I didn’t notice until this morning that this case actually has two pockets. I tried to take a picture of this, but I’m not sure if it’s illustrated clearly here (see notes on the pic). This is nice, because then any accessories I put in here can be separated from the N810, so it doesn’t get scratched up. Nice bonus, Case Logic.
I have been searching for an N810 case for quite a long time now. I saw tips on the Internet Tablet Talk forums that people were using Nintendo DS Lite cases since the devices are similar in size. So I hunted online and locally for a good DS Lite slip case. It’s surprisingly hard to find non-ugly, non-crappy cases in stores around here. I would have thought that since the DS Lite is like the iPod of the portable gaming world, that there would be a huge selection of accessories, including cool cases. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be so!
I did find a nice DS Lite case by Waterfield Designs, but I still wanted to try to find something locally, preferably less expensive as well (though Waterfield Designs’ price was really not bad at all). Well, finally I found a decent case at Fry’s today by Case Logic that’s actually intended for a small portable hard drive, but I think it will work out well as an inexpensive slip case.
As you can see, it’s a bit bigger than the N810, but when the N810 is actually in the case, it fits more snugly than one would expect. The small amount of room that’s left could be used for a little memory card case, extra styli, or the N810′s micro-USB cable.
I might end up getting the Waterfield Designs case for the DS Lite later, but for now, I’m quite satisfied with the last-minute find from Fry’s.
P.S. This blog post was composed on Maemo WordPy. I’m trying to learn about all of its features. So far I’m rather pleased about how well it works. I hope I didn’t jinx myself.
Editor’s note about my last “quinkie” post: I composed and uploaded it from MaemoWordPy on my N810. The other times I posted quinkies, I actually inked them out and uploaded the pictures to Flickr from my 770, but then I went on my desktop PC to type up the description and post it to my blog from Flickr (for a few reasons that I won’t bore you with).
This time I tried out MaemoWordPy to see if it would properly upload the picture directly to WordPress.com, which other blog editors have screwed up in the past. It was a bit tedious to switch between MaemoPad+ and MaemoWordPy to type out the text “translation” of my ink post, but other than that, it was incredibly easy to compose and upload directly from MaemoWordPy. Very cool.
P.S. This post is also coming at you from MaemoWordPy.
Usually I go to Amazon to find missing album art. Well, I just found out I don’t even have to save the pic file before pasting it into iTunes. I can just right-click on the pic to copy into the clipboard then paste in the album art window. Fast and easy!
Editor’s note: I hereby call these short ink blog posts from my Nokia internet tablet, “quinkies”. Also, regarding the Buy.com annoyance, they were asking for additional authorization when a charge was already pending on my card! So what other info do they need? And why did they charge my card before they shipped out the item (which I believe they said would not happen, but I can’t remember exactly)? What a disappointing experience. Never again.
Buy.com delaying shipping out my order to request an authorization form be filled out w/ a copy of my CC and driver’s license! No online retailer should need a copy of my license. I decided to request cancellation (spelling corrected) of my order and will instead order from Amazon. Lesson learned! >:P
A couple of the devices that I carry with me everyday have all the features of the Sony mylo 2.0, and then some. Yet, I am still quite intrigued by this device. I can’t help it; it’s a shiny new gadget.
I doubt that many people bought the first mylo. It was a cool device, and I was quite excited to see one in person, but I think at the time of its announcement and release, there were other devices, including Sony’s own PSP, that had similar features plus more functionality, for less money. I had been hoping that perhaps the first mylo would’ve taken the same great media playback features and the wireless connectivity of the PSP and repackaged it into more of a communication device than a gaming device. I had also hoped that some of the technology in the mylo would have been ported back into the PSP — well, mainly the slide-out keyboard and the dedicated media playback controls. Entering text on the PSP is a pain.
However when I finally got my hands on the mylo, I was disappointed that it didn’t even support all of the audio and video codecs that the PSP did. At the time I had been pleasantly surprised that the latest firmware update for the PSP (3.x, IIRC) allowed it to support most audio and video podcast material formatted for the iPod without any transcoding. That, combined with the RSS support that allowed the user to download podcasts directly to the PSP, made the PSP a really nice media playback device for me. The PSP also had an okay browser that was marred by low memory errors and the lack of a decent text input method. The mylo seemed to improve on the PSP in that arena, slightly, but not enough to make it a great browsing device. These were my impressions from playing with a mylo at the Sony Style store for a while. I didn’t actually own a mylo, or get an eval unit, so it could be that later on Sony released some firmware updates to address some of these issues. Or perhaps some enterprising developers took on hacking the mylo as some had taken to hacking the PSP. I didn’t follow its development closely after the mylo’s release, since I had been rather disappointed with it when I saw it at the store myself.
