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Mobile library: Reviews
First Glance at Nokia N900 (Maemo 5) and a Couple of Words About N97 MiniOur experience proves that it is uneasy task to write a thorough review of state-of-the-art devices made by different manufacturers nowadays, as they are developed more into computers, than mobile phones. That’s way, we offer you our preliminary observations about Nokia N900, which will be followed by the comprehensive review in the end of the year.
Table of contents:
Please, take into consideration that this article is not a review, as it contains some other ideas, namely, our explanation of the ballyhoo about Nokia N900, as well as the faulty comparison of the device with the N97. These devices are totally different and occupy different market niches. And we discuss this topic in our brief review of the first mobile computer of the Finnish manufacturer.
Last year in the beginning of December Nokia announced its first multimedia computer N97, which we first tested in June, than in July and eventually in August. Then we decided that there was no use to rewrite the review and it was better to leave everything as it was. We personally believe that it is Nokia N97 that is the most disputable device that has been made in 2009. It impressed us more than other available devices at a glance, but soon we lost interest to it, as the competitors offered numerous new devices. As a result Nokia produced a mobile device in time, but behind the progress, as it didn’t have any zest that could have distinguished it from the competitors.
However, it was Nokia N97 that was called a first mobile computer that would turn new page in the experience of the most advanced users, which would like to obtain everything new as soon as possible. This kind of people wants to remember later, that they were the first, who had fairly seen the potential of some features. The company set up this new line of gadgets exactly for these users without intending to make them mass products. Instead the company planed to evolve these cutting-on-the-edge technologies into widely accessible devices. However, the N97 didn’t meet these requirements, as it has featured the 5800XM-like hardware crammed into another form and answered the trendy rush for enormous memory amount.
This situation didn’t satisfy the techis, consequently, in June and August many users of a mobile computer opted for Samsung HD i8910. The latter gave the user numerous options, as it has had high OMAP platform efficiency and the active widgets in the stand-by mode. It is interesting, but these two factors have encouraged the buyers to purchase Nokia N97 this spring. But in practice the rival company made use these features in their device and even didn’t hype them. This has been their dream that’s way Nokia fans were so disappointed.
Cherishing the hope to create an ultimate device, the company had to realize that the term “mobile computer” really challenged them. Though everyone wanted to see Nokia struck back at Samsung i8910, the Finish company aims were more fundamental, on the edge of impossible. The company unveiled the most expected device of the year 2009 – Maemo 5 almost a day before Nokia World 2009. This mobile device made in Tablet form-factor embraced the company ideas about how to make an ultimate device for those, who weren’t obsessed with hi-techs only. As to the design, it was secret only for optimists, while others had already scrutinized Rover licked photos in spring and felt disappointed. But, as it turned out, this austere form-factor previously used in the N810 proved to be very close to Internet Tablet with its limitless functions.
The marketing specialists of the company believe that Nokia N900 can be used not for a limited number of functions, as we do with phones and smartphones. The mobile computer concept is implemented in the device much more widely, as having numerous functions it almost completely replaces UMPC. The N900 can be compared with Sony UX1 that once outrunning its time, didn’t have strictly determined functions. As a result the first model in this line running Maemo with communication module seems to be a device with a peculiar hardware of the mobile device, which is adjusted by the user to their needs and wishes. Thus, it looks rather attractive to the techies.
But let’s return to Nokia N900, which has one of the most functional mobile OS based on Linux kernel, namely its main variant. Thus we see that Open Source in this case isn’t just words, but a mean allowing to extend functions as much as possible. But let’s move to the concrete facts. It’s wrong to review the system from scratch without taking into consideration previous devices based on Maemo 3 and Maemo 4. The latter, namely N800 and N810, should be compared with the N900 by the capabilities, as those without good practice with Maemo 5 OS may find it irrational and with too complex user interface demanding traffic everywhere, where it is possible. In fact things are not so complicated, but similar to the primary source – Linux, e.g. in installing software. The user has the same unrestricted access to the hardware to install the applications, which can be easily added the libraries or started to the tasks. All these aforementioned parameters differ Nokia N900 with the N97, thus? It strange to call them both mobile computers. Just think, you buy the N900 with:
You can notice, that we don’t mention media player, web browser, connectivity and multimedia apps. Instead you see the specifications, which are not necessarily have to be used simultaneously, unlike the screen enhanced by the GPU showing wonderful quality. If we consider the device as a rival to the present smartphones, the former is less handy device with rather unconsidered ergonomics and short battery life. These shortcomings, as well as some other narrow the user audience to a small group of the N810 fans.
