The Media Guru
Mar 23, 2012



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A very brief look at the differences in hardware between the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Nokia N9.

 

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Fantastic.

That was my first reaction when the N9 was unveiled. I was completely blown away by the design and styling. A body that has been precision-machined from a single piece of polycarbonate plastic and fitted with an elegantly curved screen.

That is the new design language of Nokia as they followed it up with the Lumia 800 and the Lumia 900. In fact, the Lumia 800 is re-using the same shell as the N9. Both have exactly the same dimensions - 116.5 x 61.2 x 12.1 mm.

Ever since their partnership with Microsoft was announced, Nokia didn’t have time to design a new product from scratch (which typically takes 2 years). So they took the existing design of the N9, added a Compal-derived Qualcomm base board, tweaked it and outsourced it to Compal for manufacturing (the N9 is made in Finland while the Lumia 800 is made in China).

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So many reviewers praised the design of the N9 and the Lumia 800. So did I when I first received my N9.

Now though, I disagree. The first thing I did when I received the Lumia 800 is compare it to my N9. So I removed the soft cover on my N9 and I found this...

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I wasn’t expecting that. I've had the N9 for more than 4 months now and during this time I had barely removed the cover… While the Lumia 800 has a completely intact shell, the matte layer of my N9 has nearly worn off. The culprits - a combination of heat and sweat.

 

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& I’m not the only one who has discovered this. Clearly, Nokia engineers haven't done enough testing with the matte layer coating of the N9 in tropical weather. & to me that's bad design. One of the most beautiful phones ever designed is no longer so.

 

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Another downside is that unlike the indestructible aluminium-encased N8, polycarbonate is fragile. It’s easily dented but drop it a few times, it will eventually break and if you are unfortunate, so will the Gorilla glass. That is why Nokia have supplied a soft cover with the N9 & Lumia 800.

Oh & you might want to check your pocket for sand particles – that’s one element along with diamond that is harder than Gorilla glass…

 

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The N9 has no camera button and the other buttons feel a bit loose. Not only that, the feedback of the buttons is much better on the Lumia 800. The camera shutter button on the 800 is the best one I've ever used. The pressure required to press it is just near perfect. It doesn't cause any camera shake when taking a photo, unlike the N8.

& one the best features of WP7.5? Hold the camera button when locked & it launches the camera!

 

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The N9 and the Lumia 800 have mono loudspeakers located at the bottom. Thankfully, it’s no longer at the back so the sound cannot be covered. They both deliver similar performance, but are no match to stereo speakers.

 

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On top of the devices, you have the 3.5mm headphone input, which should be standard. Except, it isn’t.

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The N9 is supplied with the WH-901 headset, while the Lumia 800 has the WH-902 headset. They both look exactly the same as above, except for the model number. These earphones don’t fit in my ear, so that’s why I prefer the in-ear ones I got with the N900. & when I tried my in-ear earphones on the Lumia 800, it didn’t work. It was as if the connector was plugged half-way, I could barely hear voices.

I then tried the WH-902, which worked perfectly. Followed by the WH-901 which didn’t work. & when I tried the WH-902 on the N9, all I could hear was massive static… So what’s exactly the problem?

This is the standard 3.5mm TRRS (Tip, Ring, Ring, Sleeve) connector used on all phones. The one on the right is the in-ear one from the N900. And the one on the left is the WH-902 from the Lumia 800. The Left, Right, Mic & Ground convention is used by 90% of phone manufacturers. So why would Nokia change the sequence of the signals?

The blame lies in a certain fruit company, who decided that adhering to a signal standard used by all phone manufacturers is too mainstream. So they thought differently and came up with a different solution, which meant their devices were incompatible with all existing headsets and had to use their own headset or an adapter which inverts the signals. The American Headset Jack (AHJ) it’s now called. Magical, isn’t it.

& now Nokia (or Microsoft) have decided to copy this break from the industry standard, rendering all previous Nokia headsets useless without an adapter. & they aren’t the only ones – the Galaxy S2 also uses this AHJ connector.

 

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The USB slot door is by far the most fragile part of the phone. It's too easy to forget that you left it open while removing it from the charger… and then end up with a broken door.

At least, it's an improvement. The N900 had a USB port that could be easily broken. The N9 has a USB port door that can be easily broken...

 

Not all doors are made equal – the N9 provides a very satisfying click sound when you close it, which isn’t found on the Lumia 800. To remove the SIM card holder, you just need to slide the spring-loaded cover.

 

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The micro SIM card holders. Only the N9 supports hot-swapping of SIMs.

