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Nokia Booklet 3G

Brief INQpressions A netbook from a mobile phone company
Wed Sep 09 2009, 13:15

Product: Nokia Booklet 3G
Website: www.nokia.com/booklet
System Specifications: Intel Atom Z530 1.6 GHz, 1GB RAM, 120GB HDD, 10.1-inch screen, Windows 7, 3G, HSPA, HDMI, USB, 1.3 megapixel webcam, 3.5mm audio and mic jack, SD card, Bluetooth, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Li-ion battery
Price: €575


FINNISH PHONE COMPANY Nokia left the computer business in 1991 when it sold its computer arm to ICL, which then later became Fujitsu. Since then Nokia hasn't so much as picked up a hex-head driver, until now.

Nokia's re-entry into computer manufacturing is the Booklet 3G, which the INQ managed to get its hands on at the Nokia World show to put together some initial impressions.

nokia-booklet-3g01-lowres

The designers of the Booklet 3G told us that the whole design process started with the battery, and everything else came after that.

Nokia was asked by its customers if, with its long history of producing phones with long battery lives, it could produce a portable computer that also has a long battery life. Its answer is the Nokia Booklet 3G.

The Booklet 3G battery design stems from a Nokia 1000 mAh mobile phone battery. Building around this as a power source, the firm created a slim-line 16-cell removable battery that has been benchmarked at 12 hours usage. However we were told by one of Nokia's design team that it's more realistic to see around 8 to 9.5 hours of actual battery life over an average working day.

The chassis of the Booklet 3G is manufactured from one single piece of aircraft-grade aluminium, with no breaks or joins whatsoever. The chassis is part of the heat dispersal design of Nokia's netbook, as the device has no cooling fans. Nokia has abandoned the traditional way of cooling a portable computer with fans. Instead it uses passive heat sinks, relying heavily on the chassis as the largest one.

With all the netbooks we've ever seen and used, the fan always kicks in at some point during the benchmarking process, as the CPU's heat needs to go somewhere. When we get our review unit in for proper testing, it will be interesting to see how the Booklet will handle processor intensive tasks, such as video encoding or even HD flash playback.

The Booklet's screen doesn't display an image that's as sharp and distinct as we're used to. The 10.1-inch glass display is reminiscent of the first Asus Eee PC netbooks that came out way back in 2007. Those were a little blurry as a result of the cheapness of the build and the material used in TFT LCD technology, and the Nokia Booklet 3G harks back to those days, whereas other netbook makers have moved away from those screens.

On a more positive note, the screen is capable of displaying a resolution of 1280x720 pixels. This isn't the normal resolution seen in 10-inch screens, as 1024x600 is more commonly found in netbook displays of this size.

nokia-booklet-3g02-lowres

The Nokia Booklet has a very slim design, one of the thinnest that we've seen in a first generation model. Its overall thickness is just 19.9mm, which is only five millimetres more than the thickness of the Macbook Air. At the same time the Booklet has a much smaller overall footprint at 264mm wide and 185mm deep, compared to the massive 325mm width and 227mm depth of Apple's flagship ultra-portable computer.

Nokia's Booklet 3G does have a neat, substantial appearance to its overall build that gives the impression of a very well designed and over-engineered device.

On the right-hand side of the device is a flap, which upon opening exposes its SIM slot and the SD card reader. The latter doesn't support the higher capacity SDHC cards, but that's neither here nor there as we're more interested in the SIM functionality rather than whether it has removable storage with more than 4GB capacity.

The SIM card is very easily accessible and not buried away under the battery or anywhere else that's obscure, as is too often seen in other netbooks. The SIM card is also hot-swappable without powering down or rebooting the system. This could aid peace of mind for those who might be worried that the Booklet isn't using WiFi and instead could be running up large data bills on their mobile contract, although all connections are easily managed by the OS software.

The built-in 3G/HSPA modem can only be used for data calls, over WCDMA 900/2100 or 800-850/900/2100 GSM. No details are being made public by Nokia as to what chipset it has used for this modem, despite the INQ's repeated questioning of various members of Nokia's hierarchy. As the Finnish company does have good ties with Texas Instruments and its OMAP chipsets, it's a fair assumption that one of those has been used here, and Nokia didn't discourage the notion.

The netbook has the Intel Poulsbo US15W mobile chipset with HD PowerVR SGX graphics, all of which is driven by an Intel Z530 1.6GHz processor. It's not one that's usually seen in netbooks, more in Media Internet Devices (MID), although it was also Dell's choice for its Mini 10 netbook. It seemed powerful enough to handle everything we threw at the Booklet.

We never got around to asking about the keyboard at Nokia's event, which we regret as it's a rather unusual design and one we thought must have a story behind it. The keys are somewhat spaced out and separated from each other, with some distance in between them all.

booklet-3g-group03

In action, we actually found the keyboard rather easy to use and we're reluctant to say, difficult to part with, as we found it quite well suited to our two-finger method of typing down to the ground.

There are some other well thought out niceties included with the Booklet 3G, such as Nokia's Ovi suite, access to Nokia's Music for the PC, a 120GB Toshiba hard drive, HDMI and audio jack.

The audio jack can be used with a standard Nokia wire hands-free kit. The kit often found in a phone's retail box, which has the mic, earpiece and an all-in-one 3.5mm jack like the Booklet's audio jack, fits perfectly. Thanks to the chipset used in the netbook, HDMI out and even 1080p should be possible, although the Booklet doesn't have a VGA port.

As it runs Windows 7, don't expect the Nokia Booklet 3G to be on the shelves until sometime near the end of October.

In Short
As a first attempt at a netbook by a phone manufacturer, Nokia's Booklet 3G is a very impressive effort. The engineering and design work, and the thought that have obviously gone into the Booklet 3G do shine through.

We have our reservations about the heat output as this netbook is fanless, but we're open to being convinced that it's a good design after we fully test it. We also have a minor reservation about the battery, but once again until we thoroughly put it through its paces we'll reserve our final judgment. µ

 

 

 

 

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