Nokia N900 Preview

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Introduction and Design
This is a global GSM device, it can be used with T-Mobile's 1700MHz 3G band, and with AT&T without 3G.

Introduction:


It all started with the Nokia N770, forefather of the manufacturer´s lineup of internet tablets, a little over 4 years ago. The N800 and N810 followed suit and the latest installment to the series, the Nokia N900 got announced recently. Compared to its older siblings, it brings major improvements to the table, the most significant one being the GSM module that will allow people to make calls over cellular networks. Moreover, the handset is equipped with a full QWERTY keyboard, runs the latest version of the Linux-based operating system called Maemo and sports most impressive hardware, characteristic of high-end devices. What you´ve got under the hood is 600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor (iPhone 3GS, Pal Pre), OpenGL ES 2.0 support, 32GB built-in memory, microSD card slot, 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM transmitter, A-GPS and Xvid playback capabilities. Not bad at all, is it? About to preview a prototype, we would rather withhold our comments and simply show you what the latest Nokia internet tablet delivers.

Design:

The device looks reallyaustere and sports a brand new overall design alongside of the previous tablets of the manufacturer. The Nokia N900 is also lighter and more compact than the latter. Holding it in your hand, it feels bulky and solid. What tips you off this is not a cell phone, but an internet tablet is the lack of buttons on the front side and what you have there is a 3.5-inch display (the N810 sports a larger, 4-13-ich one) with native resolution of 800x480 pixels. It utilizes resistive technology and the prototype sports such a great touch sensitivity that we actually don´t even have the feeling we physically press against the display. The earpiece, video call camera, light sensitivity and proximity sensors and LED indicator are all above the screen.



You can compare the Nokia N900 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

As we mentioned already, the N900 is equipped with full QWERTY keyboard. Its relatively large keys are arranged in 3 rows (used to be 4 on the N810), although we think there is not enough room between them, so we are not convinced the keyboard will prove to be really handy to type away on.


On either side of the Nokia N900 you have volume rocker, power on/off button (also used to switch between profiles), camera shutter, infrared port, stereo loudspeakers, screen lock/unlock slider, stylus and microUSB port. The 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss Tessar optics and the double LED flash areon the back, bothcovered with a small, sliding flap. The stand to prop up the devicelocated next to the camera module (just like on the N86 8MP) makes for an interesting extra feature, although it’sof much smaller size than the jamb the N800 and N810 are equipped with. Now, that´s enough with the icing, let’s take a closer look at the stuffing.



Nokia N900 360 Degrees View:



Maemo 5:

First, we would like to tell you more about Maemo. This is a Linux-based operating system that powersall Nokia internettablets. The N900 runs the latest version that brings forth many improvementsover the previous generations. Despite the presence of a built-in accelerometer, the interface switches its orientation to portrait only when you use the telephone functions and remains in landscape mode in all other cases. Nokia promises Ovi Store is coming to Maemo soon, so we should be able to see a growing number of applications hit the marketplace and provide richer OS functionality.

Compared to its previous version, the home screennow consists of 4 separate pages, much like on Android-powered devices. They all feature their own wallpapers, although you can turn off three of them if you don’t like the idea. They all host widgets and shortcuts to phone contacts, applications or web pages and you arrange them to your liking. This actually means you can have quick access to all major functions of the device and never open the main menu. The options relating to all applications and submenus are called up by pressing the upper middle part of the screen.




Multitasking:

One of the functions of the N900 that Nokia just keeps talking about is multitasking. A single press of the button in the upper left corner shows all applications running in the background (and if none are active, the main menu is called up instead). They get visualized as a grid of images that change in real time. We have to admit that switching between them is as easy as ABC and we are extremely impressed by the multitasking function of Maemo 5.

Internet:

Now, this is what the Nokia N900 is all about. The device is equipped with own Maemo browser based the Mozilla technology and sports full Adobe Flash 9.4 support.



