NOKIA N800

The N800 is a nifty handheld internet access device that gets online via WiFi (it’s pretty good at searching out wireless hotspots) or Bluetooth (so it can use a phone as a modem – a pretty leaden last-resort way to get online, given the constraints of a slowish Bluetooth link and the likelihood that the phone is going at GPRS speeds).

So despite the ‘N’ prefix, the N800 isn’t a phone. Not a mobile phone, anyway – it comes with GoogleTalk on board, Skype is promised soon, and a couple more VoIP apps are available for download.

There’s no microphone, but you get that in the plug-in hands-free kit. There’s also a mini-USB socket, so you could even use a proper VoIP handset or headset via a cable. And there’s Bluetooth 2.0 too; we made calls successfully with a Jabra headset.

So no SIM card then. Instead you get a comfortable slab with a fold-out desk stand if you don’t want to hold it in the hand. The big widescreen display is excellent, with 800×480 resolution, good, rich colours, precise text and no reflections. For navigation and menu control there’s a five-way thumbpad and another panel of three buttons, but in practice you’d probably use the stylus and the touchscreen (or your fingers, if they’re sufficiently pointy). On top of the unit are rockers for volume and zooming.

Inside there’s a nifty web camera, two memory card slots, and stereo speakers, none of which featured on the 770, Nokia’s first stab at this still-unique product category. That webcam pops out on a stubby post which can be twisted around through 360 degrees. Most of the time you’d want it facing forwards, so showing the user.

There are loads of very clever ideas in here. For instance, when you pop out the webcam, the ‘internet call’ app appears automatically if nothing else is running at the time. Tap a text entry box on the screen with the stylus and a small QWERTY keyboard appears; tap it with your fingertip and you’ll get a much larger finger-sized keyboard. Dragging the stylus (or a finger) around the screen scrolls around a web page.

One of the two memory card slots is external, so you can switch SD cards easily; the other – a different format, microSD, with up to 2Gb capacity – is under the battery cover, so it can supplement the 200MB of built-in storage for longer-term storage. (It comes with a 128MB microSD card.)

The basic web app is the well-regarded Opera 8 browser with Google as the home page. There are menu options for RSS feeds and other useful Google apps like GoogleMail, GoogleTalk (for IM as well as voice calls) and Google maps. It also supports some internet radio stations and has station guides.

And if you want it entertain you, it can – audio and video in a good variety of formats, including AAC, MP3, AVI, MPEG-4, and Real Audio and Video.

So it’s wonderful? Well, it’s pretty good. It could easily have had a SIM slot just to cover all the connectivity bases. Or if you can connect to a mobile phone via Bluetooth, why not allow the N800 to make and receive calls on it?

There aren’t many PIM functions – no diary functions and a very basic addressbook (email and IP addresses only). It doesn’t support Windows Messenger as standard, a shame since that’s still the commonest IM app.

The default display could be better. On the left is a stack of icons for the three main functions (web, contacts, other applications) plus any apps you have running. A status towards the top right handles systems settings like brightness, volume, Bluetooth and WiFi status, and suchlike. This isn’t initially very intuitive, but it improves the more you use the N800. The rest of the home screen is split into panels showing a collection of applets; you can change the selection, alter the window sizing, and move them around.

The handwriting recognition is the kind of thing that sounds great but is actually rather tiresome unless your stylus typing really is very slow. Incidentally, there’s a good PDF viewer but no read/edit options for Microsoft Office documents.

And while we’re carping, how about a built-in satnav app – we connected a Bluetooth GPS receiver ok, and the card slot would be good for national road maps. In fact Navicore has been quick off the mark with a downloadable version of Navicore Personal, and more suppliers will undoubtedly follow.

The worst flaw? No hard cover for the screen, only a neoprene bag. This is going to pick up scuffs, smears and maybe scratches in briefcases, pockets and gloveboxes.

The N800 is a very interesting product. It does what it claims to do, and then some. It does raise some expectations which aren’t quite fulfilled – it’s definitely not a PDA, for instance. But it’s a ground-breaker, and future versions will undoubtedly improve its appeal.

At £269 the N800 is a decent price for this much cleverness. Currently it’s available only direct from Nokia’s website, which is a shame.

• One of a kind, but a little beauty

FEATURES 90%
SALEABILITY 85%

SPECIFICATION
Size    
Length 75mm
Width 144mm
Depth 13mm
Weight    
206g
Main display    
TFT touchscreen, 65K colours, 600×400 pixels
Camera    
VGA webcam
Connectivity    
WiFi, USB, Bluetooth 2.0
Battery    
Standby
12 days
Browse time 3.5h
Memory    
256MB plus MiniSD card slot (128MB included) and external SD card slot
Features

Desk stand, handwriting recognition, Opera 8 web browser, Google apps pre-installed including GoogleTalk (VoIP, IM), music and video players
The following two tabs change content below.