All that being said, I think the updates that Sony made for the second-gen mylo really go far in addressing some of the issues I (and probably others) had with the original — updates to the browser to support more Flash content (still Flash lite, not full, desktop-machine-level Flash), more audio and video codec support (upon first glance it seems to at least be on par with the PSP’s codec support now), a backlit keyboard, and some refreshed hardware design in general. It’s interesting that it has a touchscreen now. This might make mobile browsing a nicer experience, instead of having to depend solely on a d-pad or joystick to move the cursor around the page. It’s also nice that it has a camera, though I wish it had higher resolution than 1.3 megapixels.
On the software side, the mylo is a lot more like the iPod touch than the N810. It’s more closed down, with a simplified interface that probably isn’t very tweakable. And it probably won’t ever have any full-fledged apps that can be installed, however it is interesting to note that in the features list on Sony Style, there is an item called “mylo Widgets”. Under that bullet point, it is clearly stated that, “…for the first time, users will be allowed to register as a developer in order to gain access to the technical resources they will need to build their own widgets.” For a consumer-level device that’s more on par with an iPod, this is sort of a unique feature. It’s not in Sony’s nature to allow a device to be open like this, even though widgets are pretty low on the totem pole compared to full apps. I know that the iPhone’s/iPod touch’s SDK is getting released in February, but the way the text reads from Sony Style, it seems more like any average user can register to create his/her own widgets, whereas the iPhone/iPod touch SDK seems more for established developers. I would be keen to see if any mylo widgets make their way over to the PSP platform.
Lastly, I like how Sony has taken the idea of free WiFi hotspot access that they first tried out with PSP users and carried it over to the mylo. I don’t know if Sony eventually did the same thing for mylo users before, but I did notice it this time around. The number of hotspots is limited, and I don’t know if there’s a time limit overall. IIRC, PSP users could have free WiFi hotspot access via T-Mobile for 6 months or a year. Either way, this helps take the sting out of not being able to be connected all the time via a GPRS/EDGE/3G connection.
These updated features make the mylo 2.0 a very nice addition to the internet tablet device space. Right now there aren’t many devices in that area, but the mylo’s competition is stiff, with the Nokia tablets and the iPod touch (and maybe a few others I can’t remember at the moment). While I’m not sure that the mylo will reach huge sales numbers, I’m still glad that Sony is releasing devices like this. It could be that somewhere down the line, mylo features will get ported into a new version of the PSP. Even if they don’t do something like that, I like that Sony is still taking a chance in niche markets and putting out products other than the PlayStation, TVs, and other mainstream, “sure bet” items. I’ve always been a fan of Sony’s imaginative devices and hardware designs, even though I don’t like some of the decisions they’ve made with their consumer electronics. The recent mylo and the Rolly mp3 bot products remind me of the old Sony I knew and loved during simpler times.
Once again, I write a blog post here to save people on Jaiku from having to read through a long comment…
Actually, there were some people there already at 10, but luckily the theatre we were in didn’t have a movie going, so we were able to just walk in and pick our seats, instead of waiting in line to get in. I was a bit worried when I saw a bunch of people sitting around in front of a couple of the theatres, but was surprised to see ours was line-less. If we had shown up an hour later at 11, which was a more reasonable time to show up, we would’ve had a hard time finding seats in the stadium seating part of the theatre.
I was worried that they’d be harrassing us all to leave our cell phones in our cars because of cameras and all that nonsense, so we left our phones out in the car’s glovebox. I felt so “cut off” from the net while we were waiting in our seats…couldn’t even post a Jaiku that it was lucky we showed up at the theatre when we did. And it was all for naught, because everyone else had brought in their phones, of course. There wasn’t even anyone at the door asking to see ticket stubs or anything! It was like we had full run of the whole place, which was strange.
