By February 1, 2010

Nokia Booklet 3G Review

I was visiting Matt the other weekend and he asked me if I fancied reviewing a Nokia. OK I said, and he handed me a large blue box. Large enough that I wondered just how big the phone inside was.

Then I looked at the box better and noticed ‘Nokia Booklet 3G’ emblazed across the side in white letters.

Booklet-angled-right

The Nokia Booklet 3G

At that point I wondered if it was some sort of internet tablet thing running Symbian, and Matt told be it was actually running Windows 7 and had a 10+ hour battery life. At which point I wondered if the startup sound would be the Nokia ring tone 😀

An unusual opening box and then my view of the Booklet 3G itself – this was not your standard ‘little netbook’ I was looking at.

Check out Matt’s Nokia Booklet unboxing video for a quick tour of the device.

 

What’s in the box:

  • Nokia Booklet 3G
  • Nokia Computer Battery BC-1S
  • AC/DC power adapter
  • Quick setup guide
  • Nokia Headset WH-205
  • Nokia USB charging multi-cable CA-126
  • Cleaning cloth

The Ten Second Review:

Device: Nokia Booklet 3G

Summary: A ‘mini-laptop’ with built in 3G

Best of: Good battery life, stylish design

Worst of: Sluggish, ‘missing’ ports

Buy it now from: Crescent Electronics

Price: £649

 

Nokia Booklet 3g Specification:

Body

  • Aircraft-grade aluminium slim body with super chassis construction
  • Dimensions: 264 x 185 (with hinge) x 19.9 mm
  • Weight: 1250 g

Memory and hard drive

  • RAM: 1 GB DDR2
  • Hard drive: 120 GB

Wireless

  • WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Built-in 3G modem (data calls only): WCDMA 900/2100 or 800-850/900/2100

Audio and video

  • 1.3 megapixel FF camera
  • HDMI port for HD video out
  • Built-in stereo speakers, and microphone
  • Analog audio output / headphone out (with OMTP headsets also functions as audio-in)

CPU and chipset

  • Intel® AtomT Z530, 1.6 GHz
  • Intel® Poulsbo US15W

Display and keyboard

  • 10.1", 1280 x 720 pixel display
  • Glass window
  • Frame keyboard

Battery

  • 56.8 Wh

I/O ports and slots

  • HDMI 1.2 out for HD video
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • 3.5 mm headphone out (OMTP: with OMTP headsets also functions as audio in)
  • DC-in
  • SD card reader
  • SIM / USIM slot

GPS

  • Integrated GPS and A-GPS
  • Ovi Maps application

Other

  • Accelerometer (motion sensor)

 

General

As is traditional, a quick tour around the outside first.

Front

Booklet-front

Nothing to see here – just clean lines.

Left

Booklet-left

Left to right – HDMI 1.2, USB, USB, 3.5mm headphone / mic jack, Speaker

Right

Booklet-right

Left to right – Speaker, Power button, SD card reader, SIM / USIM slot, DC-in

The back doesn’t really have much to see, and the base is completely smooth apart from the battery compartment and the feet.

 

Highlights

  • stylish design
  • battery life
  • built in 3G

Lowlights

  • sluggish performance
  • no LAN connector
  • no VGA connector
  • not upgradeable

Review

The first thing that strikes you about the Nokia Booklet 3G is its build quality. Unlike some smaller laptops and netbooks this feels very solid.

The next thing that struck me was that is was cold to the touch.

Most of the body is made from aircraft grade aluminium (or aluminum for our American friends), which apart from being very strong whilst remaining light also transfers heat very well. The result is that the Booklet doesn’t need ‘traditional’ vents to allow the heat to escape, the whole of the base body is able to transfer any heat very efficiently away and the Booklet is as close to silent as I’ve ever heard (or not heard).

The monitor shell is plastic and I’m guessing this is so that the aerials around the LCD don’t get interference from a metal shell.

The built and design, as Matt mentioned in his unbox, definitely evoke thoughts of the unibody Macbooks.

Booklet-angled-left

The screen itself is a 10.1", 1280 x 720 pixel display with a glass face. Anyone who’s read my previous reviews knows that I’m not a fan of shiny faced monitors, but this was definitely one of the better ones I’ve come across.

 

Booklet-keyboard

The keyboard is, like most netbooks, a little snug and takes some getting used to. The cursor keys have definitely been squished some, but this does mean that a little more space has been given to the touchpad. The touchpad buttons are a little clicky, but again function just fine.

