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Nokia N97 Review

Nokia N97 7

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Nokia N97 Review
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.

Nokia N97 Review
Nokia N97 Review
Nokia N97 Review

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.

Nokia N97 Review
Nokia N97 Review
Nokia N97 Review

Nokia N97 Review
Nokia N97 Review
Nokia N97 Review

Nokia N97 Review

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

Nokia N97 Review
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.

Nokia N97 Review
Nokia N97 Review

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.

The QWERTY keyboard of the Nokia N97 is not as good as the one in HTC Touch Pro2 - Nokia N97 Review
The QWERTY keyboard of the Nokia N97 is not as good as the one in HTC Touch Pro2 - Nokia N97 Review
The QWERTY keyboard of the Nokia N97 is not as good as the one in HTC Touch Pro2 - Nokia N97 Review

The QWERTY keyboard of the Nokia N97 is not as good as the one in HTC Touch Pro2

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. 

Left side - Nokia N97 Review
Nokia N97 Review
Right side - Nokia N97 Review
Top side - Nokia N97 Review

Left side


Right side

Top side

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 sports a 5-megapixel autofocus camera - Nokia N97 Review
Nokia N97 sports a 5-megapixel autofocus camera - Nokia N97 Review
Nokia N97 sports a 5-megapixel autofocus camera - Nokia N97 Review

Nokia N97 sports a 5-megapixel autofocus camera

Nokia N97 360 Degrees View:

  • Options

posted on 20 Oct 2010, 01:55

1. Kiltlifter (Posts: 742; Member since: 11 Dec 2008)

How is .11 inches thicker than the iPhone too bulky, yet the iPhone always gets a 10 from the "style section"

posted on 12 Jun 2009, 21:41

2. rrej (Posts: 1; Member since: 12 Jun 2009)

Resistive touchscreen and probably with a hefty price tag, it's not reasonable to buy one especially this time of crisis. My .02 cents....

posted on 13 Jun 2009, 00:40

3. MTLance (unregistered)

ROFL Nokia can create a good X5800 but failed on N97, maybe the N series department is a major fail. Still if I want a high end smartphone I rather stick with Apple, Pre or HTC Rosie instead of this.

posted on 13 Jun 2009, 09:36 1

4. eddiecoaster (Posts: 3; Member since: 20 May 2009)

The N97 looks like great hardware with even better features. However the interface looks so dated.

posted on 13 Jun 2009, 10:17

5. Talhamid (Posts: 56; Member since: 13 Jun 2009)

A thoroughly biased, uneducated review. The reviewer seems to have NO FREAKING IDEA about Symbian, S60 or the sheer range of apps available for each. The review fails to fully appreciate the multimedia capabilities. It seems HTC Touch Pro 2, with MORE niggles including worse call quality than N97, WinMo, even bigger size, worse camera, and slower speed, can get a 9 but this multimedia monster was destined for a 7. I know S60 can look dated, but is it a coincidence that flagship devices from Nokia, Samsung and S-E all have the same OS and interface? Did it ever occur to anyone that there might be some merit to Symbian after all? I think most US sites should stop covering anything other than Iphone or WinMo devices. They simply don't know or care enough about other OS's to cover them.

posted on 13 Jun 2009, 10:51

6. McMillian (Posts: 29; Member since: 07 Apr 2009)

Phone Arena's final review score's are completely irrelevant to their scores in each individual categories. If you add up the N97's individual scores in each category the average came out to be 8.5, but Phone Arena gave it an overall score of 7??? does that make any since? And if you check out the Palm Pre review they gave it an overall rating of 9.9, but if you add up the individual scores in each category yourself the score really comes out to be 8.9??? obviously Phone Arena is bias when it comes to its reviews and chooses favorites based on manufactures and OS.

posted on 13 Jun 2009, 12:33

9. Talhamid (Posts: 56; Member since: 13 Jun 2009)

Thats what I said, thanks for backing that up with numbers. Moreover, as I said, PhoneArena seems completely unaware of the vast Symbian ecosystem that is available on the net.

posted on 14 Jun 2009, 13:33

10. drewsky (Posts: 147; Member since: 04 Jan 2009)

Hey Yall are right, I hadn't realized that. I think most people particularly in the U.S. aren't famaliar with the Symbian OS. Since the OS isn't used as much as WinMo. Phonearena gave the Pre 9.9, and the Omnia i8910 a 9? I know its early, but I SERIOUSLY doubt the Pre is better than the Omnia HD(i8910).

posted on 06 Jul 2009, 21:03

18. chris4chelsea (Posts: 2; Member since: 06 Jul 2009)

I totally agree with Talhamid. I have used most OS except the latest andriod, Palm Pre which i m quite interested in exploring. Previously, I had iphone, WinMo, Symbian (nokia & ericsson). I currently use a N97. Honestly speaking, iPhone has the best OS but after several versions, the interface is pretty much exactly the same and the camera is nowhere near as good as the N97. Therefore, I chose not to wait for the 3GS. WinMo is the worst OS of all, super slow, very buggy, worst camera/photo quality, super boring interface, messaging feature sucks big time... etc Omnia HD is nice but its more expensive than the N97, besides who would want to watch a movie on his/her mobile...

