Nokia N97 Mini Exclusive Hands-On Review
By on February 21st, 2010

Recently, I got to play with Nokia N97 Mini in our Techie Buzz Labs. At the first sight, the QWERTY keypad looks absolutely stunning, but I wasn’t amazed with the Symbian S60 v5 operating system, as I’m used to it. I’m already using Nokia 5800 Xpress Music for the last 5 months, but the major difference in software between both the device was that of “Kinetic Scrolling”. The other feature I liked was that of customizable homescreen. I had a perception that this device wasn’t a value for money, thanks to its operating system. With all my friends, contacts, emails and widgets on the homescreen, this device proved me wrong.

nokia n97 mini

What’s in the box?

nokia n97 mini box

  • Nokia N97 Mini
  • Nokia Battery
  • Nokia Travel Charger
  • Nokia Connectivity Cable
  • Nokia Wired Headset
  • OVI Suite DVD
  • User Manual

To know more on the contents inside the box, check out our exclusive N97 Mini unboxing video. You can even have a look at out exclusive hands-on pics.

Positive Features

  • Smooth Slider
  • Large Touchscreen Display
  • Excellent QWERTY keypad
  • 8GB in-built memory
  • Kinetic Scrolling
  • Supports Popular Audio/Video formats
  • Stylish Metallic Battery Cover
  • Wide Range of Useful Apps
  • Customizable Homescreen

Negative Features

  • Poor Display Under Sunlight
  • Unimpressive Battery
  • Unsatisfactory Camera
  • No Changes in UI
  • Poor Web Browser

Design And Hardware:

N97 Mini is constantly being compared with its big brother, Nokia N97. The design of this device is quite attractive as compared to N97. The build quality of N97 Mini is just brilliant. The battery cover is made up of a metallic material, which makes it look like a high end device, unlike N97 which has a plastic battery cover. This device is absolutely comfortable and it easily fits in my pockets.

n97 mini metallic back

N97 Mini has a little smaller display as compared to N97. This device has a display of 3.2 inches (similar to Nokia 5800 Xpress Music), while N97 had a 3.5 inches display. It comes with a resistive touchscreen, 360 x 640 pixels resolution and it supports 16 million colors. N97 Mini has a sharper and crystal clear display under normal lighting conditions, but it becomes almost unreadable in direct sunlight.

Above the large display, there is a proximity and light sensitivity sensors, earpiece and a video call camera. The proximity sensor helps to switch off the display automatically, when you hold the device near to your ear. Below the display, you can find a menu key along with a touch sensitive call and end keys. On the left side, there is a microUSB port and the screen lock slider. On the right side, there are camera and volume keys. The power key and 3.5 mm audio jack are situated on the top of the device.

nokia n97 mini qwerty

The sliding QWERTY keyboard is just amazing. The slider is absolutely smooth and there isn’t any chances of damage during its regular usage. The keys are a bit smaller as compared to N97, but they are perfectly placed with proper spacing between the keys. N97 Mini has arrow keys, unlike the useless D-pad key on the N97. The keys are easy to use and they aren’t pain on your fingers.

On the back, you will find a 5 megapixel camera with a dual LED flash and a stylish metallic battery cover. The battery of this device is also smaller than N97. This device has a 1200 mAH battery as compared to N97 which has a 1500 mAH battery. The MicroSD card slot is situated under the battery cover while the SIM card slot is placed under the battery. N97 Mini supports upto 16GB of external storage.

nokia n97 mini hardware

Nokia N97 Mini is available in three stunning colors – Cherry Black, Garnet and White. The build quality of this device is much better than N97. But the power, volume and menu keys are completely unsatisfactory. Sometimes I was not able to open the slider in one go. There is always a fear in mind regarding the damages to slider due to the thin plastic support on its back. It was quite comfortable and faster to send emails and texts, thanks to its amazing slider QWERTY keypad. They should have provided covers for the USB port and dual LED flash, since they can be scratched easily. The proximity sensor works perfectly. It is quite a pain to change SIM cards.

Check out the full specification of Nokia N97 Mini here.

User Interface:

nokia n97 mini interface

As I have said earlier, for the first few days I didn’t liked this device because of the Symbian S60v5 operating system. I was already bored of the same user interface as I’m used to it. But the major difference in the user interface of Nokia N97 Mini and other Symbian S60 device was that of Kinetic Scrolling and an amazing homescreen. Kinetic Scrolling was available everywhere, even in menus and applications. I really liked the kinetic scrolling of this device. The icons menus are very appealing as compared to the list menus. The menu icons can be customized easily within few seconds. Sliding out the QWERTY keypad rotates the screen vertically.

