My promised N900 review is long overdue. Thanks to the busy work schedule ‘forcing’ me to travel non-stop between few places and the long holidays which I spent lazying around watching drama series, FB-ing (not so much now), tweeting and sleeping.
(Image source: GSMArena.com)
(Image source: GSMArena.com)
I actually already finished my review of N900 last week but then decided against publishing it. I feel it is kinda too geeky and a bit long winded with me regurgitating memorized facts about every single component of N900, blabbing about the hardware, software etc. Other mobile review sites already did that and done a better job than me at it.
Bear with me, this is my very first real mobile review.
4 reasons why N900 is so awesome.
1. Multitasking monster.
N900 is built for this. Multitasking capabilities. Proper multitasking. N900 is truly a multitasking monster! In fact I believe Nokia is pitching N900 for its great multitasking capabilities as a strong selling point. With the great power of 600 MHz ARM Cortex – A8 microprocessor, 256MB dedicated high end RAM (Mobile DDR) and 768MB virtual memory, running multiple applications and tasks on this device is a walk in the park.
Opening, scrolling, and switching through multiple applications is really fast. On average, I have around 4-6 applications/windows open and don’t notice any lag. I can listen to my songs or internet radio with IM plugins running behind (Twitter, Gtalk, Skype and Yahoo) while surfing some web sites without problem.
You can detect a slight lag when you are opening more than 8-10 windows especially when accessing different types of applications. There is some waiting when opening data-intensive application like Maps or traffic-intensive web pages, rendering videos while opening web pages but that is to be expected.
N900 is very responsive and there are very rare cases where it won’t react immediately to you poking the screen. There is a humongous 32GB of internal storage which is more than what my first ancient computer gave me, and an option to add external storage using the microSD slot if you need more space.
You can access all the open applications through the Task Manager/ Application Switcher by tapping the top left corner. The user interface (UI) is organized in three levels. You have home screens, task manager/application switcher and main menu. A little bit on the home screens while we are at it. N900 has multi-screen setup – giving you 4 home screens, each of it is fully customizable.
Home screen 1 – Facebook, Witter, Petrovich, Conversations, Web shortcuts and widgets
Home screen 2 – Some of my regularly visited web pages
Home screen 3 – Gallery, Calculator, File Manager, Media Player shortcuts
Home screen 4 – RSS reader
Just click at any part of a home screen to access the setup keys and choose your customs shortcuts (contacts, applications, files etc) and widgets (showing, say, unread conversations) onto the home screen. (contacts, applications, files etc) and widgets (showing, say, weather forecast in real time) onto the home screen. To access the next screen just swipe your fingers across the display.
Arranging the widgets and shortcuts
Options for home screen setup
From home screen, tapping the top left corner once will bring up the Task Manager/Application Switcher and tapping the top left corner again will open the main menu. The extra step added between the homescreen and the main menu is reserved for the task manager will be skipped if there are no applications running in background.
Task managers/switcher showing running applications
Main menu – 1st layer. Access 2nd layer by tapping More..
2. Web Browser
This is one area where N900 is really impressive. N900 is an internet tablet with phone capabilities. Its predecessors were built for mobile surfing experience so naturally we expect N900 to do better in this aspect.
Start up screen for web browser
N900’s browser – Maemo Browser boasts built-in support for Adobe Flash 9.4 as well as full AJAX, multiple pages capabilities, visual history, automatic form filling, password manager, desktop web shortcuts, RSS feeds, download manager, bookmarks import.
The web browsing experience on N900’s Maemo Browser is closer to what it’s like using a computer than other phones, giving a new meaning to desktop-like browsing. Web pages rendering on a a 3.5 inch touchscreen display with WVGA (800 x 480 pixel) resolution is just… too pretty to watch.
