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by Alfie

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I make things on the web, mobile and in the actual world.

I've done lots of bits and bobs over the years, and right now I'm mostly working on this.

I enjoy speaking about things I like, most recently this. You can email me if you'd like, and I'm on twitter.

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Nokia 770 Review

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The Nokia 770 is an internet tablet, really, that's what it is; portable internet, done well, with some extras. I'd be remiss however if I didn't write up why exactly the Nokia 770 has replaced my laptop, why I go to bed with it at night, and why I wonder what I did with my evenings before I had one.

It's a smart looking device; the brushed aluminium casing gives it a nice black and silver finish, whilst the device itself is frills free and has a good weight to it. Here's a quick look:





In terms of a user review I'm going to start with the negatives, the main reason being that there aren't that many (for me) and I want to get them out of the way.

1) No Flash 7 (runs flash 6 so no youtube/googlevideo). This is surprising to an extent because Google Talk (VOIP and Chat) is supported out of the box, so one might think that Google would have a vested interest in driving mobile internet users to Google Video... I have a feeling though this is a caching issue that Opera have not yet got around; streaming a 50mb file through an FLV container might be more than the browser could feasibly manage. If anyone has any knowledge on this, please do comment.

2) No GSM capabilities. Ok, this is an internet tablet, designed to make the internet mobile. Fine. But. The 1710 OMAP processor used supports all cellular standards, and so chucking in a SIM port would have been a useful add-on, with little difficulty on Nokias part in delivering. I can see Nokias reasoning in not including one; the 770 would then be a phone on a new Linux platform that has WIFI capability, which is not what they're aiming for with this device. Who knows; the software is open source, and since the Chipset and processor supports GSM, maybe some industrious tablet hacker will have a go at soldering in a SIM slot :)

3) Application navigation and installation is counter intuitive to a windows user like myself. Perhaps Linux users will just get what they're meant to do but not having something as simple as a filesystem tree to check where an installed application is can be frustrating.

It seems that some programs one can install only run from a command line (which doesnt come as standard on the device, which I think is odd) from a ported Xterminal, this would be fine, but no-one has ported the Python > 2.0 dependencies necessary to run both a command line and many of the system applications I would find useful (wifi sniffer, Ctorrent - a bittorrent client for the 770 - and OBEX server bluetooth).

It's also really difficult to discover how to order your applications how you would like; it's hidden away in the control panel under Task Navigator, which makes no sense at all.

4) No OBEX bluetooth transfer! What? I mean, bluetooth is *fantastic* on the device for what it does (pairs to your phone(s) to allow seamless data/object transfer), but it will not recognise a computer to allow Push/Pull bluetooth functionality, which is quite irritating.

5) No GAIM/Msn/Yahoo compatible IM client. Well, there is a GAIM client for the 2005 software so it's only really a matter of time before it is ported to the 2006 update. The 770 is also aimed by Nokia to be an open source portable internet device, and so not having totally proprietary IM functionality on the device makes sense, however, this review is a *user* review, and as a user, I want that functionality. It rests on the shoulders of developers in the wild to satisfy that though unfortunately.

6) Real player only. The real player on the device pretty much sucks. I was succesfully able to watch a couple of streamed videos from band sites, but only on a 56k setting as it seemed the Real player simply wasnt able to process the frames at a 256k connection speed/rate. Dissapointing.

Watching online video should be top of the agenda for a device like this, especially now when more and more people find themselves spending hours on youtube and googlevideo as opposed to the telly. There are developers working on creating new media players for the 770 but the most promising, Mplayer, still does not have a GUI and I cannot get an Xterminal until Python>2.4 is supported for the 2006 software.

7) No tabbed browsing. Well, this was to be expected really, but since I do spend a lot of time on the net on this device, opening new windows or always using the back button is a bit annoying.

