Review: Nokia N97 mini is better than the original

I purchased the white Nokia N97 in June and have been pretty happy with it overall. The firmware 2.0 update made the N97 better than when it was released and I had planned on keeping it as my S60 5th Edition device for quite a while. We saw the announcement for the N97 mini at Nokia World in September, but I honestly didn’t give it much thought since it seemed to just be a slightly smaller N97 with a smaller capacity integrated flash drive. As I pointed out a couple weeks ago in my first impressions article I actually find the N97 mini to be better than the N97 for my usage. After using the N97 mini for the first week I found it so compelling that I sold my N97 and plan to buy a N97 mini soon. Check out more of my thoughts below and see how I rated the N97 mini.

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BTW, stay tuned for some interesting videos and coverage from the other Smartphone Experts editors who had a chance to use the Nokia N900 and N97 mini. It was great to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for Nokia with these guys and they were all quite impressed with the capabilities of the device, especially given the way many in the US mobile community slam Nokia for their interface and functionality.

In the box

The N97 mini has that same cool black box with embossed N97 mini device on the front like the N97 had. It is very thin and reduces the packaging to just what is needed. Inside the box you will find the N97 mini, BL-4D 1200 mAh battery, AC charger, microUSB to USB cable, wired stereo headset, User Guide, and other pamphlets on the N97 mini. As you will note there is no stylus in the box like we saw with the N97, but I never pulled out the stylus from my N97 box so this is not something that is needed. The device supports TV out, but a cable is not included in the box so I used my other Nokia cables to test this capability out.

Specifications

  • Intel ARM 11 434 MHz processor
  • 3.2 inch 640×360 pixel resolution touchscreen display
  • 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics
  • 8GB integrated memory with microSD card slot
  • 802.11 b/g WiFi
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • A-GPS
  • FM radio
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • microUSB port for syncing and charging
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Proximity sensor
  • Available in Cherry Black, Garnet, and White color schemes.
  • Dimensions of 4.45 x 2.07 x 0.56 inches and 4.87 ounces.
Compared to the Nokia N97, the N97 mini is smaller (4.45 x 2.07 x 0.56 inches compared to 4.61 x 2.18 x 0.63 inches) and lighter (4.87 vs 5.29 ounces). The processors are the same, the cameras are the same, and the wireless capabilities are the same with the main differences being the included flash memory (8GB vs 32GB), C drive (238 MB vs 45MB available), loss of FM transmitter, screen size (3.2 inches vs 3.5 inches), and QWERTY keyboard design.

Around the hardware

Let’s start by taking a look at the front of the N97 mini with the high resolution 3.2 inch display. Above the display starting from the upper left moving right we have the proximity sensor (turns off display when you on a call), handset speaker, forward facing camera, and ambient light sensor. Below the display we have the large, perforated menu button and touch sensitive areas for send and end. The display is bright, beautiful, and looks great on the N97 mini.

The QWERTY keyboard is a major factor of the N97 mini and Nokia did a great job improving it over the N97 by rubberizing the keys, spacing them a bit more, and giving them more travel when pressed. The space bar is still offset on the right side, but we no longer have a directional pad and instead have arrow buttons on the right side of the space bar. I find my right thumb works very well for pressing the directional arrows and space bar and am quite pleased that Nokia didn’t just take a desktop QWERTY and throw it on the N97 mini, but actually tried to see what worked best for the consumer.

There is nothing on the bottom of the N97 mini. Up top you will find the 3.5mm headset jack and power button. The right side is where the volume button and camera button can be found, along with a lanyard opening. The left side is busy with the two stereo speakers at the top and bottom, microUSB port with indicator light just down from the top, and a lock switch (similar to the one on the N97 and 5800).

The back is quite attractive and MUCH better than the rather thin plastic we saw on the N97. The center part is metal and pops completely off when you slide a fingernail under the opening. The 5 megapixel camera and dual LED flash lights are surrounded by a raised metal area with no camera lens cover. It looks attractive and I just hope we don’t see scratches on the lens. You press and hold the camera button to launch the camera application and start taking pictures.

Under the battery cover we find the BL-4D 1200 mAh battery. The SIM card is the oddest part of the setup with it first requiring you to remove the battery. After taking out the battery, an entire thin metal tray slides out from under the area below the camera and microSD card slot. You then slide your SIM into the SIM holder and back in the slot. The microSD card slot can be accessed without taking out the battery and is to the right of the camera.

Thoughts on using the device daily

I’ve been using the N97 mini for over a week now and am VERY impressed with it, except for the occasional low memory warnings. It has an amazing form factor and I can fly on the QWERTY keyboard, more so than on the N97. The device is comfortable to use, has a great looking display, and runs my favorite apps like Gravity, Opera Mini, and Google Maps just fine. I actually made a Skype-to-Skype video call with the N97 mini last weekend and it worked very well over a couple of EV-DO connections.

The camera takes decent photos (there is one of the resort in my photos below), all the great Symbian apps you enjoy run well, and it serves as a great phone. I have been spoiled with the threaded text messaging found on the N900 and still cannot believe that Nokia can’t get this capability added to all of their Symbian devices.

