Monday, August 13, 2007

Nokia N800 tablet

I recently got a Nokia Internet Tablet N800. After a couple of days playing with it, I am truly loving it.

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At first, one might wonder about the point of an internet tablet. It's not quite as powerful as a laptop and not as mobile as a mobile phone. Why have it at all? I think that it has defined a niche market for itself, to provide a full featured web experience in a gadget that you can hold in your palm and can easily get out of the way when you don't need it. Try finding a laptop or a mobile phone that does it at this price point. Here's a brief review of the device

Hardware

The device looks super cool. I think I have fairly large hands, but still found it difficult to hold it lengthwise. It's dominated by a large 4.1" touchscreen LCD with a resolution of 800x480. The 800 pixel horizontal resolution is important, because it means that virtually all mainstream sites can be displayed without any horizontal scrolling.

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It has 2 memory slots to add additional storage capacity. With the latest software upgrade, it now supports upto 8 GB memory cards (SD, micro SD, MMC etc), making a total of 16 GB of memory if you want. A rocker button on top adjusts the zoom from 80% to 200% in a seamless manner.

The buttons on the left aid in scrolling horizontally and vertically. In addition, they can also be used to jump between hyperlinks on the page that is being displayed.

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It supports wi-fi connections and can also connect to a cellular network through your mobile phone using Bluetooth.

Software

This device runs a modified version of Linux and comes with the Opera browser with Flash 9 support. At this time, there is no support for Java.

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It comes with a media player (supporting mp3 and many other audio formats and mp4 video support). The media player acts as a uPnP client, so you can stream media from your PC to the device, provided it is in the right format. There is a news reader, email client and a few games that come out of the box. In addition, there is a fairly vibrant community at www.maemo.org that has developed many more applications for this device.

User Experience

When i first started using it, the experience was a bit underwhelming. The rave reviews that I read on the Net had pumped up expectations to such an extent that the device could not possibly live up to them. But, once I reconciled myself to the fact that this was not a PC replacement but a complementary device, I really started appreciating its features.

The browser works great, but this is Opera and though its fully standards compliant, it will not work as well as Firefox on some sites. I found Web 2.0 Ajaxy sites to be less than optimal, Google Reader was almost unusable. Youtube was not as smooth as on a real computer, but was usable. The clarity of the screen was phenomenal, text and images were razor sharp and even sustained bouts of surfing on the small screen did not cause any eye strain.

The other application that I used extensively was the media player. The player is fairly basic without any advanced features like playlists. I specially liked the uPnP support, I was able to browse the media collection on my desktop without any problems. Audio streaming worked flawlessly, but I didn't have much luck with video streaming. Mostly, it was due to the fact that most of my video collection is in Divx/xvid, which this does not support. I copied a couple of mpeg videos and it played them without any problems.

When I discovered how bad Google Reader was, I thought of using the built in feed reader. However, I found that it does not offer the ability to import OPML files. That was the last time that I used that one!! Luckily, a bit of Googling revealed that Mobile Google Reader is a much better bet for devices like this. I've tried it and found that it works really well.  It doesn't offer all the cool features, but will do atleast till Google gets it working with Opera.

The latest version adds Skype to the device. It really works well and the calls sound great.

I haven't had time to install any additional apps or play with any of the other applications.

Gripes

I'm still in my early days of usage, but a few things that I'd like to see improved really stand out
- Firefox: I'd like to see Firefox ported to this device. I believe that it may have already been done, I need to check it out.
- I've sometimes found that tapping on a link does nothing and you really have to tap multiple times to activate it
- I've mainly been using it on wifi and find it much slower than my laptop. I'm not sure if its just a processor thing, because once a page starts loading, it proceeds fairly quickly. But the initial load can take a while, maybe its due to the overhead of establishing a connection.
- i wish it had Java support. Lack of it means that I still need to use my laptop to follow F1 Live timing:-(

1 comment:

meliorix said...

What advantage does this offer over a Windows capable smart phone?