The browser that comes with the device is Opera 8, and has the Flash (version 6) plugin. It would be really great if there was a quicktime plugin too, watching trailers when your out and about (sitting in a pub chatting with mates about an upcoming film and being able to watch it there and then would be Uber) would be really great, and the streaming format quicktime provides is (imo) far more robust than that of the Real format.

Griping over!!! And hey, if you look at my gripes you can see they're all more "wishlisty" than real criticisms of the device or it's capabilities.

Over the last week of using the device there has seldom been a moment when I didn't have it on me, it fits into the back pocket of my jeans (it's a little bigger than the Nokia 7710 phone I had a while back), and very comfortably into a jacket pocket. I've used it for both personal entertainment and for business, so I'll try below to break down the functionalities of the device and show how I've used it.

* Intarweb: Mostly I use the web for Gmail, moblogUK, blog reading, and various internet browsing. Gmail (javascript is supported) is a breeze. For about 5 minutes, after which the browser starts to gag on the javascript and the (up to 512k) cache fills and available memory goes KERBLOOEY!!. Using Gmail in the HTML view however is really nice and zippy and works perfectly, you really don't need the full version with javascript, especially since Gtalk is supported natively within the devices IM client.

Browsing media rich sites such as flash has been 99% excellent, in most cases flash developers know to make their Flash 7 movies/applications backwards compatible with earlier versions, at least with Flash 6 and so I've had only one problem using flash sites - lmited browser cache. 512k is not big enough, and the browser doesnt give you the option of increasing the cache either using onboard memory or an external memory card. This is a big deal when considering that a lot of sites use flash, even small movies; open three browser windows that have flash in them and the browser will grind to a stop.

The browsers cookie use is excellent, I've remained logged in to all the sites I need to (including Word Press admin here on my blog) and it remembers all my passwords, so all good there. Load times on pages is wonderfully fast and overall it's a great experience browsing the web on the Nokia 770 as the screen is so large and clear that even small text is readable.





* Contact Management: The device will automagically read your Google Talk friends and add them to your contact management, but for all other email contacts you simply need to output to a CSV format and import it. Group management is then presorted into:

All Recent Online Google Talk Colleagues Friends Relatives

So pretty much what you might expect, you can of course create new groups.



* Text Entry: As you can see in the two images below, the new 2006 software update brings a large screen thumb driven text entry functionality to the device, which is invaluable. Using the device as I do for email and IM on the move having the thumb driven text input means that It won't take me too long to either bore the person on the other end of the IM, or shoot off a 5 paragraph email. An interesting thing with the thumb entry is that you can choose either to launch it from a rocker key, or you can launch it from a screen touch by telling the device how hard to expect pressure before launching it! Fancy!





As standard of course you are given the tap screen keyboard layout, which has word completion for over 20 languages and works well. I do find it occasionally annoying though, when there are multiple possible words to be used, the bottom of the keyboard fills with them and shifts the spacebar to the right - often I've filled in a silly word and have had to go back and erase because the spacebar had suddenly shifted!



Handwriting recognition is well iffy; you can 'teach' the device your handwriting, but I have found that the device is just too slow to pick up on the whorls and wefts of my crazy script so I stick to tap and thumb entry.



* VOIP and IM:My contacts are all backed up on the excellent Mobical, used for my GSM phones, but having the VOIP client Gizmo, on the Nokia 770 has completely changed my GSM usage, Google talk is really great and everything, but I normally use texts or IM to communicate with friends as opposed to voice, plus not *all* that many of my friends have Google Talk and are ordinarily available on it.

It was a real bugger trying to import my Phone contacts into Gizmo, it simply will not read from a file (VCF, TXT, CSV, nothing!), it will only read from your Outlook installation, which for me was whack as I don't use Outlook. I had to do the import of new contacts into Gizmo into a desktop install of the software, which is really silly; if Gizmo want me to use their software on the 770 to make calls, they should give me an option to open a file on my device and import contacts.

