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Nokia N97 Mini: an owner’s review

Another year, another cell phone. I’ve recently ditched my beloved Nokia E71 for a multimedia oriented Nokia N97 Mini. I know I’m a little too gadget freak to resist the temptation of a new and shiny smartphone, but this time I had a good enough reason to change it: I got a good price for it and the whole upgrade took had cost me just a little over 100$.

But now back to the actual reason I’ve started this post: presenting my first impressions about my Nokia N97 Mini after the first 10 days of (intense) use. I have to mention that I’ve looked over on the Internet quite a bit before making my decision on a touchscreen smartphone with full QWERTY keyboard and a somewhat slim profile. I’m not a big fan of virtual keyboards so the right choice for me definitely is the hardware QWERTY.

This is the Garnet N97 Mini
This is the Garnet N97 Mini

After much reading, comparing and deals checking I come to the conclusion that the N97 Mini is the one to get, especially because I was already familiar with it.

First impressions

Now, once I got it I can say that it’s exactly what I expected: a solid built sliding QWERTY smartphone with two problems mentioned all over the web, awful sunlight screen readability and short battery life. I’m not quite the ‘outside camper’ type of guy so I can live with the first problem and regarding battery life I can proudly say that it gets me through a day with really heavy use.

In time I expect battery life to increase to 1.5 days or even 2 with moderate use, but then again why buy a fully packed device if you don’t intend to use all its features, right?

The keyboard

Having covered the battery life point let’s now move on other matters like the hardware keyboard. Comparing it to the one found on the E71 I have mixed feelings, mainly because the keys are larger ensuring better accuracy but are harder to press, so I think I’m averaging about the same speed on both keyboard. On the fingers fatigue issue I can tell you that I find harder to press the keys on the middle of each row as my fingers are stretched almost to maximum while on the E71 I press harder the keys on the bottom row(s).

Overall performance

Strangely enough, Nokia has chosen for N97 Mini a CPU that is slower than the one found in recent E-series devices like the E72, E52 and E55 who have smaller screens so less pixels to move around. In those conditions is no wonder that apps start slower and some programs like Nokia Maps tend to kneel down the CPU during intensive tasks. Even so I wouldn’t call the Nokia N97 Mini a slow smartphone and all the merit goes to the very efficient Symbian OS.

The OS

Here’s where I have mixed feelings, not like the first time I’ve played with the 5800 XpressMusic, as the OS has evolved a lot since then, but there are still a lot of inconsistencies while navigating through menus and you are required to tap once or double tap the screen.

In a few days you’ll get used to this behavior but you’ll be a little frustrated at first. Also worth mentioning that the Ovi Store is quite unpopulated with apps, but you’ll still find some interesting free pieces of software like Opera Mini, Fring, Sports Tracker, Qik and other titles that are also found in the built in ROM of the device.

All in all I quite like the Nokia N97 Mini even after 10 days of use and recommend it as a true smartphone that will get thing like updating your status on your favorite social site, reading emails and browsing the web quite nice while listening to your favorite tunes with the excellent wired headset included  in the package by Nokia.

Tip: You can buy the Nokia N97 Mini from Amazon for 446$, unlocked

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