The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet is not available in New Zealand - yet. But you can find these nifty Internet-enabled devices in Europe and the USA. Luckily someone within Nokia managed to bring one into the country and allowed us a sneak peak into this device.
At first it's surprisingly small and light. It weighs in only 185g (230g if you count the protective cover) and measures , 135mm x 78mm x 14 mm (141mm x 79mm x 19mm again with its cover). Below is a picture where I compare it with a Sony UX17 portable PC and a Pocket PC. You will see what I am talking about in terms of size.
Its screen is also a nice surprise. It's wide, bright and with a brilliant resolution. It works well in places with lots of light, and I doubt you will need this outdoors.
You see, albeit very capable of running multiple applications, this is a device with an intention, clear in its name: Internet Tablet. It's a very sophisticated appliance, and it can be used as a PDA, albeit lacking the synchronisation component to manage replication of data between contacts, calendar, notes to and from a database on a PC. So, it's not a companion device, but an independent unit.
Out of the box the Nokia 770 comes with an Internet browser, e-mail client, Internet radio client, RSS feed reader. It also comes with contact management, clock, calculator, Adobe Reader and a few other applications. It runs the Internet Tablet OS 2006 edition, based on Linux, with the Hildon Application framework at its core, which is based on GNOME technology.
The user interface is attractive, and you can customise the desktop by moving the visible applications from side to side and adding or removing applications from the desktop. Other programs are accessible through a kind of "start" icon on the left side. This also gives access to a Control Panel and more.
You can run an application in full screen mode, and use one of the hardware buttons on the left side of the unit to access the context menu, which allows you to bring the application back to its normal size.
Also part of the user interface is the pen input. The touchscreen (800x480 pixels) can be used to tap on icons and signs and also to enter text. You can write directly on the screen using an input panel that reminded me of that used on Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, and also through an on-screen keyboard. I found the handwriting recognition to be really good and accurate, even on my first attempt on using it.
Users can download more applications and SDK from maemo.org, but don't expect to find the wide range of software avaialble for other handheld devices such as Palm and Windows Mobile. But some of the software available are really interesting.
I was a bit disappointed with the e-mail client, which supposedly supports POP3 and IMAP. I couldn't find folder management on this client, so I was restricted to access only the Inbox, Sent, Outbox folders on my IMAP-compatible server (Microsoft Exchange Server 2003). It works in a sense, but you can't move items to other folders, and since I have rules on the server that automatically move items to specific folders, I couldn't access all my e-mails. I am pretty sure some clever developer will create a better e-mail client though.
The RSS feed reader was nice, and it was well integrated with the web browser. The Internet radio (M3U, PLS) was absolutely a blast. Great stuff and I used it in a shopping mall while window browsing and connected to a Telecom NZ hotspot.
For VoIP access, the Nokia 770 comes with Google Talk client, but you will also find a port of the Gizmo Project client for this unit. Google Talk worked fine over my connection, and the 250 MHz ARM based Texas Instruments 1710 OMAP seemed to run fine, albeit things could get a bit slow.
And this takes us to connectivity. The device comes with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. I had no problem at all using Wi-Fi, and it supports both 802.11b and 802.11g. However Bluetooth was another thing. I didn't have my UMTS Pocket PC around (long story), but instead I had the TNZ Apache (a CDMA EVDO Pocket PC). I managed to pair the Nokia 770 with my Pocket PC, and it even recognised the DUN service. But it wouldn't allow me to use it. It only had configurations for GSM operators, and when I tried to create a new one it started asking for APN, etc - which obviously doesn't exist on CDMA networks. So, while I was away on a long weekend on a remote location (I mean no Wi-Fi) I couldn't use the very fast CDMA EVDO connection because of this "feature".
The Nokia 770 comes with 128MB memory, and a MMC slot. When plugged to a computer via its mini USB adapter you are able to access the MMC slot and copy files to and from it. You can not access its main memory directly though.
In terms of battery life, it was pretty decent. I had the device on for a few hours and the battery meter barely moved.
Overall, asn Internet appliance, for someone that is not looking for a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), I can say it is a decent device. Don't think in using it for business though, because you won't find the appropriate level of support in terms of software. This is a consumer device!