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Nokia N900 Review - How Good Is This Smartphone?


This is a Nokia N900 review. Find out all th functions, pros and cons of Nokia N900 in detail here.

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									Nokia N900 Review – Does it Deliver?
-Written by: N.Singleton

Design & Hardware

[CONSTRUCTION]: The surface of the N900 is a smooth black matte finish. The build
material is aluminum, steel and rubber/plastic. The N900 easily fits in a pocket, being
smaller than the N810 but noticeably thicker than most phones. The four front
components are the status light, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and VGA
camera. There is a consumer infrared port (universal remote), wrist strap option, stylus
and kickstand. The removable back contains the main camera, SIM, battery and
microSDHC slot. Removal requires some strength but it's reassuring knowing it won't
fall off.

[KEYBOARD]: The keyboard is side-sliding with a smooth, springless mechanism
providing a solid feel. The keyboard is three-row, localized and backlit with rubberized
key surfaces. The keys are more difficult to use than devices with rounded keys but
are still easier than virtual keyboards. While reaching speeds of 35-40 WPM is
realistic, extended use is rather tiring. It is possible connect a USB or Bluetooth
keyboard, gamepad, mouse and even a Wii Remote.

[TV-OUT]: There is 480i resolution TV-out which uses an included 3.5mm jack with 4
rings. These are ground, audio left and right, and composite video. Useful for watching
movies, playing games or doing work that requires a big screen.

[SCREEN]: The 16 million color, 800x480 pixel display is incredible. It is pressure-
sensitive, 15:9 aspect and transflective, making the screen easier to see in direct light.
It uses a surprisingly responsive resistive touch screen allowing use with gloves,
fingernails or a stylus. The ambient light sensor adjusts the brightness automatically.
Lack of multi-touch means cumbersome "swirling" gestures in some software but is
generally not a huge issue. Click here to save $249 on Your New Nokia N900!

[CAMERAS]: The main camera is a 5MP Carl Zeiss, the same as the Nokia N97. It
comes with a sliding shutter to protect the recessed lens. There is also a front-facing
640x480 webcam. The camera interface is the same as the S60. The image quality is
sharp, skin tones are vivid and there is very little, if any, chromatic aberration at the
edges. The camera uses the accelerometer when photographing so the photo viewer
can show the picture "up" however the N900 is held. Take a portrait picture and view it
landscape and it'll be small. Turn the device and it'll fill the screen. There are the
following modes: Automatic, Macro, Portrait, Landscape, Action, and Auto video. The
camera can take 848×480 resolution video at 25 fps. The video quality is crisp,
recording at an impressive 3000 kb/s but the framerate usually drops to 20fps and the
audio has a noticeable metallic tone. The camera also works with Adobe Flash.

Nokia N900 Review – Does it Deliver?                                      Copyright 2010
[CPU]: The CPU is an ARM-based TI OMAP 3430 600MHz clocked at 500MHz but
can be overclocked. Some users of the Maemo forums have managed to push it up to
1.2GHz. This allows improved performance with high resolution media,
gaming/emulators and web browsing among many others. Overclocking requires
downloading a modified kernel with the desired speed. They are generally made
available in 50Mhz steps such as 800MHz and 850MHz. Then simply run fiasco-
image-update on the download. While overclocking would normally reduce battery life,
most kernels also provide underclocks for idle which allows the N900 to use
significantly less power when not in use, the net result often being EXTENDED battery
life. According to Nokia, overclocking does void the warranty. Since the N900 does not
have any active cooling the heat created by overclocking could significantly shorten
the N900's life if pushed too much. N900 units are unique, each will overclock
differently. So far though the series does seem to overclock extremely well.

[BATTERY]: The battery is a 1320mAh Nokia BL-5J, 22% smaller than the BP-4L. A
full battery with unoptimized settings allows about 5-9 hours of continuous talk time, 5
hours of music or a few hours of 3G. 3G/3.5G drains the battery faster than Wi-Fi.
Lowering brightness, removing desktop widgets and disabling GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
and 3G easily triples battery life. Charging is through microUSB which takes about 4-5
hours for an empty battery. An issue with the USB port breaking off has been
acknowledged by Nokia as a design oversight, they advise care should be taken while
plugging/unplugging devices to mitigate this problem. The "complete cycle" method
some people use is for calibrating multicell laptop batteries, but the N900 only has a
single cell battery so it's pointless and marginally harmful to do complete discharge
cycles as there's nothing to calibrate. Click here to save $249 on Your New Nokia

[INTERNAL MEMORY]: The N900 has two memory chips. The first is a 32GB eMMC:
768MB of 'virtual memory' (swap), 2GB for settings and software (ext3 /home), the last
~26GB (MyDocs) is for your files only (software not allowed). The second chip is
256MB of NAND memory (RAM) used for bootloader, kernel and rootfs, twice that of
the N810. Optionally, several gigabytes are used for the localized offline Ovi Maps,
useful in areas without data coverage.

