Nokia N8 vs Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant

Posted: January 27, 2011 in Nokia Phone Review
Tags: , , , , ,

By August of last year I had become impatient waiting for the N8 and I was bored with my N900. While I enjoyed the N900 I didn’t like having a device that really was just a small internet tablet and wasn’t a good phone. Since it also couldn’t get voice directions and the apps that were available were more for programmers (not me) I decided it was time to try something mainstream. I selected the Samsung Vibrant from T-Mobile and was happy with it, but when the chance to get a new N8 at an unbeatable price came along I jumped at it.

After 2 weeks with the N8 I decided to do a head-to-head comparison of the two. Here’s what I found:

Reception – These are phones, so at the very least they should have good signals right? The N8 does, but I can’t say the same for the Vibrant. Remember those old commercials showing someone trying to get a good signal by standing on one foot with their hand on a door knob and a coat hanger in their baseball cap? That still applies to the Vibrant. Since I use T-Mobile with both devices you can’t use the network as an excuse. In fact, when in my office I’m lucky if I have one bar with the Vibrant, yet the N8 in the exact same spot will have 4 or 5 bars. Pretty much everywhere I went the signal strength with the N8 was consistently better than the Samsung Vibrant. WINNER: Nokia N8

Hardware – The N8 is smaller than the Vibrant (fits within Vibrant’s 4″ screen); the casing is anodized aluminum and weighs 4.76 oz; it has metal buttons for menu, camera, locking & volume; and there is no need to remove the rear cover or battery to access the SIM & external memory cards.

The Vibrant is ginormous and has a plastic casing; weight is 4.17 oz; touch action buttons for search, home, settings and menu with an external button to lock/unlock the device (also plastic); and you must remove the back cover for memory card access and both the cover and battery for SIM access

The N8 hardware materials and build quality make it a very solid feeling device. The weight between the two devices is basically the same yet the size of the Vibrant made it feel like a brick when it was in my pocket. The touch buttons on the Vibrant aren’t as responsive as I would like and as everything but the screen is plastic I was always fearful of breaking it. WINNER: Nokia N8

Colors – This isn’t important to me, but to many it is. The Samsung Vibrant comes in black or dark purple by switching out the back cover and the N8 allows you your choice of Silver White, Dark Grey, Orange, Blue or Green (not all colors available in all countries). WINNER: Nokia N8

Display – Both devices have AMOLED screens with the Vibrant’s larger screen than the N8 (4″ vs 3.5″). Reading the display specs for both the N8 and the Vibrant seem equal, but I’m going to have to give this feature to Samsung. The colors just appear richer and brighter and with the larger screen everything seems a little bigger. I have both phones set to adjust brightness automatically yet the N8 does better in bright light, especially outdoors. I had less issues seeing items on the N8 when mountain biking and could see almost nothing on the Vibrant. WINNER: Samsung Galaxy S – Vibrant

Touchscreen – A tie with Samsung having a very slight advantage. Both are capacitive touch screens with multi-touch capabilities. Excluding the Vibrant’s touch buttons I found it to be a tad more responsive than the N8. That responsiveness disappears though when the Vibrant is updating on-screen widgets (weather, Facebook, email, etc.) and I haven’t noticed the same issue with the N8. TIE

Battery Life – I’ve gone as long as three days on one charge with the N8 with the homescreens filled with email, Nokia/Ovi Social, AccuWeather, Music, Notifications and bluetooth and WiFi scan running. With nothing active on any of the homescreens on the Vibrant, and bluetooth and WiFi turned off I can barely get 5 – 6 hours before I need to plugin. WINNER: Nokia N8

Operating System – Android 2.1 (Froyo 2.2 now available) vs Symbian^3. A few weeks ago I stated that Nokia needed to ditch Symbian and go to Android as Nokia makes the best h/w and yet Android is a great OS. I still like Android but that comment was made based upon my experiences with the N97 and Symbian S60 5th, and before I used Symbian^3 on the N8. After 2 weeks with the N8 I have to say I really do like S^3.

I would’ve said that the devices were tied in the OS battle, but that was before hearing of the challenges consumers are experiencing right now after upgrading to Froyo on their Vibrants. In fact, those challenges remind me of all the firmware issues and subsequent updates we experienced with the N97. I have had zero issues with S^3 and to try to compare it to S60 5th is comparing Granny to Red Delicious apples. I’m giving this one to Symbian^3, but let’s hope the upcoming f/w upgrade doesn’t make this a tie again WINNER: Nokia N8

Typing – The Vibrant comes with Swype installed and is not loaded as a default on the N8 but is available in Ovi Store. The resident keyboard on the N8 is much too small so even if you don’t want to use the Swype features you should install it just for the keyboard (download here). The Swype keyboard for the Vibrant has both landscape and portrait modes and the N8’s version of Swype has no portrait mode. I’ve heard this is because of the current f/w version for the N8 so I’m hoping the pending f/w update corrects this. WINNER: Samsung Galaxy S – Vibrant

