Nokia N900 Review

Updated on 30 January 2010 by

Software

screenshot07 If I had to use one word to describe the issues with the N900, it would be: inconsistency. The word literally defines the software. There are some strong points to Maemo 5, but there are a lot of annoying issues that I would love to see cleared up, that I think would make this device much better. Unfortunately some of these issues are things that are fundamental to the interface, so fixing them is not as easy as making a few tweaks. Just to familiarize people who haven’t seen it before, here is a quick demo of the N900’s interface.

[youtube]IxYViN1UEuU[/youtube]

YouTube may have cut it off at the end – the last thing I said was “I’m really looking forward to Maemo… becoming more mature. inch Also, a correction in the video: you can set up to four desktops, not five.

For the first few hours of using the N900, I found the interface to be pretty confusing. It isn’t as straight forward or as intuitive as it could be, but I’ve gotten fairly used to it after using it for a while. While I’d describe the interfaces of most of the major smartphone OSs out there as linear, I always seem to come up with the word “cyclical inch when talking about the N900’s interface. There is just something much different about it. One doesn’t just open an app then jump back to the home screen when they are done. There are several steps in between, and different directions that you can go at each step along the way. Things get confusing sometimes about what is going to take you where.

Multitasking

screenshot04 And while launching apps and flowing between different parts of the interface might not be so efficient, the N900 seems to do a pretty damn good job of multitasking. Just for the fun of it, I launched a bunch of websites using the built in browser. Each site runs as it’s own instance of the web browser (or at least that’s how it is visualized on the screen) and it wasn’t until I had so many concurrently running applications on the screen, that I had to scroll through them, that the N900 starting being pretty sluggish. I had 12 sites open at once and was still interacting with the device reasonably well. This impressed me quite a bit.

Media

screenshot09 I attempted to watch some HD video in a few different formats, but was unable to get any of them to play back, each was met with “unsupported video inch error, despite being a format that the N900 should be able to play. The N900 doesn’t really have the horsepower to do anything HD related. Regular video playback worked just fine, but there are no sizing options for the content. If you are watching a 4:3 video, you cannot stretch it to fill the screen. What you see is what you get.

Despite having 32GB of internal storage, I just can’t see anyone navigating their way around a large music library with the default music player, it is too basic. I didn’t have a chance to check out Canola in on Canola, but I recall it being a well made media player on the N810, and may be running on the N900 at this point.

The included headphones are in-ear and come with three sizes of earpieces. They actually sound very good, and manage to offer an impressive amount of bass for such tiny headphones. Definitely an audio upgrade if you are used to iPhone earbuds. They also do a good job of blocking noise due to their in-ear design. Be sure to test the different sizes of ear pieces. Initially they kept falling out of my ears and it was very annoying, but I found that one of the other ear pieces fit much better and fixed this problem for the most part. They start to hurt after wearing them for an extended period of time.

There is a radio tuner in the N900 which you can only use with the included headphones plugged in — they function like an antenna for the tuner. Performance is about what you’d expect from FM radio.

The N900 can also output TV to a video through included composite cables. I can’t quite think of any obvious practical reason to do this as the output video is only at a resolution of 640×480. I suppose if you wanted to pull up a photo slideshow in low resolution on your TV… but anyway, it’s there if you need/want it.

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10 Comments For This Post

  1. Ruben van Gogh says:

    Nice and honest review. Having owned a N810, which died after a very intense period of using it as a daily device for everything (as lyrical writer – even wrote a complete opera on it), I think the N900 is a far better device (if not the size had shrinked to 3,5 inch). But I love the hew maemo OS.
    But with Abiword on it, I don’t complain – being able to use and convert to so many different documentformats.
    Nevertheless I hope for a new 4,3 – 5 inch maemo with slider keybolard in the near future.

  2. mastereye says:

    I’ve heard that the device has a built in FM transmitter. Is that true? Would be very handy to use something like that in a car.

  3. jim says:

    Firefox Mobile is out for Maemo.

    http://blog.mozilla.com/blog/2010/01/29/firefox-for-maemo-now-available/

  4. jpmatrix says:

    so,
    n900 or archos5IT ???
    that is the terrible choice i have to do :))

  5. raon says:

    Nice review, thanks. You described the UI as ‘Inconsistent’ this doesn’t seem to changed since OS2008, I gave up my N800 because of frustration with the UI, especially the on screen keyboard.

    @jpmatrix I’m currently very impressed with how Android scales up on the Archos S5, easy to learn, easy on the eye and fast.

    :-)

  6. benz145 says:

    Yeah I had the similar frustrations with OS2008 on the N810. For me, the issue was that half of the OS was designed to be navigated with the finger, and half of the OS was designed for a stylus. It was really annoying to have to swap between these two UI implementations (sometimes even within the same application). I was really happy to see that Maemo 5 is just about fully finger-friendly. Now though the weak interface design just kills me. Applications are cluttered and lack any consistency beyond a few basic requirements (like having the buttons for switching apps and closing an app at the top left and right).

  7. Mike says:

    Mmmm, a honest review maybe, but a bit critical. Prior to the Nokia N900 i was using the Nokia N95 and the Nokia 5800XM. The Nokia N900 is a breath of fresh air in every sense. I agree it’s not for everyone, especially when I showed what it could do, most people were overwhelmed by the basics of not have phone keys on the phone.

    This device is definitely aimed at the person who spends hours surfing the web or social networking, IM and all the other goodies that go with this applications (Facebook, flickr, youtube, stumbleupon, twitter, last.FM, podcasting etc).

    However, you only highlighted the hardware that has already been covered by a dozen or so other website reviews. There is so much more about the N900 than the faults you have pointed out.

  8. Andrew says:

    Short and nice. I offer even shorter: “200% device for linux funs”. I have been using n810 for two years. It is nice design and materials. New Nokia n900 has get the same problems as previous one like lack of office apps, crazy GPS, apps instability. There is only good app working nice from a box is Skype. There is an only way to use Maemo is to install selected and stable apps (like Crazy Parking) and never try to update otherwise it stops forever sooner or later!!! Sorry for Nokia offering raw materials for users instead of readymade device. I have said goodbye to Maemo forever… Have a nice day!!

  9. logan says:

    great great nokia. easy to use, it’s practical which i like. processor is faster and the nokia apps and games are fun to use. email and gps keep me in the loop for my business. my daughter and wife love using their facebook on there. great unlocked cell phones. camera and video recorder are crisp and clean and the batter life is great i only charge once a day. very excited to see what else nokia comes out with and what they have to offer. got our last couple unlocked mobile phones at gsmallover.com and we love them. 2 thumbs way up

  10. car gps navigation| says:

    Suggest you try Garmin.com for up to the minute information, they manufacture/sell GPS units.. For my own sake, I hope not, unless they plan to phase it in gradually because I just purchased a new GPS hand-held unit and it WASN’T CHEAP !!

3 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Pinguins Móveis » Blog Archive » Pinguins de fim-de-semana says:

    […] Mais uma resenha do N900, agora do Carrypad. […]

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    […] Mais uma resenha do N900, agora do Carrypad. […]

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    […] Published Nokia N900 Review. […]

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