Nokia’s PureView 808 is designed to offer mobile phone users a delectable camera for the avid handset photographer. While it may have accomplished that, the big question really is – can it do more than just take great pictures? That’s what we’re here to tell you. Here’s a closer look at the PureView 808.

Form Factor

The PureView 808 comes off as a rather generic-looking Nokia handset. It features a 4.0-inch capacitive touchscreen with Nokia’s ClearBlack technology. This tech, while making the black levels really stand out, also tends to soften the whites a little, creating a slightly pale yellow-ish effect. However, visibility in all conditions is great. Nokia has stuck with the physical keys below the display with their Call Answer button on the left, a Menu/Home button in the middle and a Call End/Power button on the right, all combined to form a single tab.

The 808 PureView with Xenon flash and Carl Zeiss Optics

The 808 PureView with Xenon flash and Carl Zeiss Optics

On the right hand side is where you’ll find the volume/zoom rocker, Nokia’s Slide to lock/unlock switch and a camera activation/shutter release button. A 3.5mm handsfree socket, micro USB (for charging and PC interfacing) and a micro HDMI port under a flap are all located at the top. The bundled in-ear earphones are very well designed and extremely comfortable to wear even for long periods.

The rear is where all the action is – a protruding lens with a Xenon flash gives the handset a slightly digicam-esque look. The problem is, we presumed there would be (or should be) a lens cover provided. Without it, the potential for the outer lens glass to get scratched is quite high, which would seriously mar your photography skills. An NFC antenna is placed on the rear removable panel and the 1400mAh battery needs to be removed to access the microSD and microSIM card slots. With 16GB of onboard memory though, the need for a memory card is quite low. The PureView 808 doesn’t come off as cheap in any way, especially with the polycarbonate shell. You’re assured that it can handle a few dings.

The 808 PureView Left side

The 808 PureView Left side

When it comes down to overall looks however, the PureView 808  is not very different from the Nokia 701 or any of the C-Series. It simply picks up from the 5800 XpressMusic’s design form, which got the ball rolling for Nokia's touchscreen devices. It would have been great if we saw this camera on a Lumia 800 style handset, but perhaps we won’t have to wait too long for that. Needless to say, the design didn’t totally thrill us. We did prefer the black edition to the white, however.

Features and Performance

Interface

Strategically, we guess it made sense to develop a camera of this calibre and position it on a Symbian device, seeing as there are quite a few limitations with the Windows platform. We were also told that the PureView 808’s camera technology has taken about five years to perfect, so naturally, the company would have been testing it on a Symbian platform and simply updated the device to the latest iteration of the OS i.e. Belle. With the 1.3GHz processor at its core and a separate GPU processor to run graphics and stabilize the camera, the handset doesn’t feel too slow in overall functioning.

The 808 PureView - Belle Desktop settings

The 808 PureView – Belle Desktop settings

But Symbian has never been the best platform for customisation and or user-friendly activity since a long time. It feels cluttered and sometimes just takes a little too long to actually get to the main point of access you’re looking for. There are simply too many quirks – the on-screen keypad is a bit too small for chubby fingers and could definitely have been better laid out. The first time around, especially if you’ve got a lot of media, it takes way too long to scan the drives to place your files, which includes images in your gallery too. When it’s done, the photo gallery is just a bunch of thumbnails with no visible way to sort them out. The handset will pick up all image files including .BMP and .JPG, even the thumbnails. Without knowing which folder contains what files it gets very messy and pinpointing the hi-res files can be a nightmare.

Accessing images from the File Manager is no good – you can view the files but have no options to edit or use them in any way i.e. for ringtones or wallpapers, etc. Trying to customize the main menu is also painful. In older versions of Symbian, at least a few folders were preloaded, making it easier to access apps stored under a heading, for instance, Music. In this version, it’s much like Android with all apps appearing in either a grid form or in a list view. Trying to change the layout and reposition icons is annoying at best. Belle does it page-wise, allowing you to alter icon placements on each page separately, not the entire grid. It’s best to create folders and place relevant apps inside for easy access.

