Review posted Feb. 22, 2007 by Lisa Gade, Editor
April 2008 update: Read our review of the latest model: the Nokia N810.
We reviewed the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet one year ago, and we liked it as a first attempt at a new breed of device that brought the Internet to your couch, back yard, purse and pretty much anywhere for a low $349 price tag. As with the nokia 770 review, we'll start out telling you what the Nokia N800 is not: it's not a exactly a PDA and it's not a phone, despite the fact it's now in Nokia's line of Nseries smartphones along with the N73, N95, N80 and others (Nokia does refer to these as multimedia computers to underscore their more-than-phone capabilities). The N800 is a $399 Internet Tablet that runs Linux: it has a large 4" color display, WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0, the Opera 8 web browser and Flash 7. It also has an email client, RSS reader and Internet Radio player along with music and video playback features. And it requires no cellular contract, fits in your (roomy) pocket and doesn't cost a grand.
That little tube sticking out on the left side is the VGA webcam that can retract flush with the casing.
So how do you connect to the Net with the Nokia N800? You'll use WiFi 802.11b/g or set your Bluetooth phone to act as a wireless modem for the N800. The N800 can connect to WiFi access points at home, work and at pay-for HotSpots like T-Mobile's at 802.11g speeds and it supports a wide variety of phones (both GSM and CDMA) for Bluetooth dialup networking. Opera 8 does a great job of doing desktop quality rendering and the only thing you'll miss is the plugin support found on desktops. But the N800 does have the Flash 7 plugin which is good enough to enjoy some YouTube videos.
For those of you who are familiar with the first generation Nokia 770, the N800 has a nicely redesigned casing, the 2007 OS, stereo speakers, a webcam, Flash 7, double the RAM and a significantly faster CPU. The N800 is noticeably faster and more stable than our Nokia 770 running the 2006 OS and is more polished overall. Though we liked the 770, it was something of a developer's unit as Nokia has stated, with occasional kinks and bugs that have largely been squashed since it was released with the 2005 OS. But the 770 is still a slow device that doesn't like many programs running simultaneously-- and in many ways the N800 should have been the device Nokia first launched given the better user experience (speed, stability and ease-of-use improvements). The N800 is quite consumer-ready while the 770 was more of a techie's dream.
The Nokia N800 top, and the Nokia 770 below.
The N800's beautiful 800 x 480 pixel touch screen is extremely sharp which is a good thing because text is quite small when viewing web pages and PDFs. As with the 770, you can zoom the Nokia N800's display with the press of a button: there are zoom in and zoom out buttons on the tablet's top edge. Zoom is fluid and extremely useful given the very high resolution relative to screen size. The built-in RSS reader, email, notes and other applications are easier on the eyes than web browser content since Nokia can control the font point size. It's a rare pleasure to have a pocketable device with such high resolution, and web browsing and video playback truly shine on the N800.
The N800's web browser.
Online banking sites, sites that use Flash and lots of dHTML work fine in Opera and you can have a few windows without running out of memory. Certainly this is a major step up from PDA phone and smartphone browsing, with only recent Nokia S60 phones such coming close.
The N800's email client is similar to that found on Nokia S60 phones. It supports POP3 and IMAP4 email accounts. You can set it to retrieve headers only, messages or messages and attachments and it supports server authentication (SSL, TLS), as well as setting connection-specific SMTP servers. Though the application doesn't do push email, it can check on a user-specified schedule and you can tell it to only check when using a certain connection (i.e.: WiFi only). The client supports sending and receiving of HTML email.
The RSS reader is a gem, with a desktop applet that shows you the latest headlines. Simply click on one to launch the RSS reader, and while in the reader, click on the entry or a link to automatically launch the web browser. You can add and delete feeds at will and set the interval at which feeds are updated. While the Nokia 770's RSS reader was a bit sluggish when scrolling through feed entries and switching between them, the N800's is more responsive.
