Nokia N900 Review
- Highly-customizable Linux operating system, Maemo
- Efficient multitasking
- Rich free application library
- Bulky and heavy
- No Ovi Suite support for PC Sync
- Non finger-friendly touchscreen
This phone can be turned into a beast, but one that is not very easy to tame. If you are not looking for the customizable Linux experience, then many of the other features of the N900 can also be found on cheaper devices.
This particular review of the Nokia N900 was done keeping in mind the multi-faceted nature of the device, and how it would appeal to both general consumers and geeks. We will therefore be putting up another review very soon, where the N900 is seen from the perspective of a power user, developer or code-savvy individual. Read on to see our views of the device as it would be used in the hands of an average consumer.
N-series has definitely not been Nokia's most successful offering. Down the line, many of the phones in this series have been plagued with issues like sluggish operation, bad battery life and an outdated operating system in Symbian S60. This has turned the smartphone costumers to other options like the iPhone, BlackBerry or the newer Android phones. N900, Nokia’s latest N-series offering, aims to redeem the premium line-up of the Finnish giant. It is basically an internet tablet with smartphone capabilities, and a successor to the N810.
Before we get to the review, here is a word of caution. N900 is different! Nokia has taken ‘the other road’. Recently, smartphones have been going the ‘iPhone way’, with a ‘mobile’ web experience, and an interface that is a far cry from the PC. Nokia, on the other hand, has looked back and gone a step in the other direction, by trying to offer ‘PC-like’ experience - especially while browsing - with their new Linux-based operating system ‘Maemo’. It must be mentioned here that this phone has near infinite ability to be customized. But here we will review the 'vanilla' version of the phone. That means, the OS is reviewed as it is, with no major tweaking.
Trust us when we say that you ought to give your thumb a much needed rest when you use the N900. While any new phone in the market these days is considered better if it has a capacitive screen or a thumb friendly interface, the N900’s browsing mettle is best experienced with a stylus. So, if you are looking for a phone that is finger-friendly, look elsewhere. But if you are still in deep love with the good old PC, read on and find out if N900 is your perfect new mobile companion.
The box we received was a big impressive matte-black. Nokia takes the cake here really. We like our machines to come in big bad boxes. The discrete packages companies are turning to, just don’t do it for us. Within the box were the usual accessories – charger (miniUSB port), data cable, earplugs and TV-out cable. Nokia were also considerate enough to pack in a converter for compatibility with old Nokia chargers (both the thin-pin and the older thicker pin). The earplugs are excellent, and they are one of the few that come with tangle-free wires, which is a big relief and a huge plus for these in-ears. We would have really appreciated better noise isolation though, and a set of changeable plugs of different sizes. More on their audio quality later.
Out of the box, the phone was certainly bulkier than most we have reviewed recently. The N900 juggled across many excited hands, but the opinion was same - “it’s heavy”. When we reviewed the N97, we complained about how the screen sprang open, like it’s “going to fly off”. The N900 placates that phobia of ours by replacing the spring-loaded opening mechanism with a solid manual slide mechanism, very similar to the Motorola Milestone. Also, like the Milestone, a large part of the screen overlaps with the lower half of the slider, making it very sturdy. The screen slides away horizontally to reveal the physical QWERTY. You should know though, that our time spent with the N900’s keyboard has left us with mixed emotions. The keys are well spaced, and it is one of the very few phones where we were able to type, with our fingers comfortable and parallel to the screen. While using other phones, like the E71 or Milestone, we have had to bend our thumbs slightly to type with the tips, but N900’s well spaced and bulging keys lead to a pleasant typing experience with hardly any false presses. But the presence of ‘Shift’ and ‘Function’ keys on just one side leads to an awkward typing experience at times.
The phone is primarily designed for ‘landscape’ operation. It is in fact a ‘landscape’ oriented phone that also works in ‘portrait’ mode, notably while making calls. So the longer edge is the ‘top’ for a change. It just re-affirms the ‘internet-tablet-that-makes-calls’ tag that comes along with the Maemo operating system. The centre of the ‘top’ edge has a power button, flanked by the volume rocker and ‘camera’ button. The right edge has ‘lock toggle’ and the left has the charging port. The ports are open and lack protective covers. On the upper part of the side edges are stereo speakers that sound very good for a phone that is not really advertised for its multimedia capabilities. The battery compartment gave the reviewer a sore nail and holds beneath itself a 1320 mAh BL-5J battery, SIM card slot and a hot-swappable microSD slot (up to 16GB) to expand the mammoth 32 GB internal memory.
Read on for or review of the phone's software and interface, as well as its multimedia capabilities...
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