Nokia N97 Review

Introduction and Design
This is a global GSM phone. It can be used with AT&T and T-Mobile USA. The American version supports AT&T's 3G network.


The Nokia N97 is the flagship device of the manufacturer at the moment and Nokia vaunts it as being not only a top of the range device, but a “mobile computer” as well. This certainly gets things rather too far, since computers should be able to cope with wide variety of tasks these days. The Nokia N97 sports quite nice specifications indeed like 3.5-inch touch sensitive screen, full QWERTY keyboard, Wi-Fi, 3G (HSDPA 3.6Mbps), A-GPS, 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss Tessar optics, 434 MHz ARM11 processor and 32GB built-in memory plus support for up to 16GB microSDHC expansion cards. Will all this be enough for the Nokia N97 to win over its rivals? This is what we are going to find out on the next several pages. Before we get down to the thorough review, let´s first see what is inside the black box, made all from recycled materials (it´s nothing to do with the one on airplanes):

  • Nokia N97
  • Stylus
  • Charger
  • microUSB adapter to other Nokia chargers
  • microUSB cable
  • 3.5mm jack earphones with wired remote
  • Small duster
  • Software DVD with Nokia Ovi Suite
  • User guide

There is no dedicated stylus slot on the phone as on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic and the thingy is attachable to the phone body with a small strap that has metal cover which looks pretty cool. The phone case is missing from our set, but we know there is one sold along with the N97 on other markets. You better enquire about this at your local dealership.


The minute you get the Nokia N97 into your hands you will find out you are dealing with a heavy player. There is nothing amusing about weight such as 5.29 oz (150 g) and the N97 strikes as bigger, yet better made device alongside of the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. As a whole, it looks pretty stylish – our unit came in white color, but a classical black variety is also on offer. We don’t really like that the phone is predominantly made of plastic parts, rather than metal, so it simply doesn’t create all the same luxurious feel, like the one you get while holding in hand any top of the range makes belonging to the business lineup of the same manufacturer, say the Nokia E66, E71 and E75. The phone doesn’t feel cheap of anything, it´s just we expected much more than a simple, chrome plated edging that is slightly protruding over the screen. It does help towards easier dragging of the scroll throughout the phone menus though.

You can compare the Nokia N97 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The Nokia N97 sports a 3.5-inch display with 16 mln colors and resolution of 360x640 pixels. Sounds familiar? These are the very same screen specs as the ones on devices like the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Samsung OMNIA HD i8910 and Sony Ericsson Satio. Unlike the Samsung´s handset, the screen of the Nokia N97 is TFT and not AMOLED. The main difference between the two technologies is that despite the fact they both deliver 16 mln color support, colors are much more saturated and pleasing on phones utilizing the second. It doesn’t really come as a surprise that the Samsung OMNIA HD i8910 offers much better image quality in artificial lighting conditions. Situation is reversed when you take them in direct sunlight though. Similarly to other makes of the same manufacturer, the Nokia N97 remains fully usable even if colors tend to get slightly dim, while the screen of the OMNIA HD turns itself into an almost perfect mirror. The Finnish company flagship just loves fingerprints, although they are not that irritating, since screen visibility is not affected. Moreover, we need to point out the resistive touch screen of the Nokia N97 offers better sensitivity than the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, i.e. causes no troubles.

Proximity sensor is clearly visible on the left of the earpiece and both video call camera and light sensor that controls screen brightness are on its right.

The Nokia team seems to have made a definite step towards modern ideas with regard to the buttons below the screen. Both send and end keys are touch sensitive and feature resistive technology. We didn’t encounter any issues using them, meaning there were no unregistered touches and every time they were pressed they gave slight vibration feedback. They are properly lit and easy to find in the dark. There is an ordinary looking button along with them that allows access to the main menu and task manager. It is also easy to use plus its white backlighting acts as indicator that notifies you of missed events.

The Nokia N97 is a side slider and to open the keyboard you need to … slide it. The mechanism is pretty robust and opens sharply, but closes smoothly and slowly. While open, display remains tilted at an angle of 40-45 degrees towards the keyboard, but unlike on the HTC Touch Pro2, this is default position and cannot be changed.

Buttons on the full QWERTY keyboard of the Nokia N97 are arranged in three rows and you also have a D-pad. This means you will have to get used to the position of all special symbols and the Space key in particular. This is an overused one when it comes to text entry, no matter the type of message! We definitely don’t like it being located on the right hand side of the keyboard, rather than in the middle. We were pretty prejudiced when we started our tests, but eventually came to think it is not that bad. All buttons feel discernible when pressed and are large enough for comfy use even by people with thicker fingers. Keyboard is not as good as the one on the HTC Touch Pro2 and even the Nokia E75 sports a better one. Still, the N97 fares fairly. We need to congratulate Nokia they have finally moved all letters on the lower most row with one position to your right, so we at last have the Z where it is on similar devices – below the letter S and not the A.

Stereo speakers are at both ends of the left hand side of the device, with both microUSB slot (equipped with LED indicator) and slider button to lock/unlock the screen in between. The latter, as well as camera shutter are really easy to use. This, unfortunately, doesn’t hold true for the volume rocker. Well, situation is not that bad with the button that turns volume up, because it has enough travel, the thing is you will have to apply much more force to turn sound down. The 3.5 mm earphone jack is on top of the device, so you won´t need to swivel the N97 in weird positions while carrying it around into the pocket of your trousers or jeans. Power button is on one of the sides and feels comfy to press despite it doesn’t have much travel. The only thing on the bottom side is a lonely gap, where the stylus strap is attached - but you can hook any knick-knack that is to your own taste. 

A panel takes up the entire back side and its lower part is slightly bulging not by chance. It prevents the phone from getting tilted to one side when placed onto flat surface, say table or desk. Our only gripe is the back cover is quite hard to remove and you really need to exert yourself to get to the microSD expansion slot.

As we mentioned at the beginning, the Nokia N97 sports 5-megapixel autofocus camera with Carl Zeiss Tessar optics and double LED flash. Its plastic cover slides pleasantly and clears collected dust particles while moving. Quite nice indeed! We are telling you more about the camera performance later on. Now, let´s get down to the OS interface of the Nokia N97.

Nokia N97 360 Degrees View:

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