And so it is - the Nokia N900 is one powerful mother, a mobile phone that runs a PC operating system, with an internet browser based on PC browser technology. From the specs at least. it's shaping up to be a super-fast phone tops at multi-tasking and internet, and it's one of the nicest looking phones Nokia has put out in a while too.
Look and feel
A 3.5-inch touch-screen slides over a full QWERTY. Unlike the N97 and N97 Mini, the WVGA display doesn't slide out at an angle. Nokia is really pushing the internet tablet angle - though there is an accelerometer, it only works in the phone and gallery features and most of the phone's applications are designed to work in landscape orientation. It's quite minimalist with just the TFT screen sitting above a menu, call and hang up key, while rounded corners and a shiny chassis give the phone one of the sleekest designs Nokia has had in some time.
Under the hood
OK - that PC operating system: the N900 is the first device to run Maemo 5. an open-source OS based on geek pride and joy Linux. It's therefore a total monster at multitasking, with the happy addition of 1GB of RAM to keep apps running, and smoothly. As well, all open apps stay 'live' and anything happening in the website will show in the Dashboard, where you can view and access thumbnails of all your open windows. It's totally different from Nokia's high end Symbian devices, as Symbian was built for smartphones, while Linux was built for PCs. The browser is based on Mozilla technology for full desktop-like browsing - all websites load in full, not mobile optmised versions, and videos are a no-brainre. Other specs to keep the hardware snobs happy include its five+meg Carl Zeiss snapper with dual LED flash and autofocus, video recording up to DVD quality, 32GB of onboard storage expandable by 16GB in the microSD slot, A-GPS for quick sat-nav, and an HDMI cable for high-def transmission to the big screen. By this point, a 3.5mm audio jack is an absolute given.
Ease of use
From a five minute play with the device, we rate the N900's speed and accuracy. You get four homescreens to customise with various widgets, app shortcuts and favourite contacts, and scroll side to side to each via long swipes. It's a resistive (pressure sensitive) touch-screen, so no iPhone-esque feather swipes, but it is hands down the best, most responsive resistive screen we've used. Some nifty new shortcuts make use of the touch - tapping a thin strip at the top of the screen is like a back button, while the same tap also acts as a menu key when there are menu functions to display. It's very intuitive. Therre's also a new zoom in town - when in the browser, you can swirl clockwise to zoom in, anti to zoom out, a gesture that works perfectly. Double tap zoom also works. Other features we liked included the ability to tag photos - a la N86 8MP - with words of your choice, and of course, the ability to share with Facebook, Flickr and Ovi. As the OS is open, it's very possible more services can be added in a relatively short time.
That apps thing
As we know from the original open source baby, Google's Android OS, an open development code can mean both awesome and depressing things for apps. With the N900, users can access both the Ovi Store for Nokia-approved apps, or the those on the geeky side of the fence can hit up the Maemo development area, where apps in various stages of development can be downloaded. It's really one for the technophiles, as while there is the odd consumer-friendly app like fitness app eCoach, there are a load of dev-oriented utilities like 'command line fix' too.
Bottom line? We can't wait to see a full sale model of the N900. Available in Q4 for EUR500 (though cheaper on contract).