The touchpad is multitouch (despite what I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere) and so you can pinch, spread and double finger scroll in apps that support such gestures – again, just like a Mac.

Just above the keyboard area, on the hinge, are some small icons that light up blue to display activity of the Bluetooth, Wifi or 3G as well as  sleep, battery and power icons. There is also a duplicate set of icons on the outside of the hinge so that you can see them when the Booklet is closed – and let every one around you know you are surfing the web.

 

Our test unit was running Windows 7 Home Premium 32 bit with 1GB DDR2 RAM and a 120GB hard drive.

On first boot Matt and I were mostly talking about the design and aluminium shell and I wasn’t paying much attention to the bootup. As it turned out this didn’t matter as a previous reviewer had tinkered around with stuff and the Booklet needed resetting to factory settings.

This is fairly easily achieved with a quick reboot, F8 to the options menu and into the right menu options. Everything works away and after a little while things were back as you’d normally get them from the factory. This is the same way as you would recover the OS as well, there is no install media included.

So after setting up a user and launching Windows I did what I always do when I get new PC’s to test, setup the network so that I can do a Windows update and get any updated drivers from the manufacturer.

Setting up the WiFi was straight forwards enough as Windows found my network no problem. What surprised me is that the Booklet doesn’t have any LAN connector, everything is wireless.

Quite what you do if you can’t get a Wifi or 3G signal I don’t know – I guess you need to get a USB to LAN adapter.

Fair enough I thought, I’ve got an internet connection over Wifi so let’s just run the Windows Update. For anyone who’s not tried it, let me just say that moving any large amounts of data over Wifi is never ideal, even if your connection is stable then it’s almost always going to be slower than a ‘direct cable connection’. And pretty much every office has a wired network, not all have wireless ones.

So Windows Update took quite a while to complete, but eventually everything was up to date – I also ran the Nokia Booklet app that updates its own software which took far less time than the Windows one.

Eventually an up to date system, but I was definitely wishing that the Booklet had a LAN connector.

So apart from the obvious Windows 7 Home Premium (with Internet Explorer 8) there is the usual 60 day trial of MS Office 2007 Small Business, a 30-day trial of F-Secure Internet Security 2010.

The Nokia specific apps are Ovi Suite and Nokia Social Hub.

Ovi Suite is for allowing you to sync your phone with your desktop from contacts, calendar etc – much like ActiveSync on Windows Mobile.

Nokia Social Hub is more difficult to explain. It’s a wrapper for ‘widgets’ that let you update your Facebook, Twitter etc all in one interface. You can also send SMS’s if you have a SIM card plugged in.

There is also a desktop Widget that uses the GPS and shows you a little map of where you are (or where you last where when the GPS was switched on if you’ve since turned it off).

And that’s it for the software.

I was expecting far more Nokia customisation, but the 2 programs that are installed can be downloaded an run by any Windows user.

So the next thing I wanted to look at was the battery life, so I put a couple of Divx videos on a USB key and copied them onto the Booklet and set it to fullscreen and put it on repeat play and started my stopwatch (well I looked at the clock to make a note of the time)

2 hours later the battery was at almost 70% – so that would suggest 6 hours of video playback on a single charge! When web browsing and working on documents Nokia claims that battery life can approach 12 hours and I can certainly believe that to be true. I could easily manage a days work out of it and recharge when I get home.

Whilst playing with video I connected the HDMI cable up to my desktop display and it was quite happy to discover its 1920×1080 res. Windows then let’s you run the second screen as either an extension of the desktop, as the desktop on its own or as a clone of the Booklet’s own display.

Running fullscreen video when both screens were displaying was pushing things too hard, but it was quite happy to run low res videos full screen on the large screen on its own.

Another omitted connector is external VGA. You have HDMI instead, but not the more common VGA, which, like the missing LAN connector, might prove frustrating if you want to use the Booklet in the office with a bigger monitor. Plus if you intend to use the Nokia Booklet 3G for doing presentations or conferences then most places I know of are set up for VGA connections not HDMI.

Now that I’d seen the impressive battery life and video performance I was curious as to how Windows itself rated the hardware, so I ran the Windows Experience Index.

WEI

Windows Experience Index

And as you can see, mid range scores for the RAM, 2D Graphics and (surprisingly) even the hard drive. But Windows really thinks that the CPU is a weak spot and that you really shouldn’t be trying to run 3D apps on the Booklet. The graphics card is an Intel GMA 500 that shares some of the system RAM (251Mb to be accurate).

But that’s just some ‘nominal test’, how does the Booklet 3G actually feel running Windows 7.

