The display really hits the sweet spot in its combination of size, resolution and color depth. Though lower resolution than the N80 (352 x 416 pixels), the Nokia N73's 2.4" 240 x 320 QVGA display is larger (the N80 measures only 2.1" diagonally) and that's just the right fit to make photos look stunning and keep video sharp yet easy on the eyes. This and the N93 with its identical display, are my favorite S60 displays. While the N80's display is a bit sharper (given the higher resolution and smaller screen size it should be), it's a bit too small to show off small image and video details as well as the N73. Both do an equally excellent job of rendering readable and clear text. The N73 display is brighter than the N80's (it has a larger battery, so it can afford the added brightness) and has more contrast, which most folks find pleasing. In fact photos sometimes look better on the phone's screen than a PC's screen thanks to the added contrast. The N73's non-smartphone 3MP autofocus competition, the Sony Ericsson K800i, has a bit more contrast, but given the N73's already very high contrast, it might look good, but can be misleading when viewing photos taken with the camera. The N73 takes display contrast as far it should go without distorting or "misrepresenting" camera images.
The display has phenomenal color depth and is capable of displaying 262K colors (18 bit color). Like other recent S60 Nokia phones, the N73 has a light sensor which adjusts display brightness relative to ambient lighting (there's a slider so you can tweak but never completely override the display brightness setting).
Stereo sound is increasingly popular in high end feature phones, and the N73 has jumped on the bandwagon, adding 3D sound effects for ringtones as well. Once you turn 3D sound on, you can set the sound trajectory (circular, zigzag, fly-by, meander or random) , set the trajectory speed, enable the Doppler effect and set reverb (off, living room, cave, railway station, forest, duct). And yes, you really can hear the difference between most of these settings. Sound out when watching videos or listening to music is good through the stereo speakers, and is quite loud. But tiny phone speakers can't compete with a decent set of headphones for quality music playback. To that end, the N73 comes with a stereo earbud headset with integrated mic, call send /end button and volume slider (Nokia HS-23). This headset also acts as the antenna for the phone's FM radio. We were pleasantly surprised by the Nokia's sound quality when listening to MP3s: music is clear, highs aren't shrill and bass is full. It won't send you running for your iPod. Nokia sells an optional Pop-Port to 3.5mm stereo headphone jack should you prefer to use your own high quality set of cans. You won't be able to use headphones for a phone call (even if they have an integrated mic) and they can act as the FM radio's antenna, though we found Nokia's own headset gave better FM reception.
The music player supports MP3, AAC, eAAC, eAAC+ and WMA files and has OMA 2.0 DRM. So you can listen to copy protected content using that standard and non-copy protected iTunes music (the tunes you've burned from CDs). The player has an equalizer, playlists and the usual playback controls. Battery life when listening to music with the screen dimmed is excellent: we played tunes for 5 hours over headphones and had more than 50% battery remaining. The FM radio doesn't offer the same reception as a dedicated radio but it does a good job of picking up even weaker stations on manual tuning and strong stations on automatic tuning. You can set your favorite stations as pre-sets and sound quality is surprisingly good. When using a Nokia Pop-Port headset, music playback will automatically pause and audio will switch to voice when a call comes in. It will resume playback when you hang up.
The large, colorful and bright display is perfect for viewing videos on the go. The phone can play 3GP, MPEG4 and RealPlayer format files and it handled our QVGA 500k/bps video, AAC stereo test video with aplomb.
Clearly the camera is the focus of this phone. The 3.2 megapixel camera uses a CMOS sensor (as do other camera phones and even some dedicated cameras and digital SLRs like Canon's). Though the Nokia N80 also has a 3MP camera, the N73's Carl Zeiss autofocus lens helps it pull clearly ahead with sharper, more colorful and detailed photos. Autofocus also makes depth of field shots possible, for example in portrait mode your subject is in focus while the background is pleasingly blurred (though we couldn't get a pronounced depth of field shot with the N73).
