Nokia N81 8GB
Nokia N81 Mobile Phone : At the Nokia press conference held in London, Nokia unveiled the new Nokia N81 mobile phone specifically optimized for entertainment, digital music and games. The Nokia N81 mobile phone offers dedicated music or gaming control keys, expanded memory, large LCD screen and extended battery performance to provide quick and easy access to entertainment content. With dedicated music and gaming keys, 3.5 mm headphone connector and 3G and WLAN connectivity, the Nokia N81 multimedia computer is a true mobile entertainment powerhouse. With a sleek, polished surface and keys that light up when you activate them, accessing content on the 3D multimedia menu is fast and intuitive.

Nokia N81 Mobile Phone:
"With the release of the Nokia N81 mobile phone, Nokia offers its consumers a range of entertainment-enabled features for consumers who want their music, games and favourite media with them wherever they go," says Kai Oistamo, Executive Vice President, Nokia. "We believe that the full-featured, well-designed Nokia N81 mobile phone will be very popular and will help bring Nokia's Internet and music services to life."I am reviewing the Nokia N81 8GB in two parts. In this post, I’ll go in-depth with the form factor of the phone and how it is related to the functions. I’ll review about using the Nokia N81 8GB interface and software in a later post. For the the physical aspects of the N81 8GB, I think the phone is well designed and nicely built, but it has a few annoyances.

You might also want to read my preview of the Nokia N81 8GB and watch my unboxing video of the N81 along with this review.

Weight. The Nokia N81 8GB feels heavier in the hands than the Nokia N95. In my preview of the Nokia N81 8GB, I mentioned that the N81 weighs 140 grams, while the N95 weighs 120 grams. It doesn’t look like a big difference, but you can certainly feel it when you hold both of them.


The Nokia N81 has a 2.4 inch display. It is the same screen size as the Nokia N93i. However, it is hard to settle down for this size, knowing that the Nokia N95 8GB has a 2.8 inch screen. I also like that the display is protected by another layer instead of just flat with the whole fascia.

Nokia N81 Screen:
The 2.4 inch screen on the Nokia N81 8GB leaves you wanting more.

According to the box, the Nokia N81 8GB is warm silver/brown. From an arm’s length, the front of the phone looks like it is black with mocha on the sides. A closer look of the back of the phone shows tiny speckles that shine as light reflects from the panel. Nice and subtle.

The battery cover of the Nokia N81 8GB has shiny brown speckles.

The sliding mechanism is firm. You do not need to slide it in place all the way. It moves by itself with a nice snapping sound when you push it up or down halfway through.

When the N81 8GB is closed while hiding the numeric keypad, I counted 18 buttons just on the front part of the phone! If two of those buttons are the dedicated gaming keys, that means the other 16 buttons are packed together with the Naviwheel. Let’s see the keys in that area: green call, red end-call, left soft-key, right soft-key, main menu, multimedia menu, clear, play/pause, stop, forward, back, left, right, up, down, and center.

Even though there’s a lot of buttons in that part of the phone, Nokia does a great job illuminating only the necessary buttons depending on what you are using. For example, the music keys are dimmed and the gaming keys are off when using the phone in general. When the music player is on, the music keys light up. The gaming keys lights up when playing an N-gage game and also when used to zoom in or out of photos in the gallery.NaviwheelNaviwheel. What surprised me is that the Naviwheel, which is supposed to work like the iPod wheel navigation, is off by default. You have to go to the settings to turn it on. The Naviwheel navigation is only useable in the multimedia menu, music player, and photo gallery. I am not sure whether future firmware updates will enable it throughout the whole phone. However, I’m glad they provide the option of turning it on or off, instead of leaving it on by default. After playing with it, I actually just prefer turning the Naviwheel option off.
I also found the Naviwheel very sturdy, requiring a lot of effort to press down. While it may not be a major problem to some, I found it annoying to press down hard when scrolling through web pages.

Music keys:
You can press the play button at any time to play the last song you were listening to. What’s cool is that you can do this while doing something else like browsing the web, checking email, or even playing a game. I also like that the title of the song pops up on the upper right corner display if I am not currently not on the music player display.

Slide HandlingKeyguard slide:

Next to the power button is the key lock that slides to the right and goes back to its original position. This comes in real handy if you do not want the music to play randomly while your phone is inside your bag. I was in a really quiet hallway yesterday with the Nokia N81 in my backpack and it scared the hell out of me when something just played out of nowhere. However, you can choose to turn the keyguard option on automatically when closing the slide in the settings. This option is not available in my Nokia N95.

CopyPencil Key:
There’s no pencil key in the Nokia N81, which you can find in other Nseries phones. It is useful in copying and pasting text, but since this button is not available in the N81, Nokia provided “Editing options” in the menu where copy and paste are available. It does not bother me that the pencil key is gone because the same options can be brought up by pressing the * button while texting as well. More details on that on my software and interface review of the Nokia N81.

Camera button:

There is no auto focus on the 2-megapixel camera of the Nokia N81. That means you can’t hold the camera button halfway to focus on your subject. This means snapping pictures is really quick, but don’t expect the same quality from the Nokia N95 with autofocus.

There is no auto focus on the Nokia N81 8GB camera.

The power button works similar to any other Nseries phone. You tap once to bring up profiles like silent, normal, vibrate, etc… then keep tapping to go down the list. Hold it again to activate the desired profile. If I want to turn it off, I just hold the button down.

Volume Keys:

Nothing special about the volume keys! Volume up… volume down.
Input and Output

The Nokia N81 8GB came with earphones that go around the back of your neck. It connects to a middle piece where you can control music or pick up phone calls. I prefer regular earphones that go down my neck, but joggers like the ones that go around the neck because it doesn’t fall out easily. You can also use your own earphones if you like, but, people are starting to use bluetooth headphones to listen to music on their phones. You can find out more about Nokia’s new bluetooth headsets at Non Stop Living.Listening to music with the included earphones.

The Nokia N81 includes a micro-USB port for data transfers with our computers. We
are going to see this in many upcoming phones and I love it! I can lose my USB cable, and know that I can go into any electronics store to buy one right away if I don’t have a spare one lying around.


I mentioned in my preview of the Nokia N81 8GB, it has really loud speakers. I get to experience it first-hand. It is definitely loud enough to start a small party anywhere!


  • Form factor:Slider
  • Operating System:Symbian OS 9.2, S60 3rd Edition, Feature Pack 1
  • GSM frequencies:850/900/1800/1900 MHz
  • GPRS:Yes
  • EDGE (EGRPS):Yes
  • WCDMA:Yes (2100 MHz only)
  • Screen:320x240 pixels, diagonal 2.4", 16 million colors
  • CPU:Single CPU, ARM 11, 369 MHz
  • Internal Dynamic Memory (RAM):96 MB
  • Internal Flash Memory:12 MB
  • Camera:Main (rear) 2 Megapixel camera; frontal CIF camera for video call
  • Video recording:Yes, MPEG-4 (320x240) of up to 15 fps
  • Multimedia Messaging:Yes
  • Video calls:Yes
  • Push to talk:Yes
  • Java support:Yes, Java MIDP 2.0, CLDC 1.1
  • Bluetooth:Yes, 2.0 (A2dp)

Overall I like the design of the Nokia N81 8GB. The attention to details like the dimming and the lighting of the music and gaming keys at the right moment is pretty cool. This phone will be great for those who spend a lot of time listening to music, and also want to play games on their phone because of the dedicated gaming keys. But watch your thumbs! It requires more than average effort to press the Naviwheel, and expect accidental keypresses because of the many buttons packed together in a small space.


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