Web pages get visualized just like they do on normal computer screens and are automatically downsized to fit the display. When this happens, you will typically need to zoomin to be able to read the text more easily. This can be done by double-tapping the screen or making a circular motion clockwise, with a counter-clockwise gesture assigned to the zoom out function. This reminds of the HTC Touch, because you make the same motions to do the same things when browsing pictures only. The Flash support is smashing – all Flash elements get properly visualized without a hitch, even the video players on websites like Viddler.com and Vimeo.com, games on Facebook (say Mafia Wars), our own 360-degree views and we must say the latter are heavy indeed. We are most impressed, so fingers crossed the retail N900 will perform just as well and why not even better. Well done, Nokia! We wish all smartphones had such a browser…



Connectivity:

We have already mentioned the Nokia N900 sports a built-in GSM module that will allow you to use the device as a normal cell phone. This is good news indeed. On one hand, carriers will just love to sell you one on a contract and at a subsidized price. On the other, the device will let you take full advantage of the services that your telecom offers. Moreover, you get VoIP functionality and the interface itself sports built-in support for Skype, GoogleTalk, Ovi, Jabber and SIP. You just need to enter your username and password and the N900 will connect to the services automatically, adding your online buddies to the phone contacts. Once you´ve done that, you will be able to see the online status of your friends in the phonebook.



If you decide to give someone a ring and once the virtual keyboard has popped up on screen, you will be able to choose whether to use a VoIP service or make the call over the cellular network. Similarly to the Nokia N97, you accept and reject calls by using one of the two screen sliders.



E-mail client:

Setting up your accounts in the email client of the N900 is relatively easy, because the whole process is automated, at least in case you´ve signed up with a major service provider. To make up for it, once you´re registered with Nokia Messaging and entered the details about your email accounts (up to 10), the N900 will automatically set everything up for you. When you finish composing a message, you can choose the account to send it from. This comes in really handy, because you don’t have to switch between mailboxes. Finally, the application settings allow you to set automated retrieval times for each email account.




Camera and Multimedia:

The Nokia N900 sports a 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss Tessar optics and double LED flash. Its interface is completely different from the one that the previous Maemo OS generation came with. The changes are definitely step in the right direction – everything looks well optimized for bare fingers and the number of available options is not overwhelming. Aside from pictures, you can, of course, capture videos as well. Please, take a look at the test pictures and clips, just keep in mind thatthey have been taken witha prototype, so don’t jump to conclusions.


Nokia N900 sample video at 848x480 pixels resolution





Come to multimedia capabilities, the N900 does have what it takes to grip our undivided attention. Certainly, the most appealing feature is the Xvid support that basically means you can download content from the Internet and get down to watching it right away, i.e. you don’t have to transfer the file to a computer and convert it. This is not all, though. We just can´t help it and will let the cat out of the bag – the N900 plays DivX videos with resolution width of 800 pixels without a hitch. We just hope we see the retail units perform equally well or even better.



The new internet tablet allows listening to music using the built-in Multimedia Player. The app comes with a quite nicely looking interface and visualizes album art properly. Of course, you have the option to create your own playlists, filter tracks by artist and genre or take a look at a list of all available content. The audio controls pop up on screen when you start a track, along with the relevant album art (if present), while pressing the picture itself gets you to the track list.



Aside from music, you can use the Multimedia Player to watch videos and listen to internet radio stations (streams). Moreover, it allows playback of multimedia content, shared over Wi-Fi networks. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the latter to work, so we will tell you more about the feature the minute we get our hands on a retail unit.



Expectations:

We are truly impressed by both the Nokia N900 and Maemo 5, so we just cannot wait to get a hold of a final unit. With its great functionality, the latest internet tablet of the manufacturer does stand a chance of winning over many people and we can confidently say theinternet browser is the best of its kind we have ever seen on a mobile device. Using the operating system, even on a prototype, is enjoyable and the multimedia functionality of the tablet is more than enough to please even the most exacting people. Don’t forget the Nokia N900 allows normal calls over cellular networks, which makes the device look even more appealing.

If Nokia continues to release new devices running Maemo (including normal cell phones), the operating system has the potential to gain smashing popularity, provided enough third-party applications roll out. We completely agree with what a fellow cell phone reporter said at Nokia World 2009 – “Maemo 5 iswhat Symbian should have been”. Can the tablet fully replace a normal cell phone? Well, we will tell you that when we´ve had the chance to review a retail unit of the Nokia N900.

Nokia N900 Video Preview:





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