Nokia N97 mini Review

3
Introduction and Design
This is a global GSM phone, it can be used with AT&T's 1900MHz 3G band, and with T-Mobile without 3G.

Introduction and Design:


Shortly after Nokia released their flagship device for 2009, the N97, speculations about a more compact version of it began to circulate. All information about it seemed unreliable at first, but the rumors materialized into a very real device at Nokia World 2009, called the Nokia N97 mini. As expected, it has more compact size, weight and smaller display than the N97, but its hardware is almost the same – 434MHz ARM11 processor, GPS, Wi-Fi and 3G functionality and the only hardware feature that´s been slashed on is the amount of built-in memory, from 32GB to 8GB.

What´s in the box?

The Nokia N97 mini
Charger
MicroUSB cable
Stereo headset
User guide
Software CD



The design of the N97 mini is, however, more appealing and dainty than the N97. Moreover, the smaller version of the handset is made from materials with better quality and feels much more pleasing in your hand. To top it off, it´s more compact and carrying it about in the pocket of your trousers or jeans is by no means uncomfortable.



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

The more compact size has led to a smaller display. It measures 3.2 inches (the N97 comes with a 3.5-inch one), but is also resistive, with native resolution of 360x640 pixels and supports 16 mln colors. It delivers pleasing images with saturated colors in artificial lighting conditions, but is rather mediocre in direct sunlight. Its sensitivity is normal and if you press harder, you will be able to see the wavy effect that can be observed when you exert pressure to a normal LCD monitor – not exactly an eyesore, but not a splendid view either.

The proximity and light sensitivity sensors are above the screen again, along with the video call camera. The send and end keys are resistive and have retained the overall styling of the N97. We didn’t have any problems using them, because we didn’t encounter unregistered presses, the tactile feedback was pronounced all the time and they are properly backlit in the dark. Aside from them, there is a rather ordinary button that provides access to the main menu and task manager. It´s easy to use and its white backlighting acts as a blinking indicator for missed events.



The slider mechanism performs similarly to the one the N97 is equipped with. It´s quite tight and opens sharply, but closes slowly and smoothly. One of the differences to the N97 is the lack of D-Pad built into the QWERTY keyboard and we like that. Despite the smaller dimensions of the handset, the size of the keys remains the same and the space in between is more than enough to prevent erroneous pressing of two buttons at the same time. The keyboard allows for fast and error-free text entry, despite the the fact that keys lack enough travel and doesn’t feel pleasing to use. Anyway, we still like it better than the keyboard of Nokia´s flagship.




There are no changes on either side of the handset alongside of the N97 and the only difference is that the volume rocker feels handier to press.



The back is similar to the N97 – the lower part is slightly raised and the phone doesn’t tilt to its side when set on flat surface. Unfortunately, the 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss Tessar optics and double LED flash seem to have parted ways with the sliding cover that would have protected it against scratches.



Nokia N97 mini 360 Degrees View:




Interface:

Just like all other smartphones of the manufacturer equipped with touch sensitive screens, the Nokia N97 mini is based on Symbian S60 5th Edition. There are no differences in the functionality, especially after the latest software update for the N97 (version 2.0). As before, the home screen hosts up to six of widgets, but the manufacturer has added several to those we know from previous models.



Kinetic scrolling is now available everywhere in the interface and we quite like that. We are not going into details here, because we have already taken a closer look at the interface in our review of the Nokia N97. All told, the N97 mini offers the same functionality as the flagship model of the manufacturer.

GPS:

The Nokia N97 mini, similarly to the other handsets of the manufacturer equipped with GPS comes with Nokia navigational software. With the N97 mini you get the latest version 3.0 of Ovi Maps (the new name of Nokia Maps). The software suite offers quite a few options like several map visualization modes, different routes for drivers and walkers, a list of interesting places around you, digital compass etc. Unfortunately, just like Ovi Maps on the Nokia N900, this edition is sluggish and you will encounter annoying lagging when scrolling maps, zooming in and out on things or opening the options menu.



