Friday, February 6, 2009
The much maligned Nokia 770 is the subject of our next adventure in reviews. In my years of dealing with technology there is one major truism: no electronic product exists (and probably never will) that meets everybody's needs. This couldn't be more true with the Nokia 770. I hold it in high regard but it has some major limitations. But accepting those limitations and working within them I came to appreciate its functionality even more! On my recent trip to Australia I watched 4 complete movies on my "personal DVD player" (a.k.a. the Nokia 770 + ripped DVD's to MPEG-4 format... yes, I own the movies) on one battery charge. I had no less than 12 other passengers lusting over it simply for that functionality.
Physically the Nokia 770 is a solid beast... the buttons feel good and work well (although I rarely use the hard keys on the front... the touch screen takes care of that). The fit and finish of the product, although not glitzy, is clean and simple. No flash but a very sturdy product. I like the cover for the fact that I felt I could man-handle it without worrying about the large screen getting damaged in my briefcase. The screen is stunning. I have done a fair number of slideshows for people and the images really pop off the screen. The dedicated buttons along the top of the product are great.
They allow you to quickly jump to 'full-screen' mode and to zoom in on a picture or web page... which works flawlessly by actually zooming in rather than rescaling the text only. The touchscreen is great.... remind me why more manufacturers don't use touch screens???? They are so intuitive.
I believe that which makes it strong also hampers it's usefulness. Although it came out with a good basic set of applications, given the appealing form factor there has been an outcry for more functionality. There are some incredible apps that have been written by talented people... a media player, a mapper that will work with a GPS signal (although you must supply the map data) and some pretty fun games. The process to acquire these and maintain them are not consumer-ready.
This product excels at a few things. It delivers a clean, quick, true web experience over WiFi (except it's flash version is a bit outdated and doesn't play embedded movies e.g. YouTube). It's screen is very clear and pleasant to gaze upon. It handles a nice variety of media (music, videos, pictures) in many popular formats. Its size is a perfect blend of portability yet big enough to see real content. The VoIP functionality is on par with a PC.
On the Fence: Battery life is approximately 7 hours depending on usage and screen brightness (pretty respectable but borderline.... mainly because if standby time from a full battery is about 3 hours.
So don't walk away from it for a couple days and expect much life from it unless it's plugged in. Open source software is exciting but to raise this product out of the niche of useful device to us geeks and a viable contender to the PMP's and UMPC's of the world the software has to be integrated or brain-dead-easy to install (e.g. Mac OSX software update panel). The current system of repositories is intuitive to those familiar with Linux and few others. Using RS-MMC cards is a bit unfortunate as the current trends it either mini-SD or micro-SD. You can buy them on the web but I would rather share cards with other devices.
Viewing Flash and embedded video on web pages isn't keeping pace with the web. To update the OS you have to wipe your entire system (yes, there is a backup utility but COME ON!). Web only accessible over WiFi or a paired Bluetooth phone connected to the internet via GPS (slow, expensive and pairing of even some high end Nokia's was unsuccessful!). Email and IM is tough without an integrated QWERTY keyboard (yes, I have an external Bluetooth keyboard but it's bigger than the product!) Also, in contrast to Nokia's consumer offerings that work very cleanly and reliably... pre- configured out of the box, the Nokia 770 requires a fair amount of hand holding and reading of the Maemo.org website to take full advantage of the product
I think this is a great product to have sitting on your coffee table or on your jaunt to the local coffee shop to quickly access info from the web without whipping out your laptop or running back crying to your desktop PC.
I give it a 7.5 out of 10 stars. I use mine often and dream of the few tweaks to make it a kick-arse addition to any household and/or mobile lifestyle.