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[Review] Nokia N900


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#1 X82

X82

    Neowinian Senior

  • Joined: 01-November 05

Posted 18 December 2009 - 10:55

This afternoon im going to be posting a full review of the Nokia N900 here but before I do, I was wondering if anyone had any questions which I could include?
If theres anything you wanna know about the phone, what it can and indeed cant do. Just ask and I will include it later. :D


#2 Gabe3

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    If you lack enemies, you are not doing something worthwhile

  • Joined: 19-October 05
  • Location: Florida

Posted 18 December 2009 - 20:01

This afternoon im going to be posting a full review of the Nokia N900 here but before I do, I was wondering if anyone had any questions which I could include?
If theres anything you wanna know about the phone, what it can and indeed cant do. Just ask and I will include it later. :D

How long have you been using the phone? And can you watch youtube videos in HQ, and do they play smoothly like they would on a desktop?

#3 nokiaxion

nokiaxion

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  • Joined: 22-October 09

Posted 18 December 2009 - 20:15

I think this is done in reverse order.

You post the review and later any additional questions are answered :)

ALOT of pictures please :)

#4 OP X82

X82

    Neowinian Senior

  • Joined: 01-November 05

Posted 19 December 2009 - 01:09

Doing a proper review for this phone would be tricky. Simply because of the fact it's my only means of taking photos. So Photos of the actual phone itself are out. However, I did manage to take plenty of screenshots from using the phone. So that will have to do.

First impressions

The N900 did feel allot chunkier than I thought it would. Double the thickness of the iPhone, it also feels quite heavy. Once you slide the phone up to reveal the full qwerty keyboard, your reaction might be the same as mine. "How the hell am I'm going to type on that?!". The keyboard looked way too cramped and small. But we will get to that issue later.

The phone itself has no hardware buttons on the front which is odd. It has a lock/unlock switch on the right (I say right because this phone has to be used landscape most of the time. Otherwise I would of said the bottom, where your mouth goes to talk). This switch is like the iPhone's, as it will lock the phone in any situation and still leave processes running.

There is a volume rocker, power switch and camera key on the "top". A micro USB port on the left with one of the stereo speakers and a 3.5mm headphone jack and right speaker on the right of the unit. This side also holds the stylus.
This is one of the first things I found annoying. The Micro USB port is on the left. However when you hold the phone like your making a call, portrait mode, the micro USB port it on the top of the N900. It's just an odd placement. All phones have them at the bottom (or in the damn Blackberry 9000's case, the side) but this is the top. If you talking while its charging, you do feel a pull down on the phone from the charging cable. The 3.5mm headphone jack is on the opposite end. So if I have the phone on its stand, charging with headphones in it, it looks like the poor things being spit roasted.

Stand? Yes, at the back of the device you have the slider for the 5mp camera but you also have a small click out stand to keep the phone at an acceptable angle. This works well if you wanted to watch a video with the phone on a table for example. Nice touch, well appreciated.
Finally on the front of the device you have just 2 main things. The touch screen and a small notification light. This comes in a few colours. Green for fully charged, blue for a missed txt, email, call and IM and yellow for charging. It's not like the Blackberry 9000 where it's a really bright led light which can light up a room in the dark. It's a subtle glow and its welcome.

The keyboard will not be to everyone's taste. Its 3 row narrow keys can be difficult to get around and the spacebar being place at the bottom right is different and sometimes confusing. But in fairness, a few hours with this keyboard and I can now type up long messages with hardly any typos. Only annoying is the number/symbols can only be used by hitting the function key first. Allot of phones do this, but after using the G1 for so long, it takes some getting used to.



Powering up

For such a complicated device, I was really surprised how fast it booted up. Quicker than even say the N95 and miles faster than and iPhone or G1.
The screen is resistive, so using a stylus is required for long use. The finger works well most of the time, but as expected there were many times where presses and even taps with the stylus didn't register with the phone yet you could heard an audible click that it had. Its par for the course with resistive phones, a case of having to adjust to it.