So there we were, with no phones, no books, nothing much to entertain us (besides a bit of convo and some snark about the teeny boppers all around us) for 2 hours except for my 770, which I did bring in with me. No WiFi, but we did trade off playing games like MaemoDrac (solitaire), Battlegweled, and Marbles. Honestly, I should’ve brought Half-Blood Prince with me, so I could’ve continued reading it (I had just re-read Order of the Phoenix to remind myself of the story before the movie came out, and was moving on to HBP in preparation for the 7th book’s arrival). There were some people who showed up in costume, including a couple people in rather elaborate costumes of Dumbledore and Snape. But the majority were just teens, tweens and parents. I felt kind of old. *smirk*
The 770 held out (its battery level was at half when we got to the theatre, so I put the screen brightness down low) and helped entertain the hubby. We took turns playing games, but I stopped after a while so my eyes wouldn’t hurt and give me a headache. After a bit of a glitch and slight delay in starting the previews and movie (slight audience tension and restlessness), the feature presentation played, and it was pretty good. Of course there were bits of the book that were left out, and some story bits twisted around, but I thought it was a decent adaptation of the book. There were things that kind of bugged me, but I won’t discuss them now. I look forward to hearing what the various Harry Potter podcasters thought of it. If you’re considering seeing the movie, I would recommend going. It’s well done, and supposedly the director of this film will be back for the next, so this is a chance to get used to his style.
Anyway, it’s quite late, and I should get to bed soon. Just wanted to type up my Order of the Phoenix experience (as best as I can remember and describe it at this late hour) since I was cut off from the world while I was waiting at the theatre. Now counting down to the 7th book release on the 21st…yay!
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Just installed MaemoWordPy on my 770, and I’m trying out posting from it. This is pretty cool! I’ll have to get a BT keyboard now…
In random news, I’m going to see Harry Potter at a midnight showing later. Hopefully we don’t have to wait in line too long to get in. Already there are 7 showings at the AMC theatre that are sold out as of about an hour ago. The last time I was worried about waiting in line for a movie was around the time the second Matrix movie came out, IIRC. Am I dating myself by saying that? Perhaps there were a couple other movies that were highly anticipated, but the second Matrix movie is the one I remember.
I don’t think so… But I did just buy a Nokia 770 Internet Tablet from Woot.com a few minutes ago. *sheepish grin* I couldn’t resist it at $129.99 + $5 shipping! Granted, it’s not exactly chump change, but considering what the device is, $130 is a rock-bottom price that I’m sure wouldn’t see anywhere else for a new (supposedly) 770. It has a successor, the N800, of which many of you have seen my reviews, so it’s not like I’m getting the bleeding edge for super cheap. However, I did like the web browsing and PDF viewing on the N800 the best, and I think that even with the 770′s “last year” technology, it should do quite well as an occasional browser and e-book reader.
One thing I hated on the N800 was the fussiness of trying to get some of the Linux apps onto it (if it didn’t have a simple installer program already), so I fully expect to have that same annoyance in the 770, but hopefully it won’t be too bad. I think some of the issues on the N800 were 770 apps that weren’t properly ported over, or the firmware being too new (it’s ridiculous that firmware that’s too new should be a bad thing) for some apps that hadn’t been updated, so perhaps the older firmware of the 770 might work to its advantage in those cases. One other thing that might be a caveat, besides the 770′s overall slowness (so many reviews have mentioned), is its memory card support. It only supports RS-MMC cards, which seem to be hard to find right now. I’ll have to scrounge around for a 2GB card; a quick Google search showed links to eBay for a 2GB card for about $25, so it might not be that big a deal. People complain about companies like Sony using proprietary memory cards, but at least with “non-standard” cards like Memory Sticks, I can actually find those at the store! Oh well, once I get one 2GB RS-MMC, that’ll be the last I’ll need to worry about it, I hope.
This 770 Internet Tablet is my first Woot! purchase. I hope all goes well with the order processing. Supposedly it’ll be shipped within 5 business days, but I don’t even know what method of shipping they’ll use. I guess I should just expect it in a couple weeks so that I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it shows up earlier. I’ll try to post some kind of comparison with my experiences with the N800. I’ll try to wrestle with installing 3rd-party software on the 770 and see if it annoys me as much as it did on the N800. Maybe that’ll jog my memory for the 4th part of the N800 review I’ve been promising all this time!
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Part 3: Built-in Software
The N800′s built-in software suite is a bit limited, but if you don’t download any other software to the device, you could get by, especially if you’re as dependent on web apps like Google’s suite of Gmail, Google Reader, etc. as I am. Of course, if you want to get the most out of the N800, it would benefit you to explore 3rd-party apps (to be discussed later).