[EXPANDABLE MEMORY]: The N900 has a hot-swappable microSDHC slot under
the rear panel. It supports microSDHC cards up to 32GB of any class. The included
cable can connect the N900 to a computer for easy transfer of files by allowing the
N900 to act as a hard drive, though only "MyDocs" is accessible.

[GPS & MAPS]: The GPS is a real GPS and has the addition of assisted GPS. The
cold fix time with data is about 10-40 seconds with accuracy as good as the Nokia
N97. Pre-loaded Ovi Maps are available so a data connection is not required. GPS
usually works fine offline, if slow, but due to a bug can fail as the map engine may ask
for a connection even when the maptiles are loaded. Ovi Maps uses the GPS to show
local weather information. Navigation and mapping with Ovi Maps is free but there is

Nokia N900 Review – Does it Deliver?                                    Copyright 2010
no turn-by-turn voice navigation. The low 1.0 version is due to it being the first Maemo
release of Ovi maps explaining the lack of features it has compared to the 3.0 version
available on Symbian. Some omissions being the inability to save routes, and inability
to look up a contact's address.

[FM TRANSMITTER]: The integrated FM transmitter puts audio from the device into
radio frequency so you can tune a radio to that frequency and play N900 media
wirelessly. It works as advertised but must be very close to the receiving radio.

[RADIOS]: The signal strength of the N900's 3G radio is weak. It is possible to turn off
the cellular radio without disabling Wi-Fi/Bluetooth by going into offline mode and then
manually enabling either. The N900 can use another phone as a 3G modem over
Bluetooth but setup is complicated. Bluetooth DUN and PAN modes are supported via
community software. Advanced WLAN security, like different kinds of EAP (EAP-
PEAP, EAP-MSCHAPv2, etc.), different ciphers (RSA, 3DES, SHA, etc.) and
"authority certificates" (algorithms like X.509, SHA1RSA) are all supported. With
Bluetooth DUN, tethering is supported.

[AUDIO]: The built-in stereo speakers are loud but lacking in bass. They make an
acceptable portable radio. Bluetooth headphones work great. The audio quality of the
3.5mm jack is loud and slightly more "forward" sounding than the more "laid back" or
"polite" sound of other smartphones but without the response peaks, valleys or ripples
that so often mar the critical 1,000 Hz. region. Audio sounds more "present" than with
similar devices. The included earphones have a somewhat dirty signal. Higher
frequencies hiss, losing details and the brightness and dynamic volume are shallow,
lacking weight and depth. The earphone wires feel like they will become loose over
time. Click here to save $249 on Your New Nokia N900!

Application Software

[SCREEN ORIENTATION]: Most software and the main N900 interface only work in
landscape mode. The only time it can be switched to portrait mode is when making or
receive a phone call. Rotating the phone into portrait mode opens the keypad
automatically after a delay. As of PR 1.2, portrait mode is available for the web
browser by default. Emails, Contacts, App and File mangers and PDF reader now all
support portrait mode but you must press Ctrl+Shift+R every time to enable it. Third
party software orientation is at the discretion of the software developer.

[WEB BROWSER]: The overall web experience is amazing, perhaps the best
available in a device this size. The web browser is MicroB and supports full Adobe
Flash, video and applets providing a very fast, full web experience. Tapping zooms
and centers where tapped. Making a circular motion zooms gradually. Moving a finger
off the left of the screen produces a mouse arrow for websites requiring this operation.

Nokia N900 Review – Does it Deliver?                                    Copyright 2010
The Flash version is 9.4. Flash 10.1 was originally planned for Q1 2010 but the Head
of Maemo Operations, Mountain View has stated that it is never coming to the N900,
only to future MeeGo devices. Many Flash games play fine but the keyboard can be
iffy. Unfortunately some Flash applets still run after closing the browser and drain the
battery. The simplest fix is to reboot. MicroB is based on Firefox which uses Gecko,
Webkit browsers are also freely available.

[COPY AND PASTE]: Copy and pasting text is allowed in all menus and textboxes.

[SOCIAL NETWORKING]: The N900 comes with utilities for using Twitter and
Facebook. Social presence is a global service, once connected, the contact list is
updated realtime, there's no need to launch 'Contacts'. IM support for MSN, ICQ, AIM,
Yahoo, IRC and more is also available through Pidgin. Video calls can be made over
IP using Google Talk. Email supports Mail for Exchange (including 2003) and
IMAP/POP3. Nokia/Ovi Messaging provides PUSH email for up to 10 simultaneous
accounts, including webmail and keeps the accounts separate. Skype calls can be
made using 3G.

