Techcraver N800 Review
When I think of Nokia, I think cell phones. Which is why I was surprised when I heard about the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet. The N800 is a beautifully designed 3 1/2 inch mobile tablet that allows you to surf the web, chat via Instant Message, and do VoIP calls among many other tasks. The N800 has a lot of onboard hardware including wi-fi (802.11B/G), bluetooth, and a video camera. You can interface with the device using the included stylus, onboard keys, or through its amazing touch screen. The N800 is a follow-up device to the Nokia N770 Internet tablet, which received poor reviews. The N800 has better hardware, fixing a key complaint about the N770 – sluggishness.
Another bonus is the N800 is running a Linux based operating system, meaning external developers can write software for the N800 Tablet. This fact alone makes the N800 a very attractive package. Unlike the new Apple iPod Touch, the Nokia N800 is an ‘open’ device that outsiders can develop software and hardware for. This is very powerful. For example, the N800 came with an FM receiver, but Nokia didn’t ship the N800 with the software to utilize this facility. Someone took it upon themselves to write the software and now you can use the N800 as an FM receiver, adding to its utility.
At First Glance:
The Nokia N800 is a beautiful device. The screen, which is simply stunning at 800×640 dominates the front side of the screen and is surrounded on the sides and bottom by the speakers. On the upper left of the screen are the directional navigation/operation buttons. There is a swing-out stand that allows you to view the N800 on a table when watching media. On the sides of the device you have the pop-out webcam, stylus, headphone jack, power jack, and power/volume buttons. Nokia really took their time to design a functional and eye catching portable computer.
So you have a mini portable computer, but what can you do with it? The short answer is many, many things, most of which are focused on staying connected. Even though this device isn’t a cell phone, you can make phone calls via VoIP. Out of the box, Nokia has a client called Nokia Internet Call Invitation. In addition to this software, you can install a custom version of Skype and the Gizmo Project has just released a client allowing access to their network. The Skype software integration is of great interest to me and should be to anyone who is a traveler. Think about it. Anywhere you can hop on a wi-fi network, you can have voice calls and instant messaging conversations to anyone on your skype contact list. This ability to add portability to Skype makes the N800 of great interest to me. More on the Skype client below.
Another thing that was really fun to do was to have the N800 be portable with Gizmo Project as well. By pairing Grandcentral and Gizmo Project, I can get phone calls directly to the N800 to my ‘normal’ grandcentral number, allowing me to get regular phone calls at no additional cost. Pretty cool!
Nokia also included a fully functional RSS reader and e-mail client which supports POP3 and IMAP4. In addition to email, the N800 supports Instant Messaging via Google Talk, Jabber, Yahoo!, MSN, and Gizmo Project. It should be noted that Yahoo! and MSN access are a feature of the Gizmo Project N800 software.
Aside from Internet connectivity, the N800 offers many multi-media features. It can take 2 SD cards (the same ones that go into your digital camera or PDA) so you can import and play media. The built-in kick stand allows you to put the N800 on a tabletop and comfortably watch a movie, video podcast, or other video without having to hold it in your hand. Also you can play mp3s or virtually any music file. I have read that some people were unhappy with the N800’s video playback, but I found the video to be smooth and high-quality. The speakers are a little tinny and not loud enough, but this would be expected of tiny portable speakers on any electronic device.
Skype on the Nokia N800
One of the main reasons I wanted to evaluate the N800 was it’s special Skype client. Shortly after the N800s release earlier this year, Skype was fast to develop a customized client specially designed for the Nokia N800. Downloading and installing the application is quick and easy. I fired up Skype and was happy to have my skype contact list with me as I walked around my home office. I fired up a chat window and used the N800’s touch screen to type out IM’s. I found this to be a little clunky, but I immediately became comfortable typing and was doing so pretty quickly.
Next up was testing voice quality. There are two ways to make voice calls on the Skype/N800 package – using the onboard mic and speakers and with a special pair of headphones with an onboard mic on the headsets. I called a skype contact using the onboard mic and speakers. The caller said I sounded great, however the tinny speakers on the N800 didn’t relay his voice very well. The caller, to my surprise, said there was no feedback on his end. When I make calls on my MacBook with onboard mic and speakers, people always complain that they can hear their voice and quickly become annoyed with the feedback. Also, skype calls with the included headphones/headset sounded great both for the caller and myself. So, overall the N800 is a fabulous platform for running Skype on the go.
I have two main complaints of Skype on the N800. First, you can’t currently make voice calls using a Bluetooth headset. Knowing the N800 had onboard Bluetooth, I tried to sync it to my Motorola Bluetooth headset to no avail. Through conversations with Nokia and Skype, I found that the Bluetooth onboard is currently only used to pair with a mobile phone for access to mobile data networks. So unfortunately if you want to make a skype call on the N800, you’re bound to being physically hooked up with a standard pair of headphones.
Secondly, even though there is an onboard webcam, Skype currently does not take advantage of this capability for skype video calls. You can do webcam calls with a proprietary Nokia software package, but I’d like to see Skype embrace the webcam on the N800 so make awesome video calls wherever you can get a wi-fi signal.
I have throughouly enjoyed the N800 in the time I’ve had it. It’s great to be able to get access to the web or IM networks without having to lug around my laptop. Should you buy the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet? Well that depends on what you need in a portable device. If you mainly want a media player and you think it’d be cool to be able to routinely surf the web, then I’d recommend you buy the iPod touch. Especially considering you can use iTunes to keep the iPod Touch and your media in sync between your computer and the portable device.
However if you consider yourself a technophile, the N800 is the device for you. If you are in support of open standards and expandability, the N800 is for you. As of the time of this writing, the iPod Touch does not have the ability to have 3rd party applications added to it. The N800 is built on linux and new apps are being continually being released for it.
The N800 is currently aroud $350 so I think it’s main target audience is geeks who constantly want to be in touch and who are in environments where they are constantly around a Wi-Fi device or have a smartphone that they can get online with.
What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment or call me and let me know!
Random thought: I wish there was a synchronization utility for keeping this in sync with a PC, namely my MacBook.