Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nokia N97: the good things

After my initial bashing of the N97 you may think that the N97 is a lost cause. Not entirely as there are a couple of good stuff going for it. Whether or not they will sway your opinion on whether to buy one is entirely up to you. As is, because the N97 Mini has already been released, it is probably best to just get that if you are dead set on getting some kind of N97.

The reasonably high resolution screen is on the N97 is just lovely. It is legible under strong sunlight and has good response (the slowness you feel is due to the processor, but the screen itself is very responsive). The upside of using a resistive screen is the ability to use your fingernails, stylus and anything you have to tap it. During winter you won't have to remove your glooves to select. Having said that, I am more or less bored with touchscreens now. This coming from a guy who used to own loads of Palms, Sony Clies and HP iPAQs.

As said before the build quality is brilliant. Don't let all the plastic fool you. I dropped my trial N97 a meter on hard flooring yesterday and the the N97 remained undamaged. Even the battery cover stayed in place and that is easily the flimsiest component of any mobile device. The hinge mechanism is solid and I am sure it is capable of withstanding countless amount of sliding action.

The 32GB storage space is really great. This is what sets it apart from the N97 Mini. However unless you are planning on using the N97 as a replacement to your DAP and PMP, the N97 Mini's partly 8GB should do fine. Both comes with microSDHC expansion slots. With the N97 you could have a theoretical maximum storage capacity of 64GB. That is more than what notebooks used to ship with just a couple of years ago. But unless you are going to use the multimedia abilities of the N97 to its full potential, don't bother. You would be better off getting a N97 Mini.

It is nice to see Nokia shipping a large BP-4L battery. The 1500mAh battery also powers the E71, E90 and recently the E55 and E72 as well. It is Nokia's largest battery in its inventory. unfortunately the N97 is riddled with such an awful power management system. Unless you are a very conservative user, you will be lucky to go a day without seeing the battery die out on you. It is unknown yet whether the new V20 firmware improved power management but I hope it does.

The camera here is good (for a phone). The 5MP sensor is I believe the same one (or similar) that graced the N95 and N96. Personally I have no issues with having having 'just' 5MP, as fitting in more pixels on a small sensor and trying to gain those via an extremely small lens is just a futile effort. Instead of getting more details, you will just get more noise. Still expect to see the Megapixel race continue to ridiculous amount. 12MP camera phones are starting to flood the market, which is the same amount as my Canon G9 with its larger sensor, and even it is struggling with noise issues. I will post some sample pictures tomorrow, but as a summary the N97 is capable of taking good photographs as long as there are plenty of natural light.

Finally the sound quality is brilliant. The N97 is very much capable of replacing your average DAP. It won't touch high-end DAPs like Sony's Walkman X-series, but don't let that put you off either. With my IE 8, the N97 was just bliss. The sound is warm, with good extension on the low-end frequencies. Bass isn't too empowering, though there is a 'bass-booster' if you are a bass head. The equaliser is a standard eight-band frequently seen in newer S60 devices. Other enchancements includes 'loudness' and 'stereo widening' but those settings do alter the sound frequency significantly. I suggest leaving them alone. There is even a FM transmitter which allows you to transmit your music to a FM radio. Brilliant for those with vehicles. It is a bit weak though.

The new V20 firmware should be a boon to those who have decided to stick with the N97. You can't blame those who have sold off their N97 whilst waiting. Nokia does take a long time to issue firmware updates, which is very frustrating. The N97 is a brilliant kit let down by the poor decision by whoever who decided to ship a beta firmware with it. I have been using an updated N97 for the past eight hours and it is a massive improvement over the V12 firmware that came with this trial unit. It is still a slow unit (no firmware updates can change the fact that the N97 is shipped with a lowly clocked processor).

Should you get the N97? No. Unless you really really do want that 32GB of flash memory, get the N97 Mini instead. Is pretty much the same device with a similar keyboard layout and hinge design but with only 8GB of storage. It retails for less and comes in a sleek aluminium body - a far improvement over the plastic case used on the vanilla N97. If keyboard isn't important to you, then consider the 5800 XpressMusic which can be had for under £200 sim-free, wait for the 32GB equipped X6 or get the brilliant Sony Ericsson Satio. Finally if touchscreen isn't that important, then consider getting the now bargain of the century E71 or wait for its successor E72, which is due next month.

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