It may be a vintage smartphone but the recent N96 had us questioning the Nokia Nseries’ bullet-proof rep for the first time.

Its heavyweight feature set hadn’t really kicked on enough to get us panting like lovesick gadget geeks, and the N85 makes us feel similarly uneasy.

Maybe we are being a little harsh on this Symbian S60 smartie, a replacement for the ageing N95. After all, its feature set is a roll call of high-end features: there’s a Carl Zeiss 5MP camera, VGA-quality video recording at 30fps, built-in Wi-Fi and 3.6Mbps-flavoured HSPDA downloads speeds GPS, N-Gage gaming and support for A-GPS and Nokia Maps.

Shiny new bodywork

But where the N95 was bulky, the N85 feels far more streamlined and curvaceous. Its frame is solid enough but its compact chassis is less strain on the trouser pouch.

Apart from the mechanised front controls creaking a smidge, the N85 is great to use. The slider action is sturdy but spring-heeled and the flat keypad is spacious enough to accommodate meaty pinkies. Our only gripe is the glossy paint job loves finger smudges way too much.

Dream screen

Another notable change is the newly fitted power-saving OLED display. The richer colours and brighter screen are instantly noticeable and the 2.6in screen is just about expansive enough to enjoy seamless full fat web browsing, view maps for navigation and play N-Gage. It also helps to prolong the N85’s battery life.

The camera set-up is the equal of the N95. The autofocus driven 5MP snapper is protected by a durable sliding lens cap (absent from the N95 8GB) and although a Xenon-flash is missing, the next best thing, a powerful dual LED flash, does adeptly illuminate low-light environments.

Controls at the double

The N85 also features the N95’s dual-sliding mechanism, so the music player and N-Gage gaming get dedicated controls if you nudge the fascia down. Music fans probably won’t use these keys but gamers will certainly dig the two-handed operation when sampling N-Gage titles.

The already dynamic sounding music player is a given a further audio boost when you plug in your quality earphones into the top integrated 3.5mm headphones.

The addition of a built-in FM transmitter also means you can stream your digital tunes to your motor’s FM radio. The phone automatically finds a free frequency, so setting up is a breeze, although sound quality isn’t the best.

Memory card boost

Unfortunately, the N85 isn’t graced with the N95 8GB’s mammoth internal storage, but Nokia rectifies this memory shortfall by generously bundling an 8GB microSDHC card. That’s enough to stockpile around 2,000 average-size MP3 files.

The N85 maintains the Nseries’ high standards but unless you’re desperate for a sleeker-looking smartphone, N95 owners shouldn’t feel the need to switch to the N85 - the N96, or even the new N97, is the more natural upgrade. Smartphone virgins, though, could do a lot worse than auditioning its Symbian charms.


Stuff says... 

Nokia N85 review

Nothing new here for Symbian fans, but the N85 remains a top-class Nseries smartphone