 

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It’s clear that the two devices DO NOT have the same 8MP camera module. The Lumia 800 has a much bigger “aperture.” The position of the dual-LED "flash" is also different. I do not know if it was due to internal space requirements or because to further differentiate the N9 and the Lumia 800.

 

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The N9 has a front camera… which is completely useless! It wasn't until 5 months after release, with PR1.2 update that videocalls were added, which are only usable via GTalk. Skype doesn't support it yet.

 

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The N9 also has a notification LED at the front, which lights up only while charging. Quite unnecessary because of the Low Power Mode screen.

 

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In place of the front camera and the LED, the Lumia 800 has 3 capacitive buttons under the glass, which use vibra feedback to give the feel of real button. Being capacitive, I often pressed them by mistake. It is most annoying when I'm using the camera and suddenly end up into Bing.

The Back button and the Start button are both crucial to the operation of the phone. But the Search button... I barely used it.

 

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Most of the above differences are just minor ones. The biggest one though is the screen. The N9 has a 854x480 3.9" (251 ppi) screen and no buttons of any kind. The Lumia 800 has a 800x480 3.7" (252 ppi) screen and 3 capacitive buttons.

 

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Both screens are ClearBlack AMOLED, which perform very well under bright sunlight. The Lumia 800 is cooler and slightly more vivid than the N9 (on normal mode). The N9 has 3 colour profiles - Subdued, Normal & Vivid. Before PR1.2, with adaptive brightness, the N9 used to switch to vivid mode under sunlight.

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Excellent colour rendition and viewing angles. The Lumia 800 has 3 brightness settings – Low, Medium and High. The N9 has 5 levels of brightness and is brighter than the Lumia 800.

 

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One advantage of using AMOLEDs is the that the standby screen can be used in low power mode to display the clock and the incredibly useful notification icons. Nokia have been using it on Symbian smartphones and have added it to the N9. Probably they didn’t have enough time to work on the Lumia 800.

 

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Here's the interesting bit; both displays have a bit-depth of 16 bits. The N9 has to display at 16-bit because its GPU isn't powerful enough to render at 24-bit. Manually setting it at 24-bit makes the OS unstable.

The Lumia 800 however doesn’t lack GPU power, so it’s a bit of a surprise. Note that the bands are not present on the Lumia 800 because WP7.5 uses dithering.

 

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The AMOLED screens have a PenTile pixel layout. Nokia had to go with it as it is the only way to achieve such high pixel density (ppi) with AMOLED. The above photo shows the N900 (LCD), the N9 and the Lumia 800.

 

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Here’s a closer look at the pixels. The N900 has very high pixel density (266 ppi), so you can barely see the pixels. On the N9 and the Lumia 800, you can clearly see the PenTile pixels (Red-Green-Blue-Green) and it is obvious that the edges have artifacts.

 

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The disadvantage of PenTile displays is that those jagged edges cause text to look blurry. & if you have very good eyesight, it’s a nightmare.

 

The N9’s magenta coloured edge fringing (which looks like chromatic aberration) even appear while scrolling text.

 

Yet those are not the worst thing about AMOLED. See those black marks on the screen. All AMOLED screens have them – that includes the Galaxy S2, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, PS Vita, Droid Razr, Nokia E7, Nokia N8, etc. Those black regions that manifest themselves as spots, streaks, lines or blobs, only show up at night when a completely dark background is used. It’s a consequence of AMOLED pixels being organic – they are prone to degradation if they are briefly exposed to conditions like moisture during manufacture. It is a manufacturing defect all users will have to live with because AMOLED technology hasn’t matured enough to get rid of this.

Here are a two papers on this:

With both Windows Phone and MeeGo adopting minimalist black themes, the streaks are lot more obvious. It certainly ruins the fun while watching movies at night.

 

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Both have a 1450mAh battery. The N9, solid with its MeeGo/Maemo roots easily lasts for more than a day. Without SIM, it can last for 3 days. The biggest battery eater when playing a movie? The video player? The system? The screen? No. Weirdly, it's the audio. Have they chosen the wrong audio chip or is the DSP algorithm not efficient enough?

The Lumia 800 though is another story. The first 4 days I used it, the battery wouldn't last for more that 6-9 hours. It was absolutely awful. Fed up with that, I went ahead and manually installed the latest update which promised to increase the battery by threefold. Indeed it did – the idle usage dropped from 200mA to 80mA. & now it lasts nearly a day.

Windows Phone is an OS which requires a permanent connection to a data network as it’s always retrieving something (push notifications, mail, Facebook/Twitter updates). And because Mauritius has very bad 3G coverage, the Lumia 800 suffers greatly on dual GSM/3G mode. Used intensively even on EDGE, the body gets hot very quickly and so does the glass.