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The home screen is broken up into many sections.
Top right you have the menu button and multitasking key. Were the time, battery level etc is you can press that to bring up other options to change profile, turn off wifi and set an alarm.
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Its a nice quick way of changing profiles and turning options on/off.

You then have all your desktop junk. Caller pictures, shortcuts and widgets. Standard Smartphone stuff and it works well. You tap on any blank area and this icons appears, tap that and you can adjust the position of your widgets etc, remove them or add more.
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There isn't a restriction on where you can place objects on this screen. You can drag everything on top of each other if you like, there is no grid like restrictions. Dragging to the left or right edge of the screen will allow you to move that widget/icon/shortcut to another home screen. And you have 4 you can use.
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There plenty of things you can add to your home screen.
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As you can see, common favourites like Facebook and a weather app are present. However with Facebook, it's just a cheap lazy widget. All it does it show you feeds on Facebook. You can't post from here, can't check Facebook mail and the wall feed updates so slowly that you will be seeing posts by people made hours ago. Clicking on it will open a web browser to the Facebook page. I think it's pretty lame as far as integration goes.


Settings and other options
From the home screen you tap the menu button, top right and you have a wealth of options to chose from.

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From what I have seen, you can't change these default icons. So I can't say remove the Ovi Store from this menu and replace it. These are permanent. Hitting more gives you, well, more.

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These are all the apps I currently have. Hermes, Mirror, Pidgin, Leafpad, FM Radio and gPodder were all downloaded from the apps catalogue.
There is a nice selection of applications, but I feel the quality is lacking. For such a powerful device, the 4 main included games, Blocks, Chess, Mah-jong and Marbles are poor. Something you would find on the N95 as a free java download. They do nothing to show off the potential of the device. I know it's just chess, but it could look nice at least.

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I've never been a fan of these games and I will never play them, maybe others will enjoy them. But they just feel cheap.

The other game which annoyingly has to be downloaded off the "app store" first and it's about 15megs. Bounce, a tilting ball game which tries to show off the graphics potential of the device. While I think it does, it suffers from performance issues, stuttering, lag and these issues make it almost unplayable. It's pretty, but it feel like its struggling. When it runs, it runs smooth with no frame rate issues, but at random it freezes for a second with the sound still playing and then it stutters into life again.

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I'll just go over a few more applications briefly.


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What I know about Linux and terminal etc isn't worth knowing. So I'm sure this will excite people knowing you can go into the terminal and issue various common Linux commands. Yay.

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What else can I say? You draw stuff.

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This is a nice touch. As you can guess this is where you can backup all your conversations, sms , emails, phone contacts etc all to a file which is stored at the root of the device. Once connected to a PC you can copy this off and keep it as a backup. Works well. Haven't restored it yet, but I'm sure it works fine.

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Nice, easy to use file manager. I don't have a microSD card connected but it does allow the option to explore both means of storage.

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Nice simple RSS programme. Does what it should, nothing more, nothing less.

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Speaks for itself.

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Annoying, having the option to read .Doc .Xls etc would be a great help. But It kind of annoys me installing this on the device then asking us to pay for it. True you can use a trial, but nah thanks.

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This programme isn't on there by default, but it works well if you feel inclined to listen to a podcast on the move.

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Wow, you wouldn't know there was 2 inches of snow outside would you? This programme works well and is linked to the widget on the desktop.

More to come.

#5 OP X82

X82

    Neowinian Senior

  • Joined: 01-November 05

Posted 19 December 2009 - 01:16

The application manager.

Until the Ovi store is actually online you will have to make do with this. By default there is only a handful of programmes available. About 9. But once you change the catalogue and enable the pre-disabled tester catalogues you have about 100 to choose from. However like many app stores, the vast majority of content is crap. If I were to be picky, the installation process of apps takes too long. Downloading a 15mb game and installing takes a while, fine. But a 15kb programme? It takes like 30 seconds to install it.