It even does better in low light situations with considerably less noise than the N80, though Nokia isn't leading the pack in low light capabilities overall. At its best, you really can't tell the difference between the N73 and a dedicated 3MP camera. In challenging situations (low light, extemely bright light) it looks better than any other camera phone except the Nokia N93 and Sony Ericsson K790 / K800i which are on par. With good balanced indoor or outdoor lighting, the camera can take amazing pictures. it's well suited to most any outdoor picture (sunny or cloudy) and well lit interior shots such as offices and malls. Dark interiors raise noise levels and you'll notice the phone's attempts to smooth out the noise, though it's still capable of taking some really lovely outdoor shots at dusk (see the Hooters sign photo; and no we don't endorse Hooters ). The flash helps at close range but an LED flash can only do so much (and more powerful flashes eat batteries fast). See the photo of Sammy the cat, taken indoors with very poor lighting and flash to get an idea what the camera can do in dim locations.
Like all autofocus lens camera phones on the market (there aren't many), the N73 focuses when you press the shutter half way down and on-screen indicators turn from red to green when focus is achieved. This takes about 1 second and then you can press the shutter button all the way down (or press it all the way down to start and wait for the camera to focus before it shoots). Unlike the N80, there is no shutter lag and the image is taken when you hear the shutter sound. However, each manages to take a shot in about the same amount of time (wait 1 to 2 seconds for the N80's shutter to trip or wait a second or two for the N73 to focus then take the shot). This means that the N73 isn't an action photographer's dream— a fast moving subject might have passed the ideal point by the time the N73 captures it. The camera has sequence mode to help: it will take several shots in a row so one of them might capture the perfect moment of action.
The camera's ergonomics and on-screen active menus are perfect for the serious shutterbug. Slide open the active lens cover to launch the camera application and rotate the screen to landscape orientation. The shutter button falls naturally to the top right and the zoom rocker is on the left top so you feel like you're using a camera rather than a phone. The on-screen active menus quickly and intuitively take you to settings to switch between photo and video mode, change scene type (auto, user defined, macro, portrait, landscape, sports and night with default at auto), flash mode (on, off, auto or red-eye reduction), self timer, switch between single shot and sequence, EV settings, white balance, color tone and ISO. In short, a photographer's dream. Compared to the 3MP autofocus Samsung a990 on Verizon, this camera is a dream to use, and the settings are even easier to manage than the solid N80's. Image quality beats the competition and gives the Sony Ericsson K790i / K800i a run for its money (though the SE may win by a very modest margin, especially in low light thanks to its Xenon flash).
Video quality is also excellent by camera phone standards. The N73 can take videos at a maximum 352 x 288 resolution with audio at 15fps in MPEG4 format (high quality). It can also take "normal" and MMS sized video in 3GP format. Video is sharper thanks to the autofocus lens and colors are well represented with little of the typical camera phone's blockiness and only moderate noise (less than moderate by camera phone standards). Digital zoom will introduce some blockiness, so use it only when you must if you want the best quality. The camera has a video stabilization feature which does reduce handheld jerkiness but as with the N80, also gives the image a bit of an over-smoothed look. Audio and video are in sync in all quality settings and audio is clear and loud. The camcorder is definitely good enough to capture and save those special moments when a dedicated camcorder isn't handy. While the N73's camcorder can't beat the VGA camcorder in the N93, it's very good and beats the Sony Ericsson K790 / K800i.
Sample Photo Gallery
These sample photos were taken at the highest resolution. Unedited other than resizing for use here (and the Crossfire SRT6's license plate was obliterated). The third row are low light photos. Click on a photo to see a larger version (1000 x 750 pixels) in a new window.
The same beach ball test we used with the N80.
Day lily, macro mode
One of the few camera phones that gets the color of this car pretty much right (most turn it lavender).
Bright mid-day summer sunlight on water make a good test of the camera's exposure system.
Indoor carousel, not moving at the moment.
Not moving at the moment.
You can clearly see the protective netting hanging in front of us in the larger version of this image. Good detail. Camera data state 100 ISO and 1/320th shutter speed.
Taken at 6x digital zoom. Not bad!
Taken at dusk when the neon lights start to glow and the sky has deep color.
At night with low incandescent lighting with flash.
Modest florescent lighting.
Low florescent lighting and indirect window light (glaring off the seat back resulting in blown out area).
Chevy SSR. Transition from sun to shade with a black subject makes a good exposure test and the camera handled reflection highlights well.
