Nokia N800

I’ve been using the new NOKIA N800 for almost a month now. I’ll follow the lead of every other review and start out by saying the screen is beautiful. 800-by-480-pixels of goodness. Most reviews usually go on to knock the N800 for not including any PIM apps by default. You can add these through Maemo if you like, but I haven’t bothered. All of my personal information management is done via the web, so I am more interested in how well the N800 handles my favorite websites. GMail and 30 Boxes look and work great on the N800. This alone makes the N800 worthwhile to me. Having the full-blown versions of these sites in my pocket is great. I don’t have to make do with the crippled mobile versions that lack all of the nice AJAXy bits. Google Reader also looks damn good although “mark items as read when you scroll past them” and the auto loading of items when you hit the bottom of the list don’t always work.

As for making connections so that you can get at your web-based PIMs, the N800 has yet to fail connecting to a WiFi network. It has handled various WEP and WPA configurations just fine. The network finder/selector is simple and effective, and you can easily save networks so that the N800 can automatically connect next time around. The N800 has a little wizard for setting up mobile provider APN information so you can use your bluetooth enabled phone for network connectivity. I tried this with my BlackBerry 8700c but couldn’t get it working. No matter, EDGE is unbearably slow anyway and I bought this as a WiFi device.

For input, the N800 sports a touchscreen and a stylus. An on-screen thumb keyboard is also provided. These work well enough for small amounts of text entry, but if you’re answering a lot of mail you will want a bluetooth keyboard. Pairing the N800 with a Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard was a cinch. The Stowaway is nice, but it is fairly big even when folded and is something else to carry. Of the criticisms levelled against the N800, I think the lack of a slide-out keyboard of some sort is the biggest. Without a keyboard, the N800 is more of a strict consumer of web content with diminished ability to create. With a keyboard, you can more easily write those emails and blog posts.

The UI is well-organized and responsive. Application launching and task switching is straightforward. Flipping between browser windows is easy. No complaints here.

Application-wise I pretty much only use the web browser, but my experiments with the feed reader, Google Talk client, and Gizmo Project client were good. I’m not much of a talker (I prefer text), but the VoIP abilities of the N800 could be a big sell for some. There’s a Skype client on the way that could be especially cool if it supports video using the built-in webcam.

Overall, I think the N800 is great for what it is — a WiFi internet tablet. Having a built-in keyboard would be welcome, but the omission is not a deal breaker for me. That it runs an open desktop stack on top of Linux and can be extended with lots of free apps and utilities is a nice bonus. The N800 frees me from schlepping a laptop around when all I need is something to access the web. It is very handy and always in my pocket.