The speed at which the built-in GPS finds your location is quite good indeed. Using the A-GPS (requires active internet connection) we got our location pinpointed in about 20 seconds after hardware restart and in 5 seconds after software one.

Camera and multimedia:

The N97 mini is equipped with 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss Tessar optics and double LED flash. Its interface is... identical to those of the N97 and 5800 XpressMusic. As a whole, it´s slightly uncomfortable when you set options and they are many – you can take a pick from 8 scenes, various shooting modes, 4 color effects, white balance, exposure, ISO sensitivity, contrast, sharpness and sequential image mode. Moreover, you have the option to share content on Ovi and Vox. In terms of quality, snapshots are slightly better than those taken with the N97, but aren’t anything striking and won´t wow you. Their details are average and colors are proper more often than not, although sometimes they appear unreal and burnout. Pictures taken in artificial lighting conditions are acceptable and as a whole, the double LED flash performs inadequately.








As their names suggest, the Music and Videos&TV submenus allow for browsing of your audio and video tracks. The former also provides access to the online audio store of the manufacturer as well as the FM radio interface.

We know well the audio player from previous Nokia models and the only novelty here is the increased amount of information that gets visualized when you browse your tracks. The Nokia N97 mini comes boxed with stereo headset equipped with buttons to control the audio functions. As a whole, we like the headset, because it offers proper noise isolation and audio playback quality is above average. We think, however, that the pair would appeal to people who like thumping, rich bass frequencies, because the trebles remain faded in the background. Thanks to the 3.5mm jack, you can always give another earphone set a shot.



The Nokia N97 mini allowed us to watch MPEG-4 files with maximum resolution of 360x640 pixels, bitrate of 1,000 Kbps and 30 frames per second. Their image quality is good, colors are saturated, but you will sometime notice artefacts. You can also find Real Player, that is the standard app for this operating system, in the Applications submenu. We cannot recommend it for video playback really, unless you´re up to watching streaming video, because it delivers worse image quality and colors are significantly thinner. The Nokia N97 mini supports TV-out as well. Come to multimedia capabilities, however, we would prefer the Samsung OMNIA HD – with its native HD, DivX and Xvid video support, it´s superior to the Nokia N97 mini.





Performance and Conclusion:

In terms of operational speed and system stability, the Nokia N97 mini performs better than the N97. The phone doesn’t freeze or restart for no reason, but lags and responds to commands just as sluggishly.

The smaller N97, however, is a much better at phone calls and the in-call quality it offers is superior to what is elder sibling delivers. Sound is loud and clear, even if voices tend to get slightly monotonous and sharp at times. The N97 mini is simply put, head and shoulders over the N97 with this respect.

Ultimately, we like the Nokia N97 mini much better than its physically bigger brother. It comes with more appealing design, is made of materials with better quality and delivers improved in-call quality and operating system stability. Unfortunately, the N97 mini retains several of the shortcomings of the N97, like sluggish operational speed and limited video codec support. At the time of this review, the price of the N97 mini is slightly higher than what you would need to shell out for the N97, but this doesn’t change our opinion that the Mini is a better choice than Nokia´s flagship handset.

Frankly, just like with the N97, we believe there are better alternatives on the market, some of them are even cheaper and we mean the Samsung OMNIA HD i8910 – it lacks QWERTY keyboard, but comes with larger screen, the same functionality and superior video capabilities. Other viable options are Motorola´s first Android-based handset, the DEXT/CLIQ as well as the Nokia E75 that lacks touch sensitive screen, but looks just as appealing and compact and has extremely good QWERTY keyboard.

Nokia N97 mini Video Review:





Pros

  • Good build quality
  • Compact size
  • Good in-call quality
  • Fast text entry with the QWERTY keyboard

Cons

  • Slow operational speed
  • Nothing new about the interface
  • Limited video codec support

PhoneArena Rating:

8.0

User Rating:

7.9
14 Reviews

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