updated 11:55 pm EDT, Thu October 8, 2009
Cellphone maker enters computer market
Nokia showed off some of its latest high-end devices, including the Booklet 3G and the N900, at the San Diego CTIA conference. The Booklet 3G integrates the same 10-inch screen size as a variety of netbooks, although, after handling the device, it is clearly quite different from the competition.
Construction is top-notch, as the company utilizes a solid aluminum housing instead of plastic. The design is more like the latest MacBooks than a typical netbook, while the weight is astonishingly light. It really feels like a quality piece of machinery, unlike the VAIO P which is flashier but still basically a plastic netbook. The glass screen with an anti-glare coating is also a welcome addition.
Like a netbook, however, the Booklet 3G is forced to use a cramped keyboard. This is at first difficult to work with for someone used to a full-size layout, although it doesn't seem so small that a user couldn't adjust to it after a few hours of typing.
While many similar products have trouble running Windows Vista smoothly, the Tablet 3G, even with a 1.6GHz Atom CPU, appears to have no problem with Windows 7. The interface looks great on the 1280x720 display which is claimed to be capable of 720p video, although this was not demonstrated at CTIA. An HDMI output is available to attach an external display or TV for watching HD videos.
Nokia tags the Booklet 3G as a "mini laptop" rather than a netbook. Considering the ability to run a desktop-level OS, HD video capabilities, and overall design quality, the distinction may not be unwarranted. Other devices that have tried to separate themselves from the "netbook" group, such as the VAIO P, have fallen short after further inspection. It will be interesting to see how the Nokia Booklet performs through more rigorous trials once it hits the market.
Whether or not the device will be successful remains to be seen, although the product is more impressive than the press photos would suggest. The last remaining question is price, a detail Nokia has yet to set in stone. Unconfirmed reports range between $600 to $800. If the company can stick to the lower end and partner with carriers for a subsidized package, the Booklet could be an attractive option. Best Buy will be the exclusive distributor in the US, although the carrier partner remains unknown.