Nokia N900 - First Look

Although classed as an Nseries device, the N900 is a new category of device for Nokia, combining the internet tablet with a smaller, more pocket-able mobile phone.

With some impressive tech under the hood, it could be argued that the N900 needs to impress in order for Nokia to finally make a splash in the now overcrowded high-end touch-phone market. So does it?

Simply, yes. Our hands-on with the N900, staff supervised at the Nokia World event where the device has first been shown to the world's media, left a positive impression of this new handset.

At first glance the phone is chunky but once the high-resolution, glossy screen (that is clear, crisp and very vivid) springs into life you can forgive the larger dimensions.

Nokia promises a desktop-like experience from the new handset, thanks to the ARM processor, OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics acceleration, the 1GB of applications memory and the Maemo 5 operating system. In our brief hands-on we don't think this boast is too bold.

Starting with the homescreen, and where Apple has made its icon-based home screen for the iPhone arguably a modern design classic, Nokia is going in the opposite direction and offering users the chance to create their own design.

Although perhaps not as effective from a brand recognition point of view, discerning consumers may appreciate the fact that, aside from a small menu button in the top right of the phone's screen, everything else that appears on the display is entirely customisable by the user.

In fact, the Nokia N900 offers not just one, but four homescreens that users can scroll between at the flick of a finger against the phone's display.

Items that can be placed on the device's homescreen(s) as clickable thumbnails are the likes of app shortcuts, contacts, web bookmarks - the last of which actually update realtime with the teeny thumbnails animated where applicable. This is thanks to the full Flash support the phone offers.

That Flash support comes into its own with web browsing powered by Mozilla. The Nokia CEO claims the N900 is the best browsing device he's seen and from our brief hands-on we think it will certainly get favourable comparisons to the iPhone's full-fat Safari browser.

Pages are rendered as they would be on a computer, albeit on a much smaller screen. Flash animations, graphics and content again, look as if they would on your PC and by using the cursor effect, rolling hyperlinked content - or anything with Flash graphics - comes up automatically, quite an impressive feat for a handheld device.

When browsing, dragging your finger from the left of the screen creates a cursor effect, whereas doing it from the right brings up your browsing history.

The touchscreen is responsive, and from our hands-on with the phone, looks capable. Depending on what you are using the phone for, different gestures against the screen have different effects. For example, to zoom in you can double tap, or if you're looking for a more gradual zoom, moving your finger in a circular motion zooms you in more slowly.

The N900 boasts "PC-like multitasking" with the 1GB memory meaning you can do several things at one time. In the hands-on we had, we have no reason to suggest that will not be the case - the phone coped well with the several-things-at-once, faltering only once not wanting to launch the camera when in a media menu.

Video - selected for the demo device by Nokia - was faultless and looked good on the screen, gaming - a version of the Bounce ball game, using the accelerometer - was equally smooth and again, looked great on the screen. The speakers sounded a little tinny as you might expect, but our hands-on was in a busy hall, so might not have done them justice.

The 5-megapixel camera (complete with lens cover) appears fine with the usual Nokia delay after hitting the shutter. Images can be geo-tagged and topic tagged straight after snapping, which is a nice touch although nothing revolutionary.

Hardware-wise, and, as mentioned the device is chunky. With a black finish, it's got typical Nokia looks. The front of the phone is taken up by the screen and there is a front-facing camera. The right side offers a camera shortcut button, power button and volume buttons. The bottom gets key lock, speaker and a 3.5mm jack whereas at the top there's Micro-USB port and speaker. The back offers a flip-out stand.

The slide-out QWERTY keypad gets buttons in three rows, and in an immediate comparison to the N97 mini, comes off better.

Verdict

Seeing a device at a press event, under carefully controlled conditions, is always different from said finished product hitting the shelves, so we would suggest hanging on for a more thorough N900 review from Pocket-lint, however, first impressions of the N900 are good, and if you are looking for a high-end mobile around October time, we'd certainly stick this on the maybe list.

In some ways it's a shame Nokia did not do more with the design of the handset, despite proudly stamping the "Designed in Finland" text on the back it's not the most revolutionary hardware design, however, what's inside is impressive and let's hope for Nokia's sake that is going to be enough to attract consumers to what looks to be a highly capable device.

First impressions are favourable for the N900, with the claims of PC-like performance holding up under a brief hands-on. If you can put up with the bulk, we think the N900 might make for a very capable handheld device.