Time to dust off the 'ol E2 login, and write up something.

What is this thing?

Announced in late August 2009, the Nokia N900 is Nokia's fourth installment of their Linux based internet tablet series. Having never used a prior iteration, I suggest reading prior nodes on the subject. This time around, Nokia has responded to the explosive growth in the smartphone market by releasing a device that competes quite nicely. In terms of CPU power, the N900 comes equipped with the Texas Instruments OMAP3430, an ARM-based SoC at 600MHz. The OMAP3430 can also be found in the Motorola Sholes, and is similar to the Samsung chip in the iPhone 3Gs and the Qualcomm Snapdragon. As a result, the N900 is no slouch.

Along with a fairly high-end CPU the N900 comes equipped with 256MB of RAM, 256MB of OneNAND flash memory for the OS, and a built in 32GB eMMC. The device also retains an internal MicroSDHC slot with a supported capacity of up to 16GB (though being Linux, there's no technical limit.) The N900 continues to support standard WiFi connectivity, Bluetooth and GPS; it also features a 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics, as well as a front facing camera.

The most marked change from the prior internet tablets is the inclusion of a 3G-capable GSM radio, which provides for both on-the-go data connectivity as well as voice call support. The catch is that it is very much a Europe-aimed phone. It only supports the common European HSDPA frequencies, leaving AT&T out in the cold. On top of that, the device is not available with a subsidy in the US making it a rather expensive device ($550 USD.)

Like prior devices, the N900 runs Maemo Linux, Nokia's custom distribution derived from Debian. Using the APT packaging system and Hildon UI with Matchbox window manager, the OS is designed entirely around maximizing the usable space on such a small device. While not entirely open, the device is considerably more open than the Android devices, and infinitely more so than the iPhone. The browser, which is a heavily modified port of Firefox 1.5, is extremely capable for a browser on a mobile device. It even provides support for many addons with minor modifications, resulting in the availability of things like AdBlock on the phone. It includes Flash 9 as well (with 10 coming in the first new firmware release) which doesn't hurt.

So what do you care?

The inclusion of the 3G radio (despite being on AT&T) was the selling point for me on this device. Even with all of the other features, it falls into the hole of being limited to whatever publicly available WiFi is around or stuck as an un-connected media player without the 3G data, which truly makes it a mobile internet device (a market Intel has been chasing after.) Combining the connectivity, power, openness, and sheer capacity of the device I have retired my 3G iPod and Dell Axim.

My personal usage of the device has been almost solely as an on-the-go computer with universal connectivity. With XChat open perpetually, the music player open and a browser on some page, the device sees much more use than any individual device I had previously. Its phone capabilities I can't compare with other smartphones, however it is slickly integrated into the user interface. The phone UI is also the only interface element that naturally transitions between landscape and portrait mode; the rest of the UI is almost exclusively landscape.

Are there issues? Sure. Software like Nokia's Ovi Maps is actively terrible, violating all UI rules and being generally slow. The media player is uninspiring, mail client needs work, and Nokia has yet to get the N900 section in the Ovi store running. But all of these are beside the point to me, as the capabilities far outweigh any lacking aspects in the default software.

First writeup in almost 7 years...

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.