FANS of Nokia’s sliding-tilt touchscreen N97 may appreciate a smaller design for this model. Having held both phones side-by-side, it is hard to deny that the mini simply fits better in your hand.
But, when a big model is slimmed down, you can bet that the features have been trimmed too. And the “mini” is no exception.
The design compacts both the screen and the keypad underneath. Most notably absent is the square cursor and the execute button.
The camera cover has been thrown out, the screen is just as long as the N97 regular but not as wide.
Besides that, the mini and the regular version look pretty much the same.
Many of the icons are also smaller which can be a problem for someone who has big fingers. For those who liked the regular version for its size, if only because it was easy to navigate, the mini just does not do the job.
The mini is definitely easier to flip open, especially if you needed to do it with just one hand.
Navigating the the phone is easy enough but, surfing on 3G or WiFi is another. It hangs every so often and is sometimes slow to react while surfing or saving a file. It is unclear whether the review model we received is a prototype but Nokia has announced a new firmware upgrade to fix minor bugs in the Symbian operating system.
The zoom on the web browser is disappointing. For some reason it always zooms in on the top left of the screen, which is fine for Google and Yahoo! since the search bar is usually there. But for other websites, especially the news pages, you have to constantly zoom and scroll adjust while reading.
Apart from that, it runs quite smoothly and the camera takes pretty crisp pictures. The photo-taking speed is also impressive. I can snap about six or seven pictures in ten seconds and that includes the focus time.
The amount of on-board memory has been reduced from 32GB in the regular version to 8GB in the mini. We expected the memory to be halved but they really gutted it to the bone.
The drop test
In order to explain the incredible durability of this model, I have to confess how badly I have treated it. In the several weeks of review I have dropped it almost a dozen times from various sitting and standing positions. But the pinnacle moment of extreme clumsiness arrived when I dropped it off the first level of a nightclub onto a crowded dancefloor. It was too loud to hear an impact but it fell a good 5m down and I never thought it would survive that.
Those gracious enough to help me recover it found the mini in three pieces. The battery and back cover flew off on impact. Here was a genuine surprise: it still works and nothing is broken. Not a scratch on the hinges or the screen. Hats off, that is durability.
Remember the 90s when Nokia phones were the most hard-to-break phones around? Maybe it has found its “hard knocks” roots once more.
GPS and the rest
The position locking for the aGPS is blazingly fast. It uses a combination of network coverage and direct view satellite reception to get a lock. However, the Garmin routing software they use in for the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is far more preferable. The address searching and general navigation interface is just better.
The music player and speakers are negligible, the N97 is simply not made for music. The speakers are loud enough for everything else but if it is meant to replace your MP3 player then 8GB of memory may not be enough room, especially when you have pictures and downloads that need saving too.
Now, for all the trimmed down features, the price difference between the N97 and the N97 mini is almost negligible. At RM2,350, the mini is a mere RM130 cheaper than the regular which has an official price of RM2,480.
Although 3G touchscreens usually are around that price, you cannot help but make the mini-regular comparison and it seems a little unwarranted.
Interestingly, the recently announced Comes With Music variant is actually cheaper. Nokia just announced that the CWM N97 mini will retail for RM2,150. Although it's cheaper, you are definitely going to need to invest in a pair of proper headphones and a MicroSD card for all the music you will be downloading.
Despite the hefty price tag and the fact that it hangs sometimes, the N97 mini actually is a pretty cool phone. It is shockingly durable and takes fantastic pictures quickly. Typing out a text message becomes second nature with the full Qwerty keypad. The fact that it is slimmer than the regular would be a plus for those with small hands.
However it seems more worthwhile to go for the CWM variant since it is the same model, only cheaper, and it comes with one year’s worth of free music downloads.
Pros: Very durable; great camera; compact design.
Cons: Costly; not enough memory; touch interface could be better
(Nokia) 3G smartphone Camera: 5-megapixels Display: 3.2in (640 x 360-pixels) Messaging: SMS, MMS, e-mail Connectivity: WLAN, HSDPA, USB, Bluetooth Memory: 8GB internal memory, MicroSD slot Standby/Talk time: 320 hours/430 minutes Dimensions (W x D x H): 52.5 x 14.2 x 113mm Other features: Widgets, A-GPS Price: RM2,350 Review unit courtesy of Nokia Malaysia, 1-300-88-1600.
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