Nokia N78: Review

13. October 2008 at 15:48

Nokia N78

The Nokia N78 was launched at the Mobile World Congress 2008 in Barcelona. It is a successor of the very famous Nokia N73. The device is a mixture between the N81 and N95 in candybar-design. But is it a worthy successor for the N73 and can it stand the other Nseries devices? This review will find it out!

Main Advantages:

  • battery life
  • design
  • price
  • size & weight

Main Disadvantages:

  • wobbly backcover
  • fingerprint-magnet
  • small keys

Sales Package

The N78 comes in the normal Nokia Nseries box, it is the bright grey version known from the N82 and N81 8GB. The device comes with all things to get started. The following contents are in the box:

  • Nokia N78 (RM-235)
  • 2GB microSD Card MU-37
  • Battery BL-6F with 1200 mAh
  • Charger AC-5
  • Headset HS-45/AD-54
  • Connectivity Cable CA-101
  • User guide + Quick Start guide
  • DVD

This is the unboxing video of the device:

Build Quality

Nokia N78

The Nokia N78 is, there’s no doubt, a pretty good-looking device. But one thing the user will notice first is the housing fully made out of plastic. Taking the device out of the box for the first time you won’t notice any bad points about the build quality. But after some hours to days you will notice that the backcover is some kind of wobbly – not much but noticeable. Putting a folded piece of paper under the backcover will fix this problem very fast. Unfortunately the wobbly backcover isn’t the only quality-issue: Pressing on both, the right and the left side of the device, there is a creaking noise. The keys are very stable and they don’t shake. Since the whole housing of the device is made out of dark plastic it will get scratches very fast. The first scratches will appear on the backside under the “Nokia Nseries”-logo and after and after there will be some scratches on the front of the device also, you probably will notice them first on the display.


Nokia N78

With 113 x 49 x 15 mm the device is pretty small for a Nseries-“Multimedia-Computer”. Holding it in the hand the N78 feels extremely light. With just 15mm of thickness it is very thin and it will fit every pocket. It is smaller than its predecessor, the N73, and features even more things.


Nokia N78

With the N78 as a first device, Nokia introduced a new keypad-style: The numeric keypad is made out of four plastic-rows which are higher than the rest of the glossy surface. There are no individual keys in the numeric keypad – just this four rows. Although it doesn’t look like the keypad is very usable for writing messages, etc., it is usable for it. In my trial I used the keypad very often and had no problems with it.

The d-pad, and the multimedia-key to the right of it, are made out of silver plastic. The pressure point of the d-pad is just great. The multimedia-key is good to use also.

The d-pad has the new navi wheel integrated, which allows the user to scroll through the menus with just circling around the key (maybe you know it from the iPod’s – they have the same feature). This feature works pretty good – much better than in the N81, which had this feature first.

Under the black, glossy surface there are the remaining keys: The green call-key, the red end-key, clear key, menu-key and the right & left selection-keys. Sometimes the left selection-key isn’t working properly, but this isn’t a big problem – pressing it harder will help in most case. Except the left selection-key I had no problems with the keys under the surface.

Nokia N78

On the right side of the N78 there is the camera- and the volume-key. They feel smooth, but they don’t have a very firm pressure-point. A long press on the camera-key will open the camera-application.

Nokia N78

Most of the keys have a nobly white lighting (except the call- and end-key). This white illumination is flashing every few seconds on the d-pad. It’s called “breathing” and if you don’t like it, you can disable it in the menu. In my opinion this “breathing”-feature is a very nice change to the boring illumination’s of other phones.


Nokia N78

As mentioned before the N78 is the successor of the N73. The N73 is a very popular multimedia-device which combines most parts of multimedia. The N78 updated all the features of the N73 to start a new triumphal procession on the mobile phone market. It features every aspect of multimedia, but it isn’t a device like the N95.

It has a 3.2 megapixel camera, the ability to surf the web via W-Lan, storage is expandable with microSD cards (theoretical up to 32GB), the screen has 16.7 mio colors, GPS, stereo-speakers and packed with a BL-6F battery the N78 is a perfect multimedia-device.

The internal memory is about 70MB (about 55MB are available to the user) and the device comes with a 2GB memory-card. With about 46MB of free RAM the device is ready for multitasking.

Unfortunately the 2.4″ QVGA (240 x 320 pixels resolution) screen isn’t readable in direct sunlight very good.

The music-freaks among us won’t be disappointed with the headphone-connector: It’s a 3.5mm headphone-jack with that you can use your favourite headphones easily without any kind of adapter. This jack is placed on the top of the device which is great – actually it doesn’t make problems in the pocket as when it is placed on the side or on the bottom or somewhere.


Nokia N78

Most of the Nseries devices nowadays feature a great camera. So the N78. It has a 3.2 megapixel camera (2048 x 1536 pixels) with optics by Carl Zeiss and an autofocus. To enable photos in dark light-conditions the N78 also has a LED-flash.

To start up the camera-application you need to press down the camera-key for a while (or just select “camera” in the menu). The camera is ready to capture the moment in about two seconds, which is quite fast. Capturing the image is fast also: It takes less than three seconds (focusing the object included!).