Among the built-in apps, I mainly tested out the Opera web browser (of course), the PDF viewer, the media player, and the RSS reader. I briefly played with the sketch program to write out a short ink blog post from the N800. One hardware-related issue I forgot to mention was that when I wrote on the screen with the stylus, the screen felt really soft and I could see “trails” left by the stylus, similar to what you’d see if you poked your LCD monitor with your finger. It was a bit disconcerting! I would suggest that in a future hardware rev for the N800, the screen be made a bit more robust so that the squishy screen feeling wouldn’t be a problem anymore.
Built-in IM Client
Also, I checked out the built-in Google Talk chat client once. Actually, IMing back and forth using the on-screen thumb keyboard was a pretty good experience. I wasn’t as fast a typist as I normally am on a physical QWERTY keyboard, but I still was able to type responses in a reasonable amount of time. I think it worked as well as texting on my MDA, and the MDA has a slide-out thumb keyboard. I think that the N800 would be a pretty good device for mobile IMing despite the lack of physical keyboard. However, there was one thing I didn’t like about the built-in Google Talk client. There didn’t seem to be a way to configure it not to log on automatically. At work, the firewall didn’t allow the GTalk client to connect, so I always had to tap on the presence indicator and change it to offline so that I wouldn’t keep seeing the pop-up dialog indicating it couldn’t log in to certain accounts.
It would’ve been nice to be able to configure GTalk not to connect automatically. Update: Commenter Alexander let me know that there is a way to disable automatic logon for the IM client in Tools -> Control Panel -> Accounts. Thanks, Alexander!
Built-in RSS Reader
The RSS reader was okay, but since I use Google Reader, I was not that interested in the N800′s RSS reader, besides testing how well it could be used as a podcatcher client (not very). As far as basic RSS aggregator functionality, it was pretty basic. I didn’t see a way to change the screen layout; I prefer to read individual feeds in “river of news” style, with each item’s full text viewable (like Google Reader). I’m pretty particular about how I want to read my RSS feeds, so it didn’t take me long to realize that the built-in aggregator wouldn’t be of use to me. There also didn’t seem to be a way to import OPML files to bulk import feeds, which is a kiss of death to any aggregator application I try out. No way do I like to input RSS feed links one by one! The main screen widget for the RSS aggregator was okay, but I eventually turned it off.
Built-in Media Player
I thought the media player was very bare bones and not really worth using. I played some audio and a sample video on the N800, and while the playback was good (full-screen video looked great), that’s the only good thing I could say about the built-in media player. It was not intuitive to me to figure out how to set up a playlist of items from the library. I had copied a bunch of podcasts to an SD card and wanted try out the media player as my podcast player, but I could not figure out a way to either create a playlist on the N800 itself, or create a playlist on my desktop and copy it over to the N800 (not just the tracks in the playlist, but also the order of the tracks). The media player’s “now playing” list seemed to randomly populate itself with all of the items in my library, and I couldn’t see an option for clearing out the list to start over. Perhaps this all is user error, but considering how easy it is to use other mobile media player interfaces, I was disappointed with how frustrating the N800′s media player app was.
Also, the controls were not very good. The on-screen playback control buttons are big enough to tap at with your fingers, but the controls to rewind/forward through the track were not. You basically had to scrub through the track via the small time remaining slider/indicator; there weren’t on-screen buttons that you could hold down to rew/ff. And the hardware buttons were not mapped to control playback as I expected. Usually on a PDA or mp3 player, a d-pad is mapped so that the left and right buttons can skip through tracks if you tap them, or you could scrub through the track if you held down on the buttons. And either the center button or one of the up/down buttons would be mapped to play/pause. There was no way to configure the d-pad or any of the hard buttons to make controlling media play back easier. There was too much dependence on the touchscreen, which I guess is okay for playing tracks back at your desk.
However, I used the built-in media player to play a podcast on my commute in to work, and the media player controls were not car-operation friendly. Switching between “Now Playing” mode and library mode was not a one-click affair, which is another feature I’d expect from a normal media player. And there is no way to set up which folders the N800 looks at for media. It did find my media on the SD card automatically, but I think a user would want configurability for this. It just seems like the interface for media player was really not given much thought, which was a bad idea, IMO, because a lot of people are going to pick up an N800 thinking it’ll be a great media player, with that huge screen and stereo speakers, but be truly disappointed by the media player GUI. Users shouldn’t have to install a 3rd-party application just to get a decent media player interface.
