The Nokia Booklet 3G was quite a surprise when it was first announced. With it, Nokia wants to differentiate itself by building a Netbook with a top-notch construction quality, a small footprint (it fits in a large purse) and small weight: only 2.64lbs. On top of that, the Nokia Booklet 3G has a very long real-world battery life. It seems like the perfect Netbook, but it has one significant downside: performance. You do know that Netbooks are slow, but you will have to realize that the Booklet 3G is even slower, so it is definitely not for everyone. The question is: is it for you? Here’s my take…
- Atom Z530 1.6Ghz
- 1GB memory, 120GB of local storage
- Windows 7 Home Premium (WEI 2.2)
- 10.1″ 1280×720 display
- Intel GMA 500 graphics
- 2 USB ports
- Integrated 3G (AT&T), WiFi-N
- No Ethernet port
- 264 x 185 x 19.9 mm, 1.2kg (2.64lbs)
Physical aspect (sexy!)
Short video that shows what the Booklet 3G looks like in the real world
Switch to fullscreen to see in HD
The Nokia Booklet 3G is a very nicely built computer. It is thin, has a nice shape and is good looking on all sides (most computers are ugly on the bottom). It looks like a Macbook in some ways, especially because of the aluminum. The screen opens at almost 180 degrees, which is great because it could make using the laptop more comfortable. It’s nice to have that option.
Keyboard: The keyboard has smaller keys than a “normal” laptop, but the chicklet keyboard (there’s spacing between the keys) makes typing easier and helps avoiding typos (at least, for me). The keys feel “plastic” and out of the box, they are a little stiff, but I bet that they will turn out to be just right with time. Keyboards are mostly a matter of personal preferences, so I would recommend you to try it if you can.
There is no Ethernet port, but there are 3xUSB ones
Ports: on the left, you will find one HDMI, two USB ports and a standard 3.5mm audio jack. On the right, there’s power, one USB, the SIM card slot, the SD card slot and the power button. Note that there’s no Ethernet port because the computer is seemingly too thin to receive one. If you want to copy a bunch of files, you can still use WiFi or USB, but I did miss Gigabit Ethernet when I did some setup. After that, it didn’t matter so much.
Display: The 10.1″ display has a resolution of 1280×720, which is good for that size. However, I don’t like the screen treatment very much. One of the LCD layer makes it a little fuzzy. It reminds me of the HP2730 tablet PC that I reviewed a while back. Also, the screen brightness isn’t all that bright. Overall, I would say that the display is below average and that’s something that I would like Nokia to change in future updates of this product.
Webcam: I was pleasantly surprised to see that the webcam is decent, even in low light conditions.
The trackpad is on par-with other Netbooks,
Trackpad: the trackpad works “OK”, but it’s not great. That’s pretty common on Netbooks. The surface isn’t very smooth, and the buttons feel a bit cheap.
Bloatware (almost none – good!)
A new computer without bloatware? Great!
Nokia did not install too much bloatware in this computer. There’s F-secure (trial), an anti-virus/anti-malware, Office (60-day trial) and Nokia Ovi. We’re coming back to Nokia Ovi later, but you will be please to know that you won’t have to spend an hour or two to uninstall a bunch of stuff that would slow down the computer. Which brings us to the next paragraph…
Look at the Graphics and more importantly, the disk (hdd) performance
Performance is the Achilles heel of the Nokia Booklet 3G. You think that it is as fast as other Netbooks? Think again: in the PCMark 05 benchmark, the Nokia Booklet 3G gets a score of 1114, versus 2074 for the HP Mini 311.
Admittedly, the HP Mini 311 got most of the gains from its graphics processor that is 10X faster, according to PCMark 05. That’s not good… but I think that the real problem here is the hard disk. It gets an HDD Score of 1793 in PCMark 05, which is twice slower than the HP Mini 311 hard drive. To give you an idea, a 7200rpm desktop drive can get a score of about 6600-7000. An Intel X25M SSD gets a whooping 18817.
The point of all this is not to “bash” the Nokia Booklet 3G, but it is to provide you with a relative performance against things that you are familiar with, like “normal” Netbooks. Overall, I would say that yes, the Booklet 3G is perceptibly twice as slow as something like the Mini 311.
