Nokia N810 Internet Tablet Review

This is a belated followup to my previous post about the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet.  I hadn’t received the tablet when I first wrote about it.  I listed some of its features that made it attractive to me, and promised a review once I had the device in hand.

Here are some photos of the device next to my Creative Zen Vision M (approximately the same size and shape as an iPod Classic) and my Toshiba e330 Pocket PC.

Sorry, the photos were lost in transition.

Here is a list of features I mentioned in my previous post, and my impressions of them in actual use:

I want to check my email on the go, but I don’t like things I have to pay for month after month.  Ergo, buying a data plan for my phone is not an optimal solution. Besides email, I rely heavily on the internet for real-time traffic and other information, as well as entertainment.  I’ve wanted for a long time to have a portable browsing device.  The N810 has received stellar reviews of its web browsing capability.  Apparently, you can view regular web pages instead of the stripped down portable versions that some devices require.

The N810 excels at web browsing as long as you have either access to a wifi network or a tethered connection to a phone with a data plan.  Web pages display beautifully.  The device isn’t as fast as a full-size desktop or laptop PC.  Resource-hogging pages that have a lot of images or interactive content tend to load slowly.  This includes sites like CNN.com and Facebook.

The Sigalert website that I use for real-time traffic here in Los Angeles works well.  It takes close to a minute to load, but works fine after that.  Many of Google’s services run slowly.  I’ve switched my Gmail account to “basic html” mode because it’s a lot faster that way.  Google maps and docs are so slow as to be useless, but Google Calendar and Reader work fine if you are patient.

I’ve also used the tablet to write and upload posts to this blog.   The blogging interface is just slow enough that I prefer to write posts in the device’s text editor, then copy and paste.  It’s not my favorite way to do it, but it works.  There is also a downloadable blogging client for the N810 that I haven’t tried.

I already use a PDA and portable keyboard to take notes in my classes.  I upload all my notes to a Google document so I can share them with my colleagues.  My university has WiFi internet, so having a WiFi device like the N810 would allow me to directly edit the Google document and save the time I now spend uploading files.

This was a partial success.  The N810 has an excellent note-taking application that includes basic word processor functionality like different text sizes, styles and fonts.  I used the device with a bluetooth keyboard and loved it.  I was unable to directly type into Google Docs, partly because my classroom had no wifi, and partly because Google Docs runs so slowly on the tablet as to be useless.

As a freelance musician, I perform in a lot of unfamiliar places.  The N810’s GPS capability, while not essential, would be helpful for finding gigs.

Again, a partial success. The N810 comes with a built-in GPS receiver and mapping software.  You can connect to satellites and find your position on the map for free.  If you want turn-by-turn directions, you have to buy a license for $130.  Also, the GPS receiver is a bit finicky and can take a while to connect, especially if you are in a moving vehicle.  Sometimes it can take 5 minutes or longer to get a connection.

I didn’t buy the license for turn-by-turn directions.  The GPS would be a lot more useful with the license, but I’ve used it a few times to navigate through unfamiliar neighborhoods or find my way to a nearby major road.  If I really wanted turn-by-turn, however, I would buy a dedicated device.

Skype capability is a big selling point for me.  One of my sisters lives in Europe, and 2.1 cents per minute to call her from any WiFi hotspot is a pretty good deal in my opinion.  Try getting international rates like that from a cell provider.

After 6 months of procrastination, I finally signed up with Skype and bought some calling credit.  I pay $2.95/month for unlimited calling within the United States and Canada, and I bought $10 worth of calling credit for international calls. I’ve spent about 4 hours talking on Skype with the N810 since then, and am so far quite pleased.

If you don’t have a bluetooth headset, you can use the N810 in “speakerphone” mode or with headphones.  The device has a microphone that will pick up your voice.  I connected my bluetooth headset and left the device sitting on my desk while I chatted in an adjacent room.  Call quality is reasonably good, although I could hear some soft crackling.  I haven’t had any dropped calls so far.  Mrs. Fencepost and I have decided to discontinue our current home phone service and exclusively use Skype and our cell phones.

To use Skype, you will need access to either a wifi hotspot, or a tethered connection to a phone with a data plan.

Other Thoughts:

Movies and Music:

The N810 can play movies and music in several formats, although it can’t handle digital rights management.  It’s not my first choice for listening (I have an excellent MP3 player), but its screen, which is relatively large for a pocket-sized device, displays movies beautifully.  Here’s a link with instructions for converting movies.

Ebooks:

A free open-source ebook reader, FBReader, is available for the tablet.  As with movies and music, you can’t use if for books containing digital rights management.  I haven’t used it enough to comment, except that I am impressed with the crispness of the display.

PDF Reader:

The N810 comes with a PDF reader preloaded.  I use it regularly and am quite impressed.  My only complaint is that I can’t bookmark my place in a PDF document.

Thumb Keyboard:

I really like having a thumb-size QWERTY keyboard.  I’ve tried touchscreen software keyboards, including on the iPod Touch, and was not impressed.  Call me old fashioned, but I much prefer a physical keyboard.  Even though I have a bluetooth keyboard, I have occasionally taken notes in meetings and classes, and composed lengthy emails, with just my thumbs.

Screen Resolution:

The internet tablet’s screen has a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels.  It is beautifully crisp and clear.  Coming to the tablet from my old Toshiba Pocket PC (320 x 240 screen resolution) is like night and day.  It’s like looking at a tiny laptop screen.

Expandable Memory:

The N810 has a slot for mini-SD cards, so its storage capacity is limited only by the size of the card you have in it, unlike certain other products that have only the storage capacity you buy them with.

Conclusion:

I think my Nokia N810 is the coolest thing ever.  I wouldn’t mind if it was faster and could handle every website without a hitch, but it’s very impressive for its size.  I’m one step away from whispering “My precioussss….” as I gently cradle it in my hands.

If you haven’t yet experienced the technological marvel that is the Nokia N810, I invite you to purchase it here.

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  1. Ploni Almoni’s avatar

    You might want to try Tear, a webkit browser for the NIT. It’s faster…

  2. Jon’s avatar

    Thanks for the suggestion, Pioni. I’m actually using the Tear prototype right now to post this. It is a lot faster. I tried some of the sites that don’t work with MicroB, and it handles them just fine.

    I noticed, though, that Tear doesn’t seem to handle memory very well. The device memory clogs up quickly, and the browser is crashprone. Hopefully that will be fixed in the next version.

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