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By Thomas McKinnon 22 July 2009

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The Nokia N97 is one of the Finnish company’s most highly anticipated handsets yet. A big name release like this always gets gadget reviewers in a tizz looking for that unique perspective. It’s the “best Nokia ever”, it’s an “iPhone killer” and even "it’s no showstopper” articles are published in an effort to attract the most eyeballs. So what’s the verdict?
 
Display

The N97 just feels like a sophisticated, internet savvy phone. The thing that you immediately appreciate about the N97 is its 3.5" sliding tilt display. While we’ve seen tilt displays before this one feels solid and well built. It slides up with a reassuring thunk.

When using the phone you are greeted by a customisable widget based home screen. You can have a maximum of eight widgets constantly displaying live news feeds like News24, social network status updates like Facebook or whatever else you like. Its resistive touch-screen really makes interacting with these applications an enjoyable experience straight off the bat.

Navigation

Navigating the device’s apps is also a pleasure. Press the menu button and all the necessary settings and applications are available. The layout is logical and easy to use, allowing you to quickly access any feature you want.

Beneath its sliding tilt display is a well sized QWERTY keyboard. Aside from the stupid placement of the space bar (right aligned) its keyboard is one of the best we’ve ever used. The keys are comfortable to use, neat but well spaced and along with the left aligned directional pad the setup is really functional.

Multimedia

On the multimedia side the N97 really shines. It has a 5 megapixel camera that knocks out the 3 megapixel smartphone competition. With dual LED flash and a bunch of handy settings its camera really is adequate. Its direct integration with Nokia’s Facebook app was also appreciated.

RealPlayer, TV-out, podcasting functionality, N-Gage support, and direct access to the OviStore to download even more multimedia content will also keep you busy. The ease with which you can download, install and launch apps straight from OviStore will mean you visit it on a regular basis. The promise of more local content thanks to Nokia’s "Calling All Innovators" competition should also make these visits more worthwhile.

Connectivity

Complimenting this multitude of multimedia the N97 is a truly connected device. Connecting via 3G HSDPA or Wi-Fi is a breeze; easy to setup and even easier to use. We didn\'t have any connectivity problems, although we did struggle to get a POP3 account up and running. GPS and A-GPS keep you on track with Nokia Maps included. You even get turn-by-turn voice guided directions which is a nice touch, greatly enhancing its appeal as a GPS device.

Organisation

QuickOffice for viewing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, Adobe PDF, a file manager, and other PIM tools, such as a Zip manager, a calculator, a notepad, a measurement converter, a clock, and a voice recorder make it quite an appealing business device as well.

While not as business centric as the Blackberry Storm the N97 does the basics well. Our only problem was the absence of the Nokia Messaging app seen on the E75. We were under the impression that this was Nokia’s flagship device, why should we have to download it?

What it lacks

A capacitive touch screen responds to conductive materials, like your finger for instance. This means that it can support all sorts of multi-touch gestures like pinches and flips but not things like a stylus or a gloved hand. This makes activities like browsing and scrolling fun because of the ease factor. While we would have preferred to see this on the Nokia, in all honesty the N97’s resistive touch-screen is fairly well integrated with the Symbian OS. We actually enjoyed the haptic feedback and found the interface to be intuitive if you are already familiar with the way Nokia does things.

What we didn’t enjoy was the fact that the device was just a little unresponsive at times. Press a button, enjoy a little feedback and then… nothing. Sometimes you have to single tap a button other times double press; while not a big deal it just gets a little frustrating whilst becoming familiar with the device’s idiosyncrasies.

The other thing that disappoints is its processor. While adequate it hardly compares to the power you get from devices in a similar price range. In regular use there is no noticeable lag, but have a few applications running in the background, browse the web and play a bit of music and there is a noticeable dive in speed.

Verdict

Okay, so it doesn’t have a capacitive touch screen, scrolling while browsing is a bit of a nuisance and it could have done with a more powerful processor. The iPhone, Palm Pre (still to come to SA, maybe) and HTC Magic beat it on all these fronts. But if you’re a Symbian lover that requires a 5MP camera and a ton of multimedia features and aren’t too bothered about a lightning quick interface the N97 will be your “best phone ever.”

PROS
The 3.5\
CONS
A capacitive touch screen would have been nice and the processor should have been more powerful.
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