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Mini matters

The tinier version of Nokia’s N97 just goes to show big isn’t always beautiful.

tech reviews Updated: Dec 15, 2009 19:07 IST
Shayne Rana

I wasn’t too pleased with the N97, so when the N97 Mini came out, I was justifiably sceptical about it too.

Looks
The new shape is absolutely brilliant. It’s so much easier to manage this device than it was the first. I don’t have any qualms about the display being a mite smaller at 3.2-inches; it’s still clear and easy to use. The weight has been considerably reduced from 150 g to 138 g making it easier to carry around. That’s because they’ve shaved off quite a lot including the onboard memory, which has been brought down from 32 GB to 8 GB.

A little more metal has been tossed into the mix making it a little more stylish as well, and the colour options — cherry black, garnet and white — also add elegance to the handset.

The buttons on the outside are still in the same places with the 3.5 mm handsfree port located at the top and the micro USB port for charging and PC connectivity on the side. The slide out full QWERTY keypad is slightly different. The nav-pad has been sliced and a set of navigation keys on one side near the spacebar has taken its place. The keypad itself is still very comfortable to use. The N97 Mini has retained the 5 MP camera but this one doesn’t have a lens cover, not that I missed it.

On the whole, the N97 Mini is what the original should have been like. It’s definitely slimmer, sleeker, sexier and better in terms of its design than its predecessor.

Interface
The Mini is equipped with the same ARM 11 434 MHz processor as the previous running on a Symbian OS with the S60 v5 for Nokia’s Touchscreen devices. It’s fast and efficient but tends to get a bit sluggish when your battery meter shows you just a single bar. It’s a touch-friendly user interface and there’s no need for the stylus. Whether you’re using the keypad or the touchscreen itself, it’s easy to navigate and the Live Desktop is customisable, which makes it simple to acess features. The Mini doesn’t offer anything different in terms of its loaded features. You’ll find the same features of the N97 in the Mini, and if you can’t, you can download them off the Ovi Store.

Media
Nokia still doesn’t allow its customers to copy paste videos for playback, so you have to convert them to MPEG4 and 3GP formats. But the rest of the media functionality of the handset is good. The audio player is loud and clear. Presets, Stereo Widening and tone adjustments are possible with the customisable 8-band graphic Equaliser setting. The Mini has FM radio but the reception was bad. Four out of nine stations weren’t even picked up by the phone.

The voice recorder was pretty good though, with a range that was over three feet. It also offers TV out via the handsfree port but an AV cable isn’t provided.

Connectivity
The Mini offers 3G capabilities with HSDPA speeds up to 3.6Mbps. We’ll of course have to settle for EDGE and GPRS and Wi-Fi when available. Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP and USB 2.0 are also available for data transfer. If you wish to access Mail for Exchange you’ll have to download the App. I had a bit of trouble using Nokia’s Email service on my handset but I saw it function quite well on colleague’s. It’s extremely easy to set up an email account that’s POP- or IMAP- enabled.

Browsing
There’s a Facebook widget so you can take images and upload them. If you don’t know how to set up the features to access Picasa or any other image uploading site, we suggest you read up, as Nokia hasn’t made easy provisions for access. You can download a Twitter app from the OviStore or use Fring or Nimbuzz (if you can get it to work) for chatting. Nokia’s Symbian browser still needs work. I’m not too thrilled about its layout as the rendering isn’t optimised for very comfortable browsing.
Ovi Maps is on board with three months of navigation thrown in to be used with the onboard GPS antenna. It also supports A-GPS in case you need to access data from the Web. It takes about 4 minutes to locate available satellites and then you’re good to go.

Features
Nokia has included a Quick Office app with the N97 Mini but it doesn’t have a license to create new documents. That’s an additional cost. But this isn’t an E Series Business class device, so it’s no biggie.

Adobe’s PDF reader, a dictionary, Nokia’s Active Notes Zip Creator and Calculator are other features present. The DJ Mix Tour game is also preloaded in case you wish to pass the time and it’s entertaining enough to while away those really boring moments.

Camera
The camera quality has been upped a bit, but the features haven’t. Other 8 megapixel camera phones come a whole lot cheaper and with a whole bunch of extra features than the Mini.

Nevertheless I found that the processing and start up time of the camera was better than the N97’s. The phone supports Geotagging and what I like about Nokia’s S60 camera phones is the fact that they provide hints about features so users can easily figure out what to do with the different settings.

Image quality on the whole was still quite average but not altogether bad. The colours and clarity aren’t the best but there are other Nokia models that fared better.

Battery
The Mini’s battery was a serious mystery. When fully charged with all the bars peaked, it would easily run for over a day and a half with checking emails, facebook updates and so on.

But on two occasions I failed to wait for the fully charged message and simply unplugged the handset from the charger. In my one-hour commute, the battery dwindled away to almost nothing with minimal usage. Perhaps it’s a glitch in the handset I got for testing, so I hope you don’t have any issues if you’ve bought it.