The 808 PureView's Belle keypad isn't the best designed

The 808 PureView's Belle keypad isn't the best designed

The Multiple Desktops are quite handy and a welcome change to the previous versions of Symbian. These few changes to Symbian ^3 make a bit of a difference. The widgets provided are handy but could have been slightly better designed in some cases, like the Social Networking option. When it comes to the phone book, switching over from Android is not going to be easy. It offers no integration with your Google account. Should you wish to import your contacts from Windows or Google, the procedure is not simple and will require you to first set things up online, where, by the way, your Nokia contacts from your Ovi account only exist but cannot be viewed. The file can be downloaded onto your PC though. Since we backed up our contacts on the memory card, we tried pulling them off via .CSV or .VCF files, but no dice. It has an option to copy a contact card from the storage modules, but it doesn’t work. 

The UI might be lag-free but is definitely not the easiest to use.

Media

Nokia did a great thing when they opened their gates to Dolby and codec support for all the popular video formats. Finally, we were allowed to simply copy-paste files onto memory for immediate playback without the need for conversion. The PureView 808 is great in this aspect, but still has room for improvement. Dolby mobile is on board and shows up in the Music Settings menu only when earphones are plugged in. Music quality is great with a resounding thump in the bass tones but the higher tones could have been a little less sharp. This is where Dolby comes to the rescue and really shines through when it comes to playing videos. It’s not Beats audio, but is almost as good. 

The 808 PureView comes with ample media servings

The 808 PureView comes with ample media servings

The music player’s biggest drawbacks include the lack of a customizable EQ preset, much like it was with previous XpressMusic and some low-end S40 devices, besides no folder view option, forces you to create playlists, which isn’t always easy when you’re loaded with songs. What is a bonus though is the fact that Nokia gives you access to the Music Store which literally has hundreds of songs you can download for free.

The 808 PureView with Dolby enhances audio quality quite a bit

The 808 PureView with Dolby enhances audio quality quite a bit

The video player works like a charm, picking up all kinds of formats including MKV and most AVI file types. Full HD videos were not an issue either. There’s no option for ‘Stretch to Fit’ but that’s okay. Another great feature is the FM radio. Nokia has fared well in this territory and so far has not let this Radio-loving nation down. Thankfully, the company has still managed to retain their FM transmitter offering which is a real bonus for wirefree streaming, especially in your car.

Connectivity

With features like NFC, Wi-Fi, 3G and EDGE support amongst others, the PureView 808 is well-covered in terms of connectivity. With NFC you can transfer data with compatible devices quite seamlessly or access Nokia’s NFC-enabled speakers or headsets, play games with other Nokia users with NFC smartphones and acquire data via NFC tags. Of course, in most cases data transfer and streaming works through Bluetooth (with A2DP) which is also on board, along with USB 2.0 and USB on-the-go (no adapter provided). USB on-the-go enables you to access files stored on pen drives but you will need to get compatible wiring for this; Nokia has not bundled the PureView 808 with a set. The same goes for HDMI: no cables in the box; but with DLNA, you won’t necessarily need them.

The 808 PureView has plenty of relevant connectivity options

The 808 PureView has plenty of relevant connectivity options

Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive are the best part about the handset besides the camera. Additional apps like Check In, World Traveller, Nokia Recommends, geotagging and a Weather app only enhance their usage. Drive is by far one of the best navigation applications available for mobile handsets. It offers offline maps that are well-designed, free, offer great turn-by-turn voice guided navigation, and did we mention they’re free?

The Social Networking apps allows you to connect to only Facebook and Twitter accounts, but the UIs could have been better designed. You’re better off accessing them from the browser. Setting up email is just as easy as on Android or iOS, but we do feel the UI, once again, isn’t quite optimised for viewing too well. 

The 808 PureView with Nokia Drive and Maps

The 808 PureView with Nokia Drive and Maps

Unfortunately, Nokia’s App Store, even with its thousands of apps, is no match for the Apple AppStore or Google’s Play Store. It offers no alternatives to media players (video or audio), so you’re stuck with what you have. Popular apps like Instagram or a dedicated Facebook or Twitter app were also nowhere to be found.