Homescreen:

nokia n97 mini homescreen

The customizable homescreen in N97 Mini is brilliant. The widgets in homescreen helped me a lot by saving my valuable time. Almost all my needs were fulfilled from the homescreen itself. You can add, remove and organize upto 5 widgets on the homescreen. The clock widget is set by default and it cannot be removed, but you can place it anywhere on the homescreen. My favorite homescreen widgets are Facebook, AccuWeather and Shortcuts.

I tried adding Gravity on the homescreen but it looked dull. Gravity isn’t optimized for N97 Mini homescreen, but it would be fun to have an excellent app, like Gravity, readily optimized for the homescreen. The menu key below the display is quite uncomfortable. Hence, I have added the menu shortcut on the homescreen as I didn’t wanted to use that menu key anymore.

Check out 20 stunning wallpapers for Nokia N97 Mini here. You can also find more amazing wallpapers here.

Connectivity:

nokia n97 mini connectivity

The Nokia N97 Mini is a powerful device which has a wide range of connectivity options. This device comes with GPRS, EDGE, Bluetooth, USB, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity. It has 2G and 3G quad band, which can be used globally with any wireless operator. You can easily find and connect to Wi-Fi signals, with the help of this device. I tried using Wi-Fi on this device and the hi-speed browsing experience was just incredible. The connection manager shows all the active connections, along with the current download and upload speed. You can always stay connected with your friends, thanks to its wide range of connectivity options.

Messaging:

nokia n97 mini messaging

There are no changes in messaging client as compared to Nokia 5800. Nokia N97 Mini comes with SMS, MMS and Email messaging services. The messaging client fulfills most of my needs when it comes to SMS and MMS services. To compose a message, you can use the amazing QWERTY keyboard or you can even use the alphanumeric keyboard on the touchscreen itself. You can even type long texts and Emails easily, within few minutes. What’s more, you can use your own handwriting to type messages on the go. Messaging isn’t a pain in N97 Mini since it comes with an outstanding QWERTY keyboard.

Sending and receiving emails in N97 Mini is a child’s play. I was able to configure my Google Apps, Gmail as well as OVI mail within few seconds. Setting up OVI mail was the easiest one as you have to only key in the username and password, nothing else. I would suggest you to use IMAP instead of POP for retrieving email, but the final choice is ultimately yours.

Since 3G is still not available with the private operators in India, I was not able to test messaging in a 3G environment. I tested the email service using EDGE and Wi-Fi, and the service was pretty neat. Hundreds of emails were retrieved within seconds. Reading mails in Nokia 5800 is quite a pain, but it isn’t in N97 Mini, thanks to the kinetic scrolling.

Camera:

nokia n97 mini camera

Nokia N97 Mini has a 5 mega-pixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and the dual LED flash. The maximum resolution for an image is 2592 x 1944 pixels. Though there is no major difference in the camera as compared to N97, you will find the lens cover missing in the mini version. The interface is the exact copy of what we have seen earlier in the Nokia 5800 and N97. You can find all the settings under a common menu, but the flash has a dedicated shortcut with 4 options Automatic, Reduce Red, On and Off. You can switch to secondary camera or video mode directly through “Options”. The device has 8 scene modes, 5 color tone, white balance, exposure, light sensitivity, contrast, sharpness and image sequence mode.

Transparent Display Alarm Clock

transparent display clock

Stagecoach Bus

stagecoach bus

The camera quality of this device cannot be termed as excellent. The images do not have much visible noise in them. The images taken with N97 Mini are slightly better than the original N97. The images taken during night were visibly poor as compared to those taken during the day. I saw yellow tint in most of the images taken during the day. The color balance is definitely not upto the mark.

I was quite amazed to see that this device does not have face and smile detection technology. Even cheap mobile phones, such as Samsung Corby come with a smile detection feature. This device has a VGA video recording @ 30fps. The video quality is quite satisfactory.

Images And Videos:

You can view all your images in the photos application. This application is pretty neat, and you can easily browse thousand of images with the help of kinetic scrolling. The app has a basic photo editor where you can add effects, such as inserting clip arts, frames and texts, crop the image, increase brightness and so on. You can double click on any image to zoom it. You can directly send the image as an attachment, right inside the photos application.

