Nokia N800 Internet Tablet
At a Glance
Until you use it, Nokia's N800 Internet Tablet seems impressive. Designed to let you surf the Web and access e-mail while on the go, the $400 device has a svelte design and a strong collection of software. Ultimately, however, working with the N800 is a frustrating experience.
Measuring 5.7 inches by 3.0 inches by 0.5 inch and weighing 7.3 ounces, the N800 is 0.2 inch slimmer and 0.8 ounce lighter than last year's 770. That's not much bigger than a checkbook, and light enough to tote around in a shirt pocket. The N800's bright, crisp 4.1-inch 800-by-400-pixel touch screen display shows photos, Web pages, and videos with near-cinematic clarity. An integrated kickstand lets you prop the device up on a table for easy viewing The tablet also has a swiveling Webcam and two memory card slots compatible with SD, MicroSD, MiniSD, MMC, and RS-MMC cards.
Despite coming from Nokia, the N800 is not a cell phone and does not connect to a cellular network. Instead, it offers 802.11b/e/g wireless and Bluetooth 2.0 for Internet access (if your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone has a data plan). The Linux-based device includes Opera 8 for Web browsing; an RSS reader; an e-mail client for accessing POP3 and IMAP accounts; support for instant messaging via the pre-installed GTalk program only (though other open-source chat software could work on the N800); and a media player that plays audio and video.
Though you can't make cell phone calls with the N800, you can use it to access Internet-based phone services from GTalk and the Gizmo Project. The Webcam supports video calls, but only via a Nokia application currently in beta testing. Nokia says that it is working with Skype to add a mobile version of its app to the N800. The video phone may be the killer app of this device. The setup process was difficult; but afterward, the the phone provided excellent video calling. In my tests, a coast-to-coast video call had no major lags or audio stuttering, though the picture occasionally lapsed out of sync. The camera does require plenty of light to capture an optimally clear image, and being located on the left side of the device makes it slightly awkward to use.
Unfortunately, in other respects the N800 is a bundle of frustrations waiting to happen. Because the device renders Web pages just as they would look on a regular-size display, viewing pages on the small (albeit sharp) screen requires constant zooming in and out. Moreover, some pages wouldn't load properly, probably because they weren't designed to support the Opera browser. Most damning is the N800's lack of basic PDA functions such as a calendar. It doesn't work with Outlook or any other Microsoft Office application either--so if anyone sends you a Microsoft office document, spreadsheet, or presentation, the N800 can't read it and you can't edit it. You'll get lots of practice requesting PDFs.
The device has two good on-screen keyboards (one designed for a stylus, and a larger one for fingers), but I would have preferred an integrated keyboard. Audio playback is excellent with the included headphones and surprisingly good with the N800's built-in speakers. But streaming video playback on YouTube and Google Video looked very choppy. Downloaded video played better, though still a bit choppy at times.
Despite offering incremental improvements in form and software over its predecessor, the Nokia N800 fails to make a compelling case for itself. Neither a PDA nor a cell phone nor a UMPC, the device is ultimately just a $400 toy for technology enthusiasts.