Nokia N97 review

Barry de la Rosa
16 Nov 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

The keyboard is disappointing, and the Symbian OS feels outdated compared with those of more intuitive Android and Apple phones.



Symbian Series 60 5th Edition, 3.5in 360x640 display

Nokia's N97 is a beast of a phone, with every feature imaginable in its 150g, 18mm-thick case.

As well as the usual WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS, it has a backlit QWERTY keyboard that slides out from under the screen, a 5-megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss lens and twin-LED flash, and 32GB of internal memory.

Touchscreens are becoming ubiquitous, but some people prefer a real keyboard. Sadly, the N97's is disappointing. Its keys are flat and have very little travel, so feedback is limited to a beep as you press each key. The layout isn't ideal, either - the Space bar is on the right and is only 50 per cent wider than the other keys, while the sole Shift key is on the left. The number keys along the top row are accessible only via a key combination, so making calls is easier with the onscreen number pad.

The camera produces better results than most phone cameras, and the twin-LED flash helps in low light. However, the results aren't as good as those from even a budget digital camera. The battery lasted for over 35 hours in our light-use tests, but bear in mind that WiFi, GPS and 3G are all switched off for this. Using them will reduce this time significantly.

Nokia's Symbian operating system looks dated and has a complex menu system. We get the impression that developers are keener to write apps for the iPhone and Android phones, as Nokia's Ovi Store is full of ringtones, videos and games. Office and Exchange support is good, though, and apps for Facebook, YouTube and other popular web services are bundled.

You can customise the home screen with widgets for Facebook, email and contacts, although this felt cramped and messy. The screen changes to landscape mode when the keyboard is opened, or when you're watching a video. Touchscreen control is accurate, and felt reasonably quick most of the time. A single button under the screen switches between the home screen and the menu, and a slider on the side of the phone locks and unlocks the screen.

The N97 may be powerful and packed with features, but it's dated and clunky compared with the iPhone and Android phones. Although some will be tempted by the keyboard, the N97 is expensive and we can't recommend it.




Main display size3.5in
Native resolution360x640
Second DisplayNo
CCD effective megapixels5-megapixel
FlashDual LED
Video recording formatMP4, 3GP
ConnectivityBluetooth, WiFi, USB
Internal memory32768MB
Memory card supportmicroSDHC
Memory card included0MB
Operating frequenciesGSM 850/900/1800/1900 3G 900/1900/2100
Wireless dataEDGE, WCDMA, HSDPA


Operating systemSymbian Series 60 5th Edition
Microsoft Office compatibilityWord/Excel/PowerPoint editors, PDF viewer
Email clientPOP3/IMAP/Exchange
Audio format supportMP3, AAC, eAAC, eAAC+, WMA
Video playback formatsMP4, 3GP, WMV
FM Radioyes
Web BrowserNokia Web Browser
AccessoriesHeadset, USB data cable, mains adapter
Talk time6 hours
Standby time16.7 days
Tested battery life (MP3 playback)35h 22m

Buying Information

SIM-free price£416
Price on contract£245 on £27-per-month, 18-month contract

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