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See the below screen? Get used to this until early 2010. The fact they are shipping out the N900 with no support makes no sense. I haven't been given this phone early because I'm reviewing it, or because I'm a big celeb, I got it through the rights means. So why isn't the store ready? Not having the Ovi store online for the N900 is really irritating.


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The FM Radio app is a separate download but it does work surprisingly well. Again, does just what it should do.

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Mail, text's and calls.

The N900 does allow you to setup your email account from a huge list of providers. I can't take a screenshot of them all because I would be here forever, but there is alot and all the major players are covered. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo.

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I did find however that when it came to using the email client on the N900, the way it operated seemed slow. In my experience using the iPhone, all your Gmail folders and email are downloaded to the device in a cache. So when you do back to say your sent items, all mails you downloaded are there. The N900 seems to forget this and has to re-download your inbox and respective folder all over again. This isn't so bad on wifi, but if I want to check my emails at work where sometimes I only get a 2G signal. I don't want to wait ages for the phone to download all my Gmail folders again.

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As you can see from above, checking my emails showed me as having none. I had to wait for it to update before it showed me my folders.

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The device does give you the smart option to only check for emails when on a wifi connection.
Like the iPhone, conversations are in an IM style and if you add your Skype or Google talk account, all this information is reflected. So you message someone via txt, then send them a Skype message. It will all appear under "conversations". It's nice as you don't have loads of separate chat threads.
The phone does have support for various VOIP services and IM but its limited at the moment. Common players like AIM, MSN or Yahoo are out.

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You can add your friends details to their contacts, like their Skype username etc. This is so you can have everything about a person, from their emails, phone numbers, IM names, VOIP names all in one contact. Nice touch. This is reflected by their online instant message status. A quick flick through your contacts (depending if your connected to Skype and showing as online) will show a green dot for any contact which is also available to chat to on Skype.

The phone function is nothing special. It's like the iPhone in the things you can do, hands free, call mute etc. However, because there is no dedicated hardware button, you can only access the phone by the menu. There is an option to have the phone app launch when you hold the phone in portrait. But I found this sketchy at best.


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Media.

The phone does support allot of different file formats. Although to be honest for this review, I have only tried one, AVI. I uploaded Scrubs season 1 to the device and it played them all fine. There was some frame rate issues at points and the device was slow to respond while the video was playing.


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What is a nice though, is that it remember where you were last watching a video. So you can go back to it, even if it's from a list of dozens, it picks up right where you left off, even if you close the media player application.


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I couldn't take a photo of the actual video, but here is the on screen controls. Pretty basic but do the job.

It's the small things that makes me think allot of care went in to designing the N900. While the phone is charging you get a glowing yellow notification. However when you watch a video while its plugged in, it goes. So as not to distract you while you're watching the video. If you receive a txt, IM or email while the video is playing you get a beep and nothing more. Nice and subtle.

I didn't manage to properly test out the mp3 player, but it does support playlists and works well. It won't replace your iPod though by a long shot. Also, the supplied headset for the phone is quite poor. Poor in the sense of I can't stand in-ear headphones. They always hurt my ears, pop out and block out so much outside noise that when I talk on the phone using the headset, I can't properly gauge my own voice so I'm either shouting on the phone or whispering. The mic is also REALLY sensitive. Too much so. Every movement you make wearing the headset is picked up on and is a headache for the person you're talking to.

Why am I mentioning this? Because after owning an iPhone for over a year, I was expecting to press the inline button on the headset while the mp3 player is playing to pause the track. Nope. It does nothing. Its only sole purpose is to answer/end calls and even then there is such a delay that you have to check on the phone screen to see if it worked.


Web browsing
This one of the most crucial elements of any Smartphone. Can it browse the full internet at speeds.
Well I'm happy to say that the N900 can indeed. Since it using the Mozilla engine, it can display almost any webpage perfectly.
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There was an issue I found though where the page wouldn't load. it would just show the loading bar like above. No matter how long I left it, I had to tap into the bar and hit enter. Not a big deal but still annoying.

