Saturday, January 15, 2011

[N8 REVIEW] Part 5 : MultiMedia : HDMI, DDP, Music Player and more !

Posted on 13:19 by SlipKoRnSaad

After pointing on N8‘s camera and its ability to record HD video i have some free time today and i'm shining my spotlight on the first part of multimedia capabilities of this awesome PMP ! Yep first part, so bring your coffee and enjoy the read ;)

Image gallery

This application is called "photos" and enables you to view all your photos taken, or view by Albums and Tags, ok, but WHY ON THE EARTH videos are listed here too?

Anyway, the browsing is very fast, the viewer support pinch to zoom gesture and tap to zoom feature :

But what's interesting is the tag filtering and assignment functionality ! in other words, you can add context to your photos with tag cloud and order them by their names or popularity...(I don't know if it support XMP, IPTC standards like the N900)

But it doesn't include a more advanced tag cloud filtering by place (Geotags) like the N900 and i didn't find a possibility to show captured photos straight to OVI Maps

I did love the editing features on the N8. there’s a variety of editing options available, such as Red Eye reduction, Stamp, various effects, tuning options, text, frames, etc.  seem to really refresh the multimedia aspect of the device.

Video player

In addition to the fact that videos are displayed in photos viewer too (even if a get used to it since the N70 !) the N8 also has a distinct video player that enables you to sort videos by date taken, name and size

With the support for DivX, XviD, MP4, H.263, H.264 (base, main and high profile), MPEG-4, VC-1, Sorenson Spark, Real video 10 and WMV out of the box, i think you'll be spoiled to drop any unconverted (in most case) videos and movies and just watch them !

That couple of DivX files I managed to try it with worked out the box, the playback quality is simply STUNNING on the phone screen (and even more on a HD TV via HDMI), in fact, video playback is where the N8 bests almost anything out there. This is due to a smart mix of software (multiple codec support including the much coveted DivX) and hardware, such as HDMI out, support for external USB thumb drives and a hardware graphics acceleration that supports 720p HD playback.

Videos are arranged in a list, with their thumbnails, sizes and length and categories (sort of) and you can sort them by date, name and size, nothing special there, and there's no geotags filters...

A bridge between device's superior video recording and playback capabilities is provided by the preinstalled Video editor application, letting the user easily create videos from pictures and video clips. It offers rich editing functions: transitions, adding text and soundtrack and i find it better to handle that the iPhone 4's one for example.

Last but not least, you can of course share your photos and videos with a few close friends by bluetooth for eg. or the whole online community by posting them directly to Flickr, Facebook etc. especially if you install some pixelpipe plugins... or attaching them to an email or MMS.


To view those videos and photos or make your N8 acting as a mini media entertainment machine, there’s the HDMI mini C connector that can output up to 720p resolution ! Previous Nokia devices have had a basic TV-out function. This enabled users to hook their device up to a TV to play back video, music and such. This time though, Paul Wheeler (a 19 year software program manager @Nokia) and the software team pushed things much further. Rather than opting for “clone” mode, where the picture on the TV is an exact replica of what’s on your phone’s screen, they created “native” mode. Playing back images and video on a TV in native mode enables the on-screen controls to stay on the device, whilst the images and videos appear in all their glory on the big screen as you'll see on the demo video i've made later on this post. (Right now, it’s just images and video which get the native mode treatment) You do the controlling from the N8 itself, except for the volume, which is now for the TV (or the equipment actually connected via HDMI) to manage

No easy feat, as Paul explains: “Creating native mode was a big challenge. The whole architecture of the phone is set up to display on the phone screen. All of a sudden we had to cope with effectively another screen on top of that. That was a big challenge, involving everyone in the software stack, from UI down to adaptation.

So, when you have the HDMI connected in any UI screen it will output 640x360 data (other than when viewing photos or videos that are presented over HDMI at 1280×720 resolution). The same applies to the camera, so when the camera is running it will provide an output from the camera viewfinder feed which is 640x360. You also need to bear in mind that the viewfinder does not include all of the image processing, only a preview of the image/video, for example, if you want to record a video while the N8 is connected via HDMI, the viewfinder will function but it wil not be possible to record. This is due to the amount of system resource to record video whilst outputting over HDMI.

--> According to Damian : "Originally our plan was to record video at around 6mbps but have subsequently decided to increase this to allow up to 12mbps video recording. This change contributed to the increase in system resource which means we can't record video and run HDMI at the same time." However, it is still possible to record video and output over the analogue TV out connection.

