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.
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.
- 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
- 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.