Camera – Do I really need to go on? 12mp for the N8 vs 5mp. Xenon flash vs no flash. On device image editing pre-loaded vs needing a 3rd party app. 720p HD video recording vs ???? Both have social media sharing and built-in galleries. Both have 3rd apps available for sharing and editing photos, but the N8 even lets you edit videos on the device. The Vibrant doesn’t have a chance in this category. Not many devices do. For samples of photos from both the N8 and Vibrant please view my photos page. WINNER: Nokia N8

Synching – Nokia’s Ovi Suite seems to have graduated well from Beta Labs since I used it on the N900. It quite effectively syncs MS-Outlook calendars, contacts, notes, tasks, maps, music and pictures between my PC and the N8 without needing a 3rd party like Google. The Vibrant syncs well for social media and Google Mail and Google Calendar, but it has no OEM app to sync to your Outlook calendar, contacts, tasks and notes. There is an app in the Android Market called CompanionLink that does a mediocre job of in the absence of an OEM app. It never really brought over all of my Outlook appointments and was always deleting from, or creating duplicate calendar entries to, my PC without being changes being made to my phone. WINNER: Nokia N8

Email – Both devices can handle and check email for multiple email accounts such as Microsoft Exchange, GMail, Yahoo, and Ovi Mail. Neither can really handle Hotmail too well, but can any device? Makes me wonder how it addressed with WP7 phones. TIE

Applications & Application Store – This is another easy and obvious option, but not in Nokia’s favor. The Samsung Vibrant definitely wins here because there are just so many apps available in the Android Market and, unlike the Ovi Store, there are a lot of apps available for North American users. One advantage Nokia does have over Android with the Ovi Store is the ability to search apps on a PC and send the links to your mobile. The web-based version of the Android Market sucks. WINNER: Samsung Galaxy S – Vibrant

Movies, entertainment – I think this may be a tie as both devices have strong pluses and minuses going for them. Both play movies, but the N8 has the advantage of being able to output video with HDMI out. Samsung’s advantage is Media Hub, a movie and video store preloaded onto the Vibrant that allows you to purchase or rent video content. Yet the Samsung doesn’t allow you to play videos from Media Hub on just any TV. You need to use an application called allshare and it only works with DLNA certified devices. I’m not replacing my Panasonic 42″ Plasma TV just to watch movies from a phone. TIE

Social Media – The devices are equal in this aspect. There are native or 3rd party apps either device can use to allow you to view, update status, and share pictures with your friends on Facebook, Foursquare or Twitter. Pixelpipe is also available for both devices for those that want to update once. Nokia/Ovi Social was recently updated and is the best it’s been, but as there are only two networks it updates (Facebook & Twitter) it doesn’t do as much as the 3rd party apps. TIE

GPS & Maps – It’s no secret, the GPS signal strength is terrible on the Vibrant (reminds me of the N97 yet again) and despite claimed fixes by Samsung nothing has improved. The speed, reliability, strength and accuracy of GPS signals on the N8 is fantastic! In fact, probably the best of any device I’ve ever owned. Ovi Maps and Google Maps are pretty equal with each having advantages over the other. Both devices allow you to use their tools and install 3rd party navigation applications. WINNER: Nokia N8 as a map is useless if you have a poor GPS signal.

WiFi Tethering – This is available with the N8 through the use of Jokiu. There are free and premium versions available in the Ovi Store here. Nothing has to be done to your device other than install the app, though data charges may increase depending upon the data plan with your carrier. With the Vibrant there is no tethering unless you root the device. Rooting is basically unlocking the phone but it comes with risks as rooting will nullify your warranty with T-Mobile. This may not be important to many but I use my N8 as a WiFi tether point for my iPad. Why pay Apple $150 more for a tablet that will force me to pay AT&T $20+ per month just to use the device. WINNER: Nokia N8

With the votes tallied, the N8 seems to be the better device (N8 – 7 votes, Vibrant – 3 votes, Tie – 4 votes). In truth, I really didn’t need to tally a vote to know that the N8 is really a quality device. Not since the E71 have I had a Nokia phone that I truly and enjoy and have challenges finding faults with it. Thank you Nokia for listening to the consumers and learning from the mistakes of the past to build a must have device.

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Comments
  1. A says:

    yeah u right . BUT ANDORID THE BEST OS . Symbian is dead duuuuuuuuuuuude

    • Lloyd says:

      symbian is unfortunately dead because S60 5th was rushed to market and just wasn’t good or well received. S60 3rd is still a strong OS and was hurt, in my opinion, by the reputation S60 5th built for itself. Symbian^3 is a great OS and I do prefer it to Android as an OS. I think too many people may confuse the actual OS with the availability of apps and Android Market unarguably beats Ovi Store.

  2. molbal says:

    however i think the same, this comparsion maybe a bit unfair 😀

  3. nahubus says:

    the guy have N8. no doubth. be objetive.!! Symbian better?? WTF!!! LOL. the harware comparation suks. Processor?? ram??? not important? video acceration? read more dude.

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