And that's not all, because you can use your N8 as a real gaming and karaoke machine or you can chat or navigate in big screen (more on that on a dedicated part)

Better with the amazing Nokia Big Screen ;)

Note : You can still use the classical TV Out with composite to display the same contents but not in HD quality and with the lose of some great features like :

Dolby Digital Plus (DDP)

Best of the best, the Nokia N8 is the first device to sport a full implementation of Dolby Digital Plus. This isn’t some stripped down mobile version of Dolby Digital, but the real deal. This means that the N8 can throw out not just hi-def video but up to 5.1 channels of premium-quality surround sound to HD-ready TVs, audio/video receivers (AVRs), and home theater systems via HDMI (as long as the video source has that), you’ll follow the action with your eyes and your ears. When listening to your music or watching movies, you'll feel the explosive power of dazzling special effects and hear every sound as the artist or director intended, also, Dolby Digital Plus does a real-time down-mix so that you can listen to it into your earphone speakers

I've watched several full HD clips (including Tron: Legacy) with flawless surround sound and the results were impressive,  Not only was the picture quality crisp, with no overt artefacts, but the spacial surround effect was booming, precise and spine-tingling. And that's from a mobile phone...the clip was running at "2 Megabits per second" with "256 Mbps in the audio stream". File sizes come in at "1GB for every linear hour of video"

But how does it work? Simply, to compress a HD video with Dolby Digital Plus surround sound, the tech inside the Nokia N8 uses what are called “perceptual coders”, which analyses the audio. The algorithms understand how the brain and ears interpret sound and discards parts of the audio that are inaudible or masked by other sounds. It can then uncompress the sound when you watch and listen on a home cinema system.

The Nokia N8 has some intelligent tech inside it which detects what device you’re viewing and listening on ! So if you’re watching your HD surround sound video using stereo headphones, the Nokia N8 splits up the audio and redistributes it to give stereo sound.  When you plug it into your home cinema, it boosts the sound again to bring out the best quality.

The files need to be MPEG4 Dolby Digital Plus Surround Sound to be played in surround sound, which are effectively 256kbps, but for ordinary audio playback the Nokia N8 supports MP3, AAC, WMR and AMR-WB.

The combination of Dolby Digital Plus and HDMI means you can do with your phone what you used to do with a DVD player. Of course, it’s unlikely the N8 will take the place of your disc spinner at home, but hit the road and together with an HDMI cable, you can be watching great movies anywhere you find yourself in front of a TV.

As you see, the GPU has a big role to play here and it's capability is very impressive. It handles 12mp images (that's over 34mb uncompressed!) files with ease, provides HD video at up to 12mpbs encoding in H.264 with stereo @ 128kbps and allows you to edit that on the device. It also handles the HDMI output including Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. That combination of performance is unrivaled, but i'll talk about that later on a dedicated part.

Music player version 16.10.11

 I won't go deep into each detail about the music player on the N8, radically ther're no changes when comparing it to other and older symbian music player except from the UI on some parts.

First of all, The Nokia N8 is Nokia’s first device to be integrated with Qt (more on that on a dedicated part) and if i'm not mistaken, it seems that the music player is built on QT, and that can be true because of some UI enhancements well known in QT environment like : 

- The cover flow user interface to browse the albums in your music collection

music is displayed in this view, by their album cover arts

And the best of all, the split interface that allows you to browse albums horizontally (mini-coverflow in portrait mode) and browse tracks listed under the album vertically !

mini-coverflow in portrait mode

All the browsing and UI effects on that side (coverflow) are quick and fast, amazingly smooth (about 60 fps) ! The UI is simple yet beautiful and greatly benefits from the added speed and graphic hardware-acceleration

Nothing special about the options menu that will allow you to shuffle play your music, repeat, view song details, turn on your FM transmitter, equalizer and set up stereo widening and loudness, assign a song to a contact or profile...

If you tape and hold on a song, you get options to quickly add it to a playlist, delete it, find it on the Music Store (useful if you have a ringtone file and want the full song)

As usual, it supports a wide variety of Music formats, such as MP3, WMA, AAC, eAAC, eAAC+, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, E-AC-3, AC-3 and bit rates up to 320 kbps but also supports DRM for WM DRM, and OMA DRM 2.0.

I'm a little furious that some old symbian actually have a little more features than the actual symbian^3 music player, for example there's :

- No search

- No way to add music to a playlist from the Now playing screen

- No way to add customizable equalizers (but i've find a way to do it !) 

- No more editing song information 

But all in all, The music player has got great usability improvements since earlier Symbian versions and is very nice to use now !

Playback quality !

But the best part part comes when we talk about the playback quality, of course i'm not talking about the built-in speaker or the Dolby surround feature using HDMI out...but the stereo output through the built-in 3.5mm headphone jack or using some high end bluetooth headphones like the BH-905i or the excellent BH-503 !