The LED-flash is bright and enables you to take pictures in bad light-conditions. Unfortunately there’s much noise in the pictures which were made in dark areas with the flash.

In good light-conditions the pictures just great. To show you the image-quality, which actually is pretty nice in good light-conditions, I took a few images with the N78:

Nokia N78 image sample Nokia N78 image sample

Nokia N78 image sample Nokia N78 image sample

Nokia N78 image sample Nokia N78 image sample

You can find more pictures taken with the N78 here.

Of course the N78 can also record videos with its camera. The videos are recorded in a resolution up to 640 x 480 pixels (VGA) and 15 frames per second. While recording a video the flash is blinking.

The video quality is nifty on the 2.4″ screen, but also on YouTube or OVI. Unfortunately I’m very unhappy with the sound-quality of videos made with the N78. The sound always turns louder and down again – you can hear what I mean in this video:


Nokia N78

Nokia Nseries – That’s the name of products advertised as “multimedia computers”. The N78 is such a multimedia computer also. As such a device designed for multimedia it needs the ability of music-playback. Of course the N78 does have this. It has two speakers, one on the right upper side and the other on the left lower side of the device. The volume is adjustable with the volume-key on the right side. The N78’s volume is good, but not as good as the N95’s.

Nokia N78

As mentioned before, the 3.5mm headphone-jack is placed on the devices’ top, thus it’s very convenient while carrying the device in the pocket.

Nokia N78 image sample Nokia N78 image sample

The Nokia N78 has the normal music-player which comes on every S60 3rd Edition device. If you go to “music player” in the menu you first will get seven menu’s, like “all songs” or “artists” to choose from. This kind of sorting is clearly arranged.

Nokia N78 image sample Nokia N78 image sample

The Nokia N78 is the first Nokia device to feature a FM-transmitter which enables you to stream your favourite music to a radio (e.g. in the car or on a normal radio). This feature works properly and without abruptions. You can choose the frequency, you would like to stream on, by yourself.

While playing a song you can choose from different modes like “rock”, “bass booster”, etc. with the equaliser to improve the sound-quality:


Nowadays almost every Nseries phone has an integrated GPS (Global Positioning System). The N78 also features GPS. The application to use it is called “Nokia Maps” and it’s pre-installed on the device. The maps are on the memorycard which is in the box. If you need maps of other countrys you can easily download them for free with the Nokia Maps Loader. You can navigate for free without voice-instructions. If you want to have voice-guided navigation you will need to purchase a license.

The GPS-antenna is integrated in the backcover, which means that you can’t navigate without a backcover.

The device supports A-GPS and bluetooth-GPS as well as the integrated GPS. Assisted GPS (A-GPS) enables the user to get his location faster via an internet-connection. With the bluetooth-GPS feature you can use an external GPS-Antenna via bluetooth with your device.


In terms of connectivity the Nokia N78 offers almost everything. From Bluetooth, GPRS, HSDPA, GPS, A-GPS and EDGE it offers mainly everything. Some may miss the infrared port, but except this little missing feature it has everything a mobile phone of today needs.

Operating System

Nokia N78 screenshot Nokia N78 image sample

The N78 runs on Symbian S60 3rd Edition with Feature Pack 2 which offers a lot improvements and additions in terms of usability and personalization. Thus this is the perfect platform for a device like the N78. As a result of various polls S60 totally improved the task-manager. Either you open it through the traditional way (long press on the menu-key) or you go to the menu, click opinions and choose “Show open apps”. More over, now it’s more obvious that you can open applications by clicking on the central soft key. I have to confess, that I can’t judge this category that good because I’m a S60 user for some years. However, for a new user it’s pretty tricky to find into the menu. I’ve seen a lot user pressing the navigation key to get access to the menu which is the wrong way. After pressing the home key you can find plenty of icons and some folders. The icons already say what they stand for and furthermore you can read the application’s name. If you don’t like the menu structure you can create new folders, delete some, move the application as you like or change the menu view from Grid, Horseshoe, V-shaped or to List. Furthermore, you can choose between several standard themes and hundreds more which are in the World Wide Web. For those with bad eyes you can also change the front size.

Included in the Feature Pack 2 there are some really cool-looking menu-transitions, they can also be turned of. This “eye-candy” looks pretty nifty and you definitely should have seen it:

Battery Life

Powered with an BL-6F battery, known from the N95 8GB, the N78 is ready for the “multimedia-combat”. The BL-6F has 1200mAh and since the N78 isn’t that energy-hungry as the N95 8GB the battery life is extremely good. In my trial the battery could stand 3 – 4 days of heavy multimedia-usage easily, thus you don’t need to worry about the battery.


Nokia N78

The Nokia N78 is a multimedia-device of the Nseries lineup which features everything a multimedia-user needs. The design looks very nobly, but unfortunately the device is a real fingerprint-magnet. With the Symbian S60 3rd Edition OS and the new Feature Pack 2 the user gets a fast and nice-looking user interface.

Unfortunately there are some build-quality issues like the wobbly backcover, but this problem is easily fixed with putting something between the device and the backcover.

All in all the N78 has a good price performance ratio and it is good for normal users as well as for multimedia-geeks.

Previous posts about the Nokia N78: