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Review: Nokia N78




Nokia announced the N78 last February 2008 along with two other new phone models — the Nokia 6220 classic and the Nokia N96. It’s not yet available in the Philippines though I got a first hand review unit which I’ve been tinkering with for over two weeks now.

At first, I thought the N78 would be just a slight improvement over its N77 predecessor (see my review of the Nokia N77 here) but turns out these two have very little things alike and the former isn’t a digital TV phone.

Nokia N78

Let’s look at the specifications:

3.5G / HSDPA
Assisted GPS
802.11 b/g WiFi
3.2 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, 2048×1536 pixels (autofocus)
FM Radio Tuner & Transmitter
Bluetooth v2.0 with A2DP
2.4 inch screen at 240 x 320 pixels
76 MB internal memory, 96 MB SDRAM memory, up to 8GB via microSD
ARM 11 369 MHz processor

We’ll look into three main components of the phone and see how the Nokia N78 fairs in these departments — connectivity, entertainment and usability.

Connectivity. The Nokia N78 ranks high on connectivity with up to 3.6Mbps on HSDPA, 11 to 54 Mbit/s on WiFi networks and 3 Mbit/s on Bluetooth. There’s also the microUSB 2.0 if you want high speed data transfer into the phone’s storage (it comes with a 2GB microSD card but is upgradable to 8GB). You will always be prompted which access point to use when connecting to the Internet but sometimes it defaults to 3G even if there are wireless networks available.

The Assisted GPS works well enough combined with the Nokia Maps though most of Metro Manila areas aren’t that detailed. You’ll see the major thoroughfares but not the regular city streets.

Nokia N78

Entertainment. The phone plays stereo music via speakers found on the top right and bottom left side  of the unit but I didn’t find the sound quality any good. The audio quality degrades at top volume and sounds a bit broken. After playing two similar songs at the same time, I noticed that my Nokia 6210 has a much better bass compared to the N78 (though not as loud). The Podcast player is simple but does the job well. Just do a search for your favorite show and click on subscribe.

There are Mobile Video Services you can install (Flash apps) so you can subscribe and watch to mobile-version specific videos like YouTube, RocketBoom, Reuters, and CNN which makes video streaming/playback optimized and fast. This is similar to the iPhone/iPod Touch YouTube player. I love that “24” Mobisodes Series — a 1 to 2 minutes mobile version of the popular TV series “24”. Video playback is sharp and crisp with minimal graining/pixelation.

There are two options for the built-in radio — Internet Radio and the Visual Radio (for tuning to local FM stations). You will need to connect the headphones to receive over-the-air FM transmisions. Alternatively, you can also hook up the Nokia MD-4 Mini Speakers (via the 3.5mm jack) which also serves as an external antenna.

A new feature, the FM Transmitter, is a nice addition. Just activate it, set the desired frequency and all of the music and videos you played will be broadcasted on all radio receivers nearby. It could be another FM supported phone, an FM stereo or even your car radio pumping out surround sound music from your Nokia N78. Reception is good up to 10 meters but can extend up to around 15-20m at LOS.

nokia n78

Usability. The Nokia N78 features a prominent directional pad at the center called the Navi-Wheel which was initially introduced in the N81 (see my review of the Nokia N81 here). It’s basically similar to the scroll wheel of the earlier iPods but is only usable on limited applications — Image Gallery and the Music Player. Feels great with “flicking” across your photo gallery. Oftentimes though, I find it too sensitive and becomes annoying. There’s an option to turn it off but I prefer they’d just added a sensitivity control.

The keypads are similar to the Nokia N82 but in the N78’s case, they’re in a continuous thin line so typing in them will take some getting used to and most of the time you’ll end up using your fingernails in order not to hit the other neighboring keys. The remaining buttons are embedded into the pad so you won’t notice them until you see the back-lit markings. One kink I noticed is the positioning of the “c” (cancel) button at the bottom right which is hard to get to during texting mode.

For most of the media applications, you can also switch screen orientation from diagonal to horizontal. The 3D UI animations, while a nice improvement, sometimes slows down the response time of the menus.

In Focus – the Camera. I never fancied the camera in camera-phones but the N78 (just like the N82 and the N95) with its Carl Zeiss optics changes all that. The Nokia N78 has very decent 3.2 MP auto-focus camera that can slug it out with most dedicated point-and-shoot digital cameras around. Lens design is Zeiss Tessar with aperture range between f/2.8 – f/4.6.

Did a couple of shots below as sample pictures I took (no image manipulation in Photoshop except for resize and JPEG compression).

Photo of Dog taken with Nokia N78 Photo of Buddha taken with the Nokia N78

Output may need some exposure corrections and for most shots, graining and pixelation is minimal in the background (click on the thumbnails to see bigger version of the pictures).

There’s more than enough camera features to tinker around — scene modes, flash modes, timer (2-20 secs), sequence mode (single shot, burst, or intervals of 10 secs. to 10 mins.), and colour tones. There are options for white balance, exposure compensation, contrast, brightness and ISO. Built-in lighting is only Flash LED though, not Xenon. At 3.2 megapixel, you can print up to 3M – Large format (8×10″). Photos can also be immediately uploaded and shared online via mobile accounts in Ovi, Flickr and Vox.

All-in-all, it’s a solid phone and could very well be a lightweight version of the N82. I just have this aversion to black shiny finishes that tend to get grimy and smothered with fingerprints all the time.



Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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50 Responses

  1. Mikko says:

    Wow. Amazing phone — very good shots for a cellphone.

    This is obviously not for audiophiles, :(.

  2. rara says:

    another best from nokia.

    magkanu siya?

  3. sylv3rblade says:

    mm.. I was thinking that SE’s Cybershot phone family were the only cellphones that served as good point-and-shoot cameras. This has piqued my interest.