The keyboard hinge is rock solid and even though it doesn’t tilt it is arranged well for fast typing on the keyboard. I can’t get over how good the N97 mini feels in my hand and think it may be the perfect compromise between a touch screen, QWERTY, and capable media capture device.

Conclusion, price and availability

As you can see in my ratings below I awarded the N97 mini 4.5 out of 5 stars, but this is really more like 4.75 stars and it is personally my favorite Nokia device that I have used over the last year. I enjoyed my Nokia E71, but I also like that the N97 mini gives me a QWERTY keyboard along with a touch interface and larger, high resolution display. The N97 appealed to me and I was satisfied with it, but the N97 mini is a vast improvement in my opinion. I prefer the better keyboard (more travel and rubberized keys), much sleeker form factor, and more solid design. I gave up the 32GB flash for 8GB, but with a microSD card slot this really isn’t an issue for me personally.

I started out testing a European version of the Nokia N97 mini, but it had some weird multi-flash camera issue so Nokia replaced it with a NAM N97 mini that you can now found online. At the Nokia USA store and at Dell it is priced at $579, at Newegg it is $529.99, and at Amazon it is $479.99. I would definitely go the Amazon route and find they are the best for returns and shipping speed too.

Ratings (out of 5)

  • Specs: 4.5
  • Form factor: 5
  • Customizability: 5
  • User interface: 4.5
  • App support: 4.5

Overall: 4.5/5

starStarStarStarStar

Pros

  • Sleek, slim, solid hardware with full QWERTY keyboard
  • High resolution display
  • Solid RF reception and phone call functionality/quality
  • Responsive, snappy performance
  • Easily customizable screens

Cons

  • Low available RAM
  • No on-screen QWERTY/half-QWERTY keyboard for portrait mode
  • No threaded SMS client

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47 Comments to Review: Nokia N97 mini is better than the original

Anton
December 8, 2009

“…especially given the way many in the US mobile community slam Nokia for their interface and functionality.”

It’s not only on your side of the Pond :-)

Raul Lugo
December 8, 2009

Thamk you for the review, i just switch from the N97 to the N900 and im extremely impress with it. Im glad to know that the other guys at the SPE are giving the N900 a go even when is not technically a phone. I wonder what do you think of the N97 Mini comp4ed with the N900, which one do you like best?

[...] Matt at Nokia Experts boldly claims in a headline: ‘The N97 Mini is better than the original‘. [...]

Matthew Miller
December 9, 2009

The N97 mini is a slick piece of hardware with great app support, but the N900 is a geek’s paradise and I will most likely choose this one over the N97 mini. The N900 really doesn’t have any hardware limitations and software can always be updated. The low RAM on the N97 mini is starting to get on my nerves.

[...] Nokia N97 Review [...]

[...] Nokia N97 Review [...]

[...] Nokia N97 Review [...]

[...] Nokia N97 Review [...]

[...] Nokia N97 Review [...]

[...] Nokia N97 Review [...]

[...] Nokia N97 Review [...]

[...] Nokia N97 Review [...]

[...] to sibling site NokiaExperts.com’s two platforms, trusty Symbian S60 OS as seen in the N97 mini and the next generation Maemo OS of the N900? That’s the question I’m looking to answer [...]

[...] to sibling site NokiaExperts.com’s two platforms, trusty Symbian S60 OS as seen in the N97 mini and the next generation Maemo OS of the N900? That’s the question I’m looking to answer [...]

[...] to sibling site NokiaExperts.com’s two platforms, trusty Symbian S60 OS as seen in the N97 mini and the next generation Maemo OS of the N900? That’s the question I’m looking to answer [...]

[...] to sibling site NokiaExperts.com’s two platforms, trusty Symbian S60 OS as seen in the N97 mini and the next generation Maemo OS of the N900? That’s the question I’m looking to answer [...]

dixie faustino
December 21, 2009

im still confuse, because i dont know what am i going to buy, its either the mini or the original. im confuse because of their internal memory size and in the card deffirnces i do love putting some stuff in it. so i do like to buy the original but some said, the mini is better than the original so please help me to choose the better one. thnx

[...] the break, check out a video of Matthew teaching me the ways of Nokia, both on the Nokia N97 Mini (pictured above) and the Nokia N900. I’m also hoping that I’ll be getting some good [...]

[...] this has been in the back of my mind this week as I mulled over my time with the Nokia N97 Mini and the Nokia N900. I also need to thank the generous and kind Nokia Experts commenters, who have [...]

[...] wrote my review of the N97 mini back in early December and still think it is one of the best Nokia smartphones available today. It [...]

Carlos F
March 17, 2010

Been using the N97 Mini since January 2010, happy with it. Originally wanted the Nokia N900, mainly for browsing but it was not avaialbale on Orange (UK) contract. N97 Mini was second choice, works well for browsing but would like Mozilla Firefox, does not appear available for Symbian. Keyboard is excellent as I do not get on with touch screen (chunky fingers).

maybe next user
March 25, 2010

How does skype work in N97 mini?

TuxedoMask_jpn
April 8, 2010

Great Phone – But sadly doesnt make a great salt water swimming companion.

