Review: Nokia N810 Internet Tablet

Nokia_n810_review

The newest Linux-based handheld in the Nokia Internet Tablet series is the N810. Launched in October 2007 at the Web 2.0 Summit in California, the N810 improves on its N800 predecessor by offering a handful of new functions, GPS receiver, and stylish slider design that includes a QWERTY keyboard. Some of the new features seem to have been added at the expense of what many liked about the N800, but for a certain kind of user, those compromises may have been worthwhile.

Let me show you what I mean in my full Nokia N810 review below.

This review is based on the Nokia N810 running OS2008, firmware version 2.2007.50-2 (released in December 2007).

System Specifications

CPU
400MHz Texas Instruments OMAP2420
OSInternet Tablet OS2008 (Maemo Linux)
Memory128MB RAM, 256MB Flash
Storage2GB internal memory
ExpansionMiniSD card slot (supports up to 32GB)
Compatible with miniSD and microSD (with adapter)
Supported
file formats
Audio: AAC, AMR, M4A, MP2, MP3, WAV, WMA
Video: 3GP, AVI, H.263, H.264, MPEG-4, RV, ASF, WMV9
Photo: BMP, GIF, ICO, JPG, PNG, SVG Tiny, TIFF, WBMP
Optional applications support DivX, XviD, Ogg Vorbis, etc.
Wireless 802.11b/g, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, GPS
Display 4.13" touchscreen (800 x 480, 65K colors)
Size 5.04" x 2.83" x 0.55"
Weight7.97 ounces

Click over to my Nokia N810 unboxing to see photos of the gadget's packaging and substantial accessory bundle.

Lenovo tablets

Design

Although not aimed squarely at the average consumer, the N810's hardware still carries some serious mainstream appeal.

Nokia_n810_des1

Nokia_n810_des2

The multi-toned all-metal body is simply exquisite with subtle contours, a brushed finish, streamlined design, and an incredible sleekness that is sure to turn a lot of heads.

Nokia_n810_des3

For what is essentially a full-fledged Linux computer, the N810 is impressively compact and thin without feeling fragile. Build quality is exceptional; the device is sturdy and durable.

Nokia_n810_back

To me, the brushed metal finishes, silvery blue color scheme, and general design make the N810 one of the best-looking mobile devices on the market right now. Even when I don't actually pick it up to use, the unit is still something I always admire and want to touch. It just has an undefinable quality that I find ridiculously appealing.

Size

Nokia_n810_n800

The N810 is slightly smaller than its predecessor, the Nokia N800, and nicely sized for a purse, bag, or jacket pocket.

Nokia_n810_dime

To see the device alongside a series of other gadgets and some common household items, please take a look at my Nokia N810 size comparisons gallery.

Display

Like the N800, the N810 is equipped with a 4.13-inch touchscreen that displays 65K colors and sports an 800 x 480 resolution.

Nokia_n810_display1

An increase in the number of colors the Internet Tablet could reproduce would've been nice (16.7M ideally, but even 262K would've been a welcomed improvement), as color banding is sometimes an issue when viewing natural gradients, but the screen is still one of the device's high points.

For use as a portable media player, the display is enormous and great for watching movies. It's also ideal for web browsing, as the resolution allows a good deal of content to fit on the screen without compromising text readability and image clarity.

Nokia_n810_display2

Touchscreen responsiveness is significantly better on the N810 than it was on the N800, but the large "oil spot" that I assumed was a defect on my N800 screen (see "Display" section of my Nokia N800 review for more details) has sadly found its way to the N810. My old Archos AV420 used to develop a tiny spot like this when used for too long, but the rather enormous pool of colorfulness shown above (and throughout this review) is definitely not heat-related. It's just always there.

Fortunately, it's only visible when the backlight is off and the device is held at an angle. So although I'd rather it not be there, at least it doesn't negatively affect standard usage and normal viewing.

Controls

Although much of the N810's navigation can be done with the touchscreen, an assortment of hardware buttons and other physical features are also present to make using the device fairly intuitive and flexible.

Nokia_n810_controls1

On the left side of the display are an ambient light sensor (automatically adjusts screen brightness and keyboard backlighting), VGA web camera, swap key (switches between open applications), and escape key.

Nokia_n810_led

Above all of that is an LED indicator that glows and pulses according to what it's trying to tell you. It can be turned off completely or used as notification for when the device is on, email and instant messages are received, and calls are missed.

