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Mobile library: Reviews
Review of Nokia N97: First GlanceA new Nseries device of Nokia announced on the 2nd of December instantly attracted multitude of enthusiastic and interested active users of the mobile communication. Thus we’d like to bring forward our first impressions from the new device, which is in the beginning of its long way to the market.
Table of contents:
We’d like to pay your attention to the fact, that all photos and screenshots of Nokia N97 can be either appropriate to or different from the final model of the device. This article doesn’t contain the ultimate information, hence, the full review of this new handset will appear after we receive the first precommercial samples.
N9X – Always a big deal
Before we move straight to the N97, let’s glance through the peculiar way all important Nokia devices being announced. For example, the first pioneer from the 9x Nseries, namely the N90, was announced in spring. Then about four months of waiting for the sales variant had passed, till the sales began in August. What was the reason of this delay? First of all, they adapted Symbian 8.1 to the high-resolution screen, as well as refined the final prototype of CoverUI borrowed from the outer screen. So, one year later, the spring brought about the announcement of a follower, the monster-like N93, which also needed some time to adopt the software to the hardware of OMAP 2420. The device was once again kept to mature four months after the introduction, that is to debug the software to be compatible with the hardware. This moment is worth being emphasized, as the next member of the ninth Nseries appeared in a different way.
In autumn 2006, while the community was admiring the possibilities of the bulky N93, Nokia announced a smartphone, which was fated to become the epochal one, though at that time, it seemed to be just a common logical successor to the recently appeared clamshell. We mean the slider N95, which was postponed several times. When it appeared in may 2007, some consumers didn’t take it as something extremely progressive, as it used to be 7 months ago. What did they do during seven month? It may seem strange, but improvement of the soft- and hardware was a drop in the ocean, as before the smartphone appears, they had to create all services needed to the device. It is services, which caused the delay of the novelty to February, and then March and eventually April.
Why did we remember these smartphones and the time between the announcement and the start of the sales? Everything is simple: our guest was announced on December 2, 2008, and now it is widely discussed by everyone, who doesn’t treat the phone as the common tool to the mobile communication. We are absolutely sure, that many of our readers are very much interested in this Nokia “check shot” at the segment of the most functional mobile solutions. Naturally, our guest is Nokia N97; but we aren’t aimed at the comprehensive review of the smartphone, as this article is just a starting point to make out what it is, this new device of Nokia.
Couple of words about design
Nokia N97 is very important solution for the company because of many reasons, one of which is its debut in the Side-Slide segment of the QWERTY- keypad devices. Those readers, which are especially interested in the new models, are likely to notice some discrepancy in the previous sentence, and in their way they are right. But there is one reservation, as Nokia E75 is deliberately not to be unveiled now in order not to deprive our guest of the consumers’ attention. Besides, the smartphone is really worth attention, as it is the bulkiest side slider smartphone of the company measured 117.3 x 55.3 x 15.8 mm and weighed 150g.
The smartphone feels heavy and thorough in the hand, thus we can draw a parallel to the Windows Mobile-based communicators. The company logo moved to side, featuring a slightly jutting out band looks rather strange considering the trend of the company to diminish the devices.
The really cumbersome design of Nokia N97 is the impression, while the tight built quality, steel band of the front panel, tight frame plastic of the ends and the Soft Touch buttery cover make the novelty be a cut above the most smartphones of the company. The device can boast about the better and more reliable quality, than N95, N96, N93 and can be compared with E71 and E90 considering the fitting of the panels and presumable price, which we can imagine after the first by-touch acquaintance. You can try to squeeze it in the palm, look for the slack, but you are likely to fail, as there is the only 0.5mm looseness of the rear cover, which has to be removed to get an access to the battery.
The whole front surface of the smartphone can be divided into the steel polished edging and the solid film of the capacitive touchscreen, which free parts don’t sag down unlike the 5800 XpressMusic. In the top part of the front panel you can easily notice an earpiece hole, a lens of the camera for video calling. The left top corner houses two small sensors. The first sensor adjusts the screen backlit brightness, the second one turns off the screen during the talk when the device is close to the face.