Built-in Web Browser
The N800′s web browser was pretty good. It’s not branded as Opera, but that is the underlying component of the N800 browser. It’s very cool to be able to see most webpages as they would look on a PC. This is a big feature for the N800 to differentiate itself from other WiFi-enabled PDAs or smartphones, one that really made me think about getting the N800 in the first place, since I was fed up with the lame mobile browsers on my MDA. The N800 browser handles page rendering pretty well, even when you zoom in or out to fit the page to the width of the screen, or enlarge the text for readability. There are some pages it still hiccups on, most notably the desktop version of Google Reader (ugh!), and other pages that have too many fancy Ajax or Flash elements, but often you can tell that the desktop version of Opera would probably also falter on some of these pages (even Google Reader to some degree).
Overall it was so nice to be able to surf on such a small device like the N800 and be able to see the full versions of webpages, not the wimpy, stripped-down mobile versions. My main complaint about my T-Mobile MDA was that I hated having to navigate desktop-formatted websites on Pocket IE or Opera Mini. Those browsers did their best to reformat the pages, but they often turned out really mangled, barely readable, and barely usable. That’s why I was very interested to try out the N800 and other Nokia devices with Symbian OS. I had often heard that the built-in browsers on Symbian S60 devices are very good at rendering pages for a small screen. Web browsing on the N800 is a good experience. For people who use a lot of web apps as opposed to desktop apps, the N800 could be a great mobile device for them to access their online accounts on the go, without needing a laptop.
Built-in PDF Viewer
Just as I was impressed with the browser on the N800, I was really impressed by the built-in PDF viewer. Just to make a comparison, I have a Sony Reader which I really like for reading e-books. Its screen size is great at approximating paperback-sized pages, which makes it a little nicer to read e-books on than smaller-screened PDAs/smartphones. Although it does support PDFs, its rendering engine for PDFs is not very good at handling files that aren’t formatted for the Reader’s smaller screen. The files are often just shrunken down to fit the Reader’s screen, which makes the fonts miniscule. So, you have to use some software to try to wrangle the original PDF into something more readable. The N800′s PDF viewer is way more capable than the Sony Reader at automatically reformatting for the N800′s screen, and the N800′s screen is smaller than the Reader’s! I tried out a few PDF files, an e-book from WOWIO that seemed like it was formatted for a smaller screen (but not specifically formatted for the N800), and a couple regular PDF e-books for viewing on a PC. All three files were totally readable on the N800′s screen. Even if I zoomed in to make the fonts bigger, they never got pixelated. The pictures in one of the PDFs (a back issue of JPG Magazine) would eventually get pixelated from the zooming, but the fonts never did. Scrolling around the pages to read the content, while not ideal, was not that bad of an experience, either. You could use the d-pad to scroll around, or tap and drag on the screen directly. The whole concept of not having to go through a process to reformat PDFs for the N800 was very nice. I’ve had enough of file conversion to deal with for my other devices; the less of that I have to do, the better. One thing I didn’t like about the PDF viewer was navigating from page to page. If the document fit the width of the screen, switching pages was an easy click of the d-pad. However, if you had to let the document be wider than the screen for readability, there was no easy way to “flip” pages because the d-pad was used for scrolling around the screen. I either had to click on the context menu button and navigate through a couple levels of menus to hit the next or prev page option, or essentially do the same thing using the stylus and the menu bar at the top of the screen. Not cool. Also, I couldn’t find an option for rotating the screen in the built-in PDF viewer. While reading e-books in landscape mode seemed better for larger font sizes or whatever, it would’ve been nice to have the option for reading in portrait mode.