Nokia_n810_controls2

Sliding up the display panel reveals an integrated keyboard (more on this below), 4-way directional pad (Nokia calls this square bu tton "scroll keys"; they can be used for scrolling when held down, but I still think of it as a standard d-pad), and menu key (opens context menu containing various options). These buttons are too recessed for my liking and are therefore a bit difficult to use.

Their location also means that they're inaccessible when the keyboard is not exposed. The sliding mechanism is smooth and the display glides up effortlessly, but if all you're doing is reading news or a long document, you don't need the keyboard. A scroll wheel placed on the side may not have been a bad idea.

And while the N810's thinness is one of its strong points, holding it by the keyboard for extended periods becomes uncomfortable for me because it's a little too thin (which worsens the button-placement "issue").

Nokia_n810_top

Nokia_n810_topkeys

At the top of the N810 are a sliding lock key, power button, zoom/volume rocker, and (fantastic) full-screen key. As on the N800, the full-screen key is absolutely indispensable to me. Pressing it instantly toggles between normal- and full-screen modes, which is particularly useful during web browsing.

Nokia_n810_stylus1

Also at the top is a dedicated stylus slot. Although the device is largely optimized for finger use and the hardware keyboard takes care of most data input, the stylus is still needed for handwriting recognition and can be used to hunt-and-peck on the virtual keyboard and to select icons that are not so finger-friendly.

Nokia_n810_right

Below the stylus slot on the right side of the unit are a micro USB port, charger connector, headphone jack, and one of two loudspeakers.

Nokia_n810_left

The other loudspeaker is on the left side.

Nokia_n810_bottom

At the bottom of the Nokia N810 are the battery release switch, microphone, and miniSD card slot (the N800 has two full-size SD card slots).

Nokia_n810_stand

Nokia_n810_stand_back

Attached at both sides of the device is a desk stand that "clicks" into three positions.

Keyboard

The N810 is the first Nokia Internet Tablet to feature an integrated QWERTY keyboard.

Nokia_n810_kb1

Nokia_n810_kb_backlit

A total of 40 backlit keys (most double- and some triple-mapped) are situated in an area measuring 3.75 x 1.0 inches. There is very little spacing between keys, so long-nailed thumb typists will undoubtedly have some trouble with accuracy.

Nokia_n810_kb2

Typing is already tricky because the keys are incredibly flat and lay almost flush against the casing. The top row is also placed too close to the bottom of the display panel, putting larger thumbs at the mercy of quite a lot of bumping.

Typing Speed

Nokia_n810_kb3

Even though tactile feedback is fairly decent, my thumbs don't bump into the display panel, and I cut my nails, I still have some trouble using the N810's keyboard. After two weeks of regular use, I was only able to type at 35% of my average touch-typing speed. You can see from my mobile device keyboard typing speeds chart that this is the same rate at which I could type on the iPhone after two weeks of use.

My typing speed is slightly better now that I've had the N810 for over eight weeks, but I'm still typing slower than I can on the AT&T Tilt, HTC Advantage, and Sony Vaio UX180P, all of which have thumboards that look a lot less promising than the N810's.

The funny thing is that although typing is actually slow, it doesn't feel that way. I know my thumbs aren't on fire or anything, but while I'm typing, it feels like I'm doing so at a reasonable rate. I don't have to stretch to reach anything or be very careful with my key presses. What I'm saying, then, is that while your experience may vary, the keyboard doesn't feel as bad as it may actually be.

User Interface

Along with the N810, Nokia introduced Internet Tablet OS2008. The new operating system is available as an update for the N800, which natively runs OS2007 (see "User interface" section of my Nokia N800 review for more details), but comes preinstalled on the N810.

Nokia_n810_ui

OS2008 maintains the same layout and general functionality of OS2007 but is undeniably prettier and better optimized for the finger.

Nokia_n810_menu1

Nokia_n810_menu2

In the task navigator column on the left are new icons corresponding to the same feature set (web browser at the top, contacts in the middle, applications at the bottom) that open finger-friendly cascading menus that can be personalized to suit individual preferences. Applets and the row of status indicators have also carried over from OS2007, though they too sport an updated look and some additional functionality.

I'm not sure that the tech newbie would be able to pick up the N810 and use it with no problem in its out-of-box state (where applets take up every inch of the home screen), but then again, the Nokia Internet Tablets aren't exactly mainstream consumer devices. That being said, once you get the hang of it and learn where everything is, the N810 is straightforward to use. The interface is clean, inviting, and highly customizable with themes and other personal touches.

Applications

Preinstalled on the device is a well rounded set of applications for web browsing, instant messaging, internet calls, email, multimedia playback, and image viewing. A PDF reader, notes application, games, maps, sketch program, RSS feed reader, Skype, and Rhapsody are also included.

