The Verge's Verdict on the Nokia 808 PureView

Humble me - I just wrote my own review of the Nokia 808 PureView yesterday, after almost three weeks working with it (withouth any objection). But then the Verge launches it's review.

The Verge's verdict is no small event, so I was really curious about what Vlad Savov would write about the new Nokia 808 PureView. It's a review with two faces, like the famous Venetian masque that is smiling and crying at the same time. After the break you will find a selection of what I believe to be the most important quotes from this review.

Whereas a 13.9mm thick phone may have been considered slim in 2007, that profile is decidedly plump by modern standards, leading Nokia to taper off everything that doesn’t need it and resulting in the abnormally shaped device you see before you.

- taken in totality, the industrial design of the 808 is typical for a high-end Nokia device. Even with an absurdly large outgrowth on its back, this phone manages to feel cohesive, and while the materials used are in no way unique, they convey a sense of durability and desirability.

640 x 360. That’s the resolution of the Nokia N8, the Nokia E7, the Nokia X7, and, regrettably, the Nokia 808 PureView.  (...) This is a device that can capture 38-megapixel stills and you’re only ever looking at 0.2 of those megapixels at any one time.

- This phone’s image quality is so far ahead of the competition that it really has no competition. There are two reasons for my unbridled enthusiasm: firstly, at 5 megapixels, the PureView camera delivers, without doubt, the most detailed and natural images of any cameraphone, and secondly, it’s capable of shooting 38-megapixel pictures that match or exceed the quality of most smartphones.

- I look at the photos I’ve taken with the 808 PureView and keep asking myself, where is the noise? Nokia, what did you do with the noise? Of course, if you dig around, you’ll find some manifestations of grain and artifacting, and yes, the 808 PureView has a limited dynamic range, but on the whole, this sensor at 5 megapixels is simply untouchable. I say that with respect to any phone challenger, including the elder N8, but it’s also true vis-à-vis most point-and-shoot cameras. The 808 PureView is that good.

- What truly floored me about this camera’s quality were the images I got at the maximum available resolution. In my judgment, the 808 PureView produces better images at 38 megapixels than the HTC One X does at 8 megapixels.

- The biggest downside to video on this phone is processing. Nokia openly admits that it couldn’t implement PureView previously because it couldn’t get enough horsepower and, sadly, it’s still not got enough in the 1.3GHz single-core chip that it’s chosen. On numerous occasions I’ve seen video stutter as the 808’s processor can’t keep up with the massive workload put on it by Nokia’s trailblazing camera tech. 

An almost accidental beneficiary of the enlarged camera compartment on this PureView handset is its loudspeaker, which is tucked in just to the side of the Carl Zeiss lens. It produces very loud and clear sound, reaching deeper frequencies than the vast majority of smartphones. It lacks some definition, you won’t confuse it for one of Nokia’s  Play 360speakers, but it does just about as well as the integrated speakers in the 2011 iMac.

- the 808 PureView is not compatible with third-party headsets. You’ll have to either use Nokia’s bundled pair of in-ear buds or plug in a set of headphones. I struggle to understand this decision, as incompatibility with common accessories is the sort of uncharming trait usually reserved for Apple hardware, but the good news is that the headset Nokia includes in the 808 PureView box is of a high quality. 

Than follows a long rant about the browser, not being capable of loading The Verge website. First of all, my laptop usually freezes for a minute loading the same site. Second of all I tested loading it on the Nokia 808 PureView, it changed to the mobile version automatically (as expected) and from there I would say it was actually surprisingly fast. So I have trouble quoting that rant since I can't take it seriously, although I'm not very happy with browsing the web on the screen with that low resolution myself.

- Nearly everything you do with the 808 PureView takes time to load. Try to open up the Nokia Store, loading... enter a picture gallery for the first time, loading... turn on a preloaded app like Microsoft’s OneNote, even more loading. There are pesky little delays, stutters, and pauses in animation everywhere you look.

- The short and bittersweet conclusion is this: Nokia has produced the greatest cameraphone ever and saddled it with the most antiquated and frustrating OS it could find. You’ll be as astonished by the 808 PureView’s image quality as you will be by Nokia’s audacity in shipping a phone with a dead end operating system that should have been retired from duty years ago. 

- And yet, the one standout feature on the 808 PureView is so vastly ahead of anything we’ve seen before as to almost drown out the software complaints. Not only does this phone have the best image quality at 5 megapixels, it can even produce good results at 38 megapixels. You won’t understand the thrill of exploring such enormously detailed pictures until you’ve tried it out for yourself. For my part, I can say that the 808 PureView delighted and surprised me in a way that I’ve not enjoyed since the time I moved from a 17-inch SXGA monitor to a 22-inch 1080p panel. The technological leap here is nothing short of exhilarating. 

So much for what I'd like to share on this blog. I've given you a summary of the Verge's verdict in quotes. Like I said, the review is like a double-faced mask, laughing and crying. I agree with some of it, but not with all, by far. Here you can find the complete review - and here is mine.