So, with only the built-in applications on the N800, I think it would be best as a mobile web browser — awesome full versions of web pages, no lame WAP or uber-simplified pages necessary, unless you want to surf those types of pages — and a PDF/e-book reader. The media player is fine for the most basic playback of audio tracks or videos, but don’t expect much usability from the GUI. The sketch program is okay for quick sketches, short handwritten notes (also typed notes? I didn’t try that), or very rudimentary ink blog posts, if you’re so inclined. The RSS reader is also quite basic and lacking in configurability. I thought IMing using the built-in Google Talk client (I believe it is configurable for other IM accounts, but not sure which ones) was pretty decent, and if my workplace didn’t block the client from connecting, I probably would’ve used it a lot more as a mobile IMing device. I didn’t get a chance to do video chatting with Google Talk, but I hear it’s also a pretty good experience. But the camera itself is pretty low-res, so YMMV. These were the built-in applications that mattered to me most. I know I left out things like the Internet radio streaming, but I wasn’t very interested in that, so I never really tested it. I also did not set up the built-in e-mail client because a) I didn’t want my e-mail getting downloaded to the device, and b) I mainly access my Gmail account via the web, so I had no need. As I said earlier, if you were only interested web browsing, some light IMing, and mainly viewing PDFs for work or as e-books, the built-in apps will do just fine. But the N800′s Linux-based OS sort of cries out for installing 3rd-party apps, so I’ll discuss that a bit in the next part of my review.
I didn’t really try to use the N800′s bluetooth capabilities, other than sending the N800 a file from my Tablet PC (fast transfer), and pairing my phone. Unfortunately I don’t have a 3G data plan on my MDA, so I didn’t even bother trying to figure out whether or not I could tether the MDA to the N800 and use the MDA as my data connection. I don’t have any BT headphones yet, so I couldn’t try that out, but that would probably be a nice experience if you’re streaming music on the N800.
The N800′s WiFi radio seems a bit weak. The WiFi connectivity was kind of flaky, and it actually was a rather frustrating part of the N800 experience, which wasn’t favorable, considering the N800 is supposed to be a device that is very dependent on wireless connectivity to the net. Now, I can’t really fault the N800 for the flakiness of my home or work WiFi networks, but I do fault the N800 for not automatically restoring its connection to the WiFi AP as a regular PC or most smartphones would.
I tried tweaking the network settings, and asked other N800 users about whether or not their N800s would automatically reconnect to the network if the connection were lost, and from what I gathered, the N800 doesn’t do this. The N800 does connect to a network automatically if you were not previously connected at the time you decide open a web browser page, or when it’s trying to automatically refresh RSS feeds. But if you were previously connected and lose the connection while streaming music or browsing, you will have to fix the problem yourself.
WiFi hotspots or home/work networks aren’t always going to be rock solid, so the N800 should account for that. Everytime I lost connection to the network, I had to manually disconnect and reconnect to the AP. The N800 didn’t actually indicate that the connection to the AP was lost; it just wouldn’t load any webpages or stream any music on Rhapsody. Also, despite having a preferred WiFi network configured for both home and work, when I had to manually reconnect to those networks, I had to choose the APs from a list. When the N800 connected automatically to refresh RSS feeds, or some similar task, it would pick out the preferred networks fine.
Conversely, when I have used my T-Mobile MDA to send off an e-mail or surf and it lost its wireless connection during either of these tasks, I would see indication that the connection was lost, and then it would repeatedly try to reconnect to my home network automatically until it either timed out or successfully reconnected. I expected the N800 to do the same. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to. If I missed some magic network settings for it to do this, I’d appreciate some feedback. Looking in the user’s guide on the N800 for help on the network settings was not as helpful as I would have hoped.
The glitchy network connectivity issues were especially annoying while listening to streaming music. I can deal with momentary drops, or garbled audio if the device would reconnect on its own, as you’d expect on a desktop browser, but having to fix the connection manually every time it was lost (which at my home network’s worst performance happened every 4 or 5 minutes; I never heard the end of a song on Rhapsody that time), made the user experience really awful. I waited for a little while to see if the N800 would reconnect by itself, and I checked if other computers on my home network could still connect. All other networked devices but the N800 were fine. This was actually rather disappointing, because so many people talked up the wonders of the N800 Rhapsody client. I really liked it when it worked, but losing the network connection multiple times really put a damper on things, especially when it would cause the Rhapsody client to crash. Unfortunately, the N800 cannot download Rhapsody subscription tracks because it’s not a PlaysForSure device, so I couldn’t even work around the streaming issues that way. IMO, this should be the first thing Nokia should fix in the next firmware update for the N800. It should be robust enough to deal with loss of network connection and reconnect to the preferred networks as desktop and notebook computers do.
Part 3 will discuss the N800′s built-in software, and perhaps delve into the issues I had with some of the 3rd-party apps I tried out.