Available shortcuts when not in full screen mode
N900’s 267 pixels per inch (ppi) display making every page looks so crisp, sharp and clear. A little comparison with other touch devices: Apple iPhone 3GS: 165 ppi, Nokia N97: 210 ppi, HTC HD2: 217 ppi, Motorola Droid: 265 ppi. The more pixels you have in an inch, the more information they can represent, and hence the clearer and sharper the picture.
The page rendering speed is impressive. If you are not running other application and just the web browser, it is blazing fast. Pages with decent amount of images will load in 3-5 seconds. Thanks to the Adobe Flash 9.4 plugin, it will show flash objects like ads, embedded videos, or even games.
This is one of the most important feature of N900’s Maemo Browser. While most other mobile phones are using Flash Lite support, N900 comes with full Adobe Flash 9.4 and will also get an upgrade to Adobe Flash 10.1 with hardware acceleration when that becomes available. There is no other mobile phone that can render flash pages as smoothly, fast and good as N900. Period.
The resistive touchscreen on the Nokia N900 is very responsive. It reacts quickly to the touch. It is not as sensitive as iPhone’s capacitive touchscreen (obviously due to the different type of touchscreen technology used, duh!) but far better than any resistive touchscreen I have tried before – say Nokia N97 and Nokia 5800 XM. I find no problem molesting the screen with my fingers. Most of the pokings can be done using your fingers and if you need more accuracy, there is always the stylus to save the day.
Zooming in or out of a page in N900’s Maemo Browser is done by making a spiral gesture with your finger. Zoom in by drawing a circle clockwise and zoom out by making a counter-clockwise circle. Another option for zooming is by using the rocking buttons on the side of N900 (also used as volume up and down buttons, depends on the application)
Double-tapping on a website element zooms it in to fill the WVGA resolution of the display. Another double tap and you are back at where you started. To enter or deactivate full screen mode, tap once on the screen for the controls to appear. Tap at the little icon on the bottom right will give you access to other shortcuts – status area, task manager etc. Panning and zooming is really fast and accurate. Panning is pretty smooth, just drag your finger over the screen. Pressing the screen and hold gives you some page options to select.
Options available for web page
You can open as many tabs (windows) and each of them appears and a different application in the task manager but of course limited by the available RAM memory. You can also tweak the memory cache size up to 50Mb (default is 5Mb) Don’t worry, I have tried opening up to 12 tabs without much hassle. Why on earth one needs to open so many windows anyway?
The QWERTY keyboard is a blessing! It enhances the web browsing experience greatly. You can type the address of the page you want to visit and press enter without deactivating the full screen mode and clicking the address bar. You can pan the page using the arrow buttons, just like how you do it at your computer. There are combination of shortcuts you can use like Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V to select, copy and past text fragments. Just select a fragment of text on the screen with your fingers and then use a combination of shortcuts to copy it.
What else? The browser can save passwords, auto-fill in forms for you, the download manager can resume interrupted downloads, you can view RSS feeds directly on the browser and add more subscriptions on the go.
Then you have plug-ins/add-ons and extensions, just like what we have for Mozilla Firefox browser on the computer. The plug-ins/add-ons allow you to add new functionality to the browser, which is AWESOME! For example, I installed the Greasemonkey extension and Power Twitter script add-on to enhance the options for my Twitter web page. I don’t think there is any other mobile browsers including Apple’s Safari with such feature. Pwned!
Settings for web browser
Add-on installed for web browser
N900’s Maemo Browser is the most awesome browser I have ever came across. User friendly and speedy browser and the best thing is, you can do a lot of customization thanks to the presence of various plug-ins and extensions.
3. Contacts and Conversations – Seamless integration of social networking
N900 is truly a device built around social networking. The Contacts application in N900 serves as consolidated social networking, instant messaging and VOIP contact list – all in one place. Its feature-rich Contacts offers a seamless integration with online services thus allowing you to add entries for many popular instant messaging clients out there such as Gtalk, Jabber, Skype, Ovi Nokia, Yahoo. MSN etc.
