New toy: Nokia N800

by Volker Weber

n800

I have a new toy at vowe's magic flying circus. And to spoil the story right at the beginning: I don't really know what to do with it. Before somebody shouts "here, here", I will have to return it to Nokia anyway.

So what it is? The Nokia N800 is called an Internet Tablet, which means it connects to the Internet but misses a keyboard. It's bigger than an E90 folded together, and smaller than this device in Communicator mode. The N800's claim to fame is that it runs on Linux, and that is one of the stronger points it has. It has brought open source developers to this platform through Maemo.org.

Home screen with plugins

My biggest complaint about the N800 is that it may connect to the Internet, but it does not connect to my address book or calendar. It's basically an island. What goes in there, stays there. I wasn't even successful in importing my contacts because the .vcf was too large to import.

The N800 does not have a mobile phone, but it connects to the internet through a Bluetooth attached phone or a wireless access point. The setup for both the phone and Wi-Fi is excellent and you will have no difficulties to connect.

Skype on Nokia N800

Both Gizmo Project and Skype have a version for the N800, but you can't use the built-in webcam. That only works with the Jabber application, and only if the other person also has an N800, which is kind of unlikely. There is a camera application which lets you shoot pictures of yourself, but you can't really use the webcam for anything else since it always points into your direction.

The browser is really nice, and there are three buttons at the top of the device which let you zoom to fullscreen or increase and decrease the font size:

Browser on N800

Browser fullscreen on N800

Both Google Mail and Google Maps don't work very well. The browser will render the inbox in a very strange way and you cannot scroll in Google Maps by dragging the map.

Google Mail not perfect

Google Maps on N800

The application that I like most so far is the RSS reader. My only difficulty so far is that it seems to only display unread items. But I may find the switch which lets me view the full feed.

RSS reader on N800

Battery life is very good and I only have to recharge the device every couple of days. The N800 feels very good and the button layout is excellent for a person who knows how to operate their left hand. :-) You can connect your standard headphones to the 3.5 mm stereo jack and the device could be used as a media player. Having said that I find the CPU a little bit weak. Videos don't play as smooth as I would want them to, and so far the results from YouTube are discouraging.

Maybe I should give it a few more days before I become more attached to it. So far I have not found anything the E90 can't do much better. Besides Skype of course.

Comments

You can exchange the included Opera browser engine for the vastly better (but beta) Mozilla Engine

http://browser.garage.maemo.org/index.html

Markus Cador, 2007-08-07

"you can't really use the webcam for anything else since it always points into your direction"

You can turn the camera knob around. At least the camera on mine can.

Markus already mentioned the Mozilla Engine, which you might want to try. Maemo Mapper is also a must-have application. I'd consider ScummVM a killer app, too, but this is not N800 specific.

I use my N800 mostly for watching video on the subway and wrote a lengthy article about video playback quality a few months ago. Since then, the video codec has improved a lot, so the comparison to DVD quality is better now, but still you can't just play a raw DVD rip as you might be able with a dedicated PMP such as the Archos. Also, a PMP has a better UI for media playback.

You are right that the N800 is a device in search for an application. I consider it an experimental device and didn't mind joining the experiment, but this isn't ready for the masses yet. I got a great browser and a PMP and a Google maps offline client and a (very limited) PDA - and it all runs Linux and I can even ssh into the device. Lots of fun for a nerd!

Here's my review (plus a 2nd look) on the device.

Hanno Zulla, 2007-08-07

btw, right now I am lusting for the Everun to replace the N800. A bit more than twice the weight, but x86-based...

Hanno Zulla, 2007-08-07

I got really fascinated by the N800, considered buying one on ebay, even went so far as to participate in bidding, but in the end, reading all the reviews, I decided not to purchase one. I need a keyboard, can't help it.

Instead I bought a Sony Vaio TX3-HPW via MediaMarket - they had a limited offer last month. 11,1 inch wide screen, intel core solo, 1 gig mem, 80 gig HD.

I know, I know, it runs windows XP, but it only weighs 1.25 kilos and runs 7 hours on a single battery charge (I usually get about 5 hours, but I use the DVD a lot as well). So it fits really well into my backpack and I hardly know it's there.

The keyboard is really nice as well.

Next step : if I get bored, seeing if Mac OSX will run on it using OSX86...

Alex Boschmans, 2007-08-07

I bought a Nokia 770 tablet only to be abandoned by Nokia as they started working on the software for the N800. They are not planning to port Skype or any of the other improvements back to the 770. It is all based on Linux but that only gets us as far as getting minor software improvements in a software update with the word "hack" in it. When it was released it was riddled with bugs, a poor e-mail client and the community/customers were very patient as it took Nokia almost a year to release a software update that made the device *usable*.

I really wanted to get the N800 as it is a bit snappier, has sd support and newer software but I won't sink another dime/dollar/euro into Nokia if they won't keep supporting the software on it 2 years later.

Apologies for the rant but Nokia's behavior is unacceptable to me and if I knew this was going to happen I would have never bought my $350 770.

Ed Saipetch, 2007-08-09

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