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Nokia Booklet 3G (black) review: Nokia Booklet 3G (black)

Nokia Booklet 3G (black)

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
6 min read

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.


Nokia Booklet 3G (black)

The Good

Excellent design; great battery life; seamless 3G connection.

The Bad

Slower CPU leads to frustratingly sluggish performance.

The Bottom Line

Nokia's entry in the crowded Netbook field shows that the company's hardware know-how translates to computer design, but a poor choice of CPU should give you pause.

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.

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.

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.

Juice box
Nokia Booklet 3G  
Off (watts) 0.43
Sleep (watts) 0.55
Idle (watts) 4.77
Load (watts) 12.49
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.

Nokia includes an industry-standard one-year parts and labor warranty with the system. We couldn't find any specific support information on Nokia's Web site, but the company advised us that owners can visit nokiausa.com/support or call 1-888-665-4228, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio W
HP Mini 311
Nokia Booklet 3G

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Nokia Booklet 3G

Jalbum photo conversion test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Nokia Booklet 3G

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Nokia Booklet 3G

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Nokia Booklet 3G

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Nokia Booklet 3G
Windows 7 Starter; 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 215MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 500; 120GB Toshiba 4,200rpm

Asus Eee PC 1101HA
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z520; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 500; 160GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Sony Vaio W
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Sony Vaio VPC-X115KX/N
Windows 7 Home Premium; 2.0GHz Intel ATOM Processor Z550; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 762MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 500; 128GB Samsung SSD

HP Mini 311
Windows XP Home SP3; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280; 1024MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 512MB (Shared) Nvidia Ion LE; 160GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Dell Inspiron Mini 10
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 950; 160GB Western Digital 5,400rpm


Nokia Booklet 3G (black)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 5Battery 9Support 5