Nokia N810: 'who needs an iPhone?'

We had a demo of the new Nokia N810 internet tablet at the What Hi-Fi & Stuff Show in London's Hammersmith this morning.

Designed to complement your mobile phone (rather than replace it), the pocket-sized Nokia N810 is compact, powerful and impressively fast to use.

Nokia N810: hands on

The N810 is effectively a web tablet and Nokia's device will live or die based on its ability to deliver a good, fully-featured mobile web experience. And its not bad - we fired up the N810's web browser (see photo) and the homepage loaded up in a matter of seconds.

Moving around web pages is easy using the supplied stylus pen - you simply scroll left and right, like you would with a web page that's too big for a monitor screen. It doesn't feel as straightforward or as intuitive as the iPhone's 'pinch-and-click' multi-touch system. But the integrated Firefox browser offers a great surfing experience and the N810's screen is bright and crisp.

Slide-out keyboard

While the N810 is certainly an improvement over the old N800, it's still a touch on the chunky side. The N810 is slightly larger than the Apple iPhone when closed - it's only 2.4mm thicker and weighs 226g compared to the iPhone's 135g. Plus there's the extra height to consider when the slide-out keyboard is in use.

Nevertheless, it's a great size for web surfing on the move. The N810's quick start-up makes it much more useful if you just want to jump onto the web and look something up. If you leave it on, but in suspend mode, you can connect to a web page quicker than it takes Windows Vista to boot up. From a cold boot, the N810 takes around 30 seconds to start.

iPhone challenger?

The lack of phone capabilities is a drawback. But the Nokia N810 does offer built-in Skype functionality, which means free VoIP calls when connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot. But if you can't get online for some reason, or if anyone wants to call you for a good old-fashioned chat, then you would need to carry a mobile phone too.

Overall, the N810 feels sturdy and well-built, and we like the inclusion of a full Qwerty keyboard which is sometimes faster for typing than using the softkeys on the touchscreen. The integrated GPS receiver is also useful when you're out and about, and you can use the IM functions to catch up with friends.

Free Wi-Fi?

The Nokia N810 will be priced at £300, but bundle options are likely to offer it for a lot less than that. This would mean that you could pick up a spanking new Nokia handset (say the N95 or N81) plus the Nokia N810 internet tablet for less than you would pay for an Apple iPhone.

Add to that a Wi-Fi deal thrown in thanks to a deal with The Cloud and Nokia could well be on to something big. Then again, the Apple iPhone combines three functionalities in one device, which would be easier on your pocket in the literal sense...