It took me about an hour to get my phone contacts into a usable format (Gizmo has to have full international dialling codes prefacing the number of course.), but *eventually* I was able to import the VCF into thunderbird (Using an excellent Thunderbird plugin), output that into CSV format, then import into a new contact folder in Outlook, to finally be read by the Desktop installation of Gizmo.WHEW!! Once that was done, opening the Gizmo application on the 770 then pulls your contacts from the server and serves them to the 770 installation, granting you one click phone access to all your phone contacts.

Anyway, Gizmo allows me to make *really* cheap calls to anywhere in the world (completely free to landline and mobiles if the receiver of the call has Gizmo too, so I may be pestering you to join!) as well as communicate free with any other Gizmo user. So far so good, great quality voice connection testing both here and to the states on landline and mobile. If I have wifi anywhere I am, my voice calls are now of a good enough quality for me to start thinking that a mobile handset may soon take second place to my wifi capable VOIP device....

I see Gizmo as a business tool that will potentially reduce my current spend of approx £30 per week on business calls to potentially less than £5. It is *fantastically* good quality, and it is perhaps the single most useful and behaviour changing software on the Nokia 770 (for me).







The native Google Talk Voip client was excellent, but as I said, not enough of my friends use it and my contact behaviour is text/IM - it's a shame that there's not a Skype port yet, as *loads* of friends use that. Google Talk is a well integrated element in the UI, you can easily set your presence and chat whilst having a phone call. Both the VOIP and IM functionalities are built into the same interface (along with your email contacts), and the quality is mind bogglingly good, I can't wait for the time where *everyone* uses some kind of free VOIP service.



*Video:

The Real Player fails to render 95% of online streams (the bitrate problem I mentioned) but also simply won't play a file when the dimensions aren't divisible by 16. Bitrate VS dimension issues are a *real* problem with the Real player, so I can't wait until someone ports a clean DIVX capable player for the 770.

That said, it does play: MPEG1, MPEG4, Real Video, H.263 (not that I could get to work however), AVI, 3GP, as long as they are encoded correctly, but the device doesn't come with any encoding software. I have *loads* of video encoding experience, and I am still finding it a mystery to encode for.

If I ever manage to get the encoding right, the lovely screen and excellent battery life (7 days standby, 3.5 hours constant wifi use) mean that it's a fantastic portable video media device, and with expandable memory up to 2GB, you can cram about 8 full length movies onto one card.

Have a look at a video as it plays on the Nokia 770

* Audio: The device comes with a generic audio player that can play MP3, RealAudio, MPEG-4, AAC, WAV, AMP, and MP2. Not only this, but it streams radio from the internet *really* well. The small speaker on the top left of the device is surprisingly clear, and you can listen to music with the volume set high for nearly 4 hours! on a full charge, which I was astonished by. The player has given me absolutely no problems, and is a very well used feature on the device (for Radio, more on why not for my music later).

The Streamtuner isn't a bundled application, but is a really fantastic internet radio streaming app. which comes with hundreds of stations, and allows for easy adding of stations you want. I use this as opposed to the native audio player for radio streaming because of it's superior UI and preloaded stations.



* RSS News reader: Ordinarily I'd be quite stoked with an RSS reader on a portable device like this, but because the web browser is so great, and I have two blog checks per day (I have my blogs in bookmarks in firefox which I open in tabs in the morning then evening) on my desktop machine, it's kind of useless for me.

As well as being useless for me personally, when I tried to import a validated OPML file of RSS feeds created using the OPML editor, the RSS reader tells me it's fuxored. uhuh.

The RSS reader should be either integrated into the browser or the browser should ideally provide a one click 'add to reader' functionality for this to be useful.



* E-mail: The email client could be way better. It does support SSL, and POP3/IMAP accounts, but it's slow, contacts load incredibly slowly, and really, unless you're going to be using the 770 as your principal device I think it's a bad idea using the onboard email client.