 

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In terms of storage, the N9 destroys the Lumia 800 - 64GB vs 16GB. You'll never run out of storage on the N9. & unlike the Lumia 800, it can be used as removable storage.
The Lumia 800 however edges out the N9 in the most important area - it has a much better CPU and GPU. The Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 SoC, the MSM8255T with a 1.4Ghz Scorpion CPU and Andreno 205 GPU. It also has 512MB LPDDR2 memory. It’s quite impressive given that it runs WP7.5 very smoothly without requiring a dual-core processor.

The N9 on the other hand uses the TI OMAP3630, a SoC from… 2010. Yes, it features the same Cortex-A8 and SGX530 GPU as the N900, albeit at a smaller 45nm process with a higher clock speed of 1GHz. The N9 compensates for this by having 1GB of memory. By modern superphone standards, the N9 is completely out-dated. Yes, it can record 720p videos, but only at MPEG-4 Part 2 Simple Profile (Simple@L6), which is H.263. It will play H.264 High Profile (High@L3.1) videos only at resolutions lower than its native resolution. So it can’t play the videos I recorded on the N8 1.5 years ago.

The full specs:

Nokia N9

Nokia Lumia 800

Screen

ClearBlack AMOLED PenTile
3.9” 854x480 pixels
(251 ppi)

ClearBlack AMOLED Pentile
3.7” 800x480 pixels
(252 ppi)

Dimensions

116.45 x 61.2 x 12.1 mm

116.5 x 61.2 x 12.1 mm

Weight

135g

142g

Keys

Power
Volume

Power
Volume
Camera

Networks

GSM 850/950/1800/1900
WCDMA 850/900/1700/1900/2100

GSM 850/950/1800/1900
WCDMA 900/1900/2100

Data

EDGE Class B, GPRS Class B, HSDPA Cat10 14.4Mbps, HSUPA Cat6 5.76Mbps

EDGE Class B, GPRS Class B, HSDPA Cat10 14.4Mbps, HSUPA Cat6 5.76Mbps

WLAN

IEEE 802.11 b/g/n (2.4/5Ghz)
WEP, WPA, WPA2 (AES/TKIP)

IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
WEP, WPA, WPA2-Enterprise, WPA2-Personal

CPU

TI OMAP 3630

1GHz ARM Cortex-A8

Snapdragon S2 MSM8255T

1.4Ghz Scorpion

GPU

PowerVR SGX530

Adreno 205

RAM

1 GB

512 MB

ROM

512 MB

512 MB

Storage

16/64 GB

16 GB

Battery

BV-5JW 3.7V 1450mAh
GSM Talk Time – 11h
WCDMA Talk Time – 6.5h
GSM Standby – 340h
WCDMA Standby – 420h
Video Playback – 5h
Music Playback – 50h
3G Browsing – 5h
WLAN Browsing – 6.5h

BV-5JW 3.7V 1450mAh
GSM Talk Time – 13h
WCDMA Talk Time – 9.5h
GSM Standby – 265h
WCDMA Standby – 335h
Music Playback – 55h

Connectivity

Nokia AV 3.5mm
Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR
Bluetooth Stereo Audio
Micro USB
USB 2.0 High-Speed
NFC
DLNA

3.5mm AHJ Connector
Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR
Bluetooth Stereo Audio
Micro USB
USB 2.0 High-Speed
DLNA

Features

2 Microphones
3D Accelerometer
Ambient Light Sensor
Compass (Magnetometer Sensor)
Micro SIM
Proximity Sensor
TV Out
A-GPS

2 Microphones
3D Accelerometer
Ambient Light Sensor
Compass (Magnetometer Sensor)
Micro SIM
Proximity Sensor
A-GPS

Camera

8.0 Megapixels
3264x2448 pixels
Focal Length: 28mm
F-Stop: f/2.2
Focus: 10cm to infinity

Features: Auto and Manual Exposure, Auto and Manual White Balance, Automatic Motion Blur Reduction, Carl Zeiss Optics, Continuous Auto Focus, Dual-LED Flash, Exposure Compensation, Face Detection, Full Screen Viewfinder, Geotagging, Still Image Editor, Touch Focus

Video: 720p 30fps
VGA Front Camera

8.0 Megapixels
3264x2448 pixels
Focal Length: 28mm
F-Stop: f/2.2
Focus: 10cm to infinity

Features: Auto and Manual Exposure, Auto and Manual White Balance, Carl Zeiss Optics, Continuous Auto Focus, Dual-LED Flash, Geotagging, Touch Focus