I finished my 2-week evaluation period with the N800 (thanks, WOMWorld!). Unfortunately, it arrived around the same time I was ramping up my photography hobby stuff because of the nice weather we finally got out here in Chicagoland, so I didn’t have a chance to delve in to as many features and 3rd-party apps for the N800 as I wanted. However, I did get enough play time to figure out a few things about it. I find that I’m remembering a lot of information I want to point out, so I think I’m going to break this up into multiple parts.
Part One: Hardware
The hardware was very nice. As I mentioned in my initial post about the N800, I think it’s pretty sleek and well-built. The materials, while not all metal and super-high-end, didn’t feel cheap. In fact, the N800 felt very solid. There was no creaking or flexing of the plastic. The weight balance was good, and the N800 felt very comfortable to hold, even for long periods of time. The screen was huge, high-res, and bright. It reminded me of the awesome high-res screen on the Dell Axim x50v that I used to use, but bigger. Fonts and pictures were crisp. When you think about all of the functionality that was crammed into this very pocketable device, the sleek design is even more impressive.
The buttons to the left of the screen were laid out well and had good tactile feedback. There was a 5-button d-pad, an escape button, a button to bring up the menu bar options, and a home button that assisted you in switching among open applications, or going to the home screen. These buttons made navigation a lot easier. However the 4 buttons on the top — -, full screen, +, and power — were a bit small and set too close together, which made it easy to accidentally press the wrong button sometimes. However, once I got used to the thin, small buttons, it wasn’t that hard to operate them without looking. When pressed quickly, the power button brought up a menu screen with various powering-down options like locking the screen and going to sleep, completely switching off the device, or turning off the wireless radios. At first I kept turning the device off completely when I was done with it, but it took too long to come back from a cold boot, so after finding that out, I just put the N800 into sleep mode for quicker access. The +/- buttons either zoomed in or out on a screen to enlarge fonts or images, whether it was the browser or the PDF viewer. In media playback apps, they controlled the volume. The full-screen button toggled the app screens into or out of full-screen mode. Reading, browsing, or viewing videos in full-screen mode was really awesome thanks to the high-resolution, brightness, and crisp font display.
As can be seen in the picture, there’s a little circle on the top left side of the N800. That’s the little camera that you can press on to pop it out. It’s swivelable so that you can aim it at yourself for video chatting or video VOIP calls. I played with it a little bit, but since I didn’t have anyone to test out the video Google Talk with and I don’t like pointing cameras at myself, I didn’t really give it much attention. It was rather low-res, but considering how small the form-factor was, it’s relatively impressive that you can actually use it for video calls.
The touchscreen was pretty responsive. I had read about how the touchscreen can distinguish between a stylus tap and a finger press on the screen, and displays an appropriately-sized menu or on-screen keyboard. I was very surprised to hear this; I’d never had a device with this type of functionality before. This actually worked pretty well. Sometimes I accidentally brought up the stylus menus when I tapped the screen with my fingernail, but if I re-tapped the text field with my finger tip, it switched the keyboard to the “thumb keyboard” version. I’d say about 75% – 80% of the time I used my fingers to navigate menus and type in URLs, notes, and other text, and it was completely comfortable and usable. I composed my first blog post about the loaner N800 on the N800 itself, using the virtual thumb keyboard. It took a little bit of getting used to, figuring out where the numbers and symbols are, etc., but after a little while, I felt pretty comfortable using it as if it were a physical thumb keyboard. If the iPhone’s on-screen virtual keyboard works as well as the N800′s, I think most people will be fine with not having a physical keyboard. However, because I used my fingers a lot to interact with the N800, the screen was smudged up with fingerprints, but it was a very nice touch not to have to use the stylus most of the time.
The fold-out stand was a great addition, and I like how it was contoured to fit the lines of the N800 when folded. I definitely appreciated that it was a built-in stand. There are many mobile devices out there like the PSP, or other media players that should have some kind of built-in stand, but don’t. This was a nice design detail from Nokia. It offered a couple angles at which to prop up the N800, and satisfyingly clicked into place at the two different detents. The stand made it easy to listen to music or watch video, hands-free, converting the N800 into a mini-stereo or mini-video-player. When the stand is folded out, it revealed a mini-USB port on the right side, and a covered SD slot on the bottom, very clever. I worried about how thin the stand was, though. It seemed like the most fragile thing on the N800. And because of how the stand is laid out in relation to the mini-USB port, I was wary about using the USB port, because if something would have fallen on top of the N800 to make it tip backwards and inadvertently close the stand, it seemed like the stand would break when it hit the plugged-in USB cable. Of course, if you’re careful, this shouldn’t be an issue, but still, accidents can happen.