posted on 13 Jun 2009, 11:28

7. Andrewtst (Posts: 677; Member since: 25 Jan 2009)

Another failure from Nokia. Won't even think of it at all. I am still waiting Samsung i8910HD appear in my country. :-)

posted on 13 Jun 2009, 12:31

8. Talhamid (Posts: 56; Member since: 13 Jun 2009)

Andrew: it is not wise to decide success or failure on this site's reviews. Try the phone yourself, or at the very least, check out reviews of mobile-review.com or allaboutsymbian first. By the way Omnia HD appears more attractive to me too, just so you know I am not a blind Nokia fan. But I am still uncertain about how Omnia will match the email and syncing features offered by Nokia s60 phones, not to m mention facilities like backup, ovi sync etc.

posted on 15 Jun 2009, 03:35

11. Andrewtst (Posts: 677; Member since: 25 Jan 2009)

Try already, I won't judge without trying. I often go test phone once it out. He He.. and I check all phone site I knew everyday... Omnia HD i never try yet, not available yet in my country - Malaysia. But from internet review and some video show at youtube, it look impressive than Nokia N97. For sync issue, I not sure about that because that is not my main point of consideration.

posted on 05 Jul 2009, 04:31

17. 13commander (Posts: 1; Member since: 05 Jul 2009)

I totally agree with you i think phone arena doesn't like Nokia n97 or maybe they don't know how to calculate the score. ROFL

posted on 15 Jun 2009, 11:37

12. Diego! (Posts: 672; Member since: 15 Jun 2009)

I think the camera is not that good. But I wanted to ask where the outdoors pictures were taken from? The place looks amazing!

posted on 17 Jun 2009, 11:04

13. tarun.chatwith (Posts: 1; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)

i checked out n97 at pune today,,it's quite a nice set but what about the fact that at 128mb ram & with slow processor,single arm11 cpu with 434mhz compared to 369 of that of 5800!!! nokia is fooling people with twice the price but the same slow interface,,, can someone who has used it can clarify that will n97 will also be slower also i've been waiting for omnia hd i8910 to be released in india ,which has much greater processor at A8,800MHZ BUT samsung is not reliable,,don't know which way to go!!!!!!however i'm using 5800 currently which is working pretty well considering it's a music oriented phone!!!!! please can someone clarrify it since omnia is much better than n97 is what i feel

posted on 06 Jul 2009, 21:05

19. chris4chelsea (Posts: 2; Member since: 06 Jul 2009)

Agree i used samsung b4.. its not that reliable, and the finishing isnt that good compare to nokia phones. i m using the n97. its so far so good but i hope that the new firmware can fix some of the bugs

posted on 17 Jun 2009, 15:20

14. rumeo (Posts: 1; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)

Although I've not yet tried all these nice phones that are mentioned at the end, I think the N97 is the best over all. Just the Homescreen with online update is it worth to buy one, because that's what I missed for years. No fiddling in the menus to search today's activities, just have a look at the screen and you know what you wanted to know. I real innovation with great potential without comparison. GSM: no word about the compass, OVI maps is simply the MUST have application that helps you to find any place with a minimum of data traffic. And sorry, it's free guys. The authors give the HTC better notes. Maybe readhttp://www.allaboutsymbian.com/features/item/Head_to_Head_The_Nokia_N97_and_HTC_Touch_Pro_2.php to see another opinion. Palm pre is nice and innovative but no Video ?? Still a 9, are you kidding ? Well to have started with CDMA instead of GSM means it was made for the US. If it finally arrives to the rest of the world star will not shine anymore that bright. At the end, I regret to have registered to this page in order to write this comment.

posted on 22 Jun 2009, 15:35

15. behold--me (Posts: 650; Member since: 22 Jun 2009)

looks like a real nice phone but looks to bulky.........rather get the 5730 xpressmusic or whatever ALSO A SMARTPHONE AND MUSIC PLAYER WITH A SLIDE OUT QWERTY

posted on 12 Aug 2009, 21:11

21. DontHateOnS60 (Posts: 871; Member since: 20 Apr 2009)

You really need to feel the device. The N95 was bulky. This is nowhere near that and I can proudly say that since I actually own one. If you think this is bulky than I hate to say it but the 5730 is a half millimeter thinner, and you won't notice the difference so it's just as "bulky" as the N97. True, it doesn't have the camera that sticks out, but you don't even feel that when it's in your pocket. Trust me, this phone, for everything it has, is darn thin.