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It has no problem displaying full websites well and allows full interaction. By dragging your finger or stylus from off the screen from the left to the centre of the screen you get this arrow which can be used like your normal pc cursor. As you can see below, hovering over menus works like it does on your computer.

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You can then tap the little arrow at the bottom left to lock the arrow for text selection and this allows you to highlight text and images. You then treat it like your home computer, hitting ctrl & c to copy to the clipboard. You can't see it below but I have selected the top story including pictures.

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You can zoom in pretty far too, using either the volume rocker or I prefer the swirl. Just take the stylus and go in circles clockwise to zoom into any part of the page. Double tapping also works but I prefer the swirling method. You can zoom in pretty far as you can see.

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This is as far out as it can go too.

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YouTube videos work but with limits. You feel that the processing power of the phone is being pushed to its limits as it becomes unresponsive. Although it does play the video smooth enough, trying to play a video which is supposed to be in HD doesn't fair so well. It plays but with frame rate issues. But as you can see, full flash support even with the YouTube annotations.

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Amazingly the iPlayer also works. But its unwatchable. The frame rate is so poor you get the sound but what resembles a slideshow for the picture. This really sucks the power out of the device and trying to close this browser window took me much longer than it needed to.

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The browser does handle Facebook well, but again not without issues. But it is more than acceptable and even allows for the Facebook inline chat to function without issue.


Settings in brief


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Only 2 themes to chose from at the moment. Shame

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Camera

The built in 5mp camera does an ok job at taking pictures. I found the pictures to be lacking in overall quality though, something I didnt experience on the much older N95.

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Here are some example pictures. Apologies for the choice of test photos, but I never had time to fully do proper ones.

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Feel the xmas magic at my workplace.


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An essential part of any working day.


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Snowing at work. Yay.


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Obligatory macro shot.


Videos are of the same quality. More than acceptable for sharing online. The produced file sizes (mp4) are large. A 13 min video clocked in at 344mb.


Other mentions

For Nokia's flagship device, I felt the support lacking. There is no current software for the N900. The standard Nokia Pc suite works but only with the contacts. Getting your text messages prove impossible. Nokia really need to get out some decent software to work with this, or at least, update the Pc suite to make it more, 21st century.
Battery life is pretty good, I've managed to make calls, send emails, send text's and watch 3 or 4 ,20 minute scrubs episodes at work and still go home with 50% battery life. The device does charge from USB from any computer so portable charging is more than possible. And in the box you get an adapter to take any old style Nokia charger and make it work with this. Nice.

Conclusions

The device is without question, excellent. I love using it and the multitasking element cannot be overlooked. The ability to browse the web, quickly switch to a txt message, then back to your webpage in seconds is something the iPhone can take note of. And I think in my opinion, even though it's a new phone, it's much better than any Android phone I've used. Sure the app store is lacklustre but once that picks up, I can imagine this phone being a serious competitor. To call this phone Nokia's flagship is more than fitting. With its Infrared port, Wifi, Bluetooth, 5mp camera, full qwerty keyboard, excellent call quality, good video playback and a nice interface. I think this phone should be pride of place on Nokia's website. But even now it's hard to find it on most uk carrier websites. Maybe because the official release date isn't until Jan 2010. The app store is so bare and there's no software. But in my opinion, and I've owned Blackberry's, iPhone's and Android phones. This is the best of the bunch.

Pros:

Excellent bright vivid screen. Perfect for watching videos
Nice loud speakers, you will not miss any calls and vibration is immense. Ann Summers should stock this bad boy.
Fast interface, for most of time.
Multitasking is excellent
Integrated Skype support

Cons:
Camera pictures a bit washed out
Sometimes slow interface.
qwerty keyboard can be tricky to use if you got large fingers. And its oddly placed spacebar requires a learning curve.
Lack of support by Nokia at the moment.

