Nokia N900 (www.donmax.co.cc)
Product: Nokia N900
System Specifications: Linux Maemo 5 OS, TI OMAP3 CPU, 256MB RAM, 32GB Storage, 3.5-inch touch display, 3.5mm audio jack, 5 megapixels camera, 3G, GPRS, GSM, HSDPA, HSUPA, Li-ion battery, microSD
NOKIA'S LATEST Internet tablet or Mobile Internet Device (MID) arrives almost two years after its previous version, the N810, and an additional failed model that came inbetween, the N810 WiMax edition.
How the N900 differs from the previous model is firstly in the software as the device runs the latest version of the Linux-based mobile OS, Maemo 5. The second largest change is in the hardware, as the N900 is now an actual phone for the very first time in this series.
Previous generations, including the N770 of four years ago, were just MIDs and nothing else. Now Nokia has included the ability to make calls, somewhat of a novel feature for a mobile phone company (*cough*).
Nokia's N900 runs on a Texas Instruments OMAP3 ARM processor, a successor to the OMAP2 found in the Finnish firm's previous N810 model and its N95 handset. This new processor has dynamic frequency scaling, where the CPU can ramp from 200MHz to 600MHz depending on the number of applications running and their processing needs.
This supports the multitasking capabilities of the N900, which just wasn't possible with the N810 and other past models. The INQ has been informed that the other notable mobile phone to run on the OMAP3 CPU is the Palm Pre, which is well known for its multitasking prowess too.
This handset-come-Internet device rocks up with double the RAM of the N810 at 256MB. There is also a further 768MB of swap memory available from the onboard storage, if and when needed for running applications.
On the topic of storage, Nokia's new MID has 32GB of onboard storage whereas the N810 only had 2GB. Three of Nokia's devices have now reached this level natively, with the N97 and X6 being the others in the range. Other phone manufacturers cannot boast similar storage capacity within a number of products without relying on supplemental means for boosting storage availability.
Nokia has also tested the N900 with the latest 32GB microSD memory cards due out soon with the in-built microSD slot. It's been confirmed to the INQ that all is well with this all-round compatibility, which doubles the capacity of the device to 64GB of possible storage. This trumps Nokia's previous best with the N97 and its 32GB of onboard storage plus a measly 16GB microSD card for the grand sum of 48GB of possible storage.
Worked into the N900 architecture is graphics hardware acceleration. The PowerVR SGX enables rather realistic 3D gaming with in-game photo realism. There wasn't a great deal of content for the N900 at the launch event to show off this promised capability, but the games that were available did pass along an inkling of what's possible using the built in accelerometer for game control. We were told developers are working on a lot of new content, with Nokia partners set to offer up some titles both at launch and afterwards.
The onboard audio jack socket also doubles up as the TV-out port, as with the N97 handset. This is capable of displaying 800x400 with the provided cable. The N900 media centre has also been upgraded, so playback of many new formats is possible, such as DiVX, WMV and MP3 files.
Nokia has included the same camera that's in a few of the other top tier handsets, the 5 megapixel (MP) offering with a Carl Zeiss optical lens. It has proven to be popular in other models and does take a great image. Nokia does finally have an 8MP camera in the fairly new N86, and although that could have looked good in the N900, we felt it would be overkill at this time. The 5MP camera does however record a greater video size than the 8MP camera at 848x480, so not all is lost with a lower megapixel count.
The Finnish phone makers have opted for a smaller touch screen in the N900, as compared to the much larger display in the N810. The screen has shrunk from a 4.13-inch size to a 3.5-inch version. Nokia has however still kept the 800x480 pixels WVGA resolution. In comparing the two models side by side, the size difference is obviously noticeable, but the picture quality comes across much better in the N900. We would have assumed Nokia would have worked multi-touch into this latest version of its tablet computer, as their competitors nearly all have this capability now. Alas, this isn't the case and there's no date when this might become a feature in Nokia's handsets.
As with many companies, Nokia has adopted the microUSB standard of charging, as this is becoming a forced EU standard by 2012. We first saw Nokia adopting microSD charging in the E63 in late 2008, whereas now it's a rare sight to see anything else but this method in its devices. It could very well be all over for Nokia's propriety charger that powered its devices and nothing else.
As this is Nokia's first N series MID to have phone functionality, it's also the first to have A-GPS on board along with GPS, where both can be used together to gain a more accurate, fast and better GPS position.
Besides being a quad band GSM phone, we've been told the N900 is also a quad band CDMA phone for accessing almost all North American networks. There is no other phone in the Nokia portfolio to date that has this vast range of communication capabilities. Nokia hasn't made public whose chipset it has used for the phone functions of the N900, but it has worked in HSPA over the HSDPA variant for the much improved uplink speeds, which isn't even in their flagship N97 model.
