July 31st, 2004, 02:16
Looking at the original N-Gage design, one doesn't have to squint to see areas in need of improvement. Kudos to Nokia for making a big, fat list of all the fixer-uppers on the game deck, and setting out to make things right. The labor of their love, the N-Gage QD, is now available for you, me, and everyone else to bring into our homes and our hearts. [br][br]The tiny, dense QD just feels better in your hands. It's actually not a whole lot smaller than the initial design, but seems to fit in your pocket much easier. Also, the face is cleaned up, getting rid of or shrinking down certain buttons. The number buttons are smaller, but this actually makes them easier to reach. The d-pad is smoother, and no longer has the push-in feature (instead, an Enter button sits where the music/radio/desktop buttons used to be). [br][br]Speaking of music functionality, that feature has gone bye-bye. I personally don't miss it, and I imagine most gamers won't, either. To actually take advantage of the MP3 player, you had to buy a bigger memory card. FM radios are as common as flies at a barbecue, so it was a superfluous feature. [br][br]Having to remove the back panel and battery to change games is something we all can agree never should have been allowed to exist. After using the hot-swapping functionality of the QD, I forgive Nokia their trespasses. Just pop games in and out, and access them with one touch form the interface screen. It's really the way things should be. [br][br] [br]See that? Learn to love it. [br] [br][br]N-Gage Arena has also been made much easier to get to. It's now the top selection on the deck's "desktop." You will no longer have to log in through games exclusively, and it's much easier to take advantage of the community aspects without the runaround. This launcher can also be downloaded for old-school N-Gages, by the way. [br][br]No longer will you be embarrassed to receive phone calls on your N-Gage. The QD may not fit the contours of your face like a traditional cell phone, but it is a drastic improvement over Taco Talk 2000. However, the more pasty-faced QD owners may get some cheese on the screen, as it comes in contact with your cheek -- so always have a tissue handy for wiping. [br][br]My only beef with the QD is its interface. To me, it almost looks unfinished, to the point where I was initially unsure if mine was still a beta version or not. I guess this is a "less is more" approach, but I'd rather have the icons take advantage of the extensive color palette of the N-Gage. This is such a minor complaint, though. The QD is bomb-diggity, and is worth a purchase for the N-Gage curious or hardcore N-Gageketeers. After all, you can just swap SIM cards and be back on track. The price point is looking to range between $100 and $200, which really isn't too bad. It even seems like the excellent Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is being commonly offered as a pack-in.