Let’s face it, the original Nokia N-Gage wasn’t exactly the success that Nokia was hoping it would be. Honestly I think New Coke might have been received a little better than the original N-Gage. It was a little clunky, it did a lot of different things (none of them very well), you had to remove the battery to change games, and you looked like a tool if you actually used the device as a phone since the speaker and microphone were mounted on the side of the device. Nokia heard all the cries of the users and went back to the drawing board and this year they released the Nokia N-Gage QD, a slimmer, more functional version of the original N-Gage. The big question is if the changes were enough to make the QD a useful device. I’m happy to say that the answer is “pretty much”.
The N-Gage QD is smaller and more streamlined than the original device. Size-wise it feels solid in my hands and all of the buttons are within easy reach. The buttons are a little on the tiny size but have enough feel that you can feel the difference between the buttons. The new layout is pretty simple. Your left hand controls the D-pad and a selection button (new to the QD) while the right hand pushes the various buttons on the right side of the device. Pretty simple layout and anyone who’s ever picked up a game controller should feel right at home. An interesting feature is the power button which sits on the right side of the QD and is actually embedded in the outer part of the device. It took a few minutes for me to find it but once I found it the design made a lot of sense.
The dimensions of the QD are 4.65 x 2.68 x .87 inches and it weighs about 5 ounces. It really doesn’t seem that much bigger than your standard cell phone and if you’re used to carrying around a cell phone you’re not going to notice that much of a difference if you switch to the QD. It’s a little wider than your standard phone but that’s about it.
From a usability stand point the controls are solid and the D-pad is particularly solid. The new select button works well since you can get around the cell phone’s functions with one hand. The keypad buttons are almost a little too solid but they do get the job done. After several hours of gaming I never had any hand cramps or issues.
On top of the QD there is a plastic flap that covers the ports for the head phones and power connection. On the bottom of the QD is another plastic flap that protects the area where the MMC game cartridges are inserted into the device. This is a huge improvement over the original N-Gage which required you to remove the battery to insert the games. The mechanism works pretty well but at times it can be difficult to tell whether or not a cartridge is inserted. When it’s time to switch to another game you just open the slot and pull on the groove in the top of the MMC card to remove the game.Another big improvement in the QD is that Nokia has improved the screen. The new screen is very bright and vibrant. The screen supports 4096 colors at a resolution of 176 X 208 pixels. It does get a little washed out in direct sunlight but that’s kind of typical for portable devices. The screen is a little different than you standard landscape gaming screen as Nokia has retained the Portrait mode from the previous N-Gage. It forced some developers to create their games to play in letterbox mode, wasting about one-third of the screen. This is one of the areas that may annoy some gamers but it really wasn’t that big of a deal to me. Games are games no matter what size the screen is.
The external speaker of the QD is solid and gets the job done. It’s not something you’re going to be rocking out with. If you really want to get the best audio out of the device you’ll want to use the included head phones. The QD comes with a decent set of ear bud headphones that help pull all of the audio out of the device. I’m not the biggest fan of in ear head phones but the included ones are ok and come with small foam covers to help ease the pain on your ears.
Oh yeah, the QD is a phone as well and not a bad one at that. The only problem you may have is that when you use the phone you may leave cheek marks on the phone when you use it. The phone comes with Nokia’s Series 60 user interface and a bevy of great cell phone features. I could probably write another page just on the cell phone features but I’ll just say that it supports the usual array of web features, complex musical ring tones (the bane of my existence), and a wide variety of messaging support.
What’s sets the QD apart from other mobile devices is N-Gage Arena, the universal gaming services that is baked into every device. The system piggy backs on your wireless carrier’s internet connection so as long as you have a phone signal you can play other players online. This is a huge advantage over solutions that require cables, short range infrared connections, and even those that utilize WiFi connections and I think a lot of consumers are overlooking this feature in the QD. The device also supports Bluetooth connections which you can use to play gamers in your immediate area as well as connection to other Bluetooth devices (such as your PC and wireless headsets). My review unit did not come with N-Gage Arena enabled so I wasn’t able to check out if the system works as promised but the concept is solid.
You really can’t have a gaming platform without games and that’s another area that Nokia is working to improve. Nokia has committed themselves to coming out with a host of AAA titles and the games I was provided to sample the unit with were solid and entertaining.
Nokia has done an excellent job with the redesign of the N-Gage and hopefully the new device will be able to step out of the shadow of the original device and won’t get lost in the launch hype of the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS. It’s still hard to call the device perfect but with some minor modifications to the device (shoulder buttons would help tremendously) the device is getting there and Nokia seems committed to making it a success. If you are a gamer and are in the market for a new cell phone you should definitely check out the N-Gage QD.
The QD is a big step up from the original N-Gage and while itâ€™s not perfect, gamers owe it to themselves to give it a shot if they are in the market for a new cell phone.
Rating: 8.4 Good
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom. I have been a Microsoft Xbox MVP since 2009.