Review: Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition

Introduction

The Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition, as with the original 8800, looks very distinctive. It retains the smooth design and hefty price tag of all previous 8000-series devices, which have traditionally been Nokia’s final step before having to move to the ultra-premium Vertu line of handsets. Whilst design is a very personal thing, evaluating the functions of the handset is more objective, and that is what we are trying to do today.

Physical Aspects

The Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition is a minor update of the 8800 released a year ago. Apart from the camera, there has not been much else updated hardware-wise. The phone can be recognized from afar by the reflection of its stainless steel body. According to Nokia, the signature feature of the 8800 Sirocco Edition’s design is the concave ‘thumbprint’ on the front of the handset. Not only does it look nice, but it also makes the phone a lot more ergonomic, as it is now easier to slide open. The body measures 107mm x 45mm x 17.5mm (4.21″ x 1.77″ x 0.69″), making it fairly compact. The 8800 Sirocco Edition weights in at 138g (4.87oz), making the handset disproportionately heavy for its size. Of course, some people like it heavy, saying that the handset feels solid and high-end to justify its price. Although the mirror surface is a fingerprint magnet, it is extremely scratch resistant compared to the Sony Ericsson Z610i. Nokia stressed that the glass in front of the screen is specially treated to withstand scratches.

With the slide closed, the two softkeys take up both sides of the metal strip on top of the thumb rest. They also act as an effective anchorage when you slide the phone open. The only button found outside of the slide is the power button on top of the handset, which also allows you to change the phone’s active profile. The keys at both sides beside the screen are actually mechanical releases for the battery cover. The power plug, data, and headset connectors are on the bottom of the device.

The spring-loaded sliding mechanism is extremely well constructed. It gives a sturdy metallic sound when opened and a solid snap when closed. Nokia claimed that the sliding mechanism is crafted with ball bearings to increase durability. Whatever the case, this solid feeling is nowhere to be found elsewhere in the market today.

The keypad on the 8800 is a bit small, with the alphanumeric keys measuring just 5mm tall. However, they feel more ergonomic than they look. This is partly due to the ’sand dune’ convex design of the keys and the excellent tactile feedback. The d-pad is crafted to look like a rectangular jewel surrounded by a thin frame of brushed metal. The select key is very easy to press, as are the dial and hang up keys, though the directional keys can be a bit tricky at times. Although Nokia claimed that “the jewel-like navigation key shines like the brightest star in the darkest night,” the key itself is the only part of the keypad that is not backlit. Even so, we did not experience any major problems operating the phone in the dark.

The camera lens is hidden on the back of the slider, and will only be revealed when the phone is open. The back of the phone is plain, and the surface around the camera is the same brushed bronze material as the keypad. It is not as reflective as the silver self-portrait mirror, but personally I preferred Nokia using the less shiny material, as it is less prone to fingerprinting.

In terms of physical aspects, the Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition is great but not perfect. Fingerprinting is an issue and the keypad is not the best around. I am not sure if I fancy the design enough to clean out my wallet on purchasing one.

Multimedia

The main display on the 8800 Sirocco Edition is a 1.7″ 208×208 pixel resolution TFT capable of displaying up to 262k colors. It is very bright and color reproduction is natural. The colors do fade under sunlight, but visibility is still acceptable.

Although the phone is not advertised as such, the 8800 Sirocco Edition is not too weak when it comes to multimedia. The biggest drawback would be the lack of an external memory card slot, though including one might have affected the design. Internal memory is just 128MB, reminding us of a low-end MP3 player. MP3, MP4, eAAC, eAAC+, and WMA files are supported, and the media player allows you to listen to audio in the background whilst using other phone functions. The built in FM radio is a suitable addition to please the phone’s target market.

The ringtone grille holes are located on the top of the phone. The sound chip puts out the same 64 voice polyphony as most Nokia phones do these days. Audio quality is a little harsh at times, and volume wise it is not as loud as the 5500 Sport, but is sufficient in our opinion. For some reason the mid to high notes are exaggerated when played out of the speaker - this will make the included music composed by Brian Eno sound catchier, but your own MP3 tunes more unnatural.

As previously mentioned, one of the updates for the Sirocco Edition is the camera. It is now a 2MP CMOS sensor, up from the original 8800’s SVGA resolution. Picture quality is acceptable, though the biggest problem is the white balance. Even when given a choice of five preset white balance settings, it is almost impossible to find the correct setting indoors. Video wise, the 8800 Sirocco Edition can record at resolutions up to 176×144 pixels, but quality is only average,

The user interface on the 8800 Sirocco Edition is the old Nokia Series 40 v2. As always, it is easy to use, though it is relatively slow in loading compared to newer Series 40 and S60 devices. In the gallery view, you still get to choose to browse your pictures in either a list or 3×3 thumbnail format. Sometimes it can take more than 4 seconds to open the picture gallery, though.

