last few days and would say it has the best ergonomics of the three.
  • one solitary complaint that I must level at the N9′s external design and it relates to the two physical buttons located on its right side.
  • N9 offers consistently bright, punchy color reproduction and typically wide viewing angles
  • it lives up to Nokia’s ClearBlack Display branding by providing blacks so deep that you’ll often be unable to recognize the boundaries of the display panel under the glass.
  • That seamless appearance plays a big role in making the N9 look and feel effortlessly graceful.
  • screen does falter is in its handling of white and light grey shades; they start to take on a blue hue when looked at from the side.
  • undermining the N9′s imaging performance is the phone’s inconsistent ambient light sensor.  (oh dear, that ambient light sensor attacks again)
  • I was impressed by the N9′s battery life, particularly since it runs an aged and not particularly efficient OMAP3630 processor.
  • The phone makes a habit of lasting over 24 hours on a charge,
OK, that’s not even half way through the review yet. Best check the whole thing out:
  • Ranks pretty high in audio quality
  • Loudspeaker admirable job, though distors sound at top end
  • Almost no way to physically muffle the sound, unaffected if you try and block it.
  • More skill required to get the best out of N9’s phone than typical smartphones.
  • Close up are undoubted strength, with levels far superior from average smartphone
  • But N9 dips below average on occasions.
  • Struggles in over abundance or deficit of light.
  • Haze that’s apparent (like you’d get if the camera is smudged, but it’s happening too often in various reviews for it just to be a smudge, no?)
  • Low light generate quite a bit of chromatic noise. N9 opts not to blur it out with post processing (it tries to do minimal post processing, unlike the competition where the image the camera takes is rarely what you’ll ever really see).
  • Some very good video.
  • Multitasking cards represents a refinement of the visual multitasking paradigm Nokia introduced in the N8 and works beautifully.
  • N9 keyboard is sublime (wow, I haven’t tried it out but this is often overlooked and so badly done on all previous Nokia phones. That’s partly why I look forward to Nok WP so much so I could have a decent on screen qwerty)
  • “One of the best software keyboards in the business”. (er….I need to try this!! Maybe next week in London)
  • Bonus points for mechanical type writer sound effect.

Swipe UI and lock screen.

  • Swipe UI ties everything together.
  • Devastatingly simple and equally effective innovation.
  • So easy and natural, I honestly started doing edge swipes on other phones, an experience that filled me with equal measurement and disappointment.
  • Double tap to unlock and swipe, though it seems superficial, they’re anything but.
  • Hard to overstate how much of a departure N9 is from Nokia’s old comfort zone.
  • Symbian^3 was all too timid and reluctant, this is a bold assured leap.
  • Harmattan UI is also spectacularly consistent.
  • The only other company that has shown this kind of immaculate care with keeping design themes consistent is Apple.
  • Ultimately, what Nokia has put together in the N9’s UI is nothing short of a triumph.
  • feels cohesive and, remarkably, lives up to the fantastic elegance of the phone’s physical design and construction.
  •  N9 works properly it is the very embodiment of quickness, though the bad news is that it doesn’t work properly all the time
  • screen animations flow around your finger like gentle waves of awesomeness.
  •  Transitions between homescreens, scrolling, and pinch-to-zoom are all delectably smooth and fluid
  • Unfortunately, I’ve been able to make the N9 freeze up for several minutes at a time on numerous occasions.
  •  N9 tries to pull the old familiar trick of appearing ready for new instructions when it is in fact still loading things in the background.
  • I habitually clashed with short periods of unresponsiveness while that long-toothed OMAP3630 tried to figure out how to juggle the backlog of requests I was throwing at it
  • Fearing this mighty ability of mine to confuse and confound the N9, I began using it more slowly and deliberately — the diametric opposite of what Nokia is going after with its interface design.
  • actual experience is hampered by imperfect software and inadequate hardware
  • Nokia is working hard on its first firmware update for the N9, one that reportedly totals over 3,500 fixes and feature additions, so perhaps the bumps I encountered may soon be ironed out.
  • Graphical performance, on the other hand, gave little reason for complain
  • The N9′s app ecosystem is the software equivalent of Chernobyl.
  • It’s just not a place you (or any sane developers) will want to be in.
  • N9 is actually pretty well stocked in terms of the major functionality you’ll need from a smartphone.
The conclusion:
The N9 is flawed and doomed, but you have to understand, I don’t care. The universal experience of using this phone is one of delight and desire. Yes, it can get bamboozled and freeze up, and no, you won’t be finding an avalanche of awesome new apps for it, but those downsides fade in comparison to the abundance of positives. The Harmattan UI is fresh, slick, and as natural as anything the smartphone world has yet introduced, while the physical design is unmatched. Not even the shiny new iPhone 4S feels as luxurious in the hand as the N9…
Again, please read the whole thing. I’ve tried to summarise it as Vlad’s opinion on Nokia and the N9 was pretty important. Hardware wise, I hope to get similar positivity in the SeaRay version, though whether he’ll be as enamoured with Metro is another question (perhaps a trade off to something consistently stable in performance?). Well, they’ve given quite positive reaction to WP before. Fingers crossed.
Awesome job Nokia N9 team. I really can’t wait to try one out. I hope they bother putting N9s on the show floor.

Thanks Rodrigo, jklubi, Phisbone and Ian for the tip!


Category: Maemo, MeeGo, Nokia

About the Author ()

Hey, thanks for reading my post. My name is Jay and I'm a medical student at the University of Manchester. When I can, I blog here at and tweet now and again @jaymontano. We also have a twitter and facebook accounts @mynokiablog and Check out the tips, guides and rules for commenting >>click<< Contact us at tips(@) or email me directly on jay[at]