Editor's Note: Since this review was written in mid-2007, Nokia has released an updated operating system for the N800 that changes it in many ways. Naturally, the hardware hasn't changed, but OS2008 adds support for SDHC cards and VoIP applications, for example.
The Nokia N800 Internet Tablet is a tiny little wonder. It's about the size of a smartphone or PDA, but it has a lot more functionality. It's not quite the same as a Tablet PC, but it's very similar to a slate Tablet since there is no keyboard.
My first impression of the N800 was it's too small, who would want to use it to access the Internet? Well, my opinion quickly changed after I used it for a few days.
Front view of the N800 accessing the Internet. (view large image)
Performance-wise I had no problems with it. The N800 scrolled through applications in seconds and didn't take any time to boot-up either. I was impressed by how easily it connected to my office's Wi-Fi, so off to work I went. The N800 would be a great companion for travelers who don't need all the extra bulk of a notebook.
Design and Build
I found the N800 easy to handle for long periods of surfing the web. Users can check email or edit documents from anywhere with it.
This device only weighs 7 ounces and comes with a nice sleeve, which protects it from scratches while you are traveling around, but not much more than that. It also has a nice built in stand that is attached to the back for holding up the N800 while you work.
The N800 in its protective sleeve. (view large image)
The slate form factor was comfortable, and the buttons hit my fingers just right. Although I do wish that the buttons for power, zoom, and full-screen were a bit larger and more finger-friendly. I think they are designed smaller, so they do not get bumped too easily.
Back side view of the N800, buttons on top are power, zoom and full-screen options. (view large image)
On one hand, the N800 felt solidly built, but on another it felt fragile. Part of that has to do with the screen, and the rest has to do with the plastic housing, which feels a little cheap, but helps keep the weight down. Even though the housing is plastic and the structure is similar to a cell phone it doesn't show any signs of flexibility.
The display was absolutely gorgeous. Why there was not an included picture viewing application on here, or some kind of camera companion software I don’t know. But this screen was very well done.
The N800 in action. (view large image)
Not only can you zoom in or out, you can change it to full screen view, which helps tremendously. No more squinting of the eyes.
The display doesn't give off much of a glare either, but it does get a little washed out when you are outdoors in direct sunlight.
It doesn't have a rotation option, although one included game does rotate the screen.
The N800's Web cam for Internet calling. (view large image)
The touchscreen didn't collect a lot of finger oils when handling it or typing on it, making it a good input device. Trust me, once you get used to using the N800 you will want to take it everywhere.
The multiple options for inputting text were at first hard to get used to, but as I used the N800 more, each of them made sense.
First off, using the stylus is a no brainer. There are just some areas that need that fine touch of a stylus point. But then when you move to fingertip input, the screen automatically adjusts and serves the finger quite well. I had a weird issue where my right thumb always gave me the smaller, stylus-sized input options.
The stylus is good enough for short stints, though the plastic and lack of heavy weight negated any heavy writing. Still, it came in handy for opening and closing applications because my finger was just to big.
The directional pad also works for scrolling and managing your way through web sites.
The stylus sitting on the N800 screen. (view large image)
The weak point of the input in my use was the handwriting. I took the time to train it, but it was still too slow to be of any good use. In addition, even after training, I still had to write one character at a time and then wait for the word to be completed before moving on. All in all, this is one area of the N800 that could use some work.
The N800 also supports Bluetooth keyboards. If you do not have a Mameo Linux BT driver though, it will not be of any use to you. I tried with my Brando Smart Bluetooth Keyboard and was able to pair it, but not use it.
The N800 isn't all about accessing the Internet and doing work; it also lets users listen to music. I was quite impressed by how good it sounded too. For being such a small device the little speakers put out clear sound.
The N800 in music mode, with headphones attached. (view large image)
The wireless features were some of the easiest that I have ever set up on any computing device.
The wizard enabled me to connect to my Treo smartphone in less than five minutes to get up and online via phone. Wi-Fi connections were even easier as it was just a matter of hitting the globe, choosing the connection, and then answering if I wanted to save the connection or not. All computers should be this easy to set up.
Beyond the basic setting things up, there is the Connection Manager. This is a one stop place for all things concerning connectivity, and it's well laid out with some robust setting options if you dig.
Nothing about this aspect of the N800 is complex, and that is one of the reasons why I would recommend it to a casual computing person.
The N800 comes standard with just a few basic ports, after all this isn't a Tablet PC. It has a one mini USB port, a headphone jack, a power adapter plug, a silo for the stylus, a Web cam that pops out and on the bottom an SD card slot.
Right side of the N800. (view large image)
Left side of the N800, Web cam pops out when pressed. (view large image)
Bottom of the N800, SD slot. (view large image)
Back side of the N800. (view large image)
Underneath the battery cover of the N800. (view large image)
The battery was one part impressive and another part slightly disappointing.
When I was working hard on the N800 I would go about four hours before I would see that meter drop to a level that made me scale back. However, if I was using it in spurts, the battery life was excellent. The battery just doesn't seem to like extended usage.
The best example that I can give of battery life is the day that I decided to make the N800 my music player. All I did was play music all day with it. In return I got a solid seven hours of playback time. At the end of the day though, the meter said about two working hours of power left, I was still able to get online and check out a few sites.
Besides the wireless, this was another very strong effort from the N800. If the extended battery does not add much bulk to this, the N800 could easily be a hard working weekend computer. As it stands now, it can do a solid job while not even breaking a sweat.
Internet OS 2006 versus OS 2007
During my time with the N800, I upgraded the OS from Internet OS 2006 to Internet OS 2007. Mainly there were memory and bug fixes in this upgrade (which were needed), but there was some level of usability improved. Some of the inconsistent actions such as icons not appearing and applications not saving correctly were addressed.
It would have been nice if some more “pretty” features were added, such as support for Google Calendar, album art in the media player, and performance enhancements to the handwriting recognition.
Overall though, if you have an N800 or are thinking about one, make sure to make the jump to Internet OS 2007 (takes about 20 minutes to update) before you load anything on there.
The N800 is great for catching up on those emails and other business uses, but it has some nice entertainment features like I mentioned before. You can watch videos, listen to music, and have Web chats, thanks to Internet calling and the Web cam.
It has taken me a while to figure out a place for the N800 in my world of computing, but it does remind me a lot of the Palm T5 that I used to own: powerful in its own right, but with the Internet comes a personal window to a lot more.
The included software is easy to learn and the battery life just makes you want to use it more.
As it stands though, the N800 has been mistaken for an iPhone by many that I see. The touchscreen is just about right there, and so is the rest of the package. Nokia has a winner on its hands, it just has to convince people that computing is more than a big screen notebook or a smartphone. The software needs to do some catching up as well.
Tiffany Boggs contributed to this review.
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