Software and Syncing
Nokia's software bundle is very similar across S60 v3 phones, so you'll notice similarity between our reviews in this section. Since it's s smartphone, you can add 3rd party software made for S60 3rd Edition. Though 3rd Edition is still new and the software selection isn't yet broad, but thankfully Nokia includes most everything you need such as strong PIM applications, Quickoffice to read MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint files (you can purchase a version that both reads and writes these files if need be), media players, image editors, a world clock, and more. S60 PIM applications are excellent. Contacts has support for pretty much every field found in MS Outlook and groups, while the calendar has alarms, repeat events, day, week and month views. S60 also has notes and Tasks both of which sync to MS Outlook. For fun, the phone comes with Nokia's LifeBlog which helps organize your photos and videos chronologically, like a diary or blog. You can add comments, delete photos that you don't want and sync them to LifeBlog on Windows (sadly there's no Mac version of this cool desktop application). Flickr support is built-in and works well, so you can add photos to your Flickr page no matter where you are. Speeds over EDGE are usable and I uploaded 500k images in 20 seconds each. Visit Flickr's alternative upload methods web page to get your LifeBlog/ Nokia phone login and password (it's not the same as your regular Flickr login and password).
The N73 comes with a software CD containing PC Suite 8.6 and LifeBlog 2. Always check for the latest versions of those applications, which you can download for free from Nokia's web site. PC Suite is an impressive one-stop application these days, and it far surpasses MS ActiveSync for Windows Mobile and even Palm Desktop. You'll use it to sync your Calendar, Contacts, Notes and Tasks to and from Outlook, browse the phone, send multimedia files, use the phone as a wireless modem and more. It supports connection over the included CA-53 USB 2.0 cable and Bluetooth. The phone supports four different USB modes: Media Player, PC Suite, Data Transfer (the phone acts as a mass storage device like a USB drive) and PictBridge for printing to PictBridge enabled printers over USB.
Mac users: Apple hasn't yet updated iSync to add the most recent Nokia S60 phones but you can download the free mactomster iSync plugin for iSync 2.3 on Mac OS 10.7.4 here (iSync 2.2 on OS X 10.4.6 also available). The fellow who wrote the plugin is German so the instructions won't be easy on English speakers. Here's the quick version: put the plugin folder in /applications/iSync.app/Contents/PlugIns/ApplePhoneConduit.syncdevice/Contents/Plugins. You'll need to right click on iSync (or option click) and select "Show Package Contents" to navigate to the directories listed. The plugin supports the N80, N73, E61 and quite a few other devices. If that all sounds too overwhelming, there are pay-for plugins too. But really, it's easy and I've had no problem syncing the N73, N80 and E61 to my Mac for Contacts, Calendar and Tasks.
The N73 has Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR which is a real treat when transferring files to another computer with 2.0 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate). When transferring files to a Mac PowerBook and the Sony Vaio UX180P micro PC, both with 2.0 + EDR, transfer speeds were 2x faster than the Nokia N80 (90KB/s vs 45KB/s) and other Bluetooth 1.2 phones. DUN (dial up networking) also benefits and Bluetooth is no longer the bottleneck when using the phone as a wireless modem for data connections. The N73 supports most every common protocol except A2DP (for Bluetooth stereo headphones). It has the headset, handsfree, FTP, object push, HID (primarily for keyboards), basic printing profile and SIM access profile (used primarily so your car's handsfree kit can download phone numbers stored on the SIM card). Nokia phones generally play well with most Bluetooth headsets on the market, and the N73 is no exception; we got good range, volume and clarity with the Bluetooth headsets and car kits we tested including popular offerings from Plantronics, Cardo and Motorola.
A large-screened phone with Bluetooth, high speed data capabilities, a 3 megapixel camera with flash and video playback capabilities faces challenges in the battery life department. Even more so when it's a smartphone with a faster CPU, multitasking and a good deal of memory. Happily, Nokia put a large capacity battery in the N73, their 1100 mAh BBP-6M Lithium Ion battery. Our phone easily made 3 days on a charge with high to moderate use: playing videos for 30 minutes, listening to MP3s for 45 minutes, surfing the web over EDGE for 45 minutes, using the PIM apps and Quickoffice several times per day, checking email manually 8 times per day, taking lots of photos and talking for 20 minutes (all figures are per day). If you're in the US or in an area with no UMTS service, save battery power by changing the phone's setting to GSM only (rather than automatic switching between networks). If you are in a UMTS area, we hear that 3G reduces battery life by a bit, so you might expect 10% less runtime. Nokia estimates talk time at 3.75 hours on GSM networks with over 6 days of standby and that seems a bit cautious as ours did a bit better.
