Nokia N800 Review: Part 2
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.