After this brief glance at Nokia N900 conception, we move to the design. The device logically continues the N810, but reflects new company design featuring smaller dimensions and sim-card slot. Weighing 181g. the media tablet measures 109.2 x 59.3 x 19.6 mm. This size used to be common to the WM-based communicators several years ago. We can remember about HTC MAX 4G and Advantage that are not less than the N900 and are used for the same purposes.
Despite the size Nokia N900 gives another haptic feedback than the N97, as it reminds more the bulky N810, than a pocket-friendly device. Except the size, we don’t have any complaints about the case, as the slider mechanism is substantially better than that in other Nokia’s side sliders. The glossy slide-out part and matt plastic of the rear cover are well-considered for the needs of the users. Some users are afraid of the weight and thickness of the device, but they can easily forget their speculations as if they start working with it. As only when holding it in the hand, you notice good built quality and solid form with no gaps inside.
The front panel of the N900 was deprived of buttons and touchscreen keys, but has all features that are common to the device with a touchscreen, that has been made in 2009. That is an earpiece placed in the center of the top front panel. Nearby you see ambient light and proximity sensors. Eventually, there is VGA-camera lens that can be used for various purposes.
The front panel of Nokia N900 is interesting first of all because of its built quality, which we’ve tested feeling for the right top end to find the bending of the resistive touchscreen. Fortunately, the device has no bending, while the metal edge of the front panel doesn’t look too fancy on the touchscreen glass. Besides, unlike the N97 and the N810, the N900 successfully utilizes a resistive toushcreen with glossy padding, which provides a distinct feedback when taping with a finger or the mediocre stylus from the kit.
Another detail that surprised us very much is a rather small TFT WVGA-screen with 24-bit colour palette. At first glance you may think that it is an AMOLED matrix, as rich colours and numerous details of the interface strike the eyes.
It’s interesting, that rather high resolution is used to gloss all smooth animation effects in Maemo 5. As a result the device can boast about the best detalization of the graphics. So, as we’ve mentioned the screen, let’s put the good colour rendering aside and look at the backlit. It can be adjusted with the help of the gradual scale, which provides dull light when minimal and bright light at its maximum, which is too bright to be used indoors. Of course, it’s too early to judge how the screen goes one in the sunlight, but considering touchscreen interface and TFTmatrix with a gloss resistive sensor, there are no grounds to worry about it.
The front panel has no control elements, thus it seems to be incorrectly to judge the phone functions rather harshly, as you can’t quickly make a phone call. With a slight effort we can move the front fascia up holding the device horizontally. The slider mechanism resembles the N810, rather than the E75, consequently there are no gaps. The travel distance of the mechanism is rather tight, while the finishing mechanism slowly works only on the last third of the travel distance.
The N900 parts have a short travel distance, as rather small slide out QWERTY-keyboard has no additional elements, as it is made in laptop-like style. There are 37 bulging rectangular buttons, which have slightly rounded edges providing good space between them. This keyboard has better ergonomics than that mediocre one used in the N97, but has lower speed than the N810 and E75 keyboards, due to the softmenu keys placed one the left top end, as well as the fact, that the symbols have to be inputted pressing the Fn key. The short-traveled keys are softly pressed and give no rise to the complaint, as well as the even white backlit.
The common keys from the front panel were moved to the ends. The left end features just a stylus head, which has handy size and form, but made of an ordinary plastic. The right end has much more interesting features: volume rocker key, power key placed in the center, two-stage capture key, which has very distinct click.
The top end of the device isn’t so rich in buttons. It houses micro-USB connector for charging and PC sync, the first stereo speaker. The second speaker is installed in the bottom end of the device. Besides it you can find here keylock slider and 3.5mm headphones connector, as well as a mic hole.
