Gadget lust

by Giles Turnbull

A Nokia N800, yesterday

Years ago, I liked to think of myself as something of a cutting-edge journalist, armed as I was with a Palm III, a first-generation GoType keyboard, and an Ericsson SH888 phone handset.

I was able to cruise around London for press events and interviews, typing stuff up as I went along and filing it to my employers by email. It might sound trivially ordinary now, but at the time very few people were doing this; certainly not many of my colleagues in journalism.

Eventually I changed jobs and didn’t need to file copy from anywhere or anytime anymore. The Ericsson got upgraded for something less like an industrial stapler, and the Palm got archived away in a drawer.

But I miss that portable set up to this day. Now, I carry around a 15 inch PowerBook, a great machine in its own right; but I wish I had something a little smaller, and a little lighter, to carry around instead.

In recent years I’ve considered various options. Perhaps another, more up-to-date Palm device. Maybe an Alphasmart Neo, or a Dana. But nothing has yet been so appealing that I seriously considered buying it.

Not until this week, when I stopped to have a really close look at the Nokia N800.


2007-01-25 08:51:33
I recently decided the $40+/month for Verizon wasn't worth it for how much I use my phone, but I have a lot of things I need in my Palm-based Treo. I decided to go back to the PDA world and get a Palm T|X. I picked it up refurbed for $189. It has wi-fi, bluetooth etc. and was actually easier to log into my home wi-fi than my powerbook! I imagine the life of PDA's is limited but this is a nice device right now and works well for me. And with Documents to Go, I can edit my Word and Excel files (and you can use a wireless keyboard) so it's a nice mini computer.
Isaac Jones
2007-01-25 09:04:20
I recently got an N800, and I wouldn't worry about the boot time if I were you... After a few minutes of inactivity, it goes into "Idle" mode, where the battery will last for about 6 days (when starting off fully charged). Hopefully, since it's running Linux, we'll see uptimes of many years without having to reboot, but I have had it crash on me a few times. This might be due to 3rd party software I've installed, though.
2007-01-25 09:16:46
@Simdude: yeah, the Palm TX is a possible option and one I have considered before. I'm interested to see how the N800 compares.
2007-01-25 09:26:19
Looks like a neat device, if it wasn't so damn ugly. Looks like something Sony would have designed in the mid 80s.
Obbie Z
2007-01-25 10:27:39
If the screen hadn't crapped out, I'd still be using my Palm IIIx with the folding keyboard for writing on the road. I don't need a mobile phone, but something as portable as my old Palm, along with the color screen, audio input (for remote interviews), photo storage, and REAL internet access (so I can ftp my photos and stuff home) would make this a perfect device.

2007-01-25 11:54:56
Don't expect to get better battery life from the N800 than from an Apple portable; my N800 has broadly similar battery life to my MacBook Pro -- it seems to eat the battery very much faster when wifi and Bluetooth are enabled.
2007-01-25 12:10:58
It's an attractive overall package, but it tends to fall apart in the details. The little niggly bits that seem like they should be no-brainers for an "internet tablet".

YouTube videos, for example, play very poorly, never more than 1-2 fps. A high percentage of AJAX web applications are incompatible with the Opera browser. The email client is among the worst I've ever used, supporting multiple accounts, but only one "INBOX", and a half-baked IMAP implementation that doesn't sync with the server. The GUI is sluggish and often confusing.

Don't get me wrong, you get quite a bit for your $400, but be prepared to not get the level of internet usability that you might be expecting.

John Handelaar
2007-01-25 14:56:29
Yeah... but at today's exchange rate, over this side of the Atlantic, $400 is practically free.
2007-01-25 23:44:51
Don't get one. I too wasn't traveling much for work anymore and thought I don't need laptop. So, I bought a Mac Mini for work and a 770 for the times when I traveled. The 770 was hard to work on even for basic email and other editing tasks, it's not bad at browsing the web. I even got a portable bluetooth keyboard hoping it would make it more usable, but it didn't. Within 7 months I gave up, sold the Mini and got a MacBook. The 770 is now used to read recipes in the kitchen. One more thing to keep in mind is Nokia isn't making OS2007 available for the 770.
Travis Butler
2007-01-26 00:12:09
Overall, I'd say the N800 (and its predecessor the 770, which I currently own) has a lot of potential, and some really great hardware features for the size and price (the 800x480 screen being the standout). Unfortunately, stability is poor, at least with the set of applications I run; I get spontaneous reboots every few days and frequent application crashes. (Reports on the Internet Tablet Talk forums, the main support source I've found for the Nokia tablets, suggest that the 800 is also fairly buggy.) The software that comes installed is generally polished but often limited; the third-party software available on is your typical mixed bag of hobbyist-supported apps, ranging from fairly polished to very rough-edged port, moderately stable to very flaky, and coverage depending on what folks were interested in doing.

The major cloud on the horizon for me is the controversy that started when the head of IT development announced that there would be no end-user release of the new OS 2007 release that comes standard on the N800. The update from OS 2005 to OS 2006 broke every existing app, but at least everyone could upgrade to OS 2006; OS 2006 and OS 2007 are a lot closer, but there are still significant compatibility issues. I had been strongly tempted to get a N800, but this episode makes me seriously question Nokia's commitment to ongoing support.