But i liked it enough to buy another =)

[...] No&#107ia N97 R&#101vi&#101w [...]

Krishna
June 7, 2010

I bought Nokia N97mini Black from Dell website. This is a peace of junk. My blackberry much better than this. Bettery doesn’t go more than a day. Contacts app is very primitive. No real good apps. It’s wifi capabilities are very bad. Connection refreshes all the time. Browsing is very painful. The only greatthing about this phone is it’s camera. Quality is very nice. It some times does not even dispaly contact names…

Samson
June 20, 2010

To Krishna,

Does your mini has the latest firmware >= v11.0.45. Is your Blackberry touch screen storm? If yes, actually most of these newest touch screen phones: HTC Desire, HD series, Omnia has the same battery demand problem esp. if you browse the net heavily on 3G. For the mini, I found the battery to be sufficiently good. However, this battery which requires top-up charging must be trained. Do a full-charge-discharge cycle twice first to calibrate the battery, then start using but try to plug-in to do optimize charging as much as possible for a few days. After that the battery will be MUCH better.

Except for the rare days, this kind of battery does not bode well to be fully depleted.

Next check your 3G signal strength, if it is weak it will require the phone to keep probing to maintain signal. This really DRAIN the battery. So in that case, switch to GSM.

I have very good scanning and connection with my wifi. Strength is no problem as it could pick up so many of my neighbouring network. Check your encryption settings.

Sophie
July 8, 2010

I bought Nokia N97 Mini last week, however when I have incoming calls or incoming SMS and the phone number is stored in the phone memory ans SIM Card, the stored name is not displayed.

There are no double entries in the phone memory or unnamed entries. This problem is driving me nuts. Any ideas?

Many thanks, Sophie

[...] has combined a Nokia N97 mini to their (growing?) list of smartphones which humour from a now-infamous “antennagate” [...]

[...] has added the Nokia N97 mini to their (growing?) list of smartphones that suffer from the now-infamous “antennagate” [...]

[...] has added the Nokia N97 mini to their (growing?) list of smartphones that suffer from the now-infamous “antennagate” [...]

[...] has added the Nokia N97 mini to their (growing?) list of smartphones that suffer from the now-infamous “antennagate” [...]

[...] has added the Nokia N97 mini to their (growing?) list of smartphones that suffer from the now-infamous “antennagate” [...]

Zara
July 23, 2010

Very nice post. Nokia N97 Mini is the best mobile in its segment and much better in comparison to its rivals. Planning to buy it soon.

Adeeb
July 30, 2010

Battery drains so fast on call. I think n97 mini have battery related issues.

[...] has added the Nokia N97 mini to their (growing?) list of smartphones that suffer from the now-infamous “antennagate” [...]

Grace
August 8, 2010

my mini is less then a week old, has frozen twice, and constantly looses reception, requiring me to turn in on and off again. vary un happy and will be taking it back for something more reliable

[...] Thanks for the pic go to Nokia Experts [...]

Gerald
September 12, 2010

I have the similar problem as Sophie (21July). when I have incoming SMS although the phone number is stored in the phone memory, recently most of the time the stored name is not displayed. Also driving me nuts as although I know the sender, I have no idea who SMS to me.

Many thanks – Gerald

[...] to Nokia Experts for the [...]

Pawel
October 6, 2010

I agree with Krishna. I’ve been using an N97 mini for a month & it is probably the worst phone I have ever had. Complicated user interface, un-ergonomic design (always microphone at the top when you pull it out of your pocket) and a temperamental touchscreen which locks and refuses to let me answer the phone. Battery life is a real issue – even with 3G switched over to GSM, bluetooth switched off and a proper discharge/charge cycle to season the battery, it now barely lasts me more than a day (after one month!!), even without browsing. Is it a toy? With the amount of junk the OS is loaded with, it certainly isn’t a business phone…

hussain
October 23, 2010

N97 mini is really a dashing phone and is much better than n97(big). Its market demand is much more than n97…

james
May 5, 2011

my n97mini is from hong kong. it was purchased by a friend from a store there. all the experts i have shown the phone to have agreed it is genuine. i, and my friends, all computer techs, have all tried to solve the problem without success hard reset and other factory fixes are ineffective . i have gone to the experts in my home town, also without a fix. the issue is the apps and many of the functions are in chinese, which i cant read. the menus are in english and the phone works with my rogers card. my phone will not be recognized by any OS or software. version 10.0.0.012 date 15-05-2009 custom version 10.0.012.223.02 custom version date 28-05-2009 language 19 model n97 mini type rm-505 symbian s60 5th i think the custom version is the thing but what do i know?

i want a fix like format and reinstall, wipe and load, nuke and pave. some north american version. i have heard some babble about android…?

aryan
September 12, 2011

does it need software to perform videocalls………on skype or with 3g sims………

[...] Nokia N97 Mini Reviews and Specifications [...]

[...] Nokia N97 Review [...]

[...] has added the Nokia N97 mini to their (growing?) list of smartphones that suffer from the now-infamous “antennagate” [...]

Christian louboutin homme
April 30, 2014

Le bout du tunnel commence à apparaître mais il est encore long.

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