nokia N800 review

June 12th, 2007


It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, and all the entire Internet could think about was Apple’s new iPhone cellular telephone. I’ll give you an example: if you asked the Internet an innocuous, super-easy question, something like “What’s the fastest land animal on earth?”, the Internet would think for a while, slowly glance up at you from a well-worn December 2006 copy of MacWorld magazine, and answer “Uh… an iPhone?”.

Which, is wrong, but nearly not as wrong as the iPhone’s list price of $500 to $600 dollars. I don’t know about you, but I do not dine each night upon Roast Condor with Diamond Sauce, so I’m thinking maybe I’m not in the iPhone’s initial target market. The cash outlay gets even worse when you factor in the cost of a wireless “smartphone data plan”, which can hover around $140 a month. This means over the course of two years, that sexy new iPhone could run you $3,960. You can buy a lot of roast condor for that.

Keeping these crazily exorbitant costs in mind, and given the fact that really all I really want to do is read “Defamer.com” at lunch, I’ve been on the lookout for cheaper iPhone alternatives. You can get Blackberries and Treos that surf the web sort-of well, but their screens are tiny, their browsers bad, and given their data plans they still manage to be pretty much as expensive. So a smartphone is out — leaving only a small batch of wi-fi devices in the running. My Playstation Portable (“PSP”) has a web browser, but it stinks, as does the new web browser for the Nintendo DS. Both work, but terribly slowly, and when it comes time to enter text you’re left hunting, pecking and slowly entering text in the most laborious ways imaginable. It’s tolerable enough for a login or a password, but it’s a stupidly aggravating way to write an email, or even shoot off a short instant message.

Enter into this market Nokia’s oddball new N800 Internet tablet ($350). Although it’s been created by Nokia, it’s not a cell phone; it’s a pocket wi-fi tablet that surfs the web, sends email, and plays music and video. About the size of a longish checkbook, the N800 has the benefit of a beautiful hi-res touch screen that you can manipulate with your fingers or a little stylus. The included web browser (Opera) is nimble and capable, the email client is perfectly decent, and the battery life outstanding: in my use, it ran for a couple days without a recharge. The speakers are loud and crisp enough to be genuinely usable, and video I grabbed off the Internet ran smoothly and without trouble. The wi-fi signal reception is terrific — no matter where I went, I could find an open network to hop on, but most surprising is how readable a 4″ web page is: the text is rendered gorgeously, and it’s no problem at all to scroll around using just a finger.

Possibly the most intriguing thing about the Nokia N800 is that underneath it all, it’s a teeny Linux machine, so open source software fans are already porting all kinds of esoteric software applications. In a couple minutes of fiddling, I had set up a portable AIM client, a comic book reader, a Gmail notifier, and a voice-over-IP client — and Nokia bundles a slick software installer with the unit, so you don’t have to be particularly technically savvy to get these things installed and working. By contrast, Apple has so far taken the opposite approach, locking down their iPhone and restricting all software development to just web apps and preset applications written by Apple themselves.

By adopting a “do what you want” approach to their hardware, and actively encouraging user development, Nokia has created a far more flexible and extensible product than Apple’s juggernaut marketing machine. Don’t get me wrong; for the mass market, the iPhone will most certainly be the clear winner. But for the cheapskate, or the enthusiast — or, in my case, both — the Nokia N800 is likely to be a heck of a lot more fun.

~Jeff

9 Responses to “nokia N800 review”

  1. cubeXpert says:

    By adopting a “do what you want” approach to their hardware, and actively encouraging user development, Nokia has created a far more flexible and extensible product than Apple’s juggernaut marketing machine. (via ldopa.net » archive » nokia N800 review)

  2. […] coffee is for closers « maybe it’s not the end of the united states of america nokia N800 review […]

  3. Kamm says:

    How much is the N800? Good review. I have actually been looking for a good SUPER PORTABLE internet device with other goodies.

  4. cauley says:

    I’m not in the market for either, but I have to tell you I loved the condor and diamond sauce line. Good review.

  5. Jeff says:

    Kamm: $350.

    Cauley: Thanks! Try the Grilled Panda, it’s fresh today.

    Josh: I couldn’t find a way to work this into the review, but preemptively, here’s a comparison between the Newton and the N800.

  6. […] nokia N800 review It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, and all the entire Internet could think about was Apple’s new iPhone cellular telephone. I’ll give you an example: if you asked the Internet an innocuous, super-easy question, something like “What’s the fastest land ani… […]

  7. Joshua says:

    Thanks for the side-by-side, Jeff.

    My disappointment seems to never end.

  8. Jeff says:

    Battery life with wi-fi enabled is 5 hours or so, more if you set it to sleep after 5-10 minutes.

  9. […] it’s an interesting project, I’ve read a couple good reviews, a couple bad, not really ready for public consumption I assumed. if the developers can get attached to rolling a phone framework rather than the fixate on the hardware, it might go although I dont know why they went w gtk2 rather than qt maybe just ‘commonness’. when it comes down to it, i don’t want a phone combo device at all, I think what I want is this: http://ldopa.net/2007/06/12/nokia800review/ […]