Misc Features

The PureView 808 has a few standard apps like Calculator, Calendar, Alarm and File manager. A few extras like QuickOffice, Adobe’s mobile PDF reader, Zip Manager, F-Secure, Dictionary and Notes are also packed. A message-reading application has also been provided with Indian voices. A few games like Asphalt 6, Bounce Boing Battle, a Lite (but NFC enabled – Free with Magic) version of Angry Birds is on board, as is Lets Golf 2.

The 808 PureView comes with a few handy extras

The 808 PureView comes with a few handy extras

Camera

The Nokia Pureview 808's party piece has got to be its camera. It's got a 41MP camera on-board, and while many claimed it might just be interpolated images, this doesn't seem to be the case. We ran the camera through its paces by clicking both indoor and outdoor photos, with and without the flash enabled. The results of the tests are pretty spectacular and it's fair to say that this is quite easily the best camera phone out there. In outdoor shots, the exposure is well-balanced and there's none of the extra brightness and dark patches – images are even and well lit. 

Caption

Cloudy day shot (fit to screen)

Caption

Cloudy day shot ( at 100% crop)

Focusing is quick and the user interface of the app is easy to use. One can quickly switch profiles or change the characteristics of the photo by moving around a few sliders. The entire experience is like using a really slick, compact handheld digital camera. There's an amazing level of detail that you get with this phone. The 808 doesn't handle macro photography well, as it only lets you get as close as 4 inches to the target. A decent handheld camera would let you come up to 5cm, making it easier for that kind of photography.

The flash on the 808 is strong and it's obvious when you click some close up shots. The downside, however, is that the background tends to get a little dark and underexposed in the process. Photos shot in the panoramic view look good and there's no sign of the images being stuck together. Exposure is even all across and there are no seams visible.

The controls on the Pureview 808 aren't as detailed as a prosumer camera, but you could compare it to a basic point-and-shoot. For instance, there are the usual set of shooting profiles and colour profiles to choose from, as well as the ISO settings. What you don't get however, are the shutter and aperture priority settings. There's no gradual manual focus control or any kind of burst mode present either. That's something both Samsung and HTC both boast of with their phones.

Caption

A landscape photograph (fit to screen)

Caption

A 100% crop section from same landscape

A 41MP camera comes across as being an extremely high-performance one, but the Pureview 808 isn't that. In fact, it's not as good as a decent entry-level DSLR either, but it is far ahead of any other camera phone and also quite a few of the cheaper point-and-shoot cameras.

Battery

The 808 PureView's 1400mAh battery proved to be quite stable in terms of usage, but nothing above average. On a full charge with emails, alerts, messages, a few calls and at least 20 pictures (some with flash), you'll get a full day's usage. Our video drain test revealed that with WiFi running in the background, the handset will deliver at least 5 hours 20-plus minutes of non-stop playback. In our tech2 Loop tests, it sucessfully completed one full loop consisting of 2 hours of video, 2 hours of audio, 2 hours of audio streaming via internet radio, and 1.5 hours of calls. It started the second round and ran for about 25 minutes with video. This puts in a total of about 8.5 hours of non-stop usage, which is quite decent. 

The 808 PureView isn't an altogether new design concept

The 808 PureView isn't an altogether new design concept

Verdict

The PureView 808 comes with a price tag of  INR33,899, which is a little too steep for the handset, especially with competitors in the Android-powered gang (Xperia S, HTC One X) in the same range. They might not able to offer the same kind of camera functionality and quality, but they do offer better options in terms of overall usability. Beats Audio on the One X is a little better in comparison to Dolby and the 12MP camera on the Xperia S is quite good too. At that price, Nokia has also neglected to provide relevant cables for USB-on-the-go and HDMI. It’s great for media and certainly the most innovative handset yet in the mobile camera space, but it’s just not worth buying this one for just the camera. In some aspects, it can compete with some digicams out there, but in that price, if you’ve already got a good enough handset, a micro four thirds camera like the Sony Nex series or the Olympus E-PL1 camera with changeable lenses would be a better option.

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