For the past week or so, I've had the pleasure of using the Nokia N97 smartphone. I knew going into using this device that I would be impressed, having owned the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic device - which uses the same Symbian S60v5 operating system and touchscreen facilities. What I wasn't expecting though was the amount of polish that shines through the device.
But in that bigger size you get a really, really nice screen. Compared to the 5800XM, the N97 seems to use its 640 by 360 pixels to the best advantage as possible. Colors are reasonable, and sunlight visibility is much better than the 5800XM.
To go along with its large size, it's heavy too. I was a bit shocked that the N97 felt as heavy as the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet that I also own. It has a similar form factor, but is much more pocketable.
Keyboard: Then there's that sliding keyboard. I liken it to the one that Nokia has on its recently-released E75. Unlike some other sliding keyboards I've reviewed and used, the N97 has a very tight and confidence-inspiring click to it. It sounds like the car door of a mid-range BMW to be honest. And snapping it back and forth has to be one of the most pleasing aspects of using the N97.
The actual keyboard isn't as confidence inspiring, though. It took a bit to get used to it, since the keys are set somewhat flush with the case. But the arrangement of each key is great. I can type very quickly with it.
One of the areas I looked at first was web browsing. It's a mixed bag, but definitely a step up from the 5800XM. The browser engine -- based on WebKit -- has seen some major tweaks in the N97, and most pages load quickly, whether on a 3G or Wi-Fi connection.
I really like one of Nokia's new user interface elements -- the widgets on the front page, especially the AccuWeather one. The widgets essentially allow for the kind of personalization to the homescreen that Nokia devices have never had before. And while there aren't many widgets yet, there are some solid ones available right now.
Battery Life So far, battery life has been nothing short of incredible. It used to be that Nokia's N-Series devices were much worse than the E-Series ones, but it seems that the N97 picked up a few lessons here.
For example, on a recent 6 hour trip to DC, the N97 played the role of phone, ran my personal web server (via Nokia's Mobile Web Server), and streamed MP3s to my car stereo via the FM Transmitter application. The latter was done for 4 hours of the trip. Upon getting to my destination, I had enough power to check email via 3G, and take several pictures of friends and fireworks in both DC and Baltimore. I was very impressed.
Downsides While the N97's user interface has been improved from the 5800XM's, there are still too many steps required for common tasks, such as sending a text message, navigating the web browser, or even just going to an application. I think that widget development will help here, but that will really hinge on Nokia getting more developer interest.
I also don't like that I needed a PC to do the first major firmware update. The N97 supports OTA updating and that update would have been easier to apply without looking for a Windows PC to do it on.
That's all for now. Stay tuned for the full review coming in a few weeks that will detail more of these and other impressions of the Nokia N97.
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