Chinese N83 Dual-sim touchscreen Review

Introduction
China is been known to be the place where quirky stuff is produced. From bags to dvds to gadgets. These items are always a hit or miss in terms of usability and design, but one thing is certain, these items are dirt cheap. Last week, I was able to get ahold of a China-made "Nokia" N83. I was quite reluctant at first to have a look-see since I was pretty sure that it was going to be another cheap knockoff. But after a week of using it, I now have a different opinion.


General Design
The first thing you'll notice about this phone is its sleek 2" touchscreen. The size of the phone is at 94x54x14.2mm, i especially liked the fact that it's pretty thin and could fit snugly inside my shirt pocket. It's also pretty light and it's a pure touchscreen interface so no keypads. The phone has a stylus stuck at the bottom part. The technology also feels like it uses the resistive touchscreen technology which means that it has to register a "push" on top of the touch before it does something. this prevents stuff getting pressed when it's inside your pocket. The feel of the phone is quite sturdy so it doesn't feel like it'll just suddenly fall apart.

Dual SIM
Behind the phone is where the best part of this device is. Dual sim!!. You can actually plug in 2 SIM cards that use GSM technology (pretty much all networks in the Philippines use this) and the phone will activate both at the same time. There are actually two separate signal indicators. I had a Globe and Sun SIM in at the same time and it worked flawlessly.


The right side of the phone has the keypad up and down that can be used during the menus. it also has the quick camera trigger which is used to take pictures or start up the camera software. This side also has a standard 3.5mm headset jack where you can just use pretty much any headset. The charger panel is also here. One thing that bummed me out is that the phone doesn't have an "end" button that you can press in order to go back to the main standby screen.

The left side has the slot for the USB cable where you can connect it to your PC and do 2 things:
1. Choose for it to be a mass storage device. 2 drives are created in the system, one where you access the memory card and one where you access the in-phone flash memory.
2. You can actually use this phone as a webcam. Windows XP automatically installed the drivers for it and I was able to use it
Regardless of which option you choose, plugging your phone to the PC via USB will charge it.

The phone claims to have a 2.0 megapixel camera which feels slightly less than that. It gives you options of 640x480, 320x240, 80x60, 160x120 resolutions. I wasn't impressed with the pictures that I took with this. The video cam option wasn't half bad though.

The Phone
The dual sim phone option comes up each time you have to interact with the outside world. Meaning, each time you have to call, send an SMS, MMS, GPRS; the phone will always ask you which SIM card you would want to use. The volume of the phone and the voice quality is excellent. I can hear the person I'm talking with pretty clearly. The option of using hands-free speaker phone was also pretty good. It was loud enough for me to put it on the table and talk to whoever I was conversing with properly.

Connectivity, Battery, Memory
The phone has GSM(tri-band), USB(detailed earlier), 3.5mm headset jack, GPRS and Bluetooth technology. The software that it runs on is proprietary China phone O/S. The Phone comes with 2 batteries which lasted me around 3 days at times. I use my phone to take conference calls which last for at least an hour or more at times.

It has an amazingly small internal flash memory of 1MB, but it ships with a 1GB micro SD card to store all of your music, pictures and video recordings.

Touch

The touch screen is the only way you'll interact with the phone. You can use your fingers to touch away or you can also use the stylus which I recommend you use when sending SMS. The menus are pretty easy to navigate and straightforward.

Applications

It has the standard applications like SMS messaging, phone book, call logs. Multimedia applications like camera, video cam, sound recorder, mp3 player and FM radio. The last item needing you to plug in the headset which has the antenna. Organizer applications are also there so a To do list, Calculator, alarm, world clock, stopwatch, unit converter, and currency converter. There's also the net browser via GPRS which I haven't had any luck configuring. As for games, it only has 1 game installed which is the picture puzzle where a picture is jumbled and you have to sort it by moving the tiles around. The user interface is pretty good. It transitions through the menus pretty quickly.

Casual users will be happy with the core applications built into it. Hardcore phone geeks may find the proprietary o/s a turnoff since you can't install your own applications on it.

Touches
The phone vibrates each time you touch it which simulates you pressing a button. I personally felt that this wasn't for me so I disabled the option. The touch sensitivity is pretty good and pretty spot on for me. I have no issues with it. The phone also has a variety of tones and beeps that you can set for the different profiles. I have a profile where everything is loud which is good for when I go out. I also have another profile where it only beeps and vibrates which I use in the office. The last one that I have it where the only tone it makes is when the alarm sounds which I use when I go to sleep.

Text entry
It's a requirement, in my opinion, to use the stylus when entering text. The QWERTY digital keypad is pretty small which causes quite a challenge when using your fingers. It has the option of using handwriting recognition, which I have not gotten to work yet.

Multimedia
The mp3 player and video player were quite good. I put in a bunch of mp3s and played them while i had my headphone jack plugged in and it feels like a smaller and lighter version of an iPod.

Customization
You can set your own wallpapers as background which is a pretty standard feature for all phones at this point in time. Same thing for Ringtones. What bummed me out was that there wasn't an option for me to put in my own message alert tone.

Overall
The China-made Nokia N83 is a pretty ok phone. I had a pretty good time using it (1 week so far) and it does pretty much what it's supposed to do which is to relieve your pocket of that extra phone with it's dual-sim feature. It also has everything you need in a mobile phone which is making calls and sending SMS. There are still a few quirks here and there which prevents this phone from becoming a smart-phone contender. But it's one of the best phones out there for it's price point.



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