Review of Nokia N770 Internet TabletAugust 25, 2007
I’ve had a few PDAs since the late 90’s but they’ve never been critical parts of my daily life. However they always came into their own when I was travelling.The first was a Palm IIIx which was my trusty workhorse for many years.. I used to stuff it full of useful apps and always had it fully synced to Outlook. Some of the software was world class like Datebook and Currex. Others were used a few time a year but I was always glad they were there, like YAUC the unit convertor.A few years back I inherited a Tungsten T and it was light years ahead of the IIIx. Yet again, it was all the useful utilities that made it a keeper. However despite the great screen and yet-to-be-equalled slider, it had far too many niggles. Pairing to phones and getting mobile internet working was always fraught, the digitizer kept drifting and the browser was rubbish. I finally put it away a few months back when I realised I could never run a modern browser like Opera Mini on it.I’ve never been convinced by the Smartphone argument over the PDA. To me a touch-screen is a must-have feature. I got an N70 last year and whilst I find it a great phone with pretty much everything I need, a phone-keypad is simply a terrible input device. I did struggle on and was particularly happy with Opera Mini. The camera is solid and I’ve used laptop to 3G via bluetooth more reliably than via cable! Then I heard about the amazing bargain that the N770 could be had for now that it is superseded by the N800. €107 plus tax and delivery is incredible for an 800×480 touch-screen Debian Linux based internet tablet with Wifi and Bluetooth.
First the really bad news – the browser sucks. It is a very old version of Opera with Flash 6. This means it does not work with almost any modern Google site due to JS deficiencies or video sites like YouTube or Google Video. For something which calls itself an Internet Tablet this is a big problem. However once we accept that, there are ways around it – mainly by using the mobile versions or basic HTML versions of most sites. The great resolution of the screen means you won’t have to scroll sideways on most. However even given this, the browser is as flakey as hell and crashes regularly.I took the extreme step of installing OS2007 Hacker Edition to get an improved browser. It is still pretty unusable on YouTube but a lot more usable on the various Google Apps. I still prefer to use the mobile versions of those sites for speed. Stability is still not great.
The touch screen is fantastic and the built-in music and video players are acceptable. I created a DivX version of The Incredibles, loaded it onto the RS-MMC card and it played perfectly. I’ve had grief using Handbrake for conversion but the Nokia 770 Media Converter works perfectly.
There are not that many default installed applications but http://www.maemo.org has a ton of others. My mainstays are:
- Pidgin for IM
- Gizmo for VOIP (and IM)
- XTerm for command-line access to the tablet
- DropBear SSH for accessing my servers
- RDP for accessing my desktop
- Password Safe for my passwords
- Maemo Recorder for voice recording
- Leafpad for editing text files
I’ve tried a ton of different media players and all have different problems. Canola has great potential but does not seem to like Hacker OS.
The big thing I’m waiting for is a Mozilla based browser. There is one for the N800 but it has not been backported to Hacker OS yet. Fingers crossed.
As I said in the summary, for a lot of the things you do as a mobile warrior, you just need this paired to a 3G phone via bluetooth for those times when there is no wifi. I’ve been leaving my laptop at home recently. Try the “thumb” virtual keyboard, it works a treat.