Saturday, July 04, 2009

Darth N97: Build quality and physical aspects

Its been about 10 days of using Darth N97 now.

For this post, I'll highlight some of the physical aspects and build quality of the N97. In short, this is perhaps one of Nokia's best efforts in creating a solid all rounder flagship. Many people who have played with the N97 (under my very watchful eye needless to say) always comment about the solid slide feature, which opens and closes with a nice "snap". (Unless of course, you do it in s-l-o-w....m-o-t-i-o-n).

When I took these photos, it just so happened to be in the evening, very close to sun set. So the photos turned out almost very sephia-anituque looking. Not on purpose, but hey, I like how it turned out. Almost as if Darth N97 was born in the 1950's!

N97 Box

  1. As you can see, the box is very simple. Totally unlike boxes of (nokia) old, where a photo of the model is splashed out on the front.
  2. INSIDE, you will find the full-on accessories that accompany Darth N97; a USB wall charger (great move Nokia!), a USB cable for your PC (also charges!), a little adapter (in case you still refuse to part ways with your old Nokia chargers), a Nokia earpiece, a flat-ish sort of stylus (You probably wouldn't need it), a beautiful leather case and of course, Nokia N97 assorted manuals (Note: with the 3.5mm jack, you can now use ANY of your favourite ear buds in case you rather not use the standard Nokia ones)
  1. From the many reviews I've read: Here are the main complaints:
  • A TV cable not included? I personally am not fussed about this missing from my set. Even when I had my previous N95 / N95 8Gb, I don't recall even taking it out of the box... ever.
  • How lousy is that leather case? Again, I personally don't think that this is a worthwhile niggle that should stop anyone from buying the powerful N97. As for the leather case, its fantastic. I bet people would complain even more if a case WASN'T included! Anyway, look at this picture below. 'Nuff said.
  • A stylus? That's so 90's. Ok, maybe this applies to those who like to poke their screens, or maybe fancy a bit of writing here and there. The majority of people probably won't use it. I sure haven't, since taking Darth out of the box. But the stylus is sure nice and "stylish" (pun intended), so if you don't like it, don't use it. Simple.

Physical aspects

The N97 is very comfortable to hold in hand, big or small. The weight is even spread out and doesn't feel heavier on any side (like some older Nokia models).
Very quickly, to walk you through what you'd find with the N97 (I've not included any pictures here because you can find so many galleries elsewhere):
  • On the top, you'll find the power button and a 3.5mm jack.
  • On the right, you'll find the volume rocker keys and the dedicated camera button
  • On the left, the USB slot (for charging and PC connectivity) and the "lock switch" (which Nokia 5800 users would recognise)
  • On the front screen, the BEAUTIFUL 3.5" screen I must add, there are no physical buttons other than the "menu" button at the lower left of the screen. The green "call" and red "end call" buttons are touch sensitive are located next to the (only) menu button. (All three light up when you switch on the N97)
  • At the back, you'll find the camera slide, which, when opened, reveals the double LED flash and of course, the 5 mp camera. Many have complained about Nokia's choice on the mega pixelcount, considering many competitors are sporting more poweful cameras these days. Its not ALL bad, given Nokia's experience with the N95 and N82. And, its still way better than any smartphone offering from competitors, Sony Ericsson or even with Apple's soon-to-be-released iPhone 3GS. Check out my previous post for the photo quality here. Its not all bad right?
  • The keyboard. I could spend a whole post on this one feature alone. This is perhaps the deal breaker with many potential N97 buyers out there. Firstly, with only 3 rows of alphabet keys, so fully incorporated with numbers and symbols, the general feedback has been why not include another row? Secondly, why has the location of the spacebar being pushed to the right, instead of the standard centre location? Thirdly, the placement of the navi-pad on the left side. Why? Lastly, why is the "full-stop" not given its own button?? (You have to press the symbol shift key and press the "comma" key to get the "full-stop"). In short, in all this time using Darth N97, I've purposely made it a conscious choice to use the keyboard whenever and wherever I can, just to test the daily capabilities of the keyboard. Safe to say, it was very easy to familiarise with and took me only about a day or two just to be up to the typing speeds as my previous E71. I'm now blistering away on my SMS's and emails and (still) love snapping open good ol'Darth. So if you're an E71 or E90 user, or even a QWERTY device user, the N97 shouldn't be a problem for you to learn.
  • Ok, finally, there's the ribbon-like component found between the slide which you can read about at allaboutsymbian here, I don't think it should stop you from owning one, unless you plan to (foolishly) shove a pencil in there to test how strong the ribbon is. Remember, the N97 is a powerful multimedia device that can probably replace your notebook, its not a shock/water proof construction site accessory.

Size comparison with the Nokia E71

  • Size wise, as you can see, its not THAT much bigger than the E71. (Unfortunately, I didn't have an iPhone handy to compare with)
  • There's definitely a thickness issue, but hey, the N97 slides up, the E71 doesn't.
  • Someone's asked me once, whether the N97's "shirt-pocketable"? If I wanted to be generic about it, I'd say aren't all phones shirt-pocketable? But to be honest, with Darth in my shirt pocket, its a bit difficult to forget that there's a device weighing down your shirt. You won't forget its there basically! Not a big problem I'd say.
So, in conclusion, if I had to rate Darth N97 on the physical aspect on a 5 star scale, I'd give it 5 out of 5. Yes, I love it. Its well built, well designed and though I've not personally experienced how well it would hold up on a drop test (I don't plan to find out!), I'm sure Darth will hold up. Its Darth remember! (Ok, that was lame....)

In my next review, I'll possibly touch on some of the experiences of using Darth on a daily basis, and how my life has been taken over by this Nokia flagship. The Force is indeed strong....