Video: 720p 30fps

Video

3GPP formats (H.263), ASF, AVI, Flash Video, H.264/AVC, Matroska, MPEG-4, VC-1, WMV 9, XVID

3GPP formats (H.263), ASF, H.264/AVC, MPEG-4, VC-1, WMV 9

Audio

AAC, AAC+, AC-3, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, E-AC-3, FLAC, HE-AAC v1, HE-AAC v2, M4A, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WAV, WMA, WMA 10 Pro, WMA 9

AAC, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, HE-AAC v1, HE-AAC v2, M4A, MP3, WAV, WMA 10 Pro, WMA 9

Audio Features

Active Noise Cancellation
Audio Recording AAC stereo, 48kHz
Audio Streaming
Bluetooth Stereo
FM Receiver
Dolby Digital Plus
Dolby Headphone
Handsfree Speaker
Music Player

Active Noise Cancellation
Audio Recording AAC stereo, 48kHz
Audio Streaming
Bluetooth Stereo
FM Radio
Handsfree Speaker
Mix Radio
Music Player

Graphics

BMP, EXIF, GIF87a, GIF89a, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, XMP

BMP, EXIF, GIF87a, GIF89a, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, WBMP, WMF

Messaging

IM, MMS, SMS
Mail for Exchange
IMAP4, POP3, SMTP

IM, MMS, SMS
Mail for Exchange
IMAP4, POP3, SMTP

Sync

ActiveSync
CalDAV

ActiveSync
Microsoft Zune

Browser

Webkit 2 based
CSS 3
DOM Level 3
HTML over TCP/IP
HTML5
Javascript 1.8
XHTML
XML

Internet Explorer 9 Mobile
CSS 3
DOM Level 1 and 2
DOM Level 3
Hardware Graphics Acceleration
HTML5
SVG
XHTML

Documents

Excel, OpenDocument, PDF, Powerpoint, Word

Excel, OneNote, PDF, Powerpoint, Word

 

 

Round-up

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I handed the Lumia 800 to two of my friends. Both of them asked me where did I get the OS from. They didn’t realise that this was not the N9 until I told them so. This shows you just how similar these two devices look and how easy it is to confuse people. But the difference ends just here – in reality, the experience is completely different. The Lumia 800 has hardware that will be enough for a couple of WP generations while the N9 is a dead-end (or perhaps not).

In terms of hardware, I wouldn’t recommend the N9 to anyone. & as for Lumia 800, I would tell them to wait for the 2nd generation of Nokia devices which will be much more mature and optimized. The various bugs and battery problems that were encountered with the Lumia 800 was a result of Nokia’s inexperience with WP7.5. Anyway, that won’t matter because the Lumia 800 isn’t even sold in Mauritius.

Ultimately, if you want one of these, it comes down to the OS. Windows Phone 7.5 vs MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan. Windows vs Linux. & I’ll be comparing them in the next part of this review.

 

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Tushal said...

I like the N9. The other one's interface sucks pretty bad. 

Gireek Ramrachheya said...

Damn good mate; the screen close-up's made me feel as tho I was reading the article on The Verge :P One thing tho; So far it's Symbian Belle FP1 who has the feature of launching the camera by pressing the camera button; previous Symbian version required an unlock or removing the camera lens protector(like on the N900); not something WP7 copied :S

Gireek Ramrachheya said...

Other phone? Please, give the phone some respect :P Am tired of people not being able to differentiate between the N9 and 800...

carrotmadman6 said...

 Ok, I thought they did... I've been so far away from Symbian that I'm slowing forgetting what it looked like... :P

Tushal said...

I was too lazy to write 800. :p

Jirka Kolář said...

Newer revision of nokia N9 has the same camera module as the Lumia 800,i.e. with larger  “aperture.”

Pooja said...

Hello, thanks 4 this, has helped a lot, do u stay in mauritius? I have bought a Lumia 800 from england, itz been nearly 2 months and amm unable to unlock it & use it here in mauritius. I would b grateful to u if you could help me plz, itz azking for some PAC code. Thanking you.

carrotmadman6 said...

Useful links:
http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1599401
http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1809937

Since the Lumia 800 isn't sold here, I doubt you'll find any local unlock shop capable of unlocking it. One way is to try get the unlock code from the network it's locked to.
Another way is to try some of the online unlocking services - http://www.cellunlocker.net/blog/2012/03/how-to-unlock-nokia-lumia-800-by-unlock-code/

Tony Stark said...

S4 black is real black

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