Mobile phone maker Nokia is jumping into the Netbook pool with its recently announced Booklet 3G laptop, offering a premium-feeling system for a rock-bottom price, as long as you agree to a two-year AT&T mobile data contract.
The Booklet 3G is easily one of the most upscale-looking Netbooks we've seen. It feels solid and well-built in your hands, without being too heavy. Also a good sign: the AT&T mobile broadband service connects automatically, and the process was wonderfully transparent, especially compared with the software setup and manual log-ins required by other mobile broadband laptops. On the down side, the slower Intel Atom Z530 CPU shaves just enough performance off of the already pokey Netbook experience to be frustrating.
With a two-year AT&T contract, the Booklet 3G costs $299, and its excellent design and build quality puts it miles ahead of other $299 Netbooks. But keep in mind that you're then tied to a monthly fee--usually around $60--for data. The Booklet is also available sans contract for $599, but that's both largely pointless and way overpriced.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$299 ($599 without contract)|
|Processor||1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530|
|Memory||1GB, 533MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||120GB 4,200rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 500 (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Starter|
|Dimensions (WD)||10.4 x 7.3 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||10.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.7/3.2 pounds|
The Booklet 3G is easily one of the most upscale-looking Netbooks we've seen. It feels solid and well-built in your hands, without being too heavy. The screen hinge in particular feels pleasingly tight, while the slightly too thick keyboard tray has zero flex even when pressing down firmly on the keyboard. While color options (for the back of the lid) include black, white, and blue, our black test unit's lid seemed especially smudge-prone.
Unlike the gently tapered sides of many other Netbooks, designed to create the illusion of slimness, the Booklet has sharp, angled edges. True to the name, there is a booklike squareness to it. The inside is devoid of quick launch or shortcut keys, and even the power button is relegated to the right side edge, next to a tiny hatch covering SD and SIM card slots.
Unfortunately, the keyboard itself is cramped, with tiny keys that are hard to hit accurately. Considering the strides other Netbooks have made with creating very usable keyboards, it was a letdown. The touch pad is large and easy to use, even though we had to crank up the pointer speed in the Windows 7 options.
The 10.1-inch display has the higher 1,366x768-pixel resolution found on many high-end Netbooks, and a single sheet of glass covers the screen and much of the screen bezel, but there's still a separate outer lip, so it's not quite what we call edge-to-edge.
|Nokia Booklet 3G||Average for category [Netbook]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone jack||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader; SIM card slot||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mobile broadband (AT&T 3G)||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Besides the AT&T mobile broadband (which makes use of a built-in SIM card slot), the option to manually join local Wi-Fi networks is also available. Our review unit lacked the final versions of the Nokia and Ovi networking and connectivity software, but we did fine with Windows 7's built-in versions.
Despite an excellent design and well-integrated mobile broadband, the Booklet 3G hits a rough patch as an actual Netbook. Using the slower Z530 version of Intel's Atom CPU (instead of the more common N270 or N280 versions) means that performance was generally sluggish, especially with only 1GB of RAM and a slower 4,200rpm hard drive.
Opening windows and navigating around the Windows 7 environment led to some stuttering and slowdown. Even something as simple as running multiple Web browser windows and a Microsoft Office doc at the same time slowed the system significantly in our anecdotal hands-on testing. In our benchmark tests, scores were behind Netbooks with the faster N270 and N280 Atom processors in most of our tests. It's a shame because a zippier Booklet 3G would be hard to beat as one of our favorite Netbooks.
|Nokia Booklet 3G|
|Raw (annual kWh)||18.66|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$2.12|
The Nokia Booklet 3G ran for 7 hours and 14 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included 16-cell battery (but the actual Wh rating is closer to a typical 6-cell battery). That's among the best scores we've seen, even from systems with gigantic extended batteries, so it's especially impressive that the Booklet managed to do it without a battery that looks like a big kickstand or carrying handle.