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Nokia N810 Review

With my Nokia 770 despatched swiftly on eBay, I could switch on my new N810 with an almost clear conscience. The N810 was an impulse upgrade following great first impressions. I think I was one of many, as the tablet ranked #2 in Wired’s December 2007 listing of “Top 10 Gifts We’d Love To Get”. Time to see what it can really do.

What’s in the box?

The slickness of the N810 makes an instant impact. The casing is silver with a brushed chrome color screen surround, buttons fit flush to surfaces and the backlit keyboard glides out smoothly. A built in stand allows the N810 to be used as a close range viewing device on a table. The box also contains a car dashboard holder for using the GPS navigation and a soft pouch. It all looks cool and feels well put together.

What’s it got?

Switching on, the screen is an immediate improvement over the 770. As with the better small devices on today’s market, it’s bright and colors are vivid. Howeve, unlike any ultra-portable computer I’ve used the screen also is genuinely sunlight readable. This is great for working on the move or using as an outdoor GPS navigation device. The idea of working with a laptop in the park is always appealing, but often hindered because nice days in parks tend to involve sunlight. Sunlight is not such a big problem for the N810.

The N810 boots-up in about fifteen seconds into the now familiar Nokia tablet desktop. Status indicators are on the top right and applications are on the left. The user transition from the 770 is seamless. Read about the 770 here.

Loading up the web browser makes the N810 search automatically for a connection. As with the 770, the WiFi search is quick and signal strength is strong. I made a connection straight away and was surfing at full speed in seconds.

The screen resolution is 800 by 480 so the N810 comfortably fits a typical web page across the width of its screen, with the option to specifically ‘fit to width’ if necessary. There is also a full screen mode accessed via a dedicated hardware button. Another dedicated button displays a list of currently open windows/applications for easy window switching.

The sliding keyboard transforms the internet experience on the N810. Whereas the 770 had an iPhone style on-screen keyboard which was fine for a short message here and there, the N810’s dedicated hardware keyboard allows full scale email, blogging and even word processing. Ironically, although the N810’s keyboard is bigger than my HTC TyTN’s, I have found it slower to type on. The keys have a less positive feel and the OS 2008 implementation of word prediction is less user friendly than the Windows Mobile version, which can be used from the keyboard without needing to touch the screen.

There’s a wide range of applications for the Nokia tablet series available for download. A built in software updater also searches for new apps and upgrades. Kudos to Nokia for implementing such a grown-up feature aimed at openly developing the N810’s functionality. This elevates it out of the closed platform space that most small mobile devices occupy and into the wider portable computer space. Skype is now available for the N810, although it does not currently take advantage of the front mounted webcam.

I miss having an office application suite built into the N810, it really seems ripe for it. The extra screen space compared to my TyTN makes it a perfect mobile office tool. Ironically it’s the TyTN which actually has Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, but due to screen size only Word is of practical everyday use. There are some office applications available for the Nokia tablet platform, but a Maemo port of the StarOffice suite would be perfect.

How does it perform?

In general use the N810 performs pretty briskly. The 400mhz processor powers preloaded applications adequately, although I experienced slowdowns when trying to access multiple websites in multiple browser windows. There is 256Mb of Flash memory, 128Mb of onboard RAM with an extra 128Mb assignable as vitual memory from the 2Gb of onboard storage, which is pretty decent for this type of device. The N810 has not crashed on me yet; when applications have slowed down or gotten confused it has always recovered given time.

The Mozilla based browser handles the majority of sites well, although like Safari on my MacBook there are occasional compatability issues with some sites. I became used to this on my MacBook and just reserved surfing certain sites for my Windows PC. Pages load quickly enough and the N810 can handle certain multimedia content such as YouTube videos happily. Given the software update functionality I hope that browser updates will be possible to keep the N810 up to date.

Launching the map program engages the GPS. In Central Park on a clear day, the built-in antenna took around five minutes to get a fix on my location. Once it knew where I was, the N810 was able to show me the location of WiFi hotspots in the vicinity as well as other points of interest. This is a free service, whilst upgrading to full in-car navigation is an optional cost upgrade.

The points of interest are a great facility and of course GPS mapping is wonderful if you don’t know where you are. I expect though I’m more likely to use Google Maps on my TyTN on a day to day basis as it’s interface and zoom implementation is excellent.

Audio sounds great through both the onboard speakers and 3.5mm headphone socket. To their credit, Nokia squeezed a regular size headphone port into the thin N810. Video runs smoothly and the screen is viewable at pretty acute angles so your friends can watch alongside you using the built-in stand.

The 770 is actually more comfortable to hold than the N810 for prolonged periods. This is partly due to its greater depth and also because on the left of the screen there is more room to rest your hand. With the N810 you really feel like you’re holding a fat-free tablet, with the ‘downside’ that there’s precious little places to hold it! So your hand falls naturally at the back giving support at the edges. The weight of the tablet series has remained pretty constant throughout three generations, with the N810 weighing in at a meager 226 grams.

Battery life is claimed by Nokia to be fourteen standby days or four hours of continuous WiFi usage, which is better than the vast majority of laptops. Various power saving features can be configured, such as screen dimming and WiFi disconnection after periods of inactivity.

The recommended retail price of the N810 is 479.99 dollars but some retailers are listing it for less. Net of my 770 sale it cost me just over 300 bucks, which is pretty good value considering the improvements. The price puts it squarely in Asus EEE PC territory, which offers a whole lot more (potential, size and weight) but also a whole lot less (portability, battery life, sidewalk use).

Overall the N810 has been a superb buy. The keyboard and improved browser transform it from its earlier siblings into one of the most complete ultra-mobile computers ever made. Regular software updates and a growing application suite mean that it should have a good lifespan. Given that it can also double up as an in-car sat nav and use-anywhere media player, it is also great value…which is why Nokia’s USA site currently states it is on back order!

Click here to read the Nokia 770 review

Neil Berman


Dec 4, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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