The RSS reader
The desktop with standard desktop applets running (Google search, news reader, Internet Radio and web shortcut).
Adding a bit of PDA appeal, the N800 has a contacts application that supports groups and has a basic set of fields (first name, last name, nickname, email address and Google Talk account). You can add fields for phone number and web site URL-- not exactly as rich as a Treo or other PDA/smartphone. Contacts exists mostly as an address book for the email application and to keep track of your IM buddies. Speaking of IM, just like the 770, the N800 has a Jabber-based IM client that supports Google Talk (but not the video conferencing feature). Given the integrated web-cam, speakers and mic, we hope that the rumored Skype client shows up sometime in mid-2007. VoIP would be a killer app for the N800!
How do you enter information, URLs and the like? You'll use the on-screen keyboard and stylus. Alternatively you can use your fingers and the big-keys on screen keyboard or you can try out the N800's handwriting recognition which isn't as good as that found on most Palm and Windows Mobile PDAs. For serious data entry, you can use Nokia's Bluetooth portable keyboard or the Think Outside Stowaway Universal Bluetooth folding keyboard.
Other applications include a good PDF reader than can handle 100+ page files with images, a sketch application, file manager, application (package) installer, notes, calculator, clock, several games (chess, Blocks, Mahjong and Marbles) and a full set of control panels. Though not mentioned anywhere in the specs, the N800 has an FM radio that works well and sounds good using the included earbud stereo headphones. You'll need to use headphones as their wire acts as the radio's antenna. You can download the free FM radio desktop applet from maemo.org here.
The PDF viewer.
Speaking of music, the N800 also has a music player that supports most popular formats including MP3, AAC, WAV, Real Audio (RA) and WMA. It can play content from internal memory, storage cards, streaming sites and from UPnP devices. The media player also handles video playback with support for 3GP, AVI, H.233, MPEG1, MPEG4 and Real Video. It has playlists and can handle M3U and PLS lists, and it also acts as an image viewer for BMP, JPG, GIF, PNG, TIFF and SVG-tiny files.
Sound quality through the included earbud headphones is very good and even the built-in stereo speakers do a decent job. We tested it with a variety of MP3 and AAC files stored and SD cards as well as Internet radio stations and FM radio. The video player is a bit less finicky than the 770's, but you'll still want to keep the bitrate conservative to avoid excessive frame dropping. Given the N800's gorgeous 4" display, we hope Nokia continues to tweak the video playback to get the most from the device's modest CPU.
The device runs Internet Tablet Edition 2007 and is flash upgradeable. Nokia has released several free user-installable software upgrades for the 770, and we assume they'll do the same for the N800 as time passes. IT 2007 is based on Debian for ARM (kernel 2.6.18) and the GNOME window manager. For those of you who are interested in developing for the N800, it uses the maemo 3.0 platform. Since the Nokia is Linux-based, Nokia has gone the open source route, encouraging development for the platform. There were a reasonable number of useful applications created for IT 2005 and 2006, and we hope to see the short list of applications for the N800 and IT 2007 grow.
The N800 gets a lot of performance out of its Texas Instruments OMAP 2420 processor running at 320MHz. The device's 128 megs of RAM (which functions in the same way as RAM in your computer) is adequate for running several applications at one time (a sore spot for the older 770). The machine has plenty of internal flash storage that will survive a complete battery drain, but just in case you need more, it as two SD card slots. One is located under the battery door, and you can easily set the Nokia to use a portion of that card's space as additional swap memory (a good idea if you're a power user who runs lots of apps and open windows). The other slot is located on the device's button edge under the swing arm that functions as a stand when pulled out. Both slots are compatible with SD, MicroSD, MiniSD, MMC, and RS-MMC cards (you'll need to use the smaller format cards' respective adapters to get them up to SD card size). The N800 works with cards up to 2 gigs in capacity according to Nokia and does not support the SDHC standard. We did test it with a non-SDHC Transcend 4 gig 150x card and it worked fine in all respects (video playback, large file copies and reported capacity).