Considering almost symmetrical form of the top and bottom ends of the front panel, we should mention two sensor buttons set very closely, they are call send and end buttons placed below, as well as the moved to the left corner silver menu key. The latter has a reasonably tight travel, which is followed by the distinct click without any mechanical noises.
As the top and bottom left ends of the front panel have already been described, it’s time to cast a glance at the main control element of the smartphone N97 – the touchscreen. The sensor glass deserves a brief description, as it is a glass with the resistive film, which snaps into action by a light touch with a finger or any handy tool, for instance, pencil, pan, guitar mediator. The manufacturer didn’t provide the N97 with its own stylus. The touchscreen of the smartphone is far handier to work with, than 5800 XpressMusic, by this feature the new handset strongly resembles new HTC communicators. However, the sensor glass is not so interesting, as that thing lying right under it, namely 3.5” TFT matrix with 360 x 640 pixels resolution. On one hand this resolution is the same as the one in the 5800 XpressMusic, but on the other hand, the physical size of the screen is bigger in the N97, though the disparity in diagonal is a mere 0.3 inch. As to the picture quality, the N97 screen looks rather common to the smartphones of the new generation due to the good rendering of the 24-bit colour palette, which has a slight inclination to the grey colours, but without lower contrast and with good white balance. The screen shows a picture, which is as sharp and saturated, as in the 2” screens of other phones and smartphones of the company, but these facts concern the colour rendering. While rather big diagonal allows to make out more details, the mobile video looks really well, without making the users peer into the “matchbox-sized” screen. The viewing angles of the matrix aren’t a great surprise, though a good viewing without colour inversions at an angle up to 160 degrees both vertically and horizontally isn’t a mediocrity. The screen is good, but not perfect, this thing you should keep in mind when choosing a new phone for the summer.
The whole side surface of Nokia N97 is divided by the cut into two parts: the first metal part is on the top, the second main one is made of the common matt plastic. The latter features almost all common control elements and jacks. The top end houses the mic hole shifted to the right end, as well as the cut to the nail to remove the rear cover.
The left side surface is mainly dedicated to the central blocking slider, which is as handy, as the one used in the N85. The sides are occupied by the holes of the polyphonic loudspeakers, which are similar to the ones in N82, N72 and so on, and, of course, which are not a patch on the loud loudspeakers of the 5800 XpressMusic. Besides, near the slider you can see a microUSB port used to wire the smartphone with the PC, as well as to charge it. To make the processes more clear the manufacturer equipped the port with a small explanatory diode.
On the right end you can find a big key - a volume rocker key, which features a tight travel and distinct click, the latter is followed by the quiet flick. Besides, in two centimeters above the bottom end your attention is attracted by the shutter release key of the camera. Working with the button you won’t enjoy, as it has indistinct long first-step pressure for focusing and in intangible final pressure of the shutter release. Though, you can observe all made actions on the screen of the viewfinder, what makes the work a tat handier.
The top end of the N97 is interesting to us for a big silver power key, as well as a 3.5mm jack to wire headphones, headsets and TV-OUT cable.
The rear fascia of the smartphone is made in the style, which has become common to all latest novelties of the Nseries, though the form of the battery cover featuring a smooth stop below looks a bit unusual. The material, the cover is made of, is a matt plastic with a tiny featuring, which has no rubberized films and other features of the soft plastic. The latter may come in handy in the devices from the Middle-end, but not in the solutions like N97. The form of the solid rear cover looks rather uncommon in comparison with the flat panels used in N78, N81, N96 and the other smartphones of the latest generation, but the sharp vertical slants and buildup in the bottom part give a good impression intensifying perception of the camera.
The camera locates closer to the top, where we can see a big jutting out frame with a square shutter blind. The frame is made of the same metal, as the band of the front panel. The shutter blind equipped with the loaded mechanism hiding the 5megapixel camera with autofocus and a weak flash are hardly surprise the consumers spoilt by the 8megapixel cameras.
As we have already mentioned above, to remove the rear cover you don’t need to move any fixing mechanism, you should drag it from the bottom with the same effort, as when removing the cover in the 5800 XpressMusic.
