Nokia Booklet 3G: A tale of two netbooks

Summary:The Nokia Booklet 3G is simultaneously the best and worst netbook I've tried out. OK, not the worst — that honour should go to the Ubisurfer — but frustrating enough to rate pretty low.

The Nokia Booklet 3G is simultaneously the best and worst netbook I've tried out. OK, not the worst — that honour should go to the Ubisurfer — but frustrating enough to rate pretty low.

Let's start with the best bits. The Booklet 3G is absolutely stunning. The industrial design on this thing is easily the best I've seen on any netbook — if Apple swallowed its pride and did a proper mini-laptop, it would probably look like this. Its aluminium body is complemented by a 720p 10-inch widescreen, which is a pretty weird spec for a netbook, but obviously screams "Movies!" (the HDMI-out also leads one to the same conclusion).

The Booklet 3G has built-in GPS, which is an... interesting feature for a netbook, but maybe one with a future. For now, there's not much to do with it other than look at the preinstalled Ovi Maps software, and let's face it, if you have a Booklet 3G you probably have a phone with GPS anyway.

It also has built-in 3G with an easy-access SIM slot — why aren't we seeing more of this out there? Come on, this is what netbooks and mobile broadband are for.

The keyboard, with its slightly concave keys, is the best I've tried on a netbook. Sound's not brilliant, but that's not really possible at the size. So, really usable, huh? Not quite...

The damn thing uses a two-year-old Intel Atom Z530 processor. And guess what, the CPU's not up to the task. It's pretty slow for basic tasks (although this could be a function of Nokia's mapping and social networking software, the latter of which doesn't work very well by the way, being preinstalled and constantly running), but it sure as heck can't do video.

It can do standard-res video OK, if in a stuttery sort of way, but HD video? Forget it. If this thing used Ion or somesuch solution to the netbook graphics problem, it could actually make some other use of the HDMI port than as an entry point for dust. But it doesn't.

Oh, and it costs £650. Seriously. My significant other just paid that for a laptop, and got a 1080p 18.4-inch screen, half a terabyte of storage, four gigs of RAM, a decent Core 2 Duo processor and a Blu-Ray drive. And an HDMI-out that can be used for something.

Oh, and before anyone says "but it's a netbook; it shouldn't have to be able to handle video!" — yeah it should. As I mentioned above, Ion can fix that. Heck, I've been playing with the Asus Eee 1005PE (not reviewing it in this way as it didn't excite me one way or the other, fine netbook though it is), which uses a recent but Ion-less Atom N450, and that does video just fine at half the price.

I'm not saying Nokia should go back to the drawing board. To Espoo: your first netbook is exquisitely engineered. If it wasn't so gorgeous and promising, I wouldn't be so mad that it can't deliver. Just stick a decent engine in the next one, OK? Oh yeah, and cut that price by at least a third.

Topics: Telcos


David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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