The video player allows you to view 3gp and mp4 videos. The video experience on a large screen is simply awesome. You can watch videos of upto 360 x 640 resolution. I have added 5 full length movies and watched it on the go. If you want to skip some part of the video, then you can drag the bar to any part of the video. For some reason, if you stopped the video, the next time, video starts from that position itself. This is quite useful when the device is switched off due to low battery.

Music:

nokia n97 mini music player

The device come with a 3.5 mm headphone jack, 8GB in built memory, 16GB expandable memory and support for MP3, WMA, AAC, eAAC, and eAAC+ audio files. I have added some extreme chartbusters to make it a complete music phone. The stereo headphone provided with this device is pretty decent. Compared to other Nokia devices, the loudspeakers are not too loud.

The music player has the same old S60 interface. Songs are arranged according to their album and artist name. I would ask you to update your ID3 tags for arranging songs neatly in the device. Even if you have thousands of albums in your device, you can browse them easily with the help of kinetic scrolling. The music player even allows you to rewind and forward any track while listening. The music player definitely needs some improvement.

Web-Browser:

nokia n97 mini browser

The web browser of N97 Mini is not too bad, but it is not well optimized for webpages with lots of links. While browsing Techie Buzz, it automatically redirected to the mobile version, which I turned off later. The browser supports flash content, so you can watch your favorite YouTube videos right inside the browser. The kinetic scrolling helps to browse long web pages easily.

The bookmark manager is quite unsatisfactory. The page opens instantly even on a EDGE connection. On the top of the browser, you can see the size of the web page, which is quite useful, if you have a limited data connection or while you are browsing while roaming in another country. I really want Nokia to improve the S60 browser for its future devices.

Pre-Installed Apps:

nokia n97 mini apps

Nokia N97 Mini has a bunch of pre-installed apps. Through it comes with a wide range of free apps, some of the pre-installed apps were only trial version. Sadly, N97 Mini does not have a single pre-installed game. Check out the complete list of pre-installed apps below.

  • Drawing
  • JoikuSpot
  • Qik
  • Boingo
  • Soccer
  • Facebook
  • Friendster
  • Hi5
  • Metro
  • MySpace
  • Traveler
  • AccuWeather
  • Amazon
  • AP Mobile
  • Bloomberg
  • CNN Video
  • Elle
  • Slideshow
  • Vingo

Third Party Apps:

n97 mini apps

Nokia N97 Mini supports thousands of paid and free apps. You can head over to OVI Store for complete application gallery. To test third part apps, I installed Gravity, the best Twitter application for S60 5th Edition devices. The app worked pretty smoothly. Check out the top 10 applications for Nokia N97 Mini here.

Conclusion:

nokia n97 mini

I have used Nokia N97 for few days, but it was a complete disaster. The moment I opened a few apps, it started freezing. I was not able to view YouTube videos properly. So, I had a perception that N97 Mini will also be a highly-priced device with lots of flaws. When I used the device for first two days, I didn’t found anything new. But when I used it for almost a week, it completely changed my mind.

The spectacular combination of hardware and software makes this handset one of the best mobile communicating device currently available in the market.

Nokia N97 Mini is a complete winner in the long run. The touchscreen is very responsive and the call quality has been significantly improved. This device fits perfectly in the pockets. I used the device for more than two weeks, but it haven’t freezed once. Though there are not many changes in the UI, the kinetic scrolling is a complete savior. I liked the QWERTY keypad of N97 Mini a lot. Even OVI Store have thousand of useful apps that fulfills most of my needs.

The browser is not up to the mark, but the camera of N97 Mini is  definitely  better that N97. Though many of you will still prefer N97  because  of its 32GB inbuilt memory for almost same price, but I would recommend you to get this device since it is high on  performance  and  quality. The recent firmware update of N97 Mini, solved all the flaws of this device. Nokia N97 Mini is one of the best touchscreen handsets manufactured by Nokia. Go For It!!!

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

[ Image Credit ]

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Author: Omkar Dutta Google Profile for Omkar Dutta
Omkar Dutta is a Mobile Enthusiast from Mumbai, India. He loves to check out latest software, mobile phones and web services. Currently, he writes for this awesome blog as well as Fone Arena. You can follow him on Twitter @0mkarr

Omkar Dutta has written and can be contacted at omkar@techie-buzz.com.

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