Nokia N8 Teardown Finds Sharp Design, Killer Camera

An iFixit teardown of the Nokia N8 smartphone reveals a mix of exciting design, never-before-seen features and just a touch of ho-hum.

Nokia began shipping its flagship N8 smartphone Sept. 30, and after getting a hold of one, repair site iFixit opened it up for a peek inside. With a 3.5-inch capacitive multitouch display, the Symbian 3 operating system, an ARM11 680MHz processor, 512MB of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), 512MB of internal NAND memory and 16GB of on-board memory, the N8 is Nokia's big bet against the Apple iPhone and high-end Android-running handsets.

iFixit's verdict? It's a mix of "genius" design, never-before-seen features and just a touch of ho-hum.

On the iFixit repairability scale, the N8 garnered a very commendable 8 out of 10-same as the Dell Streak. "Nokia has packed this phone full of awesome features," iFixit reported on its site.

Key to such awesomeness is the N8's camera-"a honker," per iFixit, at 12 megapixels.

"In other smartphones, the thickness of the camera drives the thickness of the phone," iFixit explained. "With this phone, Nokia chose to protrude the camera outside of the back cover. This will either make it easier to grasp the phone to take it out of your pocket or make it a hassle when returning the phone to your pocket."

Still, those 12 megapixels stand alone in the phone world. "As opposed to many other smartphones that use either a single or double LED flash," iFixit continued, "the N8 uses a Xenon flash tube-the same kind of flash found in full-size cameras. A large capacitor on the flash module supplies the high voltage necessary to produce such a brilliant flash."

Other standout features included the placement of the phone's antennas, which Nokia put near the plastic plates near the top and bottom of the largely aluminum N8, and the placement of the N8's EMI (electromagnetic interference) shield-a bit of hardware that protects the phone's sensitive chips from outside interference.

"The design of the steel midplane is genius," wrote iFixit. "Rather than using a discrete EMI shield like every other phone we've seen, Nokia integrated the large EMI shield into the midplane." It also used thermal pads to conduct heat away from the chips.

Ultimately a repair service, iFixit also applauded the N8's battery, which it reports is easy to replace, and the design decision to not fuse the glass to the face of the N8's AMOLED display.

Still, the display failed to excite iFixit.

"There's nothing cutting-edge in the display-it was manufactured all the way back on Feb. 2, 2010," iFixit said. "Its touch-screen controller is a Synaptics T1201A, the same chip found in the Microsoft Kin Two and RIM BlackBerry Torch-not exactly ground-breaking tech."

Just how powerful is the N8? World-record-setting, one might say. iFixit, pointing out the HDMI port on the N8, linked to an event Nokia held in Rosengard, Sweden, in September. The company arranged to pull a 167-by-92-foot screen up in front of an eight-story building and treated the neighborhood to a free screening of "Prince of Persia." The screening used four 140kg projectors-all running off a single N8.

"Do you see it?" the event's director asked the crowd. "It's this tiny thing."

A tiny thing that Nokia hopes will have an enormous impact. At the opening address of Nokia World in September, Nokia Executive Vice President of Markets Niklas Savander told the audience, "Today we shift into high gear in Nokia's fight back in smartphone leadership."