[AUUG-Talk]: Review: Nokia 770
david.newall at auug.org.au
Wed Mar 15 00:16:53 EST 2006
Imagine if you could shrink your whole computer into something that fits
in your hand. The Nokia 770 comes close. The first thing that must be
said is that it's not a phone. Not at all. It's a palmtop PC, with a
colour touchscreen, 64MB RAM expandable via a reduced-size MMC slot,
bluetooth, WiFi, built-in 'quiet speaker' as well as a mini-socket for
microphone and speakers, USB port and a few buttons including a four-way
rocker with centre-select.
So far it sounds like a PDA, and not an overly ambitious one at that.
But what makes the Nokia so much more than is its screen and its
First, the screen. A fraction over 4", 65,000 colours, 800x480 pixels.
That's not a tyop. Where standard for a PDA is QVGA, 320x240 pixels,
where only a few years ago or ten, standard for a desktop was VGA,
640x480 pixels, Nokia give WVGA in your palm. The screen is superb;
probably the best feature of the hardware although I hasten to add that
the whole package shrieks of quality. This screen illustrates the true
meaning of the word 'resolution.' I don't care how big your screen is,
the 770 has a higher resolution, with almost 230 dots per inch. That's
close to printer-quality.
The best thing about the 770 is not it's hardware, which I have already
said is excellent. The best thing, and what makes it almost your desktop
in your palm, is that it runs Linux. Nokia took Debian, added a whole
bunch of stuff which they wrote themselves, as well as some they didn't
including the Opera web-browser, and repackaged it for the 770. They
call the unit the 'Internet Tablet', which makes a statement on how they
view the product.
Nokia encourage third-party development, and support and participate in
the maEmo project, which they founded for this purpose. There seem to be
no secrets in this unit; that makes such a refreshing change.
The 770 comes with two standard input methods: handwriting recognition
and on-screen keyboard. The handwriting recognition is rubbish, not
surprisingly, although it can be trained and perhaps might even become
usable. I doubt it. The on-screen keyboard, on the other hand is really
quite good. It predicts what word you are typing, using a dictionary
augmented with your own typed history, to offer a choice that often
includes the word you want. It's rather like the dictionary mode that
some mobile phones have for entering SMS, but on steroids. WinCE easily
wins at handwriting recognition, but perhaps not at typing on a small
Nokia include Opera; a PDF viewer; a video player supporting AVI, H.263,
MPEG-1, MPEG-4, RealVideo and 3GP; a POP/IMAP mail reader; an audio
player supporting AAC, AMR, MP2, MP3 & WAV; a News reader; an image
viewer supporting BMP, GIF, ICO, JPEG, PNG, TIFF & SVG Tiny; the
obligatory calculator, clock, notepad & sketchpad; and chess, mahjong &
marbles games. This year's release is expected to include VoIP. Missing,
and this surprised me, is a calendar. I suppose it is an Internet
tablet, and not a PDA. No matter, it runs Linux...
The first application I downloaded and installed was Xterm. Lovely to
have a shell; it makes it feel like a real computer. There is a growing
list of already-ported applications, including AbiWord, Gnumeric, many
games, a couple of lite- browsers, a Citrix client! and more. Full
development tools are freely down loadable from maemo.org.
Nokia see this for surfing the 'net. They provide built-in WiFi, and
bluetooth so you can use your cellular when you're not in range of an
available access point. Not building a cellular modem into the unit was
as brilliant a decision as it was surprising: it neatly side-steps the
whole question of what standards, GSM, CDMA, 3G and on, to support, as
well as ensuring that it will work worldwide.
The Nokia 770 is truly the must-have geek or executive toy for the year.
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