Nokia’s pricey 8800 Series handsets have always put style and status way before substance. They certainly ooze class and elegance, but have struggled to provide more than a bimbo feature set. Well, this is all to about the change with new Arte and Sapphire Arte models.
Admittedly, the new feature line-up doesn’t reach mind-blowing N96 levels, but there’s now an air of respectability to finally match the phone’s awesome build-quality. 3G download speeds finally get a look in, the camera now hits the 3.2megapixel mark with autofocus and the only real disappointment is the lack of expandable memory.
Thankfully, both handsets retain the 8800 series’ signature stainless steel armour. The only difference between the two is that the more expensive and coffee-toned Sapphire flaunts some incredible front and rear leather panelling and a gemstone joypad. It’s hard not to just sit and stare at the outstanding build quality.
Owners will understandably want to keep their costly Arte pristine so Nokia has glazed the handsets in an anti-fingerprint lacquer to thwart those pinkie smears. It’s not completely smudge proof but does reduce the stains admirably. A scratch-resistant glass pane has also been fitted to safeguard the sharp and vivid QVGA, OLED display.
After the 8800 Sirocco’s vapid two-megapixel camera, the new snapper with autofocus is a godsend. Admittedly, photographic mods like a flash and macro focus are mysteriously missing and when compared to our 3.2megapixel reference camera, the Sony Ericsson K810i Cyber-shot, picture quality does lack sharpness. But it does trot out decent pictures despite the handicaps.
Nokia’s decision to limit the Arte’s storage abilities to just 1GB internal memory is a little maddening. With no expansion plan, it puts the mockers on a skilful and dynamic sounding music player. It can still hold around 250 good quality MP3 tunes but this tally will be compromised if you start to stockpile photos or videos.
Nokia has also included a couple of neat flourishes to add to the Arte’s exclusive credentials. Give the handset two discreet taps and an analogue clock will appear. This is handy for secret time checks, although we found it to be occasionally indifferent to our touch. You can also kill a ghastly incoming ringtone without cutting off the caller by simply turning the phone face down.
You’ll gulp at the price tag and, while it might be a tad steep, you’re still buying into an exclusive club and getting a precision-built and feature savvy handset for the dosh. The Arte duo, and in particular the Sapphire, are by far the best luxury phones we’ve handled outside of the elite Vertu circle.