Left side with webcam out.
Right side with USB, charging and headphone ports as well as stylus (the light gray triangle).
The N800 looks and feels well made, and the looks are Euro-modern. We love the swing out stand (see photos above) but miss the slip-on hard cover that protected the Nokia 770's display and put it to sleep. You can still manage power by briefly pressing the power button (similar to Nokia phones). There are options to lock the touch screen and keys (a good idea if you're going to slip it in a pocket or bag), put the device in offline mode, lock it or switch it completely off. Normally you wouldn't want to turn it completely off because it takes about 90 seconds to cold boot. This setting is meant to save battery if you won't be using the device for several days or longer. Offline mode is handy when you won't be near an access point or using a Bluetooth mobile phone as a wireless modem since it saves a good deal of power. As an example, in offline mode the Nokia lasted a week on a charge but when in online mode the battery lasted 3 days. We did have the RSS reader set to check for new articles every 30 minutes during this test which will reduce battery life further. But it's an irresistible feature-- just turn on the N800 and you'll see the latest news waiting for you on the desktop. The device does not turn on its screen or make any sounds when updating RSS, wisely saving power.
The Nokia N800 has a 1500 mAh Lithium Ion battery (the same Nokia BP-5L used in the 770) and it's user replaceable. The tablet uses the same charger as recent Nokia phones (smaller plug) and you can use the older Nokia charger with the larger plug if you get the short cable adapter to mate it to the smaller port.
Nokia includes a standard mini USB to USB cable in the box. This isn't used for syncing in the PDA sense but rather so you can mount the N800 as a mass storage device on your desktop and so you can run OS upgrades.
There's nothing quite like the Nokia N800 (except the Nokia 770. It's a simple, compact yet powerful Internet lifestyle device that's perfect for those who want a desktop-like web browsing experience on the go. The RSS reader, Internet Radio, email client and Google Talk-ready IM application round out the experience for those who live, eat and breath on the Net.
Pro: Fantastic web browser, excellent high resolution touch screen display, acceptable price tag. Dual SD card slots makes for versatile memory expansion. Compact and attractive device. Good multimedia features. Excellent RSS reader. Very good sound through headphones and decent stereo sound through built-in speakers. FM radio is a nice touch and the tablet has good battery life.
Con: Though cheap compared to UMPCs like the Samsung Q1, the N800 isn't a trivial purchase. No popular IM client pre-installed other than Google Talk, and takes some techie knowledge to get GAIM (a Linux-based application that supports several popular IM services) working. Without this, the web-cam is a bit ahead of its time. YouTube video playback could use tweaking.
Size: 5.67 x 2.95 x 0.51- 0.7inches. Weight: 7.26 ounces.
in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Media player for MP3 and other music formats. Stereo earbud headset with inline mic included.
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0.Bluetooth profiles: Dial-Up Networking, File Transfer/Object Push, Generic Access, SIM Access, HID (human interface device) and Serial Port.
Software:OS: Internet Tablet OS 2007 software edition (Linux kernel 2.6.18, Debian for ARM, BusyBox, GNOME window manager and Nokia's user interface running on top, Maemo 3.0 platform). Web Browser (Opera 8), Flash Player version 7, Email Client, Internet Radio, RSS News Reader, Media players, Image viewer, PDF viewer, File Manager, Search, Calculator, World Clock, Notes, Sketch, Games.
Expansion:2 SD card slots that accept SD, MMC, and miniSD, MicroSD and
RS-MMC cards (requires SD adapter). 128 meg miniSD card and adapter included in the box. Accepts cards up to 2 gigs in capacity (though some non-SDHC 4 gig cards do work).
In the Box:Nokia N800, battery, two styli, cloth slip case, manual, charger, 128 meg miniSD card, stereo headset, USB cable for data transfers and installing OS upgrades using Windows (no syncing software).