#6 nokiaxion

nokiaxion

    Neowinian

  • Joined: 22-October 09

Posted 19 December 2009 - 03:30

Good review :) As you can see, in light conditions the camera of the N900 is pretty damn good :)

Its pretty late so additional questions, Ill ask tommorow :)

#7 jonhapimp

jonhapimp

    Neowinian Senior

  • Joined: 26-February 09
  • Location: texas

Posted 19 December 2009 - 04:25

Epic review
you know since you made this thread you can edit your first post and put all the review there right?

#8 Hankyone

Hankyone

    Living since 1987

  • Joined: 25-February 04
  • Location: Montreal, Canada Language: Frenglish

Posted 19 December 2009 - 05:52

if support gets better (and i'm pretty sure it will) this might be my n78 replacement

#9 zivan56

zivan56

    Neowinian Senior

  • Joined: 18-September 01
  • Location: Vancouver, BC

Posted 19 December 2009 - 06:08

if support gets better (and i'm pretty sure it will) this might be my n78 replacement


I found the N78 to be garbage (owned it since January and its had software issues hourly causing it to randomly drain, not detect key presses, etc). I also own an N800 (not a phone), and that is a bit better quality ( but slow, underpowered, bad wifi). I noticed this phone just runs a newer version of Maemo, and still has some of the bugs the previous version had (for example, the always "loading" but never displaying the page).
I've been burned too many times by Nokia to trust them anymore. I hope this phone (and future software upgrades) will fix the mistakes of the past...but knowing Nokia, they really don't care. For example, they refuse to provide WPA EAP-TTLS/PAP support even though people have been lobbying since 2007 and earlier. They just don't care and want to churn out more crap without fixing anything.

#10 Zok-StaR

Zok-StaR

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  • Location: Australia

Posted 19 December 2009 - 06:35

niceee!! thanks heaps!!

#11 Digitalx

Digitalx

    Antz007x

  • Joined: 26-June 05
  • Location: Auckland, New Zealand
  • OS: Windows 7 & Android

Posted 19 December 2009 - 06:52

lol @ bulls**tbingo

#12 Trance.

Trance.

    ∞.lets shoot some pion.

  • Joined: 21-April 07

Posted 19 December 2009 - 07:10

Photos of the phone itself :/? Other than that a very good review :).

#13 OP X82

X82

    Neowinian Senior

  • Joined: 01-November 05

Posted 19 December 2009 - 12:45

I managed to borrow a digital camera and take a few external pictures for you all. Ask and thou shall receive.

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#14 mr.r9

mr.r9

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  • Joined: 23-January 08
  • Location: Somewhere

Posted 19 December 2009 - 12:57

Wow! your dad is Sylvester Stallone :p ! (jk)
Great review man! Just a question. What was the main attraction for this phone that made you buy it rather than buying: a Motorola Milestone or an iPhone 3gs or a Palm pre?

#15 OP X82

X82

    Neowinian Senior

  • Joined: 01-November 05

Posted 19 December 2009 - 13:42

Honestly? I always liked Nokia's and I felt maemo was the way to go. But one of the reasons because I got refused credit for the iPhone :p . It's damn expensive. I've never like Android as a phone operating system either. I did weeks of research into this phone, looking up previews and youtube videos. I'm glad I made the jump to this. Best phone I've had. But if nokia don't get a grip and properly support this, it will die. And the fact they are choose symbian over this at the moment is beyond me.

If you guys have any questions, fire away. Ill try to answer them best I can.

Yeah! Sly Stallone! It's a long running joke in the family and a boring aniqdote. Some guy randomly came up to my dad once and asked for the autograph because he thought he actually was Sly Stallone. We have never let it drop. I use that picture and the rocky theme when he calls :D haha.Well I used to.

One important problem I got with the phone I forgot to mention in the main review. You cannot have different ringtones for each contact. Its one tone to rule them all.
Annoying to say the least, hope they fix it soon with an update.



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