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Nokia N81 Preview

October 5th, 2007 by abhishta

I had promised that I would get some hands-on time with N81 at the Nokia Unlock LA event and thanks to WOM World, I got to do just that. So without further delay, here is my sneak preview of the Nokia N81 8GB multimedia computer.


The N81 is a sleek, black beauty which is sure to leave you impressed. As I played with the Silver/Black version, I couldn’t help but notice how great this simple color combination looked! Looks wise, I found it to be absolutely stunning. I think James Burland’s article on the N81 sums up the design aspects of this phone.

Build Quality:

I believe the N81 is made up of some sort of a plastic, but in no way does it feel cheap. The phone felts solid in my hands and there were no noticeable creaks. The slider was tight and had a spring mechanism to guide it, way better than the slide on my N91.


For those who have used the N91, the dedicated music key is now the multimedia key, which opens up a multimedia menu offering quick access to various items like music, maps, photos and contacts which I didn’t really like. The N91’s music key was really a god-send and made music access and switching between the player and applications fast and painless.In my opinion, Nokia could have easily pulled off a dedicated music key and multimedia menu key, given the amount of space on the keypad. The N81’s new D-pad system is quite good and it took me little time to get used to it even though I’ve been a joystick user for quite a while now. The backlight is white and the numbers/ alphabets are easy to read in the dark. The keypad is flat, except for a slight groove at the bottom of each line helping distinguish between keys. Key presses are soft and the keys offer constructive feedback, letting you know you’ve pressed a key. The two N-gage keys are located on either side of the ear piece. They are slightly harder to press. I wasn’t able to test them in an actual N-Gage game though. The edit key (pencil key) has now been removed. I think the * or # buttons will now perform its functions, but I’m not sure.

Menus/ Programs:

The menu structure is quite similar to the S60 3rd Edition FP1 phones.

The Standby Screen:

Note how Search is integrated into the standby screen.

The Menu structure:


Pre-installed applications show up in the applications folder (e.g. Screenshot). I hope that this trend continues to include other S60 phones to ensure uniformity in the UI.


There are some noticeable changes in how the N81 tackles music. The music player icon is now replaced by the music folder which consists of the following applications.

The Music Player now includes your music library and podcasts, a great addition to the music player. However, with the podcasting application kept separate, I think that the Podcasts sub-menu under music will only play podcasts and will not manage subscriptions.

I didn’t notice any significant changes with the Music Player as I skimmed through the menus and playlists. There were a few loaded songs on the N81, but I’m not sure if they were pre-installed or loaded in by someone. If they were in fact, pre-installed, then I do think that the Nokia employee who decided on these songs has quite an interesting taste in music.

Music Store:

Looking at that Music Store icon in the Music folder, I just had to click it! There wasn’t much to look at though since I didn’t have the required credentials to log in.


Multimedia Menu:

The multimedia menu offers a quick way to access Music, Maps, Contacts, Internet and Games. It has a dedicated hardware shortcut key, which was previously the music key on the N91. The new D-Pad works smoothly as you scroll through the menu.


I wanted to play N-Gage games on the N81 to get a feel of the dedicated gaming keys but there weren’t any N81’s pre-installed with N-Gage games at the event. I did, however get a video of System Rush Evolution on the N95, which I will publish later.


I’m not sure if the phone was a prototype or if it was a final ready piece, but there weren’t any visible quirks with the phone. That being said, I don’t really want to comment on the stability until I’ve spent a lot of time with the phone.


With the limited time and the dark setting of the rooms, I did not get a chance to test the disappointing 2.0 mp camera with flash.


View the entire flickr set here.


  • I was particularly disappointed by the paltry 2.0 mp camera, at least a 3.2mp camera should have been present.
  • For a device touted as one of the flagship devices for the new n-gage platform, its just wrong that it does not have tv-out.
  • I loved the music key on the N91. It allowed me to quickly switch to the music player and onto the track with a single click and I want it back! There was enough space on the keypad to have a dedicated music key and a dedicated multimedia key.


To sum up the build quality and design, I’d just say that the N81 LOOKS and FEELS like a $400 phone and I had no complaints there. The body and finish is top-notch. For the brief amount of time I played with the phone, the UI was zippy and stable. The N81 is the next generation N91. There are significant improvements to the music player, but I was unable to comprehensively test the sound quality, shuffle algorithms and other music-centric issues. Look forward to a full-fledged review in the future. As an S60 user and music lover, the N81 is definitely on my wish list.

Tags:   · · · · 11 Comments

  • Mark Guim

    Pretty cool that you were able to bring the screenshots back home with you. Great preview…. and what’s this rumor of a new site you’re brewing up…???

  • abhishta

    Thanks Mark.
    The new site will be introduced soon, hopefully. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

  • Rishabh Kant

    Well after surfing most of the sites, i found ur info. bout N-81 the most satisfactory. Actually i wanted to have a feed back of a user(like you), so that i can make my customers make a right decision.
    thanks boss

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  • Gem

    From Expansys Germany, N81 will be in stocks in 12 November 2007 ( don’t know german tranlated with babelfish):

    N81 :

    N81-8GB :


    “Unser Preis nur für das Handset: €479,95 (403,32 exkl.)

    Verfügbarkeit: Vorraussichtliches Erscheinungsdatum 12 Nov 07”


    “Unser Preis nur für das Handset: €669,95 (562,98 exkl.)

    Verfügbarkeit: Vorraussichtliches Erscheinungsdatum 12 Nov 07”
    Old Today, 11:31

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  • Omar Farooq

    best mobile i have seen

  • venkat20

    Nice ..Fine awesome..I am using the Nokia N81 Model mobile..I am using The Mobile..If ur mobile gets locked means u can use the site Unlocking Instructions..

  • lagoos20

    Nice ..I unlocked My Nokia Mobile Locked to Vodafone Australia i unlocked using the site of cost..

  • stringg

    In the site U can get the Unlocking Instructions For the Mobile..

  • kiko

    i need croatian menu for nokia e81 did someone have a softwarefor that mobile fone