There are myriad problems when using multiple desktop clients to pull web mail, the most notable of these is that if you pull to one client (your 770 say), even though you've told it to leave mail on the server, the server thinks that mail has been pulled by your desktop client and so when you open your normal client to grab your webmail, you get nada.

With Gmail being so zippy and clean, I don't have any real reason to use the mail client on the device, and it has no advanced features such as filtering, advanced search or spam controls, so I don't think I'll bother.

* PDF Reader:The PDF reader is quite processor intensive, opening a 4mb pdf with two browser windows open in the background with a music player going made the app. wheeze to a juddery open about 2 and a half minutes after I asked it to open. Once open the app zipped through the document nicely, but personally I'm not a fan of PDF's other than for business documents, preferring HTML and other more open formats for my Ebook reading.

* Gaming: Wow. Not wow because the games on the device are so great; they're not (although the Doom port is one of the best ports ever). Wow because almost every game on the internet made in flash is playable on this device. Any good flash developer creating a game in Flash 7 will make it backwards compatible as far as possible, and with the plugin for Opera 8 on the Nokia 770 being Flash 6, almost every game I've tried has worked a dream. Note: it is very difficult to play anything other than the smallest of flash games whilst on the web due to the 512kb cache limit that Opera 8 has; just view the source of pages with flash games you want and save those to your desktop, pushing them across to the Nokia 770's onboard memory or memory card.

For me this is fairly important. I'm no longer a portable gamer, I don't have a Nintendo DS, I dont have a PS portable. I do however have a phone and a range of different portable computing devices. With my phone and the Nokia 770 I really don't need anything else. have a look at some of the screenshots below to check out the quality of the game experience.

You are limited by the processor, so sticking a 15mb flash game onto the memory card and trying to play it just wont work, but I've found that anything up to about 5mb works fine (set the quality to 'low'), other than Shockwave Flash games as these rely on the flash 7 version. The flash gaming on the Nokia 770 is the other reason why the device now comes to bed with me; there are a few games I've found which are really quite deep and difficult, so I find myself lying in bed at 2am trying to finish, Once again however, I find myself lamenting the lack of Flash 7, imagining how ace the Nokia 770 would be as a flash video viewing device.







* Non-bundled Applications I find incredibly useful/Cool:

FBReader: This port of a popular Russian e-book reader is breathtakingly good. Advanced navigational choices allow you to render your e-books exactly how you'd like them, including differences in how the navigation will work depending on orientation.

I've been reading books on portable devices for years now, and the FBreader is a complete pleasure. It supports HTML, raw Text files, Rich text files, plucker, PalmDoc (clever people) and other less well known formats. It is of course, free.

Because the Nokia 770's screen is so large and crisp, reading books on the device is a total pleasure, and is a really important part of why the device has become quite dear to me (and one of the reasons it now comes to bed with me). Have a look at the screenshots below (actual viewing size):





Oboe Locker and Player:The Oboe Locker from MP3tunes.com is, well, incredible... and I'm not entirely convinced it's legal; which is odd since Nokia strongly support the service... Basically, you can get a free 'locker' at mp3tunes.com were you 'sideload' audio content that is available on the web to it. With a firefox plugin you can do this with audio found anywhere on the web, but I have tended to use Sideload.com as it's a *massive* repository of music.

The way it works is that once a tune is found on the web by an mp3tunes/sideload.com user, they 'sideload' it, and then the site adds it to a library, physically storing the content on their servers (I am not entirely sure on this but it seems that way), hence my questioning the legality.

All that aside, the service is bloody amazing, and I use it a lot. Once you have 'sideloaded' all the tunes you want (I found half my Itunes library on sideload.com) you can then set playlists within your locker, which get streamed to your Oboe player applet. The quality and range of music is incredible, and as long as you have a wifi connection you have basically removed the need to have 4GB of your own music on the device itself.



