Recently, the nice folks at WOMWorld sent me an N97 Mini to review. Thanks guys. I received the Euro model, the RM-555, which supports UMTS on the 900, 1900 and 2100 Mhz bands, in addition to quad-band GSM and a 802.11g WLAN radio. Living in the US, I’d have preferred to have looked at a US model that included the UMTS 850 Mhz band, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? Right. So, on to the show..
The device’s size is great. Nice and small. I had an N97 for a (very) short time not long after it came out, and I was not a fan of the form factor. It felt almost like carrying around an old 9500. What a brick that thing was. Contrasted with this, I’d be totally satisfied with the form factor. Obviously, thinner would be better, to a point, but I’m not unhappy with the thickness. In terms of construction, there’s just enough metal to make it feel solid in your hands, like it’s not going to snap in half while you’re typing on it.
One problem I had with the layout – the position of the headphone jack. On my train ride home from the office yesterday, I had my headphones plugged in while listening to some tunes. Typing a couple of emails and texts was awkward. It would have been better if the headphone jack had moved toward the top, but the camera assembly would then need to be relocated. Typing on the keyboard wasn’t bad, took a bit of getting used to, but nothing ridiculous.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. S60 is really showing its age. Yes, S60 v5 has some advances over v3, even FP2, but it’s still got a lot of the baggage that’s accompanied S60 devices over the years – mostly speed related. This phone won’t win any UI races. The device lacks any form of multi-touch capabilities, due to its use of a resistive touchscreen. Yes, I’ve heard all the arguments about how you can use resistive screens while wearing gloves. Frankly, I don’t often find myself trying to use my phone while wearing gloves. I’d rather have a capacitive screen – much more responsive.
As it’s big brother does, the N97 Mini includes Ovi Maps, and is compatible with the new version of Ovi Maps that includes free navigation. I love the free navigation concept, and expect others to follow suit. That said, I much prefer using Google Maps. I find it faster and more responsive than Ovi Maps overall, and think it’s much better at finding things in the area because of its hooks into the Google Search infrastructure. I’d use something like Ovi Maps in my car for navigation, but I’ve owned a Garmin Nuvi for several years now, and I’m not quite ready to get rid of it.
For email, I’m using Mail for Exchange. The latest version for S60 v5 does not include HTML mail support, something I miss from my E72. I’m planning on trying out RoadSync on this phone as well, but since I already know that it doesn’t support network destinations (i.e. access point groups), I’ll be disappointed there as well, though I will get my HTML mail.
In the browser arena, as expected, I found the Nokia browser to be adequate, but not really as good as I’d like to see it. I tried out Opera Mobile on the device, and was generally more pleased with its functionality, though I found it to be slightly less responsive than the stock Nokia browser.
I ran a some speed tests from a variety of sites, using both AT&T 3G data as well as via the WLAN in my home. Over the air, I saw download speeds ranging from 500 – 780 kbps. Over the WLAN, I saw speeds around 1.2 Mbps. On my Mac on the same WLAN, I see about 18 Mbps down and 4.2 Mbps up (I have 20/5 FiOS at home). These performance numbers are consistent with my tests with other S60 phones, like the E71, E72 and my wife’s E75. It’s also close to what my iPhone toting friends in the area see.
In summary, the N97 Mini is definitely a better choice than the bigger N97. It’s more pocketable, and has the same features, with a better form factor. If all you’re after is an S60 v5 touch device, you’d probably be better off with the 5800 Nav Edition, but if you can’t live without a qwerty keyboard, the N97 Mini is a winner. Will I buy one? Probably not – I’m satisfied with my E72. Right now, Android 2.1 has ActiveSync that gets email and contacts. If they add calender support to it, I’ll be on an Android device before too long. Why? Newer devices, more innovation, actual integration with Google Voice – something I actually use on a daily basis and more than one vendor really interested in using it. Hopefully S60 can turn things around before my next phone purchase. As a co-worker said the other day, the call quality on Nokia devices is better than anything else I’ve ever used.