Nokia's 770 Internet Tablet is a new kind of product from the Finnish company. It's a mobile Internet device, providing access to your email, the Web, Internet radio, RSS and more, over your own broadband wireless Wi-Fi network at home, or a public one in a café. It adds in a few extras like music playing, image and video viewing, and some gaming.
The whole idea is very compelling, and it does work, but there are a few reasons we don't think the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet is ideally suited to its job, the most important being a lack of internal memory and its relatively small overall size. The screen quality is great, but it needs to be about a third bigger.
It is also expensive. The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet costs £245 direct from Nokia's Web site.
The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet is a compromise between size and usability. It's always the way with small devices -- portable media centres, handhelds and smartphones have the same issue, for example. The hardware needs to be small enough that users will be bothered to carry it around, but large enough to be usable in the situation for which it is intended.
In this case, the screen is all-important, and Nokia has certainly gone to town in terms of its quality. It delivers 800 pixels of width and 480 of height, in a physical area 90mm wide and 55mm tall. It's crisp and more than bright enough.
The screen is touch-sensitive, and a stylus sits in a slot on the back of the casing. If you have stubby fingers you might need to use this regularly, as the icons and menus can often be quite small. On the left side of the screen are a couple of buttons and a navigation pad. These get you around the device without needing to tap at the screen, for example calling up menus and taking you to the Home screen.
On the upper-left edge, alongside the power button, are two really useful buttons. One lets you see the current window in full screen (great for Web use and looking at photos and video), and the other is a zoom rocker.
On the bottom edge of the casing is a 3.5mm headphone connector, USB port and mains power jack. These are not protected in any way. To their right is a slot for an RS-MMC card -- and this is protected by a cover that is attached to the hardware.
Nokia provides no less than two protection systems for the 770. There's a solid slide-on cover that can be used to protect the entire front face of the device, and a drawstring bag. You also get a USB cable to connect the device to a PC, and a printed manual.
Two rather tacky-looking bits of plastic turn out to fit together to form a desk stand -- you rest the 770 on this and it sits at an angle of about 45 degrees. With no rubberised stoppers on the feet of the stand there is a tendency for it to slide about when you prod the 770's screen.
There's a bevy of software built in to the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, though not quite everything that might be useful is present. You get a Web browser, email software, Internet radio, an RSS-feed reader, software for video and images, a calculator, a clock with an alarm, a notes tool, a draw-to-screen tool and a couple of games. There is also a PDF document reader built in, and you should be able to add additional software.
Two obvious omissions are instant messaging and Voice over IP software, but Nokia says at its Web site that an operating system upgrade should become available in 2006 to add these.
Your key way of getting onto the Internet for the connected functions is through Wi-Fi, though as Bluetooth is built in you could also use a mobile phone for Internet access (or file sharing). The 770 supports both 802.11b and g. When we tried it on a 'b' network, we were able to visit Web sites and listen to Internet radio without any bandwidth issues.
Internet radio is one of the more fun things on offer. One station is already built in, but to add others you need to go through a rather tedious process of copying and pasting their URLs from the Web browser to the radio software.
The Web browser lets you have more than one window open at once, and switching between them is a simple matter. Entering Web addresses is one of the occasions when you need to use the tappable virtual keyboard or handwriting recognition. We quickly decided the former was best -- the handwriting recognition was woeful.
The quality of sound output from the built-in mono speaker is very poor, but attach a good headset and the stereo pumps though nicely. AAC and MP3 formats are among those supported. Video playback was pretty sharp, and when in full-screen mode, eminently watchable. Supported formats include Real Video and AVI, but not WMV. Images are similarly nicely rendered, and reading PDFs was fine, especially in 'fit to width' mode, where documents are sized to precisely fill the screen.
As you open more applications they are represented as icons in a strip on the left edge of the screen and switching between them is as easy as tapping each icon. Unlike with Windows Mobile, when you tap the cross in the top-right corner of each application, it actually closes, freeing up memory. This is crucial, because if you have too much going on at once the system will clam up.
When you connect the 770 to a PC using the provided USB cable, its flash storage card shows up as another drive, ready to have files copied to it. You can't access the internal 64MB of memory using this method, however.
The 770 dropped its network connection a few times during testing, and it ran slower as more and more applications were opened, but it seemed to deliver adequately if treated with respect.
Overall, the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet is a great little device. It really does work, and if you are prepared to live with its foibles it can be both useful and fun. Nokia needs to do a few things with the next version to make it better, though. These include increasing the amount of internal memory -- and allowing access to it through a PC -- improving the quality of the sound output and making the device larger. We think the A5 paper size would be perfect.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide