The good: Slightly improved design over the Sirocco; solid build quality; 3G connectivity; Bluetooth stereo A2DP; 1GB onboard memory.
The bad: No built-in flash for camera; lack of expansion card slot.
The bottom line: The 8800 Arte isn''t an exciting upgrade from the Siroccos, but still is a decent luxury handset that isn''t priced over the top.
Nokia already has three luxury models under the 8800 umbrella, two of them Siroccos. The latest two additions--8800 Arte and 8800 Sapphire Arte--continue the extravagant tradition of using exotic materials as construction. So what''s different this time round? Not much. To its credit, Nokia did throw in some cosmetic refurbishments and, at the same time, upgraded the phone''s platform to the newer Series40 3rd Edition. But ultimately, the Arte series still delivers the same look and feel of the earlier Siroccos.
DesignDesign-wise, Nokia has made some subtle changes to the Sirocco series. In our opinion, the most significant improvement is the alphanumeric keypad. The buttons are now moderately bigger and the decent tactile feedback has increased the comfort level for texting. Instead of pecking on the keys, we can now type with reasonable ease. Our only gripe is the tight headroom above the top row of buttons. As a result, our thumbs kept hitting the border when texting.
Unlike the 8800 Siroccos, the control keypad is now accessible when the phone is closed. That''s a good thing because we no longer need to slide open the handset to read an incoming text message, or pick up a call. Volume can also be adjusted using the navigation pad while the phone is closed.
It''s not all roses. We found the navigation pad a tad too small and it''s easy to end up hitting the central key when scrolling in any of the four directions. Things got a little more frustrating when we had to make a conscious effort to keep an eye on the left/right softkeys and call/end buttons, so we didn''t end up calling someone while getting to the shortcut menu.
At 109 x 45.6 x 14.6mm, the Arte is the slimmest member of the 8800 family so far. And it''s all good. The 150g heavyduty weight and metallic chassis also ensure that the premium dollar you''ll be coughing up won''t make you feel like you were suckered into some cheaper plastic model. That''s if you can live with the fingerprint smudges and face oils.
There are two models in the Arte series--the 8800 Arte and the 8800 Sapphire Arte--and they both share the same design mould with a combination of metal and glass. The only differences, besides the color, are that the Sapphire edition uses a sapphire gem stone as the central button on the directional pad and parts of the handset are wrapped in coffee-brown soft leather.
If price isn''t an issue, we prefer the Sapphire edition because the Arte is nearly a dead-ringer to the 8800 Sirocco. For current Sirocco owners especially, it doesn''t make a lot of sense to invest another S$1,788 (US$1,176.32) for something that looks so similar.
FeaturesWhile the hardware design of the Artes isn''t a significant departure from previous 8800s, the software implementation has undergone slight tweaking, introducing the turn-to-mute and tap-for-time features with a built-in accelerometer.
The turn-to-mute function switches the phone to silent during an incoming call (doesn''t automatically cancel the call, though) or when the alarm is ringing. Tap-for-time is literally asking the user to tap for the time. Double-tapping anywhere below the phone''s 2-inch OLED screen activates the standby clock display. It''s actually a great way to quickly know the time without having to press down on any buttons or slide open the phone.
That said, new user interfaces can be hard to get right. There''s nothing wrong with the approach or implementation and we think Nokia did a laudable job with the use of the built-in accelerometer. But to challenge the ritual of canceling calls by pressing the end button, or simply flicking open the phone to check the time, there''s still work to be done.
Besides running on the newer Series40 3rd Edition operating system which brings about some improvements in the user interface, other enhancements to the triband 8800 Arte are 3G connectivity, a 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus and a generous 1GB of onboard memory. Regarding the last point, 1GB may be sufficient for general uses, but the lack of an expansion card slot is still a psychological hurdle. The restriction is there and you know it.
Even though we all know the resolution of a camera-phone is not a yardstick for measuring picture quality, it''s evident that Nokia is still playing the megapixel card with the Artes. Although the camera module has been bumped up to 3.2 megapixels with autofocus, it''s missing an important built-in LED light. The good thing with the lack of various dedicated buttons is that it gives the phone a more streamlined profile.
PerformanceOne thing has remained consistent with each new iteration of the 8800 luxury line--increased battery capacity. Nokia''s first 8800 used an awful 600mAh battery. That issue was addressed marginally with a 700mAh cell in the Sirocco. The latest in the series, the 8800 Arte ships with a 1,000mAh BL-4U Lithium-ion pack. With the increased capacity, Nokia estimates that the handset will have a talktime of 3 hours 20 minutes and a standby period of 300 hours.
Audio quality was decent and sufficiently loud on the built-in speakers. We were only disappointed that even with 3G, Nokia didn''t enable video calling on the handset. The Arte supports Bluetooth stereo A2DP and we managed to pipe music wirelessly to our Sony Ericsson HBH-DS980 without a hitch. A Bluetooth headset with touch-sensitive volume control comes bundled in the commercial set.
The phone can be charged via three methods: Directly from the portable charger, docking station, or micro-USB data cable.
We first found it strange that the Arte didn''t have a dedicated camera button considering it has autofocus capabilities. In the case of the Arte, the central key within the directional pad doubles as the shutter. Pressing and holding down the button activates autofocus, while releasing it acts as a command to take the shot.
The 3.2-megapixel camera module captures pictures in 2,048 x 1,536 resolution and videos in VGA. Both are limited by the size of available memory on the handset. Image quality is at best average. The camera doesn''t take to highlights very well, frequently burning out details in bright areas. Auto white balance can also be too cool at times.