  4. Reggie says:

    have you tried using the built-in FM transmitter? i’ve read somewhere that the N78 has this

  5. yuga says:

    Yup, I tried the FM transmitter too. Added that part to my review above.

  6. Ernesto says:

    So much is the Nokia N78?

  7. yuga says:

    @ernesto, it’s not yet available in the Philippines so I can’t say exactly how much. In the US, it’s around $550 but my guess is that it will be cheaper than the N82 when it first came out.

  8. viperkid says:

    sylv3rblade,

    oh ya, SE had its days (at least for now). this time around, Nokia Nseries phones, especially N82 is one of d best camera equipped phones as attested by mobile-review, pcmag, trustedreviews, cnet, et al

  9. Joyce says:

    Sleek phone! [Cute dog, too!] Will you be reviewing the BlackBerry Bold if/when available in the Philippines?

  10. yuga says:

    @joyce, will try to get my hand on one when it goes in the local market.

    I’m currently testing the HTC Touch Dual.

  11. Xenon says:

    i wish i could have nokia N85.

  12. beryong says:

    just to give an idea of price (N78), here in UAE it ranges to 1600 to 1800 dirhams which is about 440 to 500 US dollars. Nice, well-compacted features but a little wobly of the back cover.

  13. oh my.. di ko pa na rereview yung pinahiram sa akin na nokia N78.. wooooot! August na.. haha :D

  14. Jhemay says:

    magkano?

  15. Ganda naman….amgkano kaya to.

  16. Jaymar says:

    I find it funny to even mention the sound quality of the built-in speakers. It’s given that it’ll sound like crap. It’s too small to put out decent sound.

    What I would like to find out is how does the N78 perform using decent in-ear earphones(sennheiser cx500 or creative ep-630). Is it comparable to the N91 or N81?

  17. PinoyPSP says:

    hmmmm, if 440 to 500 US dollars ung phone like you said earlier malaki chance double or triple ung price nyan pag dating here sa philippines. (e.g. Iphone which is only 199 there) hehehe

  18. dhors says:

    how about the wifi of this phone? how can u use it? it will connect fast to wifi zone area?

  19. JA says:

    is it better than N81? coz i have one before and planning to buy a new phone now.. can anyone suggest where i can get a phone wi fi equipped without spending too much???

  20. katrina says:

    how much?

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  22. warda says:

    i got this unit n78 around march last year from my sis working abroad… at first it was a wow, but now i dont think so… the buzzer went down first, and when i got it repaired, instead it went worse… maybe n78 was built so tight not design for any repairs, u may call it a disposable phone..

  23. slabster says:

    my phone for more than a year now…
    no matter how many times i think of buying a new one and replacing it, i just can’t find something that has it all…
    hindi nga lang talaga pang loud speaker ang music player but with good headset, it works for me…
    mas gusto ko pa wifi service nito kesa psp ko.
    i cant agree with above (that its disposable) kasi wala pa akong prob sa kanya…even battery life, superb, lasts for 7 days with just regular usage unless maghapon akong may kausap

    im planning on getting tv phone from cherry mobile, not to replace n78…gusto ko lang ung tv :P

  24. glamboy_17 says:

    sir. may i ask some questions about N78.. i bought my N78 last july 2009 then this mar. 2010 my phone just log and i’m wondering what’s the problem about it.. i just remember last last night that i’m browsing on the rockmode site and d.l. some anti-virus never nowing that i have kaspersky 7.0 installed.. so i d.l. 2 anti-viruses at the same time WTF my phone just HANGS UP!! what can i do to fix this little crappy phone? :(

    p.s. help sir.

  25. jason30z says:

    i’ve been using N78 for 21 months now, I’ve already dropped it 8 times and still the performance of this phone amazes me. Works superbly and looks like iphone 4 sideview. The money i’ve spent on this phone…! Sulit….!

  26. Sleek phone! [Cute dog, too!] Will you be reviewing the BlackBerry Bold if/when available in the Philippines?

  27. I was thinking that SE’s Cybershot phone family were the only cellphones that served as good point-and-shoot cameras. This has piqued my interest.

  28. I too am awakened interest in this phone and you can appreciate the quality of design!

  29. comaprto with previous comentarioa! is very good design this phone ..

  30. paisajista says:

    hmmmm, if 440 to 500 US dollars ung phone like you said earlier malaki chance double or triple ung price nyan pag dating here sa philippines. (e.g. Iphone which is only 199 there) hehehe

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  32. I’m currently testing the HTC Touch Dual.

  33. i’ve been using N78 for 21 months now, I’ve already dropped it 8 times and still the performance of this phone amazes me.

  34. I wanna say that one of the most amazing things about the nokia n78, its their performance! i used to have one of them, and it worked 24/7, im fan of nokia!

  35. just to give an idea of price (N78), here in UAE it ranges to 1600 to 1800 dirhams which is about 440 to 500 US dollars. Nice, well-compacted features but a little wobly of the back cover.

  36. how about the wifi of this phone? how can u use it? it will connect fast to wifi zone area?Thanks!

  37. Neil says:

    gnda tlga neto oh . bigyan sna q ng ganyan ng tita q galing kuwait kaso nanakaw sa kanya duun bago mkauwi d2 , sayang :(

  38. For a Newbie, I am always searching on the internet for articles which will help me. Thanks

  39. Techihunt says:

    The n0kia N78 is one of the best Phone I have ever used, and one of Nokia’s Best.
    I have been using the cellph0ne for about 3 years.
    Despite the years, its Design, the Carl
    Zeiss Optics camera and Nokia
    Reliability had proven the N78 the
    Greatest Phone.

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