Ander the cover we find a large compartment to install a Li-Pol 1500mAh BP-4L battery. It is notable, that concerning the energy consumption of the smartphone we face the first contradiction in the supposition about the hardware platform of the device, as the stated data including 1.5 days of music playback via headphones, more than 5 hours of video and other specification resembling E71 obviously don’t correspond to OMAP 2430, though the smartphone does utilize OMAP.
Removing the battery, the user gets an access to the sim card slot located under the camera unit. Outside the battery compartment you can find one more slot for the microSDHC memory cards.
When describing the tactile feedback from the casing of Nokia N97 we deliberately mentioned the solid tight building, which has the only gap of the battery cover. But keep in mind that we deal with the side slider opening at the angle of 45 degrees, but not with a candy-bar phone. Considering the latter parameter we can name only one definite counterpart, namely HTC TyTN II, which construction provides for two positions, which causes a notable vertical looseness. But here we come across a question: how did the engineers of Nokia managed to cope with this problem of halves and to create the reliable system of rails?
The beginning of December saw no prototypes of the N97, which was explained by the company resistance to unveil the casing mechanism in order to keep secret the reliable and firm loops of the mechanism opening the casing at the angle of 45 degrees. But really, how does the mechanism work? So, to open the casing you need pull the front panel with some effort to the right at the same time pressing it to the main body. After the begin of the movement you should pull the massive steel loop located in the top part of the casing and raise slightly the spacer, which is made of the same thick steel. After one centimeter of the travel the top half of the handset is considerably rises above the main body, though you still don’t feel any gap thanks to the Ã-shaped location of the thick 3mm loops.
So, when the small loop passes the half of its way, its strong loading spring pulls the top part of the body backwards. The height stopper is a broad shutter, which has a casing-long length. We hear a distinct muffled clap, which occurred because of the left edge of the casing, being a rest when we push the half, which loudly takes its place set by the construction. Correspondingly, to close the casing you just need to drag the upper half of the casing till the moment, when the small loop bents to be closed, while its second spring completes its tasks by drawing the half close to the main body. Actually, that is why the casing mechanism is so fascinating. How it works in practice, you can see in our video clip.
Nokia N97 utilizes a full-fledged QWERTY-keyboard, which has nothing in common with the one, that we’ve seen in E70, 9500, 9300, E61. The main problem of the keyboard is 33 keys and only 27 of them is dedicated to letters and symbols, moreover, a space bar has to be shifted close to Ctrl/Chr.
Considering this feature, all other trifles, for instance, short travel distance and indistinct noiseless click don’t seem strange. When you imagine 6 double keys with Cyrillic letters, plus a row of symbols above, all hopes for the quick and handy work with the keyboard vanish. But, the keyboard looks rather logic solution how to use a free space near a big navigation key, which excludes unnecessary to S60 Touch soft-keys, but we return to it below. In our opinion formed after a short-term acquaintance with the device the keyboard is comfortable enough to enter web-addresses and answers to sms, but when the more serious tasks, you’d better use solutions from Eseries, at least E90 is still can be met in the shops.
The following text is aimed to satisfy those readers, who are eager to read the complete review of Nokia N97 as soon as possible. Unfortunately, now the device is presented as prototypes based on the base of the 5800 XpressMusic, thus to discuss the software of the N97 is too early, as well as to measure the performance. The prototypes closely resembling the sales variants are to appear in the end of the spring. Only then we will be able to appraise the device in complex. And today we offer our readers a short description of some features of the N97, which can be appraised now.
On the edge of the popular question about the inner parts of Nokia N97, we’d like to postpone it till the February announcement, as the current prototypes of the smartphone are numbered as the first sample, that’s way we can suppose that this sample has the same hardware as the 5800 and nothing special. Fortunately, February is to bring about a new prototype with a final version of the hardware allowing to test the N97 with the special benchmarks. But, on the other hand, the performance test of 5800 XpressMusic shows the situation similar with SPB Benchmark , when Windows Mobile 5.0 came out. We’d like to remind that that time the test results was twice worse in comparison with 2003 SE, but in practice video was played back with the same speed, as well as the applications, which worked in the same way.
