Nokia N97 Mini - First Look review

0 out of 5
Dependent on contract

For

Smooth, shiny and slick

Against

What's the point?

Nokia has finally unveiled its Nokia N97 Mini - first leaked by a Vodafone Ireland forum moderator back in June - but does it look any good?

The N97 Mini is essentially (and the name might have already given this away) the mini-me version of the already available Nokia N97, the Finnish phone company's flagship, touchscreen phone.

It shares the same design language as the N97 with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and large, landscape touchscreen. What the Mini also boasts looks-wise is a stainless edging and metallic back which go quite some way to making it feel like a high-end handset.

And high-end it is, compared to many of the mid-range touchscreens that have flooded the market of late - giving it a price tag of the slightly surprising 450 euros (around £369) although obviously, when launched, it will be offered for free through various operator's price plans.

It's due in October in that dubious brown shade (actually "garnet") as well as black and white, a colour variant which seems to boast a particularly glossy finish.

The touchscreen - resistive touch with a little haptic feedback so you know you've hit the right bit - is bright and clear and responded well in our brief, Nokia staff supervised hands-on with the device.

On the front of the phone there's that 3.2-inch display, a raised silver menu button, green and red call/end call buttons, the accelerometer sensor and the front facing camera.

On the back is the device's camera, with dual LED flash, that's in a slightly different position to the N97's and gets no lens cover. One side of the phone boasts a microSD port and a key lock slider button while the other side gets buttons for the camera and volume control. The top of the phone gets a 3.5mm headphone jack, welcome news for music lovers, and the small power button.

The slide-out QWERTY keypad has had a slight redesign from that of the N97. There are arrow keys and an enter button on the right hand side but the space bar remains really small.

The keys, laid out in three rows, are slightly raised from the phone - and are tiny which should be a consideration for any big fingered folk out there. Typing is one of those things you'll likely get used to, but it's a slow, two-thumbed job on first try.

The slide-out mechanism, protected at the back with a kind of hood, is nice. The phone opens with a nice "snap" and closes in an equally pleasing manner.

The mini offers what Nokia calls "flick scrolling" that, for long lists such as music, contacts, etc, will move up or down the screen at the flick of a finger against the display. During our hands-on this worked really well, with no lag and seemed really fast and smooth.

Overall the phone's firmware did seem in decent shape for its October launch - as we've mentioned our hands-on was of the supervised variety, but there are no horrors (apart from minor online delays likely due to the overcrowded network) to report.

Software-wise the mini offers new features such as Nokia's "Lifecasting" slash Facebook services, a new Ovi Maps experience and a completely customisable homescreen.

Verdict

Overall, the new handset feels like a nice, tight device, although Nokia's decision to offer a "Mini" (which could suggest cheaper/less quality) version of an existing handset, rather than release it as a mark II effort or even under a different model name, is more of curious question from a strategic or marketing point of view and it will be interesting to see how consumers take to the concept.

A nice device that might struggle with an identity crisis.