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NoKiA N900

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« on: December 01, 2009, 12:03:42 am »

Don’t mistake the N900 for an N-series phone. This much anticipated Nokia product has been spurring excitement all around the internet blogosphere recently. Instead of reviewing it as a cell phone, you should look at this device as an internet tablet that happens to be able to make phone calls and send SMS messages. This is not the first Nokia internet tablet, the N8XXs and the N7XXs have been around for some time, but the exciting factors about the N900 are the new Maemo 5 operating system and the GSM module that allows you to use it as a cell phone. This new operating system aims to blur the line between phones and internet tablets and does a decent job at that. At a price point of $650, the N900 has a very narrow margin for any shortcomings.

Physical

I’ll just run over the physical attributes of the device before digging in the new software. A huge screen dominates the front panel. The 3.5” LCD offers phenomenal viewing pleasure for a small device, colours are vibrant and it provides exceptional sunlight readability. It also works as a resistive touchscreen although I was optimistic that Nokia would, by now, have made the jump to capacitive touchscreens, specially since this high end device wears a hefty price tag. Still, the resistive touchscreen is very sensitive and you won’t have any problems with unregistered presses. The screen also has a native resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, and makes other nHD devices (5800, N97) appear humble.

There are no buttons on the front panel. On the top side you have an unprotected microUSB port and a loudspeaker. Bottom side hosts the second loudspeaker as well as a 3.5mm audio jack, lock/unlock slider, and the stylus compartment. Left side is completely barren but the right side hosts multiple controls. The power button, volume rocker and the camera shutter are all on the right side of the N900 along with an infrared port. But don’t worry, Nokia didn’t go back to stone age data transfer methods. The infrared port is used for remote control applications.

Right, Left, Bottom, Top

The back side is showcasing the camera, which is protected by a plastic cover slider. Similar to some other phones, opening the slider turns on the camera automatically and closing it turns off the camera application. Nokia decided to go with a 5 megapixel snapper, which is stupid if you ask me. There’s nothing wrong with the camera itself, it’s even great for a 5 megapixel one, but when I throw $650 I expect to get an 8mp or maybe 10mp camera on my phone. The camera captures good-quality still pictures and takes high resolution (848 x 480px) videos but has very few framerate issues that might be fixed later on via firmware update.

5 megapixel camera and a cool kickstand

Also on the backside is a kickstand similar to the one you’d find on the N86. It’s great when viewing videos for prolonged periods of time.

Under the screen you get a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. This adds a lot of functionality in some sectors such as messaging and web browsing. The buttons are small, but you won’t have any significant problems with it. When Nokia tout the N900’s resemblance to a computer, they aren’t just doing that for marketing’s sake. The keyboard utilizes some of the shortcuts we are used to on our desktops… “control + C” copies, “control + X” cuts, “control + V” pastes and “control +Z” undoes…etc. If for any reason you don’t like the QWERTY keyboard, you can always use the onscreen virtual keyboard for your typing purposes.

QWERTY Keyboard works excellent, but you might find it a bit frustrating if you have big hands

Overall, the body looks and feels great. Albeit big and heavy, the N900 feels like an expensive device all around. I would have loved a metal body but that would have increased the phone’s weight, which already is a ton. So Nokia sensibly went with some expensive plastics which are quite good.

Now let’s see what kind of monster the N900 is enclosing under that black minimalistic body. The CPU and 3D graphics accelerator used is the ARM Cortex-A8 600 MHz, PowerVR SGX with OpenGL ES 2.0 support. You also have 32GB of onboard memory, and that can be increase by a microSD card. You also have up to 256MB of RAM which allows for over 25 apps to run simultaneously with no problems. The N900 has a 1320mAh battery which allows for decent usage time without charging. You can go for about 2 days without charging with average usage.
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