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Nokia N81 8GB Special Edition Review

I’ve been using the Nokia N81 for a couple of weeks now and I must say I wasn’t that quite excited about it as many would have. Despite the squarish and heavy built, this model is a beauty. Let me share some of the noticeable features of this unit.

The Nokia N81 8GB is a Special Edition primarily because of the Bose headphones that came with it. Oh, there’s that very special packaging too. See unboxing pics here.

Nokia N81 Packaging Box Bose Headphones Nokia N81 Accessories

And I have to admit, the Bose noise-canceling headphones were a big turn-on. It really does filter out ambient noise very effectively. It even has its own Lithium Ion battery that fits snugly in one of the earpieces for that extra umph. I originally thought it’s wireless and hooks up via Bluetooth but it turns out audio connection is via a 3.5mm stereo jack.

The phone itself though is a little heavy on the hands. I compared it with my friend’s Nokia N95 (120 grams) and it still feels much heavier despite being just 140 grams.

N81 Special Edition

  • Nokia N-Gage. The platform is not unique to the phone but it sure does make the gaming experience more enjoyable. I tried the try-before-you-buy games and they were cool but could not switch to multi-player or arcade mode unless I pay the subscription.
  • Game Controls. On play mode, you switch the phone sideways (horizontally) so you can use the dedicated game buttons. The 2.4″ screen wasn’t as big as the 2.8″ of the N95 but the display is clear and crisp.
  • Multimedia Controls. There’s also another set of controls for music called the Navi Wheel. The navipad is easily accessible on the front panel of the phone. Reminds me of the old iPod trackwheel.
  • Storage. Aside from the phone memory and an external microSD card, this unit comes built-in with 8GB of storage — enough room for music, pictures and podcasts. It’s like having a phone and an iPod Nano in one.
  • Connectivity. Bluetooth, Wireless LAN, 3G (not HSDPA!) and micro USB 2.0 — it’s all in there.

N81 Bose Headset

A couple odd stuff though…

  • A different USB connector, not the standard micro USB one. Don’t know why they wanted to change that. What if I lost my USB cable? Where will I get a replacement?
  • Music Player can only load playlists of downloaded songs (prolly from the Nokia Music Store), not imported ones from the PC. I had to use the File Manager in order to play my mp3 songs and it wasn’t fun not to have a playlist with that.

Nokia N81 8GB

Then, there’s the 2MP camera which didn’t get as good picture quality as the N95. There’s no auto-focus either. Sure, this model was made specifically for gaming and multi-media so I shouldn’t be asking more than that — but still, I find the unit a little lacking.

Frankly, if not for those great Bose headphones, I wouldn’t be playing my music off of this phone. Nokia needs to try a little harder on this model.

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Avatar for Abe Olandres

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech with over 20 years of experience in the technology industry. He is one of the pioneers of blogging in the country and considered by many as the Father of Tech Blogging in the Philippines. He is also a technology consultant, a tech columnist with several national publications, resource speaker and mentor/advisor to several start-up companies.

24 Responses



  2. Avatar for cisco 1921 router cisco 1921 router says:

    Hello there, I found your web site via Google while looking for a related topic, your site came up, it looks good. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  3. Avatar for adam adam says:

    yes nice review indeed. But what I really like is the headset ang lupit kasi.
    Nokia N900: one of the best smartphone

  4. Avatar for Sonny Jones Sonny Jones says:

    Awesome, I finally discovered a blog about this! I was daydreaming about it yesterday (well technically night time dreaming because it was night time lol) and now I discover this post. Coincidence alright. Might be checking back again!

  5. Avatar for Mohil Mohil says:

    Well i got the normal N81 and just bought a pair of BOSE on-ear headphones.

    Besides for the acoustic noise-cancelling function, it’s exactly the same with regard to sound reproduction and let me tell you, it is brilliant in every sense of the word.

    accurate bass, treble and mid response with amazing stereo separation.

    Nevermind being able to hear the singer breathing in, you can tell if the singer is licking their lips or smiling, that’s how lifelike the sound is.

  6. Avatar for a.s.m a.s.m says:

    forgot my puk code ??

    my mobile is N81

    my IME IS : 356993013259227




  7. Avatar for jhoi jhoi says:

    ang cul ng mga brand new cp’sss i wish i could have them olll hehehe

  8. Avatar for edzhstar edzhstar says:

    sa inyo na yung phone after nyo ireview?
    just curious


  9. Avatar for Di Mta Di Mta says:

    o ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu
    sempre a bombar a gora com o nokia n80 8gb mas no natal e que vai ser com o nokia n81 8gb

  10. Avatar for Di Mta Di Mta says:

    nokia n81 8gb.
    este natal e que vai se a bombare com o nokia n81 8gb vai ser sempre a curtir a curtir som ,o n-gage e a curtir muitas mais cenas

  11. Avatar for diogo diogo says:

    a pois e este natal vai a bombar.
    com o nokia n81 8gb e que vai ser sempre a curtir ,curtir som ,curtir o n-gage a curtir muitas mais cenas

  12. Avatar for mc mc says:

    oh god.

    my friend has this phone. absolutely loved the screen and the plethora of features… until i tried typing a txt message. oh god. the keypad is horrible!! well, not the keypad per se, but the top row of keys [i.e., the 1, 2, and 3 buttons] is placed too close to the upper slider, making it really difficult to press them!! disappointing, really. deal killer. my good ol’ 5300 doesn’t have this problem [the keypad is absolutely perfect, even after more than a whole year of heavy, HEAVY txting usage.]

    sorry. just had to get that out :D

    amazing, the earphones has just about the same cost as the phone itself!! BOSE does make great-sounding audio devices, but they’re just too expensive!! even in the US, where even better alternatives exists, BOSE is still the price king.

  13. Avatar for Abe Olandres Abe Olandres says:

    Hi Jon2,

    I didn’t bought this one. It was sent to me for review. The phone alone though costs about Php18k in local stores. You will need to buy the Bose headphones separately and they cost Php20k!

  14. Avatar for Jon2 Jon2 says:

    Sir Abe, may I ask how much did you purchase your phone (in Pesos)?
    And where in the Philippines did you buy this ‘N81 special edition’??
    I couldn’t find it anywhere here in the Phils!

  15. Avatar for kid kid says:

    you can add songs from the pc onto a playlist as long as you import it into the music player. you just need to go to the music player. options then refresh, it will search for all available mp3s and add it to the library so you can make a playlist with those songs.

  16. Avatar for Abe Olandres Abe Olandres says:

    @dapeke, the headphones are sold separately. only the special edition has it. The phone alone cost around 17k.

  17. Avatar for dapeke dapeke says:

    I would like to know if all n81 8GB Versions comes with those cool big headphones? Because I saw that wellcom is selling nokia n81 8GB for only 16+++…

  18. Avatar for Tahn Tahn says:

    Great review!

  19. Avatar for XpressMusic XpressMusic says:

    Nice review Sir Yuga! I also got hold of this last January, and it’s music capability is excellent. It adds much bass and sonic response due to the embedded music chip and a direct 3.5mm slot.


    Those headphone cost for about 25,000php – from a Bose retailer in Trinoma. But in the US, it would just normally cost not exceeding the $400 level price.

  20. Avatar for sylv3rblade sylv3rblade says:

    hmm.. I wonder how much those headphones cost solo?

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