18 December 2008

Who is the Nokia N800 for?

I bought a Nokia N800. This being Spurious Starlight, we never acquire the latest tech, and the N800 originally came out at the start of 2007. So now the N800 is just shy of 2 years old, and can be had for just shy of £100 eBay. If you've not heard of the Nokia N800 I don't blame you. Nokia is one of those companies who, although they make more than one produce more than one item, are really only well known for their mobile phones. The N800, however, has no cellular radio within it, but in terms of hardware is actually very similar to a phone both in terms of size and components. Instead, Nokia calls it an 'internet tablet' (NIT). Two years ago when the N800 was released, one of the overriding questions was: who is it for? Two years later is the answer any clearer?

Going by my past posts, you will gather that what I do on the internet revolves around browsing news, staying in touch with friends and family through Facebook and IM, checking email, listening to podcasts (both audio and video) and listening to internet radio. I would say that those few actions account for 90% of what I do on the net - consumption of media rather than creation. What I've discovered the N800 is, is a device which allows me to do all of that in a pocketable form factor.

Surfing the internet is possible on my phone, and using an HTC Touch Diamond with Opera 9.5 really isn't a bad experience, but with such a tiny screen, even with a high pixel density, you can't avoid a degree of claustrophobia. In contrast, the N800 has a huge screen both in terms of size and resolution. It is WVGA 800x480 which means that you can see most webpages without scrolling side to side, and because it uses a Mozilla-based browser, the rendering is near-identical to what you would see on a desktop. It handles javascript and flash which is really impressive too. Pages render relatively quickly via WiFi, but I will say that certain pages do cause it to choke, especially the 'infinite' pages like Google Reader.

Facebook is a bit of a weird one on the N800. If you just enter the facebook URL you get some kind of weird message. Facebook clearly has never heard of the N800 and assumes that it is a mobile web browser, and tries to divert you to a WAP page. If you put the http://www.facebook.com/login.php specific URL in, however, you can go to the desktop version which is what the N800 excels at. Once you are there you get the full fat version of Facebook with every function known - so much better than the mobile or iphone variants of the site.

Communication via Skype works really well, and you can even use the video camera which pops out of the side of the device. You can also instant message using Gizmo which connects to the Windows Live Messenger service. I don't use the other IM services which are supported so I wouldn't know how they work. My onluy concern is that the built-in keyboards are pretty unfinger friendly. Even the big QWERTY keyboard, which is far better than most on-sceen keyboards I have ever used, takes a bit of getting used to. As a result, typing is just a little bit slower and more frustrating. This goes for emailing too. The email clinet is very easy to set up and inludes imap for GMail which is basically what I live on. Multiple accounts are also posisble, and the client polls the servers regularly, witht he D-pad glowing blue when a new mail comes in.

I am not going to discuss media consumption at the moment because I am still exploring the device, But sufficeth to say the built in media player is adequate, but the downloadable player Canola, is amazing!

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