Apr 8, 2010

N97 mini – Review

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It’s almost 2 weeks now since I got first trial device N97 mini from WOMWorld. In fact I was really surprised to also receive BH-905, cutting edge technology audio product by Nokia.
I have been sceptical about touch screens in general. Having played around with WM phones and Nokia 5800, I wasn’t really sure if touch screens are for me.I always felt having hardware keys is key for doing certain things much faster, may not be much fancier. There have been already much debate about this and you can can look at AAS article by David Gilson.
N97 or N97 mini are kind of hybrid devices which have nice angular sliding QWERTY keypad. I thought there are exactly phones for user who has been long term non touch user, like me. Here is my review :)
N97 mini box is really small(mini ?) compared to my N82, it’s nice packaging. It came with just one headset.Charger and Data cable was also missing from my package. Not a big deal as I have both already with me.Regular retail package has much better headset and Data cable, charger in.
Build and Feel : N97 mini is definitely well built phone with nice metal back and really good size. I liked the colour “Cherry Black” , welcome change from all black phones I used till now. Phone feels perfect in hand. Only complain is metal elements are finger print magnets. Slider mechanism is also very good with great snap sound. Overall very good build for NSeries phone. I liked LED light which is along side Micro-USB port. “Designed in Finland” is seen on back hinge.

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QWERTY Keypad : QWERTY keypad is well placed and spacious. It very good addition to touch screen for typing longer emails, chat. I found buttons to be bit hard to press. Addition of arrow keys is also one of better design here.

 Please check following gallery for all un-boxing images.

Touch screen : Touch screen of N97 mini 3.2” and it’s pleasure to watch images, videos on it. It’s not most responsive, could be because protective film was still on the screen. Sometimes I had hard time navigating using only touch. But this gets much better as you use.
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Menu , Applications : Being latest NSeries device with S60 5th edition , Menu structure are similar to 5800 with some polishing here and there. But it bit confusing for new users or even experienced S60 3rd edition users. I struggled to find Sync settings on N97 mini :)
Out of box, N97 mini comes with loads of applications, widgets. Also being on S60 5th edition helps here as most of newer apps are getting released for this platform. You can find many free applications on OVI store which comes pre-installed.
QuickOffice viewer edition 5 is installed which can upgraded to version 6 having ability to view Office 2007 version files. Adobe Reader 2.5 is also present but with 15 day trial version only. Active Notes, Dictionary are also there along with other regular S60 apps.
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Gravity 10 day trial , I installed first. Just like the Interface , ease of use of this lovely app.
I also downloaded many apps from Nokia Beta Labs like Nokia Image Space, Image Exchange, Photo Browser, Nokia Feel, Nokia Diagnostics, Green Explorer. Not all apps will be useful for everyone but I wanted to to try all as some are not available for my “old” N82. :)
Camera : Camera is 5 MP, Carl Zeiss, Auto Focus. It’s very good camera among 5 MP but not really best out there. Interface is simple to use. Video capture is also quite decent which captures VGA at 30fps. It has front camera , basically for 3G video calls.
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Check this gallery for Photos taken with N97 mini, please note that, I am not Photographer. :)
Music :  Music player is pleasure to use with bigger screen. Apart from that it’s all standard fare like any other S60 5th edition. Tracks are sorted based on Album, Artist, Genre. Nokia in India just re-branded Nokia Music store to OVI Music.So they have made tracks DRM free. I was able to transfer all of downloaded tracks to N97 mini and I was happy to see I was able to play all of them without any license issue !!! So all these tracks I can play on my N82 and other devices also. FM radio reception is good.
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OVI Music online store can be accessed from Music player app and you can download tracks.
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GPS, Maps : N97 mini has got really sensitive GPS receiver and Nokia has provided it with Free Navigation version of OVI Maps 3.03. I quickly updated to 3.04 Beta which is better. OVI Maps has really cool features like Lonely Planet, Burp , Events/Weather service info built-in. All this information is location aware. i.e. You get to know weather, events , nearest POIs of your location. Great service and it’s free(or cost is built-in to Device cost !!!). Car, Walk Navigation is free and works well.
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I also use Google Maps sometimes, mainly for their better search engine. Also it has satellite imagery which OVI Maps data somehow doesn’t have. Also find latitude better than location sharing option in OVI Maps which is only limited to Facebook now.
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Email, Messaging : N97 mini is equipped to handle all Email, SMS, MMS needs. I access my Gmail, Hotmail, OVI mails via Nokia Messaging which is my favourite Nokia servicer It’s real quick , delivers email even faster than on my PC web browser.N97 mini supports Mfe – Nokia’s Mail for  Exchange, so I was able to setup my exchange account and sync all my email, calendar, contacts and tasks. Speed of email delivery is same like Nokia Messaging here, email hits N97 mini faster than my Outlook ! My only complain is that someone need to re-design the interface to use screen more efficiently. Now I think lot of space is wasted on right side bar.
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Battery, Telephony : Only thing which I really didn’t like about N97 mini and most of touch screen phones also is Battery life. Few days I got into situation of battery being completely drained in less than 8 hours. This was poor even comparing with my 2 year old N82. One reason could be that I used N97 mini on always 3G connection, but even then it’s not good. Someone need to really think a lot of this issue as such feature packed phone deserves better battery.
In India we only have 3G in few places, I am being lucky to have MTNL 3G. It is really fast, affordable. N97 mini on this 3G SIM was treat to use. Being phone after all - Call quality was good.With Data speed, I was constantly getting 1-1.2 Mbps. I noticed that phone was getting warmer than normal. Having Metal cover added to that. Also this was not much issue if I used phone in GSM mode, here battery life was also much better.
Closing comments : So has N97 mini convinced me about touchscreen devices? well I am not still sure about it.I would say Larger screen and having extra interaction method of touch definitely is plus. So for me only touch phones are still big No-No. N97 mini like hybrids – Yes :)
N97 mini is currently available in India for anything between Rs. 22-23k. Nokia is doing well to reduce prices further to make this best choice around 20k mark. So I think it’s best phone to buy if you are looking at 20k price band. If you buy before 13th April, you get 1 year additional warranty. It is really good deal for that price.
Hope you guys have not got bored with long review, I will cover few more details in next posts.Leave your questions/feedback via comments, I will be happy to answer all.

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