Nokia Booklet 3G notebook

Nokia isn't the first name you think of when you mention netbooks, but the mobile phone company is hoping to diversify with the launch of just that, a high-end netbook called the Nokia Booklet 3G. But can the phone manufacturer get it right? We started tapping away to find out.

Out of the box and the Nokia Booklet 3G looks and feels solid and well built. While the back plate is a gloss plastic (to add a dash of colour to the proceedings) the main material used is aluminium both inside and out.

The use of aluminium does make the netbook heavier than it probably should be (it weighs 1.2Kg), however the additional weight is worth it. This is MacBook Pro territory.

The gloss plastic isn't swappable, but there are three colours available, black, ice (read silver), and azure (read blue) to choose from, although you'll be pleased to know those colours aren't carried through elsewhere in the design.

Get past the styling and there are plenty of connection options available. Split across the two sides, you get three USB sockets, HDMI output, 3.5mm headphone jack and an SD card reader. This being a netbook, there isn't a DVD drive, however as the name and company might suggest, the Nokia Booklet 3G is "connected".

Available subsidised in the US with AT&T, the Booklet isn't currently available on any operator in the UK, though that doesn't stop you from adding in your own SIM card in the 3G module found on the side.

We tested it with a Vodafone SIM card, although you could use any 3G operator's card as the netbook isn't locked. In our install we experienced zero difficulties in performance or setup, inserting the SIM card caused Windows 7 to automatically recognise it and we were online via the 3G connection in a matter of seconds rather than hours. A very nice experience indeed.

It's not just 3G that will let you connect to the Internet, the Booklet 3G comes with Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth too, all of which can be turned on or off accordingly via a shortcut key on the keyboard. 

Open up the netbook and the style that was so apparent on the outside can be found on the inside. You'll get a 10.1-inch 1280 x 720 pixel display that sports a gloss glass window, which is as crisp as it is stunning.

Like Apple, Nokia has opted for a chiclet keyboard for the keyboard style. Although the keys are on the small side (you'll have to be precise in your typing) the layout is straightforward with the "F keys" doubling up as a controls for media, screen brightness, volume, and connectivity options when the function key is pressed.

Beneath the keyboard is a largish trackpad and two keys beneath it. It's very comfortable in use, and supports, like the MacBook and MacBook Pro, multi-touch for vertical scrolling as well as zoom pinching.

Attempting to offer something different, there is a "Nokia" button that when pressed launches the Nokia Social Hub. The idea is that it's one single app that lets you manage your Twitter, Facebook and other social networking profiles as well as your SMS messages in a similar way to Tweetdeck.

Status lights are to be found on the screen hinge, which let you know whether Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or 3G are connected, whether your battery is about to run out (it turns red from 25% left) and whether or not you are connected to a power source. The lights aren't that helpful and although they let you know what's turned on and what's not - you don't really need to know all the time.

Randomly, the screen tilts back almost flat. We aren't sure why, but we haven't seen this feature on a laptop for a long time.

Spec wise and the Nokia Booklet 3G's interior doesn't match the exterior. The core of the system is an Intel Atom Z530, 1.6 GHz processor with 1GB DDR2 of RAM, whilst the hard drive is 120GB. On the multi-media side there is a 1.3 megapixel webcam and built-in stereo speakers, although they aren't very loud. Somewhat unexpected is an integrated GPS and A-GPS chip giving the laptop and location awareness not normally seen in netbooks or laptops at the moment.

In practice, running Windows 7 Starter edition, the netbook or Mini Laptop as Nokia likes to call it gave us mixed results.

Surfing standard pages on the Internet using the major browsers was as quick as you would expect. Loading Word documents was okay, but it's here that chinks in the performance start to show. Watch a HD movie stored on the hard drive and you'll manage 1080p without any problem, start streaming from the Internet and even with the latest version of Flash the computer struggles, and struggles badly, showing up the processor for what it really is - lacklustre.

While there is a HDMI socket, Nokia has failed to back it up with an Nvidia ION chip for the HD support meaning that you'll struggle online. As for games, we tried Dirt 2 and Batman Arkham Asylum, and while we expected it would struggle, those expectations were confirmed with both games being virtually unplayable.

There is also the question of Nokia choosing to include the Starter edition. Fine for most, it's worth pointing out that while you will get most of the core functions (it's not just a browser in a box) you will also miss out as well. Annoyingly you don't get multiple monitor support, something that given the small size of netbook screens we would have thought would be a must, and you won't be able to jazz up your wallpaper either.

There is no Aero support, while Media Center isn't included either. There is no XP mode, no Desktop Windows Manager or Remote Desktop support. That doesn't mean you are buying a crippled system, you still get most of the new interface features like the improved taskbar and Snap features - you've just got to remember, Starter really does mean starter.

Battery life, is as Nokia boast, very impressive, with us managing to get around 7 hours with heavy Wi-Fi and 3G use from a single charge. Without either on the Booklet 3G will easily last you an entire day.

Verdict

If we were to judge the book by its cover we would be praising the Nokia Booklet 3G from the rooftops. It's a stylish well built piece of kit from the outside. The trouble is that Nokia hasn't maximised the inside as well as they could have, meaning that you are left with a machine that isn't as good as it could have been.

If you're not looking to do anything too aggressive then the Booklet 3G will suit you fine, but that posh exterior makes you believe otherwise. More worrying, however, is the price. At £649 in the UK and $550 in the US, this isn't a cheap netbook by any stretch of the imagination and that's a big problem, especially when you measure it up against the competition such as the Toshiba NB200 series and the HP Mini 311.

In fact at £649 it's MacBook territory, which, in terms of performance, will give you a considerably better machine.

The Nokia Booklet 3G can and probably is best described as a supermodel, wonderful to look at, but for the most part vacant on the inside.



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