In short, it feels sluggish.

The hard drive in our review unit was a Toshiba MK1235GSL, which according to Toshiba’s own site is a 1.8 inch drive that runs at 4200rpm. When this is coupled with just 1GB of RAM and the Atom Z530 to run Windows 7 there is a noticeable delay when you ask programs to open or do anything.

Which then brings you to another aspect of the design of this device – you cannot upgrade the RAM or hard drive like you can in most laptops and even most netbooks.

Bootup from cold is around 2 minutes, going in and out of hibernate take around 30 seconds each, recovering from sleep is under 10 seconds.

Certainly with battery life like this device has I’d more commonly sleep the device instead of doing a full shutdown.

Another big thing about this particular ‘mini laptop’ is the built-in 3G connectivity, just pop in a 3G SIM and away you go.

The wireless controls on the Booklet are controlled from a function key combination (fn+f10), which pops up a little interface over the top of your windows but is still controlled by the mouse. You can toggle Bluetooth, Wifi, GPS and 3G – you can even click on the ‘aircraft’ icon to put the device in ‘aircraft mode’ like you would a phone, disabling all Wifi connections in one go.

The 3G option also toggles the GPS. I’m told that the GPS is a genuine GPS chip with a-GPS support, so even if the satellite positioning fails then if you are within a 3G network it can still make a reasonable guess at your location.

 

Booklet-SIM

Whilst I’m mentioning the SIM I just want to say that I found the cover of the SIM and SD sockets really fiddly to use, it wants to close all the time. This is good for the safety of your cards once they are plugged in, but a pain when you actually want to access them frequently.

The included USB split cable that Matt mentioned in his unbox is the ‘Nokia USB charging multi-cable CA-126’ – which is a USB at one end and then a Nokia 2mm power connector and a micro-USB connector at the other. It can be used for charging or data transfer from compatible phones.

The included headphones have a built in microphone so that can be used as a headset or else there is a microphone beside the webcam at the top of the monitor.

 

One thing I almost forgot to cover is the accelerometer mentioned in the specs. As far as I can tell this is only used to detect movement for the system to put the hard drive into safety mode. It is very sensitive and even sitting on a desktop, a slight nudge and the message would pop up to inform me that the drive was put into safe mode and normal service would be resumed shortly.

Whilst you can disable the message, and I understand why the system would want to protect your data, the sensitivity might be a problem when on the go sitting in a rocking train or car. It goes to further slow down your experience when working, albeit for good reason.

 

Conclusion

So as a ‘mini-laptop’ as Nokia themselves call it themselves on their site, the Nokia Booklet 3G has excellent build quality with very good battery life and built-in 3G.

It’s a real shame that some of the decisions that have been made within that design are holding the system back.

The slow hard drive, 1GB of RAM and the very efficient Atom Z530 all benefit the battery life, but ultimately leave the system feeling sluggish .

The lack of LAN socket is a real shock and though the missing VGA connector is less of a loss it’s still a surprise (even though it has been replaced by a nice HDMI connector instead). Certainly if you are planning to use the Booklet for working between offices or doing presentations with then you are going to miss at least one if not both connectors.

I know that hardware hackers are going to find a way into the Booklet, but the fact that the end user can’t upgrade the ram or get their hard drive out if things go wrong is also a poor decision in my opinion. If for some reason my laptop had a hiccup I can’t connect it to a standard PC monitor and I can’t easily take the hard drive out for data recovery.

It does appear that Nokia have followed lots of design cues and choices from Apple, who themselves favour custom connectors and in recent hardware versions have made components less accessible to the end user (though they at least usually give access to ram and hard drives).

It also looks like Nokia have followed Apple’s lead on price as well.

As I write this the Nokia Booklet 3G is on their site at £649 – and whilst it’s very nicely designed, I can’t help but think there are many other manufacturers with similar spec’d hardware for much less. Dell has a 10V for just over £200 that runs XP (so possibly feels faster) and there are plenty more.

Even if I had to buy an extra battery and a 3G dongle to get the specs closer to those of the Booklet 3G I’d still only be looking at about half the cost.

Ultimately the Nokia Booklet 3G is a very nicely designed piece of kit with some practical compromises that I find it hard to see a place for. Apple has the advantage that only they make their systems. If Nokia had produced something that was truly unique to this device, even as far as a custom OS then maybe it would be a different story.

As it stands this is ‘just’ another, albeit nicely designed and made, Windows 7 machine.

 

Posted by: Iain

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Post a Comment