The stereo speakers on the N800 sounded very good, and were relatively loud for their small footprint. Listening to music or podcasts through these speakers was a great experience. I’ve always been sort of an advocate for mobile media devices having some kind of built-in speaker setup so that I wouldn’t have to resort to using some kind of speaker dock or the like just to listen to the content if I don’t want to use headphones. Obviously the N800 isn’t going to replace your home theatre set up, but for the size of this device, the speakers were very clear without much distortion at higher volumes. I’m not an audiophile, so YMMV. The stereo speakers plus the big, high-res screen could make for a very nice video-watching experience, probably better than watching videos on a Sony PSP (though I didn’t have a chance to do this comparison).
The two hidden SD slots allowed you to have up to 4GB of external storage, 2GB SD cards supported on each slot. One slot was hidden on the bottom edge of the N800, under the flip-out stand, and the other slot was inside the battery compartment. I didn’t try putting an SD card in the battery compartment slot, but the SD slot on the bottom of the N800 was fairly easy to access. However, I noticed that the slot didn’t have a spring mechanism for removing the card. Instead, you would have to rely on the very small ridge at the bottom front edge of an SD card to pry out the card with something like your fingernail. Since I had used a 2GB mini-SD card in an adapter, it was more difficult to wrangle the card out of the slot. I had to take the mini-SD card out of the adapter, then use a pair of needle-nosed pliers to remove the adapter. That’s when I found out the SD slot didn’t have the normal spring-loaded mechanism that I’m used to!
Well, this brings us to the end of part one. For the next part of the review, I’ll get into the wireless radios, and the N800′s built-in apps.
(picture from JKOntheRun)
A while ago, when I was testing out the Sansa Connect and realized it wasn’t for me, I thought about the Nokia N800 as a pricey, yet more feature-rich alternative. Yes, it’s not really fair to directly compare the N800 to the Sansa Connect, because the Connect is just an mp3 player, while the N800 is mobile Net access device and media player. However, I quickly talked myself out of this idea, mainly because I have a T-Mobile MDA, which could basically perform the same functionality as the N800 for me (and I even used it as my main podcast player for a while). But all of this talk about the N800 and how people are really loving its functionality is really getting my gadget lust going again. And I played with an N800 last weekend at a Nokia store in Woodfield Mall last weekend for a precious few minutes…big mistake. Now I’ve got N800 on the brain! *sigh*
The biggest draw for me would be a more functional mobile browser. I am quite sick of browsing sites on my MDA and finding that the page won’t load properly, or that some key functionality on the page (like drop-down menus, or the search form) won’t work because Pocket IE can’t handle it. Opera Mini is a nice alternative browser that I use, but even it gets bamboozled by some sites sometimes. I’ve heard time and time again that the N800′s browser is about as close as you can get to a desktop browser experience on a mobile device. Granted, the N800 is bigger than my phone, and I can’t even use it as a phone, so I’d have to carry it along with my MDA. But hey, that’s what purses or other bags are for. I could get the N800 and buy a smaller phone as an option (an expensive option, but an option, nonetheless), if I don’t like the extra bulk of both devices together.
The fact that the N800 has cool bonuses like built-in RSS support and good media playback capabilities is icing on the cake. I have still been searching for my perfect mobile RSS/web device, and it seems like the N800 is a good candidate. It runs some version of Linux, which means that its functionality can be extended with 3rd-party apps. And now Kevin has mentioned some podcatcher apps for the N800 (none of which seem like the perfect app to me, but some seem promising), which has piqued my curiosity more. Despite having the potential to download podcasts directly to the device, I know that for me, it will not beat a dedicated device like an iPod or the Clix 2. Dedicated hardware playback buttons are a must, and it has to be easy to control in the car, which I’ve heard is not the case for the N800. But I am mainly interested in the N800′s web functionality more, anyway.
Hmmmm. I would really love to pick up the N800 straightaway, but with all of the other gear I’ve spent on lately (not just gadgets, but camera gear and film, too!), I must reign myself in for now. But if anyone’s got a spare N800 they could lend me for a couple weeks or so, I’d love to do a review.
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