If you're a smartphone user and love to take photos, this phone is a godsend! No more deciding between a useful business phone and one that's fun to use and can take simply wonderful photos. The N73 has one of the best cameras of any phone on the market, with only Nokia's own N93 and the Sony Ericsson K790 / K800i competing. If you don't need smartphone features, then the Sony Ericsson offers serious competition but it can't compete with the Nokia on syncing, powerful PIM applications, Office viewers, PDF viewer and 3rd party software. The phone has excellent reception and call quality with fast data rates over EDGE and good ergonomics (though the straightforward design might seem boring it does make for an easy to use phone). Bluetooth is fast which is a plus when transferring those big photos and videos. The screen is gorgeous! Battery life is good and the smartphone is responsive in all tasks.
Pro: Powerful smartphone, best in class 3.2MP autofocus camera, fantastic display, easy to use, great software bundle, Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, secondary VGA camera with video conferencing is handy for 3G markets, compact by smartphone standards, well built, miniSD expansion slot.
Con: No WiFi. Look to the Nokia N80 if you need that.
Display:262K color (18 bit) color LCD. Screen size diagonally: 2.4". Resolution:
240 x 320 (QVGA).
Battery:1100 mAh (BP-6M) Lithium
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. Claimed talk time 3.75 hours on GSM networks and 6.16 days standby (slightly lower on UMTS).
Performance:Undisclosed CPU (likely in the 220MHz ARM compatible range).42 megs of flash memory available for storage. 20.5 megs of free RAM available to run programs just after booting.
x 1.93 x .74 inches (110 x 49 x 19 mm). Weight: 4.09 ounces (116 g).
Phone:GSM quad band world phone (850/900/1800/1900MHz bands) with EDGE (class B, multislot class 11) and UMTS (3G) on the 2100MHz band.
Camera:3.2 megapixel CMOS sensor camera with Carl Zeiss autofocus lens and LED flash. 2048 x 1536 pixel maximum photo resolution with lower resolutions available as well, up to 20x digital zoom, mechanical shutter with 1/1000~2s shutter speed, f2.8/5.6 aperture, macro mode focuses as close as 10 cm (4 inches), 5 white balance settings including auto. Scene settings: automatic, user defined, close-up, portrait, landscape, sport and night. Tone settings: normal, sepia, B&W, vivid, negative. Brightness sensitivity: auto, high, medium and low. Flash modes: auto, off, on, red-eye reduction. Video resolution up to 352 x 288 (CIF) at 15 fps in MPEG4 format, also takes lower resolutions in 3GP format for MMS. Up to 34x digital zoom for video at CIF and 8x at QCIF resolution. Scene modes: auto, night, close-up, snow/beach, cine, old film. Secondary VGA camera supports two-way video conferencing.
in stereo speakers with 3D sound, mic and Pop-Port jack. Stereo earbud headset (Nokia HS-23) with mic and volume control included. Voice Recorder, RealPlayer, Music player and FM radio. Pop-Port to 3.5mm stereo jack adapter sold separately. Supports vibrating rings and alarms. Music player supports MP3, AAC, eAAC, eAAC+ and WMA files with OMA 1.0 and 2.0 DRM support.
Software: Symbian OS 9.1 with S60 3rd Edition. Java MIDP 2.0, CLDC 1.1 with support for over-the-air downloads of Java apps. Quickoffice MS Office document viewer, PDF viewer, web browser, WAP browser, Messaging client (SMS, MMS, POP3 and IMAP email), Nokia PTT (Push To Talk), PIM applications (contacts, calendar, tasks, notes), voice recorder, Gallery, Converter, Calculator, File Manager, RealPlayer, FM Visual Radio, Flash Lite, Anti-Virus, Profiles, Speed Dial, Voice Command, memory card utility, theme manager, application manager, Transfer (transfer contacts, calendar and some phone settings to or from another S40 or S60 phone), Activation Keys (manages DRM on multimedia files), Music Player, Clock, XpressPrint (print via Bluetooth, or USB cable to a PictBridge compatible printer).