Nokia N900 review
Perfect for Linux developers with deep pockets, but despite great performance and an intuitive OS, it's not suitable for consumers who want a wide selection of apps and easy updates.
Review Date: 2 Mar 2010
Price when reviewed: £440
Reviewed By: Barry de la Rosa
Nokia's N900 is unique, as it's the only phone to run Nokia's home-brewed mobile Linux operating system, Maemo. It may be the only phone ever to run Maemo, as Nokia has announced that Maemo will merge with Intel's Moblin to become MeeGo. Being a fully Linux-compatible OS, that means that you can theoretically use any Linux application on it, so it's no wonder that developers love it.
For the average user, there are plenty of interesting and useful features. It's the only smartphone with a mobile version of the Mozilla web browser (which is a joy to use, and it supports Flash too). It has good social aggregation features, such as the ability to merge your contacts from a variety of services, including Google Talk, Skype and Ovi, as well as any Jabber or SIP service, into one address book.
There's also a unified messaging application that pools SMS texts and instant messenger conversations into one interface, and an app called Hermes which checks online for more information about your contacts. Hermes searches for more information and photos from your contacts on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
With 32GB of internal memory and a microSDHC card slot, there's space for lots of multimedia files, and the N900 even comes with a TV-out cable that lets you watch movies on a big screen. Music lovers will find a decent set of sound-isolating headphones in the box, with a ribbon cable and a full in-line remote. The media player is excellent too, offering internet radio and automatically finding network media servers so you can browse their contents.
Then there's the camera, a 5-megapixel sensor with Carl Zeiss optics and twin LED flashes. The camera starts automatically when you open the lens cover, and there's a dedicated shutter button on the top of the phone. The camera has auto-focus and a wide range of settings, including ISO and exposure, and takes excellent photos, with accurate colouring even in artificial lighting, although there's still noise if you zoom in. It can also take videos at the screen's full 848x480 resolution.
Speaking of which, the N900 uses resistive touchscreen technology - it reacts to pressure rather than the electrical current of skin contact - and when you tap the screen, you get haptic and audio feedback. The screen is bright and clear, and the touch element is really responsive and a pleasure to use. Battery life of nearly 16 hours is typical of a smartphone, and you can expect to have to charge it every night.
Thankfully, it's a powerful phone - its 600MHz processor and dedicated graphics chip help it to really fly along. Even with multiple applications open, we found it snappy, and the multi-tasking is well implemented, much like Palm's WebOS on the Pre. From within an app, you tap on the icon in the top-left of the screen to show tiles for each open app. If you tap again, you get the full app listing.
Tapping on an empty space at the top of the screen brings up the home screen, where you can place widgets, shortcuts, bookmarks or individual contacts on up to four panes, which you flick from side to side as on Android phones. Widgets are limited (at present) but include a Facebook status feed, calendar, RSS feed and an Ovi shortcut bar.
Find a review
- Best Buy
- Google Nexus 5
- Best Budget Buy
- Motorola Moto G
- Best Business Buy
- RIM BlackBerry Torch
- HTC One
- Nokia Normandy Android smartphone rumoured for 2014
- Asus Padfone Mini launched as 4.3in smartphone and 7in tablet pair
- European air authorities update guidelines, smartphones and tablets get the OK to fly
- Qualcomm reveals 64-bit Snapdragon 410 mobile CPU
- HTC One Mini sales ban gets last-minute delay