nokia n97 mini

The Nokia N97 Mini has plenty of smartphone firepower, and scaling down the design from the original N97 has made this a leaner and more attractive smartphone to carry around in your pocket.

The reduction in screen size and onboard flash memory are a shame, but the lack of bulk isn't. We prefer the reworked keyboard on this model, too, which is a very usable QWERTY effort. The N97 Mini ticks plenty of boxes for features, with its Wi-Fi and HSDPA connectivity, A-GPS, decent quality camera and a high-grade music player audio performance.

Smartphones are no longer just about volume of features, though, and Nokia's S60 5th Edition platform doesn't match up to the easy usability of the iPhone and Android touch control platforms.

It still feels and acts very much like previous S60 UIs for touch control rather than an innovative new system. As such, it may be easy to get to grips with and familiar for existing Nokia smartphone users, but it's hardly a cutting-edge touch control interface.

We liked:

The Nokia N97 Mini has stacks of attractive features and functions. Its connectivity options include Wi-Fi and HSDPA, while A-GPS gadgetry and Maps software are a useful in-pocket tool. Nokia has stocked up the online-based applications too, so there's plenty of out of the box stuff to play with. The home screen widgets idea also works well.

That QWERTY keyboard, though, is a very welcome addition for those who use their smartphones to do plenty of typing. It's comfortable and accurate to use and really adds to the fine messaging capabilities. And we like the tilt of the screen for viewability when the keyboard's slid out.

The music player puts in an impressive audio performance too and we liked the earphones supplied - plus there's a 3.5mm standard headphone socket in situ. Internal storage of 8GB is very welcome, even if it is less than the original N97's 32GB.

The 5-megapixel camera was good enough too, with a simply arranged user interface control system.
We also really admired the industrial-strength build quality, with no flimsiness in the bodywork.

We disliked:

It's not necessarily difficult to use, it's just that the S60 5th Edition user interface feels much like a straightforward touch version of previous S60 incarnations, so doesn't have the fluidity and easy usability - and freshness - of other rival designed-from-the-ground-up smartphone platforms. It does the job for operating the phone, and the resistive type screen is fine for that sort of display. But it doesn't feel that touch control has been fully utilised to open up the possibilities of the mobile user experience. Its traditional S60 phone conventions may, however, appeal to Nokia smartphone fans who want a familiar experience on a touchscreen device...

Though a Mini version of the N97, it's still no slimline touchscreen device - though its fine slider keyboard is an acceptable excuse.

Battery life has taken a hit from the original N97, with a smaller capacity pack included; with so many features to play with, that may be a handicap for some heavy users.

A small niggle is the balance of the phone when typing on a desk - we felt it could have easily been solved. And with this decent QWERTY keyboard we'd have liked to be able to edit or create documents out of the box rather than having to upgrade Quickoffice.

Verdict

The Nokia N97 Mini is a decent device with plenty of features going for it, a good quality performance and build, and a very usable QWERTY keyboard to complement its hefty amount of onboard functionality. The 'Mini' label hasn't shaved a huge amount off the price tag though - it's £429 SIM-free at launch, with the N97 currently £449.

Despite scaling down some features, however, the N97 Mini is possibly more attractive as a pocket QWERTY-packing smartphone handset than its N97 big brother. Its familiar S60 user interface may get the vote from Nokia smartphone fans, too - though it lacks the pizzazz of some of its touchscreen rivals.

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