Nokia continues to court well-heeled customers with another painfully expensive (around the £700 mark, SIM-free) handset aimed squarely at the luxury market.
The 8600 Luna is a solid 2.5G mobile that's all about style -- from its smoked glass top to its stainless steel tail. It's available exclusively through The Carphone Warehouse, from free with selected contracts over £40 a month.
There's a fine line between 'reassuring' and merely 'heavy', but the 8600 falls on the right side of the tracks, cramming its 140g into a pleasantly tactile 16mm waistline. Much of that weight is down to the slab of smoked glass that encapsulates the phone, sliding up gracefully in the middle to reveal a small illuminated number pad. The chassis and detailing are stainless steel -- overall this feels like one tough handset.
The 50mm (2-inch) screen boasts 16 million colours and a 320x240-pixel resolution that means photos and videos look extremely sharp and natural. The animated graphical interface is typically straightforward and responsive -- anyone who's used a Nokia before will feel right at home.
Multimedia features are basic but effective. The 2-megapixel camera produces acceptable snaps in daylight, although it does ladle on grainy digital noise in the background. The media player has a very simple interface that makes using the FM radio or playing individual songs simple. You'll need a headset (ideally Bluetooth stereo) to make the most of both, as the built-in mono speaker is nothing special.
GPRS Web browsing is acceptable thanks to the sharp screen, but is no match for a genuine 3G handset. Messaging options include a good email client and Nokia's Xpress audio messaging, which allows you to send voice-clips as MMS. There are also some impressive 3D games on board.
Exotic materials do have their drawbacks. The metallic backplate attracts scratches almost as easily as the glass front encourages smeary fingerprints -- although at least Nokia thoughtfully bundles a polishing cloth for the latter.
The high-res display has encouraged Nokia to use the smallest font size imaginable. While this keeps screen furniture like the network name nicely minimalised, it also makes key features like the clock and menu options tricky to read. You can, however, adjust the font size for contacts and text messaging.
The 8600's plastic keypad feels cheap compared to the rest of the handset, and the bottom row of buttons is slightly obscured by the smoked glass cover. There's also a quirk in the messaging software that makes it too easy to send the same text several times.
No ugly memory card slot is allowed to sully the Luna's smoothly rounded edges -- you'll have to make do with 128MB of internal memory. Similarly, an LED light might have spoiled the subtle, square camera design, so venture into low light photography at your own risk. Videos are also given short shrift, with miniscule (176x144 pixels) clips that are suitable only for messaging.
Judged on its price to specification ratio, the 8600 would barely merit a glance. You can pick up perfectly functional pay-as-you-go handsets with more advanced multimedia features for a fraction of its price. But style phones follow their own rules, and by any measure this is a tough, usable mobile that doesn't altogether deserve its likely fate -- to be ruthlessly upgraded when it loses its cool in approximately six months.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield