Nokia N800 “Internet Tablet” First Looks

I’ve had a chance to fiddle around with a Nokia N800 for a few weeks now and I’m excited enough about it that I thought I’d post a quick report. When I get some more time with it, I’ll provide much more depth.

When I first saw it, I have to admit I was skeptical. It seemed huge, too big for a handheld and too small for a computer. My teenage son actually laughed at the thing, and I kind of had to side with him.

But the little N800 started to grow on me pretty fast. Out of the box, I have to say, in my particular case, it was not that interesting (Disclaimer: I am probably not the demographic they built the out-of -the-box experience for). But after I discovered how to crack root and get ssh and friends installed on the thing, it suddenly bacame a whole new story. Yes, you see this little box is not a Symbian machine – The N800 runs Linux inside (much like how a Mac runs a form of UNIX inside). Now we got us a computer! Eat your heart out, iPhone. πŸ™‚

So with that, I could then install a decent IM client and that, along with ssh (and a few games), and the N800’s very capable web browser, makes this an all around very handy little device. I started to pack it just about everywhere. I used it while in the jury duty waiting room to wonderful effect.

The IM client included with the N800 is essentially useless, IMHO, and as soon as I can figure out how to get rid of it from the menus, I will. On the other hand, the built-in Nokia web browser is really stellar for a small platform browser. It handles more web sites and advanced media than most and does a great job with handy dedicated zoom in/out buttons and a dedicated full-screen mode toggle button. The media player also seems to work pretty well, handling most the content I’ve thrown at it (it works to retrieve and play my PhoneGnome voicemail – that is handy).

The N800 has Wi-fi and bluetooth. It does not take a SIM card and therefore has no integrated 3G, GPRS, or other wireless data link. However, it works quite easily to use the data channel of a nearby Bluetooth capable phone (I’ve only tested with Nokia phones, but I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work with others too). It has a USB port to connect to a PC (Windows for normal upgrades and stuff, Linux for hardcore tweaking).

So far the VoIP experience with this device has not been too impressive. The built-in stuff is Gtalk (so there is no one to talk to using that πŸ™‚ ) and the only SIP app available is Gizmo and it appears to still have a number of bugs/issues. It’s very early and I’m sure it will get better. Some people are talking about getting Asterisk running on this little bugger (not that it would be all that useful to do so, but it shows that there will be a lot of stuff available for this device).

There are a fair number of reports of flakiness on the InternetTabletTalk forums and it appears that the N800 is still a little “green” (you might want to buy that extended warranty) but it certainly shows promise and I look forward to getting some more time with it.