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Nokia N97 mini review: Nokia N97 mini

Nokia has put the fat old N97 on a diet, and the result is the N97 mini. It's a very similar handset to its larger sibling when it comes to features and functionality, but its sleeker design is a definite improvement, and, despite having a slightly smaller screen and less memory, it's a more desirable smart phone overall

Flora Graham

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4 min read

As you might have guessed from its name, the Nokia N97 mini is a smaller version of the N97. Although Nokia's cut a few features to reduce the handset's size, we think it's a more appealing smart phone. The mini is available for free on a £30-per-month, two-year contract. That's £5 per month less than the cheapest deal for the N97. You can also buy the mini for around £400 SIM-free, while the N97 costs around £430 SIM-free.

orig-n97_mini_front.jpg
7.5

Nokia N97 mini

The Good

Looks sleeker than the N97; handy Qwerty keyboard; customisable home screen; widgets with live updates; angled screen.

The Bad

Bland user interface isn't particularly easy to use; unimpressive display; resistive touchscreen; widgets can be buggy; no multi-touch capability.

The Bottom Line

We like the Nokia N97 mini's slimmed-down shape, and it's not lost much functionality through going on a diet. We're not fans of the resistive, dark touchscreen or the uninspiring user interface, but there's no shortage of fantastic features packed into this small handset. Still, it remains a workhorse, rather than a magical, flying Pegasus of wonder

Diet for fat boy

The mini doesn't differ much from its larger sibling, so we'll focus on the variations and whether we think they make the mini worth your hand-earned cash. For much more about the highs and lows of this phone, read our full review of the Nokia N97.

We thought the N97 was lumpen and chubby, although we liked its satisfying hinge. The mini keeps the hinge but cuts down on the chubbiness, and so feels like a sleeker phone. It's still not the slimmest or most gorgeous phone out there, but it's a definite improvement.

Nokia has cropped the N97's screen from 89mm (3.5 inches) to 81mm (3.2 inches) to fit the mini. It's not a huge loss, but both screens are poorer than their competitors. We found the mini's screen rather dim, and blame the fact that it's of the resistive type rather than the brighter, more usable capacitive variety made famous by the iPhone.

It's easy to type accurately on the mini's keyboard, but it's not suited to southpaws, due to the position of the spacebar

You have to apply some pressure to make the resistive screen work. With capacitive screens, you can just gently swipe a fingertip. As long as you're prepared to use a fingernail, the mini's screen is snappy and responsive. But that doesn't compensate for the boring, dated user interface.

It's not the most user-friendly phone either. Rather than providing instinctive, touchscreen-orientated methods of interacting with it, you're faced with loads of menus. There's no multi-touch zooming, for example, so you have to navigate to a zoom menu in Web pages, which takes a few taps. We also hate the fact that you have to double tap some items to open them, while others only require one tap -- it's confusing.

On the positive side, there are some great on-board features that will get you connected reliably. Setting up email, for instance, is a breeze. The mini gets the job done -- it just doesn't offer a good-looking, fun way to do it.

Keyboard

The mini does away with the useless part of the N97's keyboard -- the five-way function button -- and we're not sorry to see it go. The keys are widely spaced out, which makes them easier to hit accurately, but they have almost no travel, so you don't get much feedback when you press them. If you're a southpaw, be aware that this keyboard favours right-handed folk, since the spacebar is small and sits on the right-hand side of the middle.

Widget midget

You can add home-screen widgets to the mini, but we found that they were still buggy on occasions. The Facebook widget, for example, is good when it works, but it often failed to load our news feed due to an incomprehensible error. Nevertheless, we like that you can see live status updates and control the music player from the home screen.

Cutting crew

Like the N97, the mini has a 5-megapixel camera and two LED photo lights, although it lacks the N97's lens cover. In our tests, the lights did a good job of illuminating dark conditions, but we found we had to keep a steady hand to get a clear shot even in bright light. Unsurprisingly, our photos were grainy in low light, but we found colours bright and accurate.

There's less space for storing your images on the mini than on the N97 -- the internal memory has been slashed from 32GB to 8GB. There's room for a 16GB microSD card, though. A total of 24GB should suffice for most people. The phone's shorter battery life might be an issue for some people -- Nokia claims it has a talk time of 7 hours, compared to the N97's 9.5 hours.

Conclusion

Despite a slightly smaller screen and less memory, we think the trim size and slicker appearance of the Nokia N97 mini make it a more desirable phone than the N97. It packs in almost all of the N97's powerful smart-phone features, while feeling less like a lumbering beast. But, with a dull user interface that's not as fun or user-friendly as its competitors, it's still not a phone worth getting too excited about.

Edited by Charles Kloet

Update: We originally said that the N97 mini doesn't have an FM radio or compass, but, in fact, it has both. All responsible have been flogged.

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