With cellular network support, the N900 is a much more practical device than its internet tablet predecessors and has a number of interesting features that set it apart from typical smartphones. However, despite Microsoft Exchange connectivity, the device is better suited to enthusiasts looking for a pocket-sized computer rather than the typical user needing a mobile phone.
Good web browser; Qwerty keyboard; multi-tasking OS lets user keep multiple apps open.
Relatively short battery life; high SIM-free price.
Nokia's N900 is a Linux-based mobile device with a number of advanced features, including application multi-tasking, built-in VoIP support, stereo speakers, graphics acceleration, video output to a TV, and more.
Announced last August and available now from Vodafone, Carphone Warehouse and Nokia's online shop, the Nokia N900 is part of the firm's N Series of multimedia handsets. However, it is more like a tiny computer that can make voice calls rather than a smartphone. This is demonstrated by the fact that the main screen resembles a computer desktop, and the phone features are relegated to just one application among many others.
The upshot of this is that the N900 is better suited for tech-savvy enthusiasts rather than the average user, who might prefer a simpler device such as Apple's popular iPhone. For example, we have seen few other devices that have a built-in X Terminal that lets you key in Linux shell commands.
Meanwhile, business users will probably prefer to stick with more corporate-focused devices such as Nokia's E series models or a BlackBerry.
From the outside, the N900 pretty much resembles a smartphone. It has a 3.5in 800 x 480 touch-screen display and a slide-out Qwerty keyboard for messaging, plus it supports 3G/HSPA, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless standards, plus built-in GPS.
So far, the N900 seems like other N Series handsets, but its predecessors were not smartphones but internet tablets such as the N800, which relied on Wi-Fi or a Bluetooth link with a phone to connect to the internet.
The N900 adds cellular network capability, which means you can stay connected virtually anywhere, but it still has much in common with those internet tablet models. It is designed to be used chiefly in landscape orientation, for example, except when you want to make a call, whereupon it switches automatically to portrait mode, like a smartphone.
In size, the N900 is closer to a smartphone at 110.9 x 59.8 x 18mm, although it is a little heavy for a mobile at 181g. The power button is on top of the case (when held in portrait format), along with a volume up/down key, camera shutter button and an infrared port.
The latter is not used by any built-in application, but is available for developers to find a use for, according to Nokia.
Stereo speakers are built into the left and right edges of the device for audio output. The left side also features a micro USB connector, while the right has a lock switch and Nokia's AV socket for stereo audio and TV output. On the bottom right corner is a slot holding a simple plastic stylus for use with the screen.
Last but not least, the rear of the N900 has the device's 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, which features a sliding shutter to protect the lens and flash. Surrounding the camera is a flip-out kick-stand, designed to stand the device at an angle on a flat surface. However, this feels a little flimsy to us.
On the inside, the N900 is based on an Omap 3430 processor from Texas Instruments, which combines a 600MHz ARM Cortex A8 core plus a PowerVR graphics accelerator onto a single chip. The handset has 256MB of memory, with 32GB of internal Flash storage expandable up to 48GB via a microSD slot inside the back cover.