Combine the slow hard drive with a very low memory (1GB!!) and a recent Operating System (Windows 7) and you get a sluggish computer. Unfortunately, it is not possible to extend the memory size or the hard drive – this is a design mistake: if you don’t want users to open the box, then get the specifications right (no Windows computer should ever ship with less than 2GB, especially if we cannot add memory). I did setup the Windows user interface to “best performance”. It does noticeably help, but the 2D graphics in general are still very slow.
What can I do with it? (very basic stuff)
So, we just pointed out that the Booklet 3G was slow. So… what can you really do with it? Here’s the brutal truth: only the basic productivity tasks. I tried to use Office. Word and Excel are “OK” if you don’t handle complex files. Outlook tends to slow overtime, even on a desktop machi
ne, so I would shy away from it. In all cases, disk access was a significant slowdown factor that could pin down an application. Once the disk stopped spinning (app load…) editing text was usually OK. I preferred using web apps like Google Docs, or Gmail – they tend to use the network more than the disk, at least when compared to Office.
When it does not access the disk, Word runs “OK”
The computer is sluggish each time you interact with it. Launching an app is slow, loading a web page is slow… this can be frustrating. Even web browsing is slow. You would think of it as a “basic” task at which all computers should perform OK, but the Booklet 3G is noticeably slower than recent Netbooks, and of course, much slower than an average laptop or desktop machine. I want to make sure that you understand the performance limitations because they are drastic. I shot a short video to show you what that feels like to wait around.
Video calls in Skype will require all the computing power you have
Skype: the popular VOIP software works well. I’ve been told by people on the other side of the conversation that the sound is a bit muffled when compared to my Logitech Quickcam Pro 9000 (I suspect the tiny microphone), but overall it is very usable. Video works well in both directions, but you won’t be able to get a crisp image during video calls. The computer is just too slow, and will drop video quality to preserve frame rate. It’s like having a 4 year old webcam. The CPU will get very busy while Skyping (75%?). But despite of all that, I’m satisfied with the Skype functionality.
Integrated 3G (discreet, handy, expensive)
If you intended to pay for an AT&T wireless broadband subscription, this is great because it’s already integrated: there’s no need to have a USB 3G modem sticking out of the computer. The downside is that your choice of carrier is pretty much restricted to AT&T (I wonder if the computer is network-locked). That’s arguably not the best network around, but not the worse either. Check with friends who have AT&T 3G phones to see how their network works in areas that you might be into (home, work…). If you travel, it’s more random but most frequented places should be covered decently (except downtown San Francisco, apparently…).
The real problem with 3G isn’t how it is integrated, it’s the contract. Without a “pay-per-use” model, many just can’t afford it. Of course, many of use 3G on a daily basis, but let’s face it, the average user, would probably like to pay $6 to $10 for a day rather than getting into a two year contract for $60 per month or so. I’m not sure if carriers actually want more people, as it seems that the networks aren’t all that solid anyway. However, I think that this limits the market for computer makers such as Nokia. Also I would have preferred to see a Gobi chip that’s compatible with more carriers. Again choice is good, and I could have used Verizon’s day-pass.
The battery life of the Nokia Booklet 3G is impressive: in idle mode, it did last 11.5 hours with the display (at minimum brightness), WiFi and 3G “ON” at all times. You won’t be using it in Idle mode, but idle mode provides an interesting baseline: the best case scenario. Also, when you are reading something or just typing text, you’re not actually doing that much, and the system does go to “sleep” mode, even in-between key strokes. I think that the Booklet 3G will last for around 6 or 7 hours during continuous web usage. The screen (brightness) is the most important battery drain factor, so keep that in mind. Battery life and size are the two strengths of the Booklet 3G.
If you perform the most basic tasks (email, text editing) and need a small laptop with an amazing battery life, the Nokia Booklet 3G is worth looking at. However, you will pay for these qualities in performance. The computer is even slower than recent Netbooks, mainly because of its hard drive performance and small memory size, I suspect. Additionally, there’s not easy way to upgrade either of these and Nokia offers only a single model. I thought of getting one myself to do stuff like Blogging on the go, but I need to know if I’m going bang my head against the walls while waiting for photos to be resized. I’ll need to try in the real world I guess. price: $300 w/ 2-yr contract or $600 without contract. In my opinion, Nokia should fix the disk performance, graphics performance and memory size in the next update, even if that means building a 11.1″ computer.
If you have additional questions, remarks or want to write your own review, please drop a comment, I’ll try to answer while I still have the computer with me. If not, maybe someone else will answer.