I didn't believe my ears the first time i compare it with the X6, the N8 blows it out of the water ! Then with the N81 and the N8 was on par ! The N91 was the only device that was really above The N8 (only on the volume side btw) ! Yes you get it, the N8 is (with the N96 and N81), the only device that are on par with the best out there, but a little below the golden standard : The Nokia N91 !

The N8 is capable of driving even high-end earphones at high volumes levels, while still producing the most detailed and complex parts, the sound quality is very high, with tight bass and very detailed mediums and highs, clarity (particularly treble) is exceptional, without distortion at 100% volume, and it is very capable of driving large headphones !

The only thing that i wasn't happy about, was the "Loudness" feature, it needs some rework because it just doesn't amplify lower and higher frequencies as it should be and it uses some strange algorithm causing a vital loss of quality, adding quantization noise...anyway, i don't use this setting neither the stereo widening one ;)

Final words : audiophiles should be happy !

FM transmitter

This unique feature that becomes a must have to me  that lets you output audio content to a car or home FM radio as other Nokia devices that support it, but i really hope to see some extras plugins to allow us to display Musics tags from N8 player, incoming caller name, or full SMS text message on the radio car display, or as car kit for your calls as on the N900 !

FM radio

Stereo FM radio (87.5-108 MHz/76-90 MHz) the coolest thing is that while inside the radio application, swipe your finger

- up or down on the station frequency to tune to the next/previous available one !
- left or right to change the radio station !

Ps : You can also control your music player and radio application from the homescreen, provided you’ve added the Music Player Widget (the same widget works for both applications, cool)

Speaker :

Whilst a single speaker is the best speaker component Nokia currently uses. It's also driven by a dedicated mini power amplifier which is one of few devices to do so. This drives the speaker as hard as possible, it's loud enough, Cristal clear, it handles every sound without saturation, i only feel the need of a stereo speakers when i bring a samsung omnia HD by side :)

In summary, S^3 is trying to be Maemo in some areas but overall it's a great PMP that not only do an amazing job in photo and video department but an amazing job to view them and share them with the best high quality standard possible, After the failure of DVD-Audio and SACD, could the humble mobile phone be the route to bring 5.1 music to the masses? ! 

What's hot :


- Amazing reproduction of photos, videos and sounds thanks to the 720p and Dolby Digital Plus standard support

Video player :

- Support of all most common codecs and containers out of the box.

Photo Viewer :

- Fast, smooth, simple and works just great with the the hold and tape combination as the rest of the UI

- Support of pinch to zoom and tap to zoom

- Tags cloud to find and classify your photos in an handy way

Music :

- "pause upon headphone disconnect" feature

- Control the volume while the screen was locked

- Coverflow viewing and split view support
- Excellent music output quality, among the best of all Nokia, just behind the N91 and N81 by inch !
- Swipe gestures on the radio player

- The music widget is shared between the music player and radio player

- FM Transmitter

What's not :


- On HDMI mode, zooming in isn’t possible straight from the gallery you will have to go to the image editor (by clicking options and then edit) and use the zooming controls there, huh?

- Video files with 5.1 encoded within are still at a premium at the moment - until Nokia comes out with a dedicated movie download service with 5.1 channel included, this feature feels a little redundant unless you want to spend hours encoding DVD rips with 5.1 support.

- Dolby Headphone technology (for a surround experience with standard headphones), isn't incorporated

Music :

- select the artist and shuffle through ALL their albums, only shuffle album one by one!

- No search

- No way to add music to a playlist from the Now playing screen

- No way to add customizable equalizers (but i've a way to do it !) 

- No more editing song information 

- No interactive lock screen (like the iPhone and some android devices)

- When there's only one track in an album it should start directly when selected. Instead of this, it opens the folder, u have to select that one track again, then it starts to play. Or press 2 secs for the popup menu and select play

- I wish to see an option to sort by : alphabetic, date, size, tag.

- aritsts & albums are merged into one category !

- No swipe gestures like on the FM radio application

- No Internet radio support out of the box

- No UPnP/DLNA (although the protocol is supported but not integrated with the media or photo application !) so, no way to use the N8 as client or server to share or grab your media files wirelessly as in the past...

Photos viewer :

- Whilst Tag filtering offers you a great way to quickly find your photos, there's no advanced tag cloud filtering by place (Geotags) like the N900

- No support of others devices cloud tags (tags on my N900 don't appear on the N8)

- No possibility to filter by date or custom date range

- No way to show captured photos on Ovi Maps 

- Pinch to Zoom is just acceptable, but far away from what we can see from IOS and Android OS 

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