With netbooks still proving hugely popular, the only surprising thing about Nokia throwing its hat into the ring is that it’s taken so long. However, the Booklet 3G is now upon us and instead of creating an Eee PC clone, Nokia’s opted to go for something a bit different; the most notable feature being a built-in 3G module.
Before taking a closer look at the Booklet 3G, it’s best we address its rather un-netbook price tag of £649. Pop into a local computer store and that sort of money will buy you a very nice, fully-fledged Core 2 Duo laptop.
As with its mobile phones, Nokia is clearly hoping customers will be able to buy this netbook at a subsidised rate through the likes of O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone. However, as yet not one of these mobile operators has signed up to Nokia’s vision of what a netbook should be. So if you want a Booklet 3G your only option at the moment is to get it SIM-free, which also means splashing a considerable amount of cash.
Nokia certainly seems to have taken a few tips from Apple in terms of the design. The aluminium chassis and simple-yet-attractive styling sets it apart from other netbooks, and when holding it you’re left in no doubt that it’s a sturdy piece of kit.
The 10.1-inch display is attached to the base via a couple of rock-solid hinges and features a relatively high resolution of 1280 x 720. Colours and viewing angles are good, but the display isn’t the sharpest we’ve seen; look closely and a somewhat fuzzy appearance is noticeable.
A variety of ports are dotted around the chassis, including an HDMI output and three USB sockets. The SIM card slot is tucked neatly away behind a small flap on the right; an SD card reader is also found here.
Disappointingly, there’s no Ethernet port, which will cause problems if your wireless network is playing up. You do, however, get 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth and, of course, 3G mobile broadband.
In order to make use of the 3G module (this supports HSDPA for high-speed connections), you’ll need to slap in a SIM card. Once inserted, the 3G connection is accessible via Windows 7′s networking tool. The speeds you experience will depend on a number of factors, including network congestion and the strength of the signal; in our tests, we managed a fairly consistent 1.5Mbps using a Vodafone SIM. It’s worth bearing in mind that this connection can only be used for data, so you won’t be able to make voice calls.
As with many of its latest mobile phones, Nokia has also included a GPS module. A-GPS is also supported, which means the Booklet 3G will be able to work out your rough location using nearby mobile phone masts instead of satellites.
An Intel Atom Z530 processor is the driving force behind the Booklet 3G and has 1GB of RAM to play with. It doesn’t run quite as smoothly as the XP-based netbooks we’ve seen, and the Windows 7 Starter Edition operating system occasionally feels sluggish. It’s not desperately slow, but there were noticeable delays when performing simple tasks such as opening Control Panel or firing up Word. Meanwhile, Intel’s GMA 500 chipset is powerful enough to handle the demands of Windows, but don’t expect to play any 3D games.
Decent battery life is important for any netbook, and we were pleased to see Nokia includes a 3,840mAh battery as standard. Better still, unlike other netbooks with large batteries, this 16-cell unit doesn’t jut out from the rear of the chassis. Nokia says it can keep the lights on for up to 12 hours. We couldn’t match this figure in our tests, but between eight and nine hours is definitely possible. Make good use of its 3G capabilities, though, and battery life will drop dramatically.
Impressively, there isn’t a single fan inside the chassis, meaning the only noise you’ll hear is the hard drive quietly clicking away. At 120GB we’ve no problems with the size of this drive, but the fact it’s a 4,200rpm model means performance takes a bit of a hit; most netbooks feature 5,400rpm drives.
In terms of usability, the Booklet 3G scores highly. The keyboard is large with well-spaced keys and is great to type on. Our only slight complaint is that our thumbs occasionally hit the raised edge that sits below the bottom row of keys.
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