The Nokia N810 is a traditional handheld that will be on the market soon. This is the first in Nokia’s Internet Tablet series of devices to include an integrated sliding keyboard and a GPS receiver.
It was on display at a tradeshow I attended, so I was able to get some time with this model and put together my first thoughts on it.
It’s All About the Web Browser
The N810 is bigger than a typical handheld but smaller than a laptop. Basically, the idea is to give you access to a larger screen than you get on a smartphone on a device that will still fit in your pocket.
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It offers two main features that take advantage of the larger display: web access and video playback. In my initial testing I concentrated primarily on the web browser, and was very impressed.
The N810 gives as close to a desktop browsing experience as I’ve seen on a pocket-size device. True, its screen is only 800 by 480 pixels and 4.13 inches, but aside from that you might be hard-pressed to tell you aren’t using a desktop browser. It easily handles Flash-based animation like YouTube, for example.
I pulled up Brighthand on it and was able to read articles, check the forums, etc. as if I was on a regular laptop, albeit one with a very small screen.
Not a Smartphone
The most important thing to keep in mind with the N810 is that it isn’t a replacement for a smartphone; it’s meant to be a companion for a smartphone. It has no cellular-wireless connectivity of it own, but it can use a phone as a wireless modem.
While you can make phone calls with it, you need to do this with the VoIP application Skype.
The N810 does have Wi-Fi. The unit I was testing was connected this way, and even on a show floor crowded with wireless devices it was able to get a reliable and reasonably fast connection.
This and a connection to a Bluetooth phone lets you check your email or web surf wherever you are.
Keyboard and Input
The feature that finally got me interested in one of Nokia’s Internet Tablet series is the N810’s sliding keyboard.
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You hold the device between your two hands and type with your thumbs. Because of its relatively generous size, this is easier to use than the ones on smaller smartphones, even devices like the AT&T Tilt or Sprint Mogul.
If you want more, you’ll probably have the option of hooking up an external Bluetooth keyboard. Previous models in this series could, but no one at Nokia I asked about this was quite sure.
And just to be clear, the N810 has a touchscreen, so you won’t have to depend on the D-pad to select items on the display.
There’s Room for Improvement
This handheld runs Nokia’s Linux Maemo operating system on a 400 MHz OMAP 2420 processor. Nokia is actively encouraging developers to create applications for this platform on www.maemo.org, and so far the response has been fairly good.
This is nice to hear, because developers are an important part of Nokia’s strategy for the N810. The company has created a base model, and hoping others will flesh it out. For example, this device comes with a built-in camera but no software application that can access it. Nokia is hoping one will be written by a third-party developer.
The same goes for working with Microsoft Office files. An N810 fresh from the factory does not include the software you need to view Word or Excel documents that come in as email attachments.
A GPS receiver is built into the N810, and it comes with a basic set of maps. You’ll have to pay more if you want advanced navigation features, like turn-by-turn directions.
It has 2 GB of internal storage, and you can add to this with miniSD memory cards. It supports SDHC, and Nokia says it has tested it with 8 GB cards.
The N810 has an official battery life of 4 hours under “typical use”, meaning playing movies or surfing the Web, or 10 hours when playing music only.
Nokia is expected to start shipping the N810 Internet Tablet in mid-November with prices starting at $480.
I’ve asked Nokia for a N810 loaner unit, and hopefully we’ll have a full review of the device in the near future.