posted on 25 Jun 2009, 18:23

16. Edouardo (Posts: 1; Member since: 25 Jun 2009)

IPhone is dead... Nokia 97 is really better (right a little bit bulky... :( In India they sell it with a pouch...why Nokia does not provide one in USA & Europe ? I just found one, very nice :http://www.noreve.com/langue/en/product/Housse_cuir_Nokia_N97_Tradition.html but I am looking for a pouch... If you can help me...

posted on 25 Jul 2009, 09:20

20. Broder (Posts: 1; Member since: 25 Jul 2009)

The review itself isn´t bad, but the conclusion is biased and unreliable, the author of this review definetely doesn´t like the N97 and takes it the personal side. I´m sorry, but recomending the Touch Pro 2 and, even worse, the iPhone 3GS in place of the N97 is ridiculous. Nothing against the Touch Pro 2, it´s a great phone with very powerfull hardware, but stepping back for a camera/video quality I had 3 years ago is just NOT acceptable for someone like me, that´s always looking for the best all-arounder. They also mention the N97 has a serious problem by not having a on-screen virtual QWERTY keyboard. HELLO! IT HAS A REAL QWERTY KEYBOARD, in fact, the that´s what makes the N97 such an interesting device: good camera, good screen, good symbian smartphone power AND a QWERTY keyboard! No normal person in the world will ever want to loose their time with an awfull on-screen keyboard when you can type with the real, fast and responsive thing that´s a REAL keyboard. In fact, I can type faster with a alphanumeric T9 keyboard then with a on-screen QWERTY. I use alot of typing in my phone, so having a QWERTY is essential, in fact, I guess alot of people do, if not there weren´t be so many QWERTY handsets in the market... for all of those who don´t need so much typing performance in their mobile and can live with touch-only input, then the Omnia HD is certainly the best all-arounder. As I see things today, the only REAL alternative for the N97 is the OmniaPRO: the camera is just on par, the screen is even bigger and it punches a faster processor and more RAM, the only real downside of the OmniaPRO is the WinMO OS, and, forgive me, but WinMO just can´t beat Symbian reliabilty.

posted on 12 Aug 2009, 21:15

22. DontHateOnS60 (Posts: 871; Member since: 20 Apr 2009)

68.5/80 = 8.5625 That's wierd. This should have received an 8.5. Maybe you guys entered a number wrong when you averaged out all the scores. Surely you didn't take points away in the end just because. I mean, our scores are averaged when we write our own reviews and post them, so it would only make sense that your scores are averaged too.

posted on 19 Sep 2009, 06:47

23. lbredsten (Posts: 1; Member since: 19 Sep 2009)

I so much wish it was a good phone. I'm an otherwise loyal Nokia fan, and I have owned and used an N97 for over a month now. The feel of the hardware is what I expected. Genuinly sturdy. Nice. The software ruins the whole experience, and it is clear that the user testing has not been done properly. Bugs even prevent proper use of the primary function of a mobile phone: picking up when it rings, and placing calls. When it then comes to the nice-to-have widgets and apps, it only gets worse. My recommendation to potential buyers: Buy another phone, or wait, and look for the reviews, and observe when they have come to fix the bugs in the in the OS and native apps. Then re-consider buying.

posted on 19 Jan 2010, 02:21

24. Mellisa (unregistered)

This phone is Really amazing and i love this phone ...I got it from Puremobile.com and Love this phone

posted on 30 Apr 2010, 01:42

25. mobilephonehut (Posts: 1; Member since: 30 Apr 2010)

While the Nokia N97 is packed with features and offers the freedom of an unlocked phone, its clunky touch interface, sky-high price tag, and outdated operating system make it hard to recommend when there are better touch-screen smartphones on the market.

posted on 25 Aug 2010, 12:32

26. ContractsCompared.com (unregistered)

The Nokia N97 is still a great phone despite some newer models coming. It's packed full of features such as a qwerty keyboard and 3g. To find the best deals on Nokia N97 contracts check outhttp://www.contractscompared.com

posted on 25 Aug 2011, 21:02

32. buy provera (unregistered)

Really great article with very interesting information. You might want to follow up to this topic!?! 2012

posted on 18 Sep 2011, 06:21

33. kcay1021 (unregistered)

I'm loving this phone! It has everything that I wanted for a smartphone. The camera and video quality is good, web browsing is fast, and I love the qwerty keyboard. It's an efficient phone and I just love it!

posted on 26 Feb 2012, 10:45

34. LodeStar (Posts: 28; Member since: 26 Feb 2012)

my last phone from nokia, and i cursed it, wont buy any phone from nokia!!!!

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Nokia N97

Nokia N97

OS: Symbian 9.4
view full specs
Display3.5 inches, 360 x 640 pixels (210 ppi) TFT
Camera5 megapixels
Single core, 434 MHz, ARM11 processor
0.1 GB RAM
Size4.61 x 2.18 x 0.63 inches
(117.2 x 55.3 x 15.9 mm)
5.29 oz  (150 g)
Battery1500 mAh, 6.66 hours talk time

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