Though Nokia has removed "Internet Tablet" from the product name, the browsing experience still takes top billing and it's where the Nokia N900 really shines. The smartphone's browser is based on Mozilla technology and is one of the most powerful mobile browsers we've seen, displaying pages much like you would see on your desktop. It offers AJAX support and Adobe Flash Player 9.4, so you can view Flash content, such as videos or games, right from the browser. Other features of the browser include visual bookmarks, the capability to search within a page, downloads, and multiple windows, but again, finding these options isn't very intuitive. To zoom in and out of pages, you can simply use the volume rocker on top of the phone or double tap the screen. Alternatively, you can use your finger to create a little circular motion on the touch screen.
The N900 can connect over Wi-Fi and is compatible with T-Mobile's 3G network, since it supports the 900/1700/2100MHz HSDPA bands. Though the smartphone had no problem finding and connecting to our Wi-Fi network, we had some initial problems getting online using T-Mobile's 3G network. After a little research through some forums, we found that the N900 had the incorrect APN settings, so we had to go into the Connections menu and change it from internet2.voicestream.com to epc.tmobile.com. Then we were good to go.
Using T-Mobile's network here in New York, CNET's full site loaded in an impressive 15 seconds and displayed all Flash content, including CNET TV videos. Load times for video took a bit longer and the videos were a bit choppy, though still viewable, and the fact that we could even view it from the browser was amazing. That said, we had problems getting Flash games to play on the N900. Mozilla is also working on a mobile version of Firefox, which will be available first on the N900 in early 2010. A beta version is also expected by the end of 2009.
As a phone, the N900 has quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, conference calling, speed dial (via the contacts widgets), vibrate mode, and text and multimedia messaging. There is no support for voice dialing at this time. You can make VoIP calls, however, and the N900 offers wizards for setting up your Skype, Jabber, and SIP accounts. Bluetooth (supports hands-free kits, mono and stereo headsets, audio/video remote control, file transfer, and object push) and GPS are also onboard.
The Maemo platform offers the basic productivity tools and messaging capabilities, but there are limitations. For example, while the Nokia N900 can access multiple POP3 and IMAP accounts, it currently only syncs with Exchange Server 2007 and not Exchange 2003, so we couldn't hook up our work e-mail to the smartphone, which is almost a deal-breaker. Also, while there are a number of apps and personal information management tools preloaded on the device, including Documents to Go, Nokia Maps, a PDF reader, a calendar, a calculator, and a clock, the Ovi Store for the N900 isn't officially available yet, limiting the number of apps available for download to just about a dozen through the phone's Application Manager. That said, Nokia has said it will send out an update to resolve these issues soon.
As a multimedia device, the Nokia N900 can certainly hold its own. The built-in media player supports MP3, WMA, AAC, M4A, and WAV files and displays album art and ID3 tags. You get basic shuffle and repeat modes and you can create playlists on the fly. There's also support for Internet radio and an FM tuner. (Note that you need to use the included headset for the latter.) The N900 can also play back MP4, AVI, WMV, MPEG-4, Xvid, 3GP, H.264, and H.263 video files, and includes a dedicated 3D graphics accelerator. The Nokia N900 has a whopping 32GB of internal storage and a microSD expansion slot (up to 16GB), so space should not be an issue here.
Like a number of Nokia N series models, the N900 features a 5-megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens with dual-LED flash, autofocus, and video-recording capabilities. There are multiple camera options, including white balance adjustment, ISO sensitivity, exposure settings, and geotagging. Picture quality was quite good. Even in a darker lit room, the N900 delivered a sharp image with decent coloring. There's also an onboard photo editor if you want to touch up your photos afterwards.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; WCDMA 900/1700/2100) in New York using T-Mobile service and call quality was excellent. We were impressed at how crystal clear audio sounded on our end. There was absolutely no trace of background noise or voice distortion, and there was plenty of volume. Friends also had similar praises and said they couldn't tell we were calling from a cell phone. We had no problems using an airline's voice-automated system and didn't experience any dropped calls during our testing period.
Speakerphone quality was also good. Occasionally, the sound could be a bit muffled, but for the most part, we had no issues with speakerphone calls. We successfully paired the N900 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
Powered by a 600MHz TI OMAP3 3430 (Cortex A8) processor, the N900 performed beautifully during our testing period. The transition between home screens was smooth and the smartphone was very responsive with minimal delays even when working in multiple applications. We loaded up a couple of MPEG-4 videos on the device and playback was smooth with synchronized audio and images, and the picture quality was particularly amazing on the N900's sharp display. With the 3.5mm jack, we were also able to plug in our Bose On-Ear Headphones and enjoy rich-sounding music.
The Nokia N900 features a 1320mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 9 hours (GSM)/5 hours (3G). In our battery drain tests, the N900 fell an hour short of the promised 3G talk time, coming in at just 4 hours. According to FCC radiation tests, the N900 has a digital SAR rating of 0.92 watt per kilogram.