List of online services installed and enabled
Out of the box, you have Skype, Google Talk and SIP but this is expandable by installing plugins. For example, I installed a plugin called ‘Extra protocol plugins for Conversations and Contacts’ which enables me to add other online services like Yahoo, Twitter, MSN, ICQ, AIM etc. You can sort your contact by their availability and medium, see their current statuses in these messaging services so you can write a quick message or two.
Finding contacts by group
For messaging, Nokia N900 consolidated all the messages in the form of a chat, grouped into SMS messages and IM messages. All the messages from the online services accounts you enabled will appear in the Conversations – IM and VOIP messages – Yahoo, Google Talk, Skype chat messages, Twitter @replies and #hashtags etc. How does it feel to get IM chat messages, Twitter @replies on the go? Awesome, I must say. Tiring too. To hear the notification sounds because you forgot to disable/disconnect the accounts.
SMS messages, IM messages, Twitter @replies consolidated under Conversations
The true potential of N900 lies here. Its open source platform. N900 has been launched just little over 1 month and it has already quite a number of applications available. You have all kind of applications grouped under categories like ‘Desktop, Multimedia, Graphics, Location & Navigation, Office, Programming, Internet & Networking, Other, etc.’ offering you various features ranging from enabling screenshots, adding widgets, IM and VOIP clients, emulators, ad blocking plugin for browser, virtual private network (VPN) daemon, protocol plugins for contacts and conversations such as Twitter support, blogging clients, torrent clients, games, media players and codecs, etc. The list of applications is impressive for a very new device like N900.
Application Manager for N900
List of installed applications
You have to be a little resourceful (read: geeky) to setup the repositories for the applications, but nothing is too difficult with a little Googling, right? Out of the box, the application catalogues enabled for N900 are Nokia Applications, Nokia System Software Updates and Maemo Extras and I added two more catalogues – Maemo Extras-testing and Maemo-devels (at my own risk, of course). The other two catalogues contain applications under testing or development phase and it is not advisable for normal users to install those applications due to their probably unstable, buggy nature.
Setting up an application catalogue
Notification of updates is very well-managed and it is also very easy to install an application. Just open the application manager and it will update all the available applications for download, you just have to choose any of those. It is pretty self explanatory from there on, tapping on any of the installation file and follow the guided installation process and walla!!
Let me see what are the applications I have installed and tested for my N900. Petrovich – an application allowing you to send arbitrary files over Bluetooth, Email or “Sharing services”, Transmission – a Bittorrent client, Twitter plugin for Contacts and Conversations, Witter – a Twitter client, Simple FMTX desktop widget – a FM transmitter enabler/disabler widget, Qtirreco – an IR remote control, Pixelpipe Upload and Share – an awesome sharing service, Qik – a video sharing service, Greasemonkey addon for web browser, FM radio player and many more, too lazy to list out.
Transmission, one awesome Bittorrent client!
1 reason why N900 is not so awesome, yet.
To be fair, apart from all the greatness and praises I made above, there is one annoying weakness that is plaguing N900 (and many other great mobile phones out there), retarding my generous ability to love N900 without er, boundaries? Its battery life is quite disappointing, which I sort of hmm, expected for a power hungry device like this.
Out of the box, Nokia N900 comes with a 1320 mAh battery and it lasts me 6-8 hours on average with activities like checking email, surfing web pages, listening to songs, tweeting, chatting on IM services, taking photos etc.
N900 is built for power user and with all the multitasking, pretty touchscreen display, and its seamless integration with various online services – all this which naturally will put heavy load on its battery life, I wish Nokia will include a better battery, one that last a little longer to enable its user to truly experience the wonderful capabilities of N900.
N900 is the shitz!!
ps: I really wish I can do a video review for N900, I will try to do one when I go back to Miri next week. Before this, my video guy was damn too busy with his wedding and I don’t have a decent gadget to take a video, ehe!