As the name suggests, the Nokia N97 Mini is a more compact version of Nokia's flagship smartphone, the N97. The Mini also gets the bonus of kinetic "flick" scrolling, which greatly improves wb and menu navigation.
But the Nokia N97 Mini has the same issues as its older sibling. The S60 OS interface feels out of date and lacks the ease of use found on other operating systems like Google Android, iPhone, or webOS.
The Nokia N97 Mini is only slightly smaller than its older sibling, measuring 113x52.5x14.2mm. It is also a bit lighter, weighing 138g, or a tiny amount less than the original.
While the dimensions seem little different, the Nokia N97 Mini feels much more comfortable in the hand than the somewhat bricklike N97. Its high-quality plastic body feels durable. Two touch-sensitive buttons (Talk and End) lie below the display, as does a hardware shortcut key to the menu.
The Nokia N97 Mini's call quality was impressive. We heard no static or background hiss, and voices sounded crisp with an ample amount of volume. Parties on the other end gave similar reports.
In our review of the N97, we griped that the bottom edge of the tilted display was too close to the top row of keys on the keyboard. We didn't have this issue on the Nokia N97 Mini, though; we're not sure if it was due to the smaller design or if we've grown used to Nokia N-Series keyboards after reviewing so many. The keys are raised and nicely backlit, and despite the reduced real estate, fingers didn't feel cramped while typing long messages on the Mini.
The Nokia N97 Mini also loses the four-way directional pad seen on the N97. We don't miss it, though, as we found it difficult to press.
The 3.2-inch display (downsized from the N97's 3.5-inch display) is resistive-touch as opposed to the capacitive-touch technology of the Motorola Droid and the Apple iPhone 3GS. Resistive-touch generally requires a little more pressure on the screen. The display felt more responsive than the original Nokia N97 Mini's.
The Mini also has haptic feedback (a slight vibration when you touch an app), which helps with the navigation.
Scrolling on the original N97 was a bit of a pain, and you really had to push down hard on the display to scroll through a web page or an email. Thankfully, Nokia took note and gave the Mini "flick" scrolling. Like the iPhone's UI, you can literally flick the display to begin scrolling. The result isn't as silky as on the iPhone (you have to "flick" a little harder), but it is definitely a welcome improvement.
The S60 fifth edition operating system still feels unrefined when compared with webOS, iPhone, and Android 2.0, and unfortunately the smaller display (3.2 inches as opposed to 3.5 inches on the Nokia N97 Mini) only makes things worse. The typography and icons are tiny, and they fade into the background of the display. Opening an app requires two clicks - one to select the app and one to open it. Pressing twice gets old fast, especially when you're used to just about every other touchscreen device out there with one-click access to apps.
While the interface might not be the best-looking, the live-feed widgets are useful if you want to quickly check the weather or catch up with your friends on Facebook. The widgets update your personal internet feeds in real time on your home screen so you don't have to open up another app to access them. You can have up to five widgets on your home screen (the clock can't be budged) and arrange them in any order you see fit. The Nokia N97 Mini comes preloaded with a calendar, Facebook, Amazon, a widget that lists your contacts, and many more.
Setting up your web-based email account (such as Gmail or Yahoo) is a cinch. You simply enter in your username and password, and the Nokia N97 Mini does the rest. The Mini also supports multiple accounts.
The Nokia N97 Mini's web browser is okay for casual surfing, but it needs a bit of refinement. To zoom in to a page detail, you have to type on it twice or rely on the zoom bar. Either way, you still end up tapping the screen way more than necessary. One plus: the Mini's browser supports both Flash and Java - something the other smartphone giants don't yet do.
The uninspired, but capable music player supports a wide variety of file types including MP3, WMA, WAV, eAAC+, MP4, and M4V formats. It has no visual effects or album art scrolling (as on the iPhone and the Palm Pre). Nevertheless, it is quite easy to use with the display's large touch controls. Overall, music playback sounded very good. The video player is equally simple, but good nonetheless. However, you don't get DivX or XviD support out of the box.
The 5-megapixel camera has a Carl Zeiss lens (and a cover), a dual LED flash, and a few advanced features and settings. The image quality of indoor shots disappointed us. The photos looked grainy and either too dark or too blown-out from the flash. Snapshots taken outdoors fared better, however, with sharper details and better colour balance. You can record VGA video at 30 frames per second; test videos looked decent, but we detected some artifacting in a few clips.
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