Feature-packed and fancy-free
The allure of the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet, of course, is the on-the-go Web access. True, you can do this with a smart phone, a PDA, or a laptop; however, we found the benefits of the N800 are its superior Web browser, speed, and portability. We'll go into these points more later on, but first, some technical logistics. To connect to the Internet you have two choices. You can use the device's integrated Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) to hop onto an access point, or you can pair the N800 with your Bluetooth-enabled phone and use your cellular network. We were able to do both without problems: Our review unit easily found our test access point, and we were also able to pair it with the Nokia N80ie using T-Mobile service.
To stay connected in other ways, the Nokia N800 has an e-mail client that supports POP3 and IMAP4 accounts. During initial setup, a wizard walks you through the steps for accessing your account. There are also advanced settings so that the device automatically retrieves your messages on a regular basis, plays a sound when new messages arrive, removes messages older than a specified number of days, and so on. For faster communication, the N800 does support instant messaging and comes with Google Talk and Jabber preloaded on the device. At this point, you might be wondering how you input text. Well, there's an onscreen keyboard that you can either peck away at with the stylus, or you can switch to the full-screen keyboard to stretch out your fingers. Alternatively, there's a handwriting recognition mode that lets you write text in a designated area. However, like most handwriting recognition technology, this is a bit awkward and requires a slight learning curve. If you're writing long e-mails, we think your best bet is to invest a Bluetooth accessory keyboard, such as the Nokia Wireless Keyboard or the Think Outside Stowaway Universal Bluetooth keyboard.
Make no mistake, the Nokia N800 is not a cell phone but you can make phone calls using Voice over IP. Again, Google Talk and Jabber are onboard to handle those needs, but Nokia also announced at CES 2007 that it is working with Skype to develop a new mobile Skype experience just for the N800. In addition to all that, the company is beta testing an application called Nokia Internet Call Invitation that allows you to invite contacts to VoIP and video calls via e-mail and IM. Nokia gave, well, we should say they tried to give us a working demo of the feature at CES but never got it to work right, so looks like they have a few bugs to work out.
One of our gripes about the Nokia 770 was the lack of PC synchronization and PIM tools, and it seems this trend mostly continues with the N800. Though it's not meant to be a PDA or smart phone, this additional functionality would have been nice. That said, the beauty of the Nokia N800's open source platform is that it allows developers to create various software programs for the device. A visit to Maemo.org reveals a diverse catalog of downloadable applications, including PIM tools. We're also happy that Nokia added a contacts manager to the device itself. There's room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, e-mail and Web addresses, and a Jabber ID, and you can categorize them by group. Other utilities include a calculator, a clock, and a note and sketch pad. There is a PDF reader but no viewer for Office documents.
The N800's media player is basic but functional. It supports a number of music and video formats, including AAC, MP3, WAV, AMR, RealAudio, AVI, 3GP, MPEG-4, and others. Unfortunately, there is still no love for WMV or WMA files, which is completely disappointing and may be a turn off for some. On the upside, transferring media to the device is a snap as it's a simple matter of drag and drop. You can also import playlists or create them on the fly, and there's a shuffle function. If you're looking for some fresh tunes, check out the Internet radio. Finally, the Nokia N800 comes with an image viewer and four preloaded games (Chess, Blocks, Mahjong, and Marbles), and you can always download more. All in all, there's 128MB of RAM and 256MB flash memory, boosted by the dual expansion slots, so you can have a vast library of multimedia goodness.
Thankfully, the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet is a much better performer than its predecessor, the Nokia 770. Though there was a slight delay when launching the media player, the N800 had snappy performance. We had no problems opening up PDF files or images. As we noted earlier, the Web browsing experience was superior. Not only was there minimal scrolling when viewing entire Web pages, but they also loaded quickly.
Unfortunately, we weren't so keen on the multimedia performance. Music playback through the unit's speakers left much to be desired. Despite adequate volume, tracks sounded tinny and lacked bass, but sound quality was much improved when we plugged in a pair of Shure E3c headphones. Video playback on the N800 bordered on awful. We tried to watch some clips on YouTube, but the picture was jerky and never synchronized with the audio. We also transferred clips from our personal library, which performed better but still, the video was pixilated.
The Nokia N800 is rated for three hours of continuous Web browsing and up to 10 days of standby time. We found these numbers to be generally true, as we squeaked out about four hours of continuous use on a single charge.