Nokia has included the exact same removable Lithium-ion 1320 mAh battery that accompanied its 5800 music handset. Nokia stated to the INQUIRER that it's possible to run the N900 continuously for 24 hours, double the time of the N810. We weren't able to put this to the test.
Its keyboard is reminiscent of the budget model of the Nokia E71, the E63. The rubberised keys are a move away from the steel feel to the N810, although it must have proved popular to be included in this device. We did find the individual keys were a tad too close together initially, although after some time in use the adjustment was fast and the writing was much smoother. This is far removed from the other rubber keyboard handset we reviewed recently, where the HTC Snap was cumbersome to type with as a direct comparison.
The Maemo operating system on the N900 is the latest 5th edition, while both the N810 and N770 of two and four years ago respectively ran version 4. On-board is an up-to-date Linux kernel, and accompanying the mobile OS is now four desktops that are all accessible by just sliding your thumb across the touch screen. These are customisable in order to house various widgets and applications. As a comparison, the N810 had only one desktop and none of the current apps which feature on the N900.
Every widget expected is available, from the likes of Facebook apps down to accessing the Ovi store for the first time with this series of devices. We've been told all of these will be ready at launch, with more coming down the pipeline. Existing N810 applications are being ported across to the latest model, all with a view not to lose that audience along the way.
The N900 is capable of running several applications at once, where the N810 wasn't at all. Nokia boasts all these applications can be instantly accessed with no delay, which we can confirm. The apps running aren't halted when not in use, they're just minimised to a small window where you can clearly see the applications still running with no lag. We were told Nokia was going for the same experience that Microsoft Windows has with many apps running at once, offering up the same experience of the desktop only in a handheld device.
Nokia has stuck to the S60 Symbian menu for the Linux N900, purely for brand continuity. It looks and feels much the same as the N97 and 5800 menu structure, plus it performs in much the same way.
The accompanying web browser is based on the Mozilla Firefox engine, which supports Flash and full-screen browsing. Once again Nokia has gone for mimicking the desktop PC with this functionality, which works well over WiFi or through the cellular modem.
There's an interesting way to zoom in and zoom out of web pages on the N900. It's performed by swirling a finger on the touch-screen in clockwise circles or anti-clockwise to zoom out. This does work surprisingly well and is easy to use, although there are regular zoom in and zoom out buttons just in case this throws some people off. Moving a finger off the left of the screen produces a mouse arrow, ideal for those websites that do require this type of operation.
The contacts application on the Internet tablet is pretty much complete, with access for a person via various email addresses along with Google Talk, Skype, Jabber and Ovi Chat instant messaging all present. What wasn't there was Windows Messaging, but we've been assured this will be present and correct from a third party extension. Email setup was easily performed from the likes of Exchange, Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail. Folder support has also been enabled if your email backend has this ability, just as it is with Microsoft Exchange.
Threaded SMS and instant messaging chats are a feature of the N900. This is a popular feature of the Iphone and Palm Pre, with a proven success in those handsets.
Announced at Nokia World was Lifecasting, which is a widget for the Nokia N97 mini handset. This displays at the press of a button, or automatically, exactly where you are straight to a Facebook status update. This is also due to make its way to the N900, we've been informed, around the launch date in October.
For the first time kinetic scrolling has come to Nokia handsets. It's on the N900 and the new N97 mini and in an upcoming firmware on the N97. This is where scrolling down a web page is performed by running a finger down the screen and then off of the handset, where the web page continues to keep scrolling. It's a very useful feature of handsets and saves running a finger down the screen, then repeating the action for the next page and the next.
When the N770 was first announced back in 2005 there weren't many devices around that could claim the full multimedia experience of video, music playing and web browsing and it stood out. Now, the world is full of these handsets and perhaps Nokia is entering a market it doesn't have much space in anymore.
We feel Nokia has made large strides since the N810, although we can't help wondering why it has taken so long to include the functionality of a phone in these products when, after all, Nokia is a phone company.
Despite its improvements from the previous generation we really don't think many will notice, as Nokia hasn't seemed to market these products very well in the past. We're hard pressed to find any of our early tech adopter colleagues that actually own any of these Nokia Internet tablets and they are the target market. µ
Phone ability finally in the series, fast processor, plenty of storage, much better software than previous model.
Not a multi-touch screen, could have done with a bigger battery.
Not very well marketed and therefore might be hard to sell - despite its great qualities.
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