07. Oct, 2003 02:21 (HKT)

Hands On N-Gage - Nokia N-Gage shop unit quickly reviewed - First impressions inside

It's N-Gage time!

On the evening before official release we got ahold of a few Nokia N-Gage game decks (so they call it). Certainly, as as we're interested in the subject we took the chance to put up a small Hands-On review for it. This is by no means a classic review - We just want to give you a brief impression of what the N-Gage is, looks like, and how it feels when held in hands for the first time. A click on each picture brings up a bigger impression - dial up users be warned though.

The units we received were obtained directly from the shops - exactly what you will get (apart from different power supplies and language). As the N-Gage was widely advertised also here in Hong Kong we already knew what to expect - things are different certainly when you're at home and have your newest toy just sitting on your table waiting to be unpacked.

As we see, the box comes quite well equipped. Here's what we got.

(Upper row)
  • USB connection cable
  • Headphones & microphone (hands free kit
  • Charger (for us it's the UK plug type 220Volts)
  • Driver Disk

    (Lower row)
  • Headphone cable
  • An N-Gage (luckily!)
  • Manual

    So actually, the package seems quite complete. To finish the packshots, we've also got two (well only, sorry!) games for the N-Gage.

    To the left we have Puzzle Bobble, to the right almighty Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.

    First impression: Looks nice! Quickly we put all the things together and gave the unit a go. But well, we've heard about that before, but .... Be sure to put all cards in before you put in the battery, or you have to remove the battery again. It's blocking not only the SIM card but also the SD Flash card containing the game (or your data). Well, it seems not to be built for changing the flash card quickly....

    All put together, go... wow is that heavy. Ok, we won't complain. Next step: As we read in the manual, we needed to charge the battery. Nokia, always sticking to the same standard in power supplies did us a favor and we can still use all our old power supplies. No need to buy extra for the office. We charged it only a bit (don't try this at home ;) ) to give us a decent head start.

    Upon powering on we are asked to set the time. Done. Proceeded and we're welcome by some nice background graphics and easy to follow menus. We first tried out a some phone functions to see what it can. Actually, what it is offering is more than complete. Copied the SIM phonebook entries over, made a few calls, checked out SMS functions etc.

    - Phonecalls.
    Probably I will not get used to holding it next to my ear like this anytime soon - plus somehow the 'off hook' and 'on hook' phone buttons are swapped for most of us. I can't really answer a call quickly because the way how I would hold the phone I could only reach the 'on hook - put down receiver' button. If I was 'right-eared' probably it would work better but then you have to hold the phone quite at the bottom on the lower edge.... Oh well, probably I get used to it. Voice quality: Good. Speaker: Could be louder. The maximum setting is not too loud but certainly also depends on who you are talking with.

    - SMS & email
    _Very_ responsive. But... Only using my right thumb to type is not what I am used for. But I would say with a little training it would be alright.

    The rest of the phone functions we just checked thru quickly - loads of ringtones (nice ones too!), lots of functions, a nice real player, music player, radio and plenty (I say plenty!) of other functions - just an up-to-date mobile phone.

    Into the game action!

    Now it's time for some action. We shoved in that SD-Flash card like card thingie into the slot so we should find the game somewhere. The game is at the bottom of the main menu. Not popping into your eyes at first but we found it. First we went for Puzzle Bobble as, we thought, could be a game you'd be playing peacefully on the bus. Quick & shortwhile gaming, as we say. Buses are quick here.

    Then however, we found that it's not quite what we expected to be. On the bonus side, you can choose between some difficulties, check if your neighbour also plays Puzzle Bobble and ask him to Bluetooth VS with you or play alone and finally hit the start button.

    On the bad side, we found the game speed and handling not too exciting. Seeing Tombraider in the shops with somewhat nice 3D graphics we are not quite impressed by the way how Puzzle Bobble feels like. Maybe we were expecting GBA-like smoothness and speed (as advertised actually) but that's not quite how it feels. It feels perfectly like a Java-Game running on so many mobile phones already (even if not Puzzle Bobble).

    Switched over to Tomb Raider quickly: Yeah! :)

    Feels much nicer than Puzzle Bobble. Certainly it's hard to compare but Puzzle Bobble really felt so slow it's unimaginable. Tomb Raider feels quite good. The graphics are probably some below PSone but the small TFT makes up for good in this case. It's so tiny. Well, it's actually bigger than I imagined first.

    That's actually all the games we can look at. Lara Croft is for sure a game to look at in more detail. We'll do that later :)

    Also, Nokia provides a game case for all games so you have no need to carry the big game covers and still have your cards protected. Two cards fits in each case.

    By the way, curious as we are we pushed the game cards into some of our Flash Readers to see what is on them but they were not recognized by them. Also, we can't compare here and it might already be stated somewhere so we could be wrong - but the game cards are quite thin. Thinner than SD Flash cards but,as mentioned, we could be wrong on this.

    Early conclusion: Wait to get to try other games. Probably we get used to hold the phone properly while talking. Probably not. Probably we use a mobile phone for this.

    We could not test battery time in depth - rumours said that it's only good for 3 hrs of game playing - probably reasonable for this tiny battery. So well, then finish this and back to some action.

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