* Performance: The latest edition of the Internet Tablet 2006 software for the Nokia 770 I think has fixed some of the performance issues that people were experiencing in the first rollout of the device last year. Wireless performance is very good, better than most laptops in fact, although because of the processor limitations the device still can't handle too many processes at once. A higher cache limit, or at least the ability to set your cache to the memory card should be there, as performance is greatly reduced when browsing rich media websites.

* Connectivity:

Wireless: The wireless card in the Nokia 770 is *great*, picking up open networks everywhere, and connecting without problem to Apple airports, netgear, any router you can think of I've had no real issues connecting to. Using wifi consistently will drain battery life within 3 hours, which I think is excellent for a device of it's size and specifications.



Bluetooth: Not being able to recognise other PC's is really irritating, but as I've said, the ability to connect seamlessly with your mobile phone is a complete pleasure; pair the device once and from that point on you have no permissions to grant, it will connect to the web and transfer data with ease.



GPRS: Connecting over bluetooth, the Nokia 770 automatically figures out which connection to use and once paired with your GPRS device will connect seamlessly to the web.

    Overall feelings on the Nokia 770:


For me, this is a laptop killer. This is perhaps because I do not have massive needs when using a laptop, but I was surprised that what I thought a business necessity two weeks ago is simply no longer the case.

The performance and functionality of the Nokia 770 are very good, I was expecting to be quite dissapointed with battery life, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The Nokia 770 is a good step towards a robust, high performance mobile internet device that is small enough to fit in a pocket, whilst delivering not only excellent web access, but the beginnings of a mobile killer; ubiquitous and native VOIP. For me it is the focus on VOIP services that have most impressed me, and the feature I think (aside from straightforward web access on the move) is the most significant in a device of its size and specifications.

Considering my experience with it, and it's low cost of around £230, I would recommend this device to anyone who has a need for a clean and easy mobile internet device; anyone who wants to experiment with VOIP as a replacement for mobile/analogue calls on the move, or anyone who is simply interested in and loves nice little gadgets.

If any other Nokia 770 users are reading this, I'd totally appreciate you leaving comments on your use of the tablet in the comments, I'm sure you know more about what it can do.

The Full Specs of the device are Here:

Nokia 770 specs.

Steve says:

23rd Aug 2006, 13:56

Alfie says:

:D I was just fixing all teh HTML stuff to cross post it here.

23rd Aug 2006, 13:57

Steve says:

Now I look mad... Great review Alfie and really interesting too!

23rd Aug 2006, 14:05

Alfie says:

Thanks man :D It's been fun using it, as you can see.

23rd Aug 2006, 14:06

Steve says:

How is it for Pron? :)

23rd Aug 2006, 14:07

Alfie says:

If only the bloody video player was better I'd use it for almost nothing else.

23rd Aug 2006, 14:14

its looks pretty nice - i love your page - photoshopped? i want to learn!

23rd Aug 2006, 14:18

Steve says:

"Designed to help keep those idle hands above the covers"

23rd Aug 2006, 14:19

Alfie says:

Jetblack - which page do you mean, and what do you mean by photoshopped? The design for my blog (and moblog) was done in photoshop and illustrator, then CSS for the pages done in notepad!

23rd Aug 2006, 14:39

kostika says:

I really want one now.

23rd Aug 2006, 19:27

mat says:

btw, the reason that there is no Flash plugin greater than V7 is becuase Adobe hates linux users and couldn't be arsed to develop a better plugin until very recently. (there STILL won't be an IA/AMD64 version, even now)

See also: http://blogs.adobe.com/penguin.swf/

23rd Aug 2006, 19:32

DocD says:

That Doom frontscreen does it for me!

24th Aug 2006, 01:24

apristel says:

You LUCKY mofo... I'm jealous.

...and BTW, Hello!!!

24th Aug 2006, 02:41

midlife says:

COOL.

24th Aug 2006, 04:20

midlife says:

Back for a second helping!

26th Aug 2006, 05:21