Nokia debuted with this phone/portable game machine in 2003. Everyone expected big things from Europe's leading cell phone manufacturer. But the fit hit the shan upon it's acutal release.
One word to describe the original Ngage: Embarrassing. No doubt everyone is familiar with the rediculous "side-talkin" one had to do in order to actually use the Ngage as a phone. That coupled with the fact that you actually had to remove the case in order to change the carts made the machine a pain in the ass to use. Plus it retailed for $300. The Ngage's sales reflected this.
A year late Nokia addressed some of these inherent desgin flaws with the much better executed and less rediculous N-Gage QD. The QD is a scaled down version with less doohikies to make it cheaper (like they took the USB port out) plus you don't look like an idiot using it as a phone. The N-Gage is now officially not embarrassing to own.
What this thing has going for it is the multitude of gadgets contained therein. There's built in E-mail support, it plays Mp3s, you can go on the internet with it, you can play emulators on it (awsome,) there's a built in FM radio (of which you can record audio from with a built in audio recorder,) it takes Flash media cards so you can run your own stuff on it. There's even a built in Midi sequencer (so you can make your own ring tones.) You can watch movies on it. Damn, you can get a lot out of this machine.
All of these capabilites have garnered the machine a loyal following of homebrewers and tech people. So the N-gage will be around for a little while.
Mr. T. S. sent me this info about his experience with the N-Gage:
"Some additions (in case you didn't know yet) to the N-Gage: Own one and love it. Sports an MMC slot so memory's avail. up to 2 Gig (or whatever the max is these days). Running on Symbian OS 6 means it's compatible with a shitload of software, incl. thousands of games (not just those crappy java ones). Of special interest to me (and prob. you) is that there's emu's for the GameGear/SMS, Genesis, NES, SNES (yeah! though it's kinda slow atm.), GameBoy, GBC, ZXBoy, Spectrum, MSX, MAME, C64 and some systems that I forgot. Guess you know what that means together with that MMC slot. ;)"
"There's some faster Symbian OS 6 phones (mainly Nokias) out there but the N-Gages are the only ones with true 8-way controlers. In other words, the N-Gage is like the uber-retroconsole-handheld-PDA-musicplayer-phone-combo. Concidering the original N-Gage is avail. for little money over ebay these days, I'd surely recommend you having a closer look at one. "
Screen: Decent, clear, doesn't get blurry or anything.
Games: Games look to be about PS1 level graphics, with good sound for the most part. Still waiting for a "killer app."
Functionality: Still kind of wierd using the keypad as fire buttons, but the QD feels a lot more natural.