Nokia N900 review

£459
Price when reviewed

Nokia used to be known for producing simple, effective phones, but then it jumped on the Symbian bandwagon and lumbered itself with the over-complicated S60 OS. But, at long last, the Finnish phone giant is striking out in a new direction, and its new top-end phone the N900 boasts a shiny new OS: the Linux-based Maemo 5.

Okay, so it’s not exactly the first time we’ve come across this operating system. Two years ago the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet ran an earlier version of the software and we liked it a lot, but with only Wi-Fi connectivity it was a niche product.

Quite why it took Nokia so long to launch Maemo on a phone is beyond us – the software is clearly far more suited to a modern touchcreen smartphone than Symbian S60 and we really like the way it works.

A new outlook

The first thing you see is a scrolling desktop that you can add shortcuts and widgets too, a bit like with Android phones. Tap an icon at the top of the screen, next to the notifications, and the application launch view hoves into view.

Nokia N900 launch screen

This makes it easy to find your way around the phone’s various tools and settings. Navigation of lists and menus makes absolute sense and you can flick lists around with your finger just as you’d expect to do. Multitasking is dealt with logically too: when one or more apps is running, the application grid launch icon in the top left of the screen transforms into a task view button.

Tap it and up comes the task view with thumbnails of all the apps running, tap it again and you get to the application launch, or you can choose to dismiss tasks with a single click.

Nokia N900 Multitasking

Importantly, browsing the web is a much quicker and more reliable process than it is with the standard browser on S60-based Nokia phones. Maemo employs a browser built on the Mozilla codebase, so it’s no surprise to find it’s a big improvement. Indeed, connected to a Wi-Fi network with a fast internet connection, the N900 brought up the BBC homepage in an average of 8.3 seconds – on a par with the iPhone 3GS, which is the fastest phone in the business.

Nokia N900 web browser

General navigation and page manipulation is handled elegantly. We particularly liked the gestures Nokia’s put in place, allowing you to zoom in and out of web pages by drawing a circle with your finger. A “hover” mode allows you to simulate a mouse – useful for pop-ups and dropdowns that only become available when you hover the mouse over them. And the large, high-resolution screen helps too. At 3.5in it may be the same size as an iPhone’s, but its 800 x 480 resolution makes pages – specifically text – a little easier on the eye.

Excitingly, the browser also supports Flash 9.4, so it will run embedded YouTube videos and even attempt BBC iPlayer playback. Watching embedded YouTube videos worked well too, but before you get your hopes up, note that iPlayer ran fitfully in our tests, even over a fast Wi-Fi link.

Specifications

Under the hood there’s plenty going on with all of the toys you’d expect from a top-end smartphone and some you wouldn’t. Data connectivity is well catered for, with Wi-Fi, HSDPA and Bluetooth. On the media front there’s a 3.5mm headphone socket, plus an FM tuner, FM transmitter (for wireless music playback through a radio), and 32GB to store your all your media on.

The camera, which boasts 5-megapixel resolution and a dual-LED flash unit, produces excellent pictures with balanced colour and good levels of detail. And the video mode lets you shoot 848 x 480 at 25fps – another notable feather in its cap.

Details

Cheapest price on contract £200
Contract monthly charge £14.67
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider www.mobiles.co.uk

Battery Life

Talk time, quoted 9hrs

Physical

Dimensions 60.3 x 19.7 x 110mm (WDH)
Weight 181g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard Physical

Core Specifications

ROM size 32,000MB
Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 3.5in
Resolution 480 x 800
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Other

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