As to the memory and its size, Nokia N97 has the same ROM and RAM memory, as the N96, though the specifications are different:
Besides, we have already mentioned, when describing the design, that there is microSDHC memory card slot, which size is limited by FAT32. Correspondingly, closer to the new year we can increase the memory amount using 32GB memory card, getting in result more than 60GB in the device.
Despite of the impressive memory size and hope that OMAP 2430 will be used, the software of the N97 is almost the same as the one utilized in 5800 XpressMusic. That’s way we can now form our opinion about the most standard applications. As the software coincides with the current music-oriented sales hit, we can name the concrete data: Nokia N97 is based on Symbian 9.4 with UI S60 5Ed, or to put it shortly S60 Touch.
The interest to the software of the smartphone is mainly caused by the announced system of the remote panels in the active stand-by, where each panel is named a widget. The main task of the widgets is to make handier the access to the main working and entertaining functions; at that, there are references to OVI services, multimedia apps, shortcut tags, contacts panel, as well as the favorite contacts. Theoretically the home screen looks very interesting allowing to make good use of the high-res screen. But in practice the widgets’ implementation still leaves much to be desired. The first problem is the stand-by, which is bound to the S60 Touch interface. That implies the standard context menu for screen adjusting, plain animation of shifts, the overall static position of the panels in the frames, as well as the widget control, which is very alike to the one, we’ve seen in the vertical toolbar in S60 3Ed Fp2.
Multimedia and the rest
Nokia N97 multimedia is almost the same as that one we’ve met in the first model based on S60 Touch, namely the 5800 XpressMusic. It has the same implementation of video, image viewer, at that the music player is similar to the basic one.
As to the camera, our guest deals with the same module, as N85, N79, 6220 Classic. The camera software can be either the same as the one in the 5800 XpressMusic, or be replaced with any other program, thus it’s too early to discuss the camera.
The short-term use of the N97 prototype makes us unable to draw some conclusions, moreover, now it is even senseless, as the current variant is different from that one, which the consumers will pull out of the desired box in June or July this year. We mean not only services, but also further company’s development of widgets and panels of the stand-by mode, surprises of the preinstalled software and number of apps written to S60 Touch, the more so because the 5800Xpress Music actively urges on the developers. But the question is, will N97 remains as interesting as it is now? We think, no. But from the point of view of the targeted audience and product positioning it is an advantage, rather than disadvantage. March or April is likely to bring about a final variant of the prototypes’ hardware. In February we are to see the announcement of a very interesting device featuring interesting possibilities, which is to come to the market as the same time, as N97.
SO, it looks like our guest is a peculiar combination of N95 and E90 produced in 2009. The both models are in their way interesting and don’t cross their targeted groups. It goes without saying, under the two-year-old counterparts we imply the likeness of N97 and E90, though the former is something more than just a handset for work. It is the device to work with WEB 2.0 resources and services, with the aim to get information, thus the keyboard is one of the means to obtain it. This conception includes all services shown December 2, 2008, which are becoming even more interesting. But in case you feel no interest to them, you’d better revise your attitude to the novelty several months before it comes into sale, in order not to be disappointed.
But if we try to take a broad view of the things, N97 announced before the sales of the first S60 Touch- based smartphone is the demonstration device increasing the number of users of mobile communication and advanced technologies loyal to Nokia. In case of this handset, the early announcement is as important, as the device itself. The same as N95 in its time, our guest will give a handle for discussions of the closely related themes, which follow it till the moment it appears in the shops. And then, closer to July 2009 the novelty will appear with $790-820 price tag and become an interesting alternative to Side-Slide communicators based on Windows Mobile. Now it is too early to speak if the device will be popular or not. Anyway the handset is another basis, which gives some features to be developed in next models. If you are interested in quantitative characteristics, this device is hardly to meet you demands, but the next stage of technical progress in Nokia is expected in 2010.
© Written by Tikhonov Valeriy, Mobiset.ru
Translated by Arina Urban.
Published — 27 January 2009.
Read full version of the article: http://eng.mobiset.ru/articles/text/?id=65