Nokia N810 and 770 Internet Tablets
The Nokia N810 is a handheld computer, with a display of 800x480 pixels and
16 bit color, a touch screen for stylus input, a slide-out keyboard, sound, a
camera, a GPS receiver,
and wireless networking, both 802.11b/g and Bluetooth. Your first impression
will be that it's a PDA,
a little larger than usual. The N810 appeared on the market about December
2007. The term N-Series includes Nokia's recent cellphone handsets plus
the N810 and its earlier siblings; in this document when I refer to the
N-series I am referring collectively to the Internet Tablets, not the
In January 2007 the Nokia N800 was released. Its major new features are a
camera and a faster processor. It has an integral table stand, which
does not get in your way when you hold it. The screen cover of the 770
The original model in this product line is the Nokia 770, appearing about
January 2006 and no longer available. This commentary was first written to
describe the 770, but most of the comments apply equally to the newer models.
I have updated it where needed to apply to my newly acquired N810.
Reviewers always say, the N-Series machines are from Nokia but are not
phones. They are not sold with PDA software. So what are they for? The glib
answer is that it's for whatever you want, because it runs Linux and you can
install software on it.
Here are four sample usage scenarios. I was reading one review of
PDAs and the author
made effective use of a fictional scenario to show his vision for the
Wired City, and the two fictional pieces show my own vision of how
a handheld wireless device (not specifically the 770) can be useful.
To summarize the advantages of the Nokia N-Series as seen by me:
- Software is expandable and replaceable to meet my needs.
- The display is really excellent, best of any current
- Internet connectivity is excellent: 802.11b/g (which is what I use)
or Bluetooth to a cell phone (when 802.11 is unavailable, if one
has a phone with Bluetooth, which I don't).
- The battery lasts a lot longer than a laptop's, allowing all day service
(of course not every second of the day unless you have a spare battery).
- Because it's small, light and unobtrusive, I can use the device where
a 3.3 Kg laptop would not fit, and I'm willing to use it for small
tasks for which the laptop isn't agile enough.
Disadvantages of the N-Series (discussed in detail below) include:
- Any task that involves a lot of text input, like editing this web page,
is best done on a machine with a real keyboard. A Bluetooth keyboard
can be used but many of the interesting uses of the device become
clumsy with the separate keyboard.
- If you have a dual quad-core Xeon at 3.0 GHz that you use to check your
e-mail, you'll notice that the 220 MHz OMAP-1710 (in the 770) is not as
fast. But I think it's fairly well balanced with the tasks it's called
upon to do, with one exception: reading PDF
files; also see here. And
modern bloatware that uses a memory cache can run the machine out of
- A big advantage of this device is that you can configure it to do what
you want, but if you are not comfortable downloading and
installing software you won't get that advantage. However only one or
two packages needed special handling; the others just installed right
off the download site with no skilled labor needed. If you want to
use your device as a PDA
you'll need to do some downloading; read
here about my (limited) experiences.
- Screen linear dimensions are 1/3 that of a laptop (Dell Inspiron
6000d), and if you see poorly you'll have to hold the device close.
But any conventional PDA,
or particularly any cell phone, would be even worse that way.
- Reviewers pretty uniformly dislike the provided mail reader;
see here for my own experiences.
It may be fine for a simple low-security setup with POP, but not for
my mail server. Instead I'm using Pine just like I do at work,
and I'm happy with it.
- Most reviewers were unsuccessful using handwriting recognition. I
believe this is a user training issue, and I discuss handwriting in more detail below. After
some work I can use the handwriting input method fairly reliably.
However, it turns out that I'm still faster and more accurate if I use
the software keyboard, particularly for long texts such as replying to
Frequently in this document I refer to the
Nokia 770; in Nokia docs
and blogs they say
the device. Dumb. It isn't a PDA, so let's coin a decent
TLA for it. How about
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