The rear fascia utilizes a big 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and LED flash. Protected by the sliding hatch camera has a tilt stand allowing to place the device on the table at an angle of 30 degrees. To do that the N810 was equipped with the less handy stand.
It is interesting, that the whole rear fascia is used as the battery cover. It can take you some effort, to remove it, when pulling it down.
The small battery compartment houses rather mediocre BL-5J 1320mAh battery, which symbolizes that Nokia N900 can be called a mobile computer, either because its hardware specifications, or because its battery life, which can be compared with the modern netbooks. Thus, it lasted 24 hours without charging, or 5-6 hours non-stop work. In general the result is comparable with that of the smartphones, though, some of them may have better performance thanks to the different operation.
The battery hides a sim-card slot. Nearby the camera unit you see a microSDHC card slot resembling the sim-card slot.
Impressions in short
The emotions we got, when we saw Nokia N900, are expresed in the design description and reflections above, thus, to sum it all up, we’d like to mention several details about the device. So, first is the sound quality. The latter is not crucially worse then that in the N97 and N97 mini and on the same level with Samsung HD i8910. It has the same volume, unclear bases, hard middle waves, which make you look for only some of your favorite Heavy Metal tracks.
Secondly, as the camera is concerned, we will make the proper review of it only after long time of usage, but even now, after trying the micro mode in the prototype, we are absolutely sure, that this 5 megapixel camera is the best one among all Nokia devices.
We’d like to mention in conclusion price and date of release. The device is expected to come on all markets including Russian one, where he will appear in the end of December or beginning of January among other N-Series gadgets. The price will be calculated considering the difference between the N97 mini and Booklet 3G and is expected to be about $970 with the following reduction to $780. Will it be the bargain, that’s worth this money? Guys in Nokia say, that this device continues the niche devices N800 and N810, thus they are not going to attract wider target audience with the hype, which is likely to give a negative impression to those, who can’t properly appreciate Maemo5 and OMAP3430 installed in such a compact device like this one.
The rest ideas and description of the software accompanied with the screenshots will appear in the detailed review. This device doesn’t lay claims to be the sales leader, as Nokia 5800XM, but outrunning its time for two years it demands an in-depth review.
N97 Mini in Brief
Besides Nokia N900 we can’t but mentioned the recently announced N97’s successor, which added Mini indexes to the name. The question is, why the guys used the same name, as we remember that the N97 became notorious for the hype, than its qualities?
Firstly, because the device inherited the design and form-factor, thanks to which rather compact Nokia N97 mini looks in the same way, as its predecessor, but more neatly and consistently, if we can put it like this. Having the dimensions comparable with the 5800 XM-like devices, Nokia N97 mini possesses both the peculiar front panel featuring different sensors near the earpiece and touchkeys placed under the 3.2’’ qHD-screen, and the original opening mechanism. Moreover, Nokia improved the flow of the construction reducing the angle of opening to 30 degrees. It may seem a trifle, but together with the improved QWERTY-keyboard without a navi key, which had been replaced with the set of arrows, it makes typing substantially better. Besides, the device maintained the solid construction either when opened or closed, thus it gives more pleasant haptic feedback, than the 5530 XM.
Another change took place in the rear fascia. The manufacturer removed the hatch and left just a popping out lug. They also replaced a squeaking plastic battery cover with a solid steel one, which is fixed by the latches and rails. Judging by the rear cover the new device looks much more interesting than the predecessor, and even modest 12mAh battery doesn’t spoil good impression.
But except the design, which will be reviewed more carefully in the next article about this device and 8Gb memory, nothing has changed since the N97. It is good, the N97 mini preserves the only good quality – headphones sound quality, which is better than that in many players.
We’ve reviewed the first samples, shared our ideas and now we are waiting for the pre-serial samples of Nokia N900 and N97 mini to thoroughly review them and decide whether they are worth purchasing or not. We hope this article makes it easy for you to view Nokia N900 as a great event on the market and as a possible purchase. The comprehensive review is to appear in December, which will see commercial soft variants and the final product design, i.e. the things that make this bunch of technologies an integral device.
© Written by Tikhonov Valeriy, Mobiset.ru
Translated by Arina Urban.
Published — 22 October 2009.
Read full version of the article: http://eng.mobiset.ru/articles/text/?id=68