[PRODUCTIVITY]: Included is Documents To Go, a suite of apps for opening MS
Office documents. There's a free version that only opens Office files and a pay version
for creating and editing Office files. Full versions of AbiWord and OpenOffice are freely
available as well.

[MEDIA PLAYER]: The media player works but can be picky. Included are some 720p
trailers showing the N900's speed and amazing screen. Codec support is unclear and
experimenting with "mostly supported" media can be a stuttering mess. The media
player is okay for music but could use some polishing, the lack of an equalizer was a
surprising omission for example. There are also free, community media players like
VLC available.

[PHONE]: As a phone the N900 has some significant shortcomings. By default there
are only two modifiable profiles, however new profiles may be created with a free tool
called Tweakr. The rotational start of the phone interface takes several moments.
There's no way to filter or organize the call log and call duration is not recorded.
There's no speed dial functionality and it's not possible to send an SMS or access
device settings from the phone screen. The poor proximity sensor opens random
screens while in your pocket and there's no per-contact ringtone support. On the
positive side, the call quality and signal strength are excellent. MMS is not officially
supported but community software fMMS allows its functionality. Click here to save
$249 on Your New Nokia N900!

Operating System

Nokia N900 Review – Does it Deliver?                                     Copyright 2010
[INTERFACE]: The OS interface is polished and fluid. You can sweep 360 degrees
through four desktops filled with your choice of widgets, shortcuts and wallpaper,
easily zooming in and out of open applications. The interface is usually quick and
responsive but can stutter. When a dialog opens, the application behind it blurs like
frosted glass. All context menus are pop-ups dismissed by pressing outside the menu.

[MULTITASKING]: Multitasking is phenomenal. You can run every application with no
sign of slowing. Taskswitching is thumbnailed showing what each program is. The
active program's window shrinks so all open programs are visible at once. Then any
window may be closed using the X in the corner in any order.

[TECHNICAL]: The default N900 OS is Maemo 5. Maemo was started in 2005 by
Nokia being based on Debian. Future Maemo releases will be merged with Intel's
Moblin OS creating MeeGo. Nokia originally planned to support the N900 with MeeGo
but since has stated that only a Community Supported release will be available for the
N900. Maemo supports over-the-air updates and all software is available freely
through user defined software repositories. Apt-get also works great. With Maemo
there is no app approval process. The platform is open and free, promoting a strong
Maemo community and developer network. The current amount of Maemo software is
quite limited compared to other platforms, but growing, especially due to the Ovi store
offering commercial software. Maemo 5 has some backwards compatibility with
Maemo 4.1 software, but it is fairly limited. As of June 2010 there are about 330
Maemo applications available, although judging the total amount of Maemo software is
difficult as it does not have a single distribution channel.

[ALTERNATIVES]: The N900 does not require signed kernels which means
alternative systems may be installed like Mer, Nitdroid, MeeGo and Debian. Images
may be booted on a card or flash memory, like multi-booting on a desktop.

[SHELL]: Out of box there is a true linux shell with root access. You can install sshfs
and mount shares from a server or even insert a kernel module. Characters missing
from the keyboard are accessed with Fn+Ctrl. BusyBox with nano and vi are bundled
by default.

[DEVELOPMENT]: Maemo offers a POSIX environment allowing use as a UNIX
system with native software. Useful for *NIX developers since it opens a lot of
possibilities. There are a number of different languages available, and more to come.
GUI development is done using standard Linux toolkits GTK and Qt. Python is also
available. The N900's implementation of Python is not dumbed down, GUIs can be
created with popular toolkits like PyGTK and PyQt. Important since there are many
developers that already know how to write N900 applications, even if they don't realize
it yet. Click here to save $249 on Your New Nokia N900!

Nokia N900 Review – Does it Deliver?                                    Copyright 2010
Drawbacks & Issues

No official MMS support. Doesn't work on AT&T's 3G network. No magnetometer
(digital compass). No 802.11n. No handwriting recognition. No USB-OTG. No voice
dialing. No global kinetic scrolling. Lack of multi-touch. Lack of portrait mode software.
Scrolling can be jerky. Kickstand is wobbly with only one position. Mail for Exchange
doesn't support Google's Active Sync. Lack of software, especially commercial due to
the new OS. Various minor GUI issues that need refining. Various other issues not
directly related to the device like spotty Ovi/Nokia support, Nokia launch issues and
quality control issues.


People are saying the N900 is not a Nokia Internet Tablet anymore and it's just a
smartphone but when you use it, you really feel like you're using a device that is more
than a smartphone. If you understand the limitations, as mentioned above, can deal
with the growing pains as software matures, and value the advantages the N900
offers, you'll be really happy with the N900. Click here to save $249 on Your New
Nokia N900!

Nokia N900 Review – Does it Deliver?                                      Copyright 2010

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