The Worst 5 Gadgets: #2 Nokia N800

Good times
  • It looked pretty good 
Bad times
  • This was not a cheap purchase. Not cheap at all.
  • A decidedly average web browser
  • Skype was promised early and delivered late. It did not support the N800's internal camera. It was pretty average.
  • The soft-keyboard did really require the stylus at all times, even when in non-stylus mode
  • I am still not sure excatly what this things does well ...

    What I should have bought
    • Easy ... the iPod Touch
    Just because something is sexy does not mean it is good. This applies to models and actresses ... and it certainly applies to the Nokia N800.

    Make no mistake the N800 was a sexy device. It was not much larger than a large-ish mobile phone. It had an 800 pixel wide screen, which promised serving up web pages as they were intended to look. It had a built in microphone and the niftiest built in camera that sat flush on the side of the device and was accessed in a push-and-release fashion that oozed class. 

    Nokia flogged the N800 as an internet appliance. This was fine by me as I travelled a lot and liked to be connected, even if this connectivity was limited to wifi. But as an internet appliance, the N800 certainly was limited. It was slow. The browser was too small to represent most web pages and was not smart enough to re-render them in a way that fit its screen. It was buggy, too; it crashed a lot. Email, as an app, was passable but required a stylus to use effectively. This was 2007 - just at the start of Apple's introduction to the world of what a finger based interface should be - so it is hard to hold this against the N800. Nevertheless, it rendered a truly mobile device more of a move-stop-use-put-away-then-start-again device.

    Skype was promised on this machine from day one and the fit seemed perfect, given the N800's built in camera. But it took quite some time for Skype to arrive - about six months as best I recall - and when it did it was a voice only affair. It did not use the internal camera. To this day, I cannot recall that I have used the built in camera one. Not once.

    And have you ever tried to update the operating system on a Nokia device? It requires an install of client software on a PC (too bad if you have a Mac) and a download and then plugging the device in said PC to first back it up and then update it. Then restore your software and data. It is not for the faint hearted.

    At the £250 odd I spent on this thing I expected more. On paper it dazzled. In real life it became a book end. The iPod Touch came out around the time I bought the N800. If memory serves, Apple were quite humble about the Touch's all round capabilities at the same time that Nokia were unduly boastful of the capabilities of the N800.

    In 2010 the public face of the internet appliance is the Apple iPad. Three years is a long time in technology and it is unfair to compare the two in all but one way. When I bought the iPad it felt great from day one and that good feeling has not gone away. When I bought the N800 I went from excited to disenchanted fast enough to ... well ... fast enough to want to write this post.


    The best five gadgets
    1. iPhone 4 smartphone
    2. Sagem PVR6240T PVR (as buggy as it is ...)
    3. Logitech diNovo Mini miniature QWERTY keyboard
    4. Logitech X-230 speakers
    5. Lacie iamaKey USB memory key
    The worst five gadgets
    1. One For All URC-9900 Director (Mosaic) universal remote control
    2. Nokia N800 internet tablet
    3. Sony Playstation 3 (slim) games console
    4. Asus EeeBox PC EB1501 nettop
    5. Aliph Jawbone bluetooth headset