Part of Nokia's multimedia N series, the N73 is a candy bar-shaped phone with a vibrant, six-centimetre, 262K-colour display. Nokia ships the N73 in three colour variations: silver grey/deep plum, frost white/metallic red and frost white/mocha brown. It's quite a large phone, measuring 110mm by 49mm by 19mm, but Nokia keeps the weight of the handset down to a reasonable 116 grams. The keypad is relatively small and cramped, with eight shortcut keys squeezed above and around the numerical buttons. Navigating menus can be tricky as the joystick beneath the screen is small and sensitive.
In keeping with the N73's emphasis on photography, the rear of the N73 has a sliding lens cover that activates the camera. It switches the display into a landscape-oriented viewfinder, so that the shutter button is conveniently located under your right index finger when the phone is rotated. We found the lens cover on the back isn't prone to opening accidentally when put in your pocket, like the Sony Ericsson K750i, so you shouldn't end up with an album of close-up shots of your thigh. There is also an image gallery shortcut on the side of the phone, allowing you to quickly show snaps to friends.
Despite its bulk, the N73 is a reasonably attractive phone, with its king-sized display being the centre of attention. It does, however, tend to bulge in your pocket.
Nokia chose respected optical brand Carl Zeiss for the N73's f2.8/f5.6 Tessar lens. With a resolution of 3.2-megapixels, you can take shots suitable for prints up to 5.1 x 6.8 inches (13 x 17cm), however standard 4 x 6 inch photos (10 x 15cm) will turn out less grainy. The N73 supports four image quality settings, from MMS-suitable shots up to the aforementioned print quality photos. Scene modes include auto, macro, portrait, landscape, sports, night and night portrait; the N73 displays a helpful description of each when you're choosing the mode. Red-eye reduction flash mode is onboard, but we were disappointed with the N73's LED-based flash -- the xenon flash on the Sony Ericsson K800i does a much better job. Colour tone, exposure, ISO speed and white balance can all be adjusted to pre-defined values for stills.
Videos can also be recorded up to a maximum resolution of 352 x 288 pixels. The N73 saves videos in MP4 or 3GPP video files. RealPlayer and Flash files can also be viewed.
Nokia's XpressShare feature lets you MMS, e-mail, print or send photos using Bluetooth after taking them. Best of all, though, you can upload photos directly to a Flickr account after entering a username and password in the Online Sharing settings. Blogger users will of course prefer the K800i's photo blogging tool. Another nice touch is that photo slideshows can be played back with a Ken Burns-like effect that smoothly zooms in and pans around on images while music plays in the background.
You can play MP3, WMA and AAC tracks through the N73's music player and Nokia supplies a stereo headset that also acts as an antenna when you're listening to FM radio.
Productivity applications include e-mail (IMAP4 and POP3), note taker, voice recorder, unit converter and PDF viewer. Quickoffice is onboard for editing Excel, PowerPoint and Word documents. For the security-conscious, a link to download F-Secure Mobile Antivirus can be found in the applications menu.
Connectivity options include 3G capability, Bluetooth 2.0 and infrared. For a high-end phone, we were disappointed the N73 didn't come with WLAN support -- although Nokia has announced the Wi-Fi-enabled N95. Internal memory is around 42MB and Nokia supplies a 128MB miniSD card in the box, which slots in at the bottom next to the Pop-Port connector.
The N73 supports USB 2.0 for fast, wired connections, but the supplied PC Suite Synchronization software only works on Windows. Adventurous Mac users can try the Urban Puddle blog for information on a German-developed plugin that aims to sync the N73 using iSync.
Sudoku addicts can get their daily logic-puzzle fix on the N73 with games up to 9 x 9 numbers in size. The faddish game features a range of difficulty levels, error checking and "pencilled" marks for the apprehensive. A 3D version of Nokia's classic Snakes games also helps pass time during commutes.
Battery life was excellent during our test period -- we almost reached a week between charges with minimal use of the phone. However, when using a combination of Bluetooth and multimedia features, you'll need to recharge the N73 every three to four days.
As for the best camera phone of 2006 -- Nokia N73 vs. Sony Ericsson K800i -- on image quality alone we'd say the N73 just noses in front of the K800i. In our test photos, subjects were slightly sharper and colours a touch more vivid on the N73 -- although we did notice some JPEG compression when we zoomed to actual size on a monitor). Overall, though, we still crown the Sony Ericsson K800i winner. Its Xenon flash, although not on par with a digital camera, puts it leagues ahead of the competition. However, if you're a daytime shooter, the N73 performs admirably.