User Interface

The 8800 Sirocco Edition uses the old non-smartphone Series 40 Nokia UI, which is famous for its simple operation. One reason why Nokia decided not to install S60 on the 8800 is the difference in target market. The 8800 is not meant for tech junkies, but for people who care more about style and less about function. The included themes all look elegant, especially the screen savers. Unsurprisingly, users can set the d-pad directions as shortcuts to their favorite applications from the standby screen.

The main menu is the scrolling 3×3 icon view that most users would recognize. Button response is instantaneous, but don’t expect any fancy animation as found on newer S40 devices. Also, users cannot use the number keys to select items from the list, they are forced to use the d-pad, which can be clumsy to use for big fingers. We got the impression that the processor on the 8800 is not that fast, which is evident when the phone takes 4 seconds to open up the picture gallery, and 2 seconds to open the message inbox.

The user interface is very easy to use, almost too easy that it feels a bit low-tech. There is nothing wrong with an interface that is really user friendly, a good device is supposed to be user friendly, but I am not sure if people will like paying so much for a phone running an old OS.

Phone functions

The 8800 Sirocco Edition is mediocre in the area of phone functions. Audio quality is not the best and it is often tricky to align your ear to the tiny slit for the speaker of the handset. Despite the stainless steel casing, reception is not a problem, as you would expect from Nokia phones. The 8800 Sirocco Edition is a tri-band phone supporting GSM 900/1800/1900MHz networks, Europeans will not have problems using it, but US users might not be able to abuse their network coverage fully.

As mentioned before, the power key also acts as a selector for phone profiles. There are altogether seven customizable profiles, and timed profiles are supported, which is getting quite hard to find in the market nowadays. You will be happy to learn that speaker phone, voice command, and voice dial are all supported.

Contact management is straightforward. The phonebook is no-frills, but it still allows you to choose between SIM memory and/or phone memory. This is something that Samsung should learn. Needless to say, you can assign caller groups, speed dial, caller IDs, and caller ringtones.

Nokia claimed that the Sirocco can last up to 10 days on standby and almost 3 hours of talk time. In actual testing, the phone typically lasted for 3 days before it runs out of battery.

Connectivity

The 8800 Sirocco Edition is a GPRS Class 8 device with EDGE support, but don’t expect too much from its basic xHTML browser. Content streaming and digital rights management are supported, but I doubt the practicality of watching videos on the small screen. Bluetooth 2.0 works fine; I can connect with the bundled BH-801 headset without problems, and transferring files and exchanging data with SyncML is easy, too. It is unfortunate that A2DP is not supported, otherwise the 8800 would have been a more capable music player.

Apart from Bluetooth, you can connect the phone with your PC via the bundled USB cable. You may synchronize your PIM data after you have installed the Nokia PC Suite program.

Messaging

The 8800 Sirocco Edition is a fine messaging device, supporting MMS, SMS, and POP3/IMAP4 messaging. All the messages are put into the same Inbox, Outbox, and Draft folders. Users are also able to create their own sub-folders for sorting messages

The message composition interface is clean and intuitive. T9 predictive text conversion is instantaneous. Apart from the smallish keypad, messaging on the 8800 Sirocco Edition is bliss.

Applications

Being a non-smartphone, the Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition is comparable to other Series 40 devices when it comes to applications. The firmware gives you a reasonably long list of PIM programs: calendar, to-do list, notes, calculator, countdown timer, stop watch, and alarm clock. Nokia has also added World Clock and Converter as Java programs. On the Hong Kong version that I received, there is the handy addition of an English-Chinese dictionary. Compared with newer Series 40 devices, what’s missing on the 8800 Sirocco Edition is the Active Standby function and some flexibility and configurability of the OS. This is not too bad, and the number of applications should be acceptable to an average user.

In the game department, Nokia has included four Java games, including Golf Tour, Rally 3D, Snake III, and Solitaire. These should be good enough to keep you entertained during your free time.

Conclusion

The Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition is a fashion phone with a premium price tag. The design is great, but whether it is worth the money is another story. Operation wise, there is not much that you can fault. The build quality is excellent, and the user interface is simple.

The phone is targeted towards a more mature population, where music and pictures are not as important. But still, by today’s Nokia standard, the 8800 Sirocco Edition is relatively no-frills. If you are planning to use a phone only as a phone and you find the Sirocco Edition attractive enough, you might want to start saving up. You may also consider picking up two MOTOKRZR K1s for the price of one 8800 Sirocco.

One Response to “Review: Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition”

  1. Review: Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition - Mobile Junction Forum Says:

    […] The Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition, as with the original 8800, looks very distinctive. It retains the smooth design and hefty price tag of all previous 8000-series devices, which have traditionally been Nokia?s final step before having to move to the ultra-premium Vertu line of handsets. Whilst design is a very personal thing, evaluating the functions of the handset is more objective, and that is what we are trying to do today. Read Full Review […]

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