Nokia N85 Walk-Around and First Impressions


This has got to be one of the most agonizing weeks I have ever spent with any two devices. Why? Because I have had to struggle over which PDA phone I would carry each day – and which would get left behind. Such has been the daily dilemma while acquainting myself with both the HTC Touch HD and the Nokia N85.

I know; you don’t feel a bit sorry for me, and it’s okay because I wouldn’t either…

So this is the Nokia N85, a device I consider to be the heir apparent to the popular N95, although some will argue that it is actually just a “better” N96. However you want to look at it, the N85 takes everything that was good about the N95’s dual slider form factor, and it improves upon it to the point where I have to wonder what else they could have possibly done to make it any better.

Gone are the hard angular sides of the N95…


…and in their place are the sexy curves that make the N85 a natural fit in my hand. The N85 is composed of plastic, lots of shiny plastic, and yes – just like every other shiny plastic phone I’ve used I find myself appalled by the amount of fingerprints the screen will accumulate. I also find myself compulsively wiping the phone every chance I get; but I digress.

This 4.06? tall x 1.97? wide x 0.63? thick device is incredibly pocketable, even if a little bit on the thicker side. It weighs a satisfying 4.51 ounces, and the build quality seems excellent; I’ve repeatedly opened and closed the slider, and each time it has rewarded me with a satisfying “thunk” when popping back into place. I’m sure that I will keep doing this throughout the review process, and I’ll let you know if the mechanisms eventually loosen; right now the rails feel so tight that it is hard to imagine, but anything is possible.

Let’s start our walk-around on the top of the device, where we find a microUSB connector which not only connects to the user’s computer for syncing, but also for charging. Yay! This was one of the features, or should I say – lack thereof – that confounded me about the N95. Nokia got it right on the N85, and in the process they managed to eliminate an extra port on the phone.

Moving right along…next to the microUSB is a 3.5mm jack, which allows the N85 to work with any standard headset as well as the included TV-out connectors. When pressed the power button calls up options to switch the phone off, lock the keypad, or change the profiles from Normal to Silent, Meeting, Outdoor, Pager, and Offline (airplane mode); at the bottom of the list are options to lock the phone and remove the memory card. Almost hiding on the side’s edge is a lanyard strap receptacle, which is a feature I wish every mobile phone included.

On the edge of the phone’s face are the earpiece, light sensor, and the secondary camera used for video calls if you live in a country that offers that option.


On the right side of the phone is a covered microSD slot. The N85 comes with an 8GB microSD, and the specifications say that is the largest the phone will accept. I can tell you right now that this is not true, because I popped a 16GB card in, and the phone had no problem recognizing it. So good news! The one and only FAIL that I thought I had found (based on the notation of “max. 8 GB” in Nokia’s published specifications), was unfounded.


The screen is definitely worth mentioning, even though it is only 2.6? (320 x 240 pixels (QVGA)), it is a brilliant and gorgeous Active Matrix OLED which is an absolute joy to use indoors as well as much of the time when outside. An added benefit is that this type screen will use less power than other screen’s might. The bad news is that when trying to look at the screen in direct sunlight it washes out pretty badly. Tilting the phone one way or another will fix the problem, but it can be a bit annoying.

At the bottom of the screen is what looks like a much more simplified version of the N95’s button cluster. As you’ll recall from pictures above, the N95 had no less than eight buttons as well as a D-pad with center select button. By all appearances, the N85 only has three – along with what they are calling a Navi wheel (or scroll key) with its own center select button. So far I don’t see a major difference between a traditional D-pad and the scroll key, but I’ll let that pass for the moment.


What I want to show you is that when the phone is activated, either by sliding out the bottom or otherwise unlocking the screen, there are seven buttons revealed in addition to the scroll wheel with center select button. Starting at the upper left and going clockwise, they include the two selection keys, the call end key, the Clear key, the menu key, the call key, and in the center – the scroll key with center select and directly to its right, a silver multimedia key.


The right side of the phone has two “stereo speakers with 3-D sound effect” at the top and bottom. I wasn’t sure how I would like both speakers being on the same side as each other, but after hearing the amazing quality of these speakers versus the single speaker on the Touch HD’s back, I have to say that these are infinitely better – not only when listening to music, but most importantly when on a speakerphone call. Starting on the end closer to the bottom of the phone, the next button is the 2-stage auto-focus and capture button for the camera. In the center is a clever sliding key, which unlocks or locks the keyboard without the usual button sequence – although it can still be performed if the user prefers. The last set of buttons is the Volume Up / Volume Down rocker, which also functions as the Zoom when operating the camera.


And here is the sliding numeric keyboard in all of its glory.


You’ll note that the more articulated keys from the N95 are gone…


…and in their place is a keyboard that functions quite well, once you get over the fact that there are no obvious keys to press. The sensation of pressing individual numbers is still present, as the plastic panel that the numbers are on gives and flexes, but it does take a moment to get used to it.


This keyboard lights up quite nicely for texting in the dark, and after Mitchell’s excellent T9 tutelage last year, I am still quite proficient at it.


One of the more unique features that users enjoyed on the N95 was the short side of the sliding keyboard, where the short-side keys reside.


They are still present on the N85, even if – like so many of the button cluster’s keys – they are at first invisible.


When the N85 is on, the short-side buttons allow you to multitask, by controlling music while other applications are open in the screen. The top and bottom keys (forward and reverse) also function as zoom keys when the phone is in camera mode. The Play/Pause and Stop keys are gaming buttons.


The back side of the phone houses the battery compartment, dual LED flash, and a sliding door which protects the Carl Zeiss optics of the 5megapixel camera.


Sliding the door open immediately puts the N85 into camera mode, which is quite handy when you want to grab a quick snapshot.


As expected, the N85’s camera is absolutely fantastic; I can easily see how this might be the only camera I would need to bring along on a walk or other short trip.

The N85 runs  S60 3rd edition, which is the quite sophisitcated Nokia PDA software capable of running many after-market games and applications. I’ll talk more about this OS – as well as other things I’ll discover about the N85 along the way, after I have used it for a while longer…

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.

5 Comments on "Nokia N85 Walk-Around and First Impressions"

  1. Nice walk-about, Judie! Thanks for giving us the cool perview…

  2. Judie, the navi-key is like the ipod wheel, but it's not activated by default. Go to settings, then either inside personalization either in the main settings menu, there's a Navi-something option. Click it, and there you'll find the option to activate the Navi-key. It's not available everywhere on the menu, but it is in long lists (music, gallery, contacts, main menu….).
    My guess is that Nokia are tinkering with it now, to see how it works, and then probably implement it activated by default over their portfolio. It was first present on the N81, but it only worked in the music and gallery, now it works in other apps and menus, which is an improvement.

  3. Thanks Rita! There is a reason why I called this "First Impressions", and you just helped ensure that my final impressions would be more inclusive of this amazing phone's features. Thanks for the tip! 🙂

  4. Thanks Pete; I am really impressed with this phone, and am looking forward to digging in deeper. 🙂

  5. I love those new nokia, the sliding part is excellent, great preview Judie

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