Nokia_n810_appmanager

If that's not enough, you can also develop your own programs (if you have the know-how) and install just about anything you can find through the Application Manager. I'm pretty satisfied with the preloaded titles, so I've only installed a handful of additional apps: Canola2, MPlayer, Gizmo, and a few games.

Connectivity

Internet

While fully capable of doing much more (especially in the hands of a Linux guru), the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet is primarily designed for accessing the internet. It can do so in two ways: 802.11b/g wi-fi and Bluetooth DUN (tethering tutorial).

Unlike the N800, which shipped with an Opera-based browser, the N810 comes with the Mozilla-based MicroB web browser. I've already done an OS2007 vs. OS2008 website load times comparison between both browsers (and the MicroB Beta), so you know that in terms of speed, MicroB isn't a whole lot faster than Opera. What it is, though, is a lot more robust.

Nokia_n810_gmail

Nokia_n810_youtube

Full AJAX and Flash 9 support make Gmail, Google Reader, YouTube, and other Web 2.0 sites fully accessible on the N810. Performance is acceptable though not quite up to desktop standards in terms of smoothness of streaming video and general snappiness.

Nokia_n810_web1

Still, compared to what's out there at the moment, the Nokia N810 does offer the best browsing experience on an ARM-based mobile device. Its 800 x 480 resolution is considered by many to be the minimum requirement for a true internet experience and is generally unmatched by any other portable gadget (excluding UMPCs and MIDs, of course). Text is readable at this resolution for me, but others may feel the need to use the dedicated zoom buttons at the top of the device.

Nokia_n810_web2

Navigating the web in both normal- and full-screen mode can be achieved using the stylus/finger (panning and scrolling), scroll keys (scrolling), on-screen input methods, and/or hardware keyboard.

GPS

The N810's internal GPS receiver and maps applications allows you to browse maps, look up street addresses, and find various points of interest. Voice-guided driving directions and route-planning are available through Wayfinder, which costs $130 for a three-year license. For an almost 18-minute video demo of Wayfinder on the N810, check out this YouTube video from thoughtfix.

Communication

Although the N810 can't be used to make phone calls (it's not a phone), it's still a powerful communications device.

Nokia_n810_comm

It supports POP3 and IMAP4 email accounts, web-based email, internet calls via Skype/Gizmo and Nokia's own VoIP application (with video), and instant messaging using various third-party applications (Pidgin) and Nokia's own chat program (Google Talk, Jabber). Not much has changed from the N800's inclusion of these functions, so please refer to the "Communication" section in part 2 of my Nokia N800 review.

Multimedia

In addition to functioning as a UPnP client, which enables connections to media servers to share content, the N810 is a pretty serious portable digital media player.

Nokia_n810_mediaplayer

It's got internet radio, Rhapsody, and a bare-bones media application that supports the video formats listed in the specs chart at the beginning of this review and plays them back fluidly and virtually stutter-free (depending on bitrate).

Nokia_n810_canola

Nokia has recently made available an Internet Tablet Video Converter that converts videos for the N810, but since I try to avoid transcoding whenever possible, I downloaded and installed Canola2 and MPlayer instead. Together, there's basically no video codec in the world that can't be played.

Nokia_n810_video

Videos don't look as colorful as on, say, an Archos PMP (the N810 has only a 65K-color screen, after all), but they're still a joy to watch on the unit's large, vibrant display.

Sound quality isn't on the same level as a "typical" MP3 player, but it should be sufficient for casual listeners. Ironically, the loudspeakers are a bit on the quiet side.

Battery Life

Nokia_n810_battery

Estimated runtime of the N810's removable battery is as follows:

  • Continuous usage (display on, wireless LAN active): up to 4 hours
  • Music playback: up to 10 hours
  • Always online time: up to 5 days
  • Standby time: up to 14 days

These are best estimates given by Nokia, so actual operating times depend on screen brightness and other settings.

Conclusion

Nokia_n810_stylus2

The Nokia N810 Internet Tablet is a noteworthy improvement over its predecessor in terms of design, internal storage, and processor speed. Functionality, however, has remained mostly unchanged. The N800 doesn't have an integrated GPS receiver or a hardware keyboard, but its extra expansion card slot and the fact that OS2008 is available as an update makes upgrading to the N810 more of a superfluous option than a necessity.

Even so, the N810 is still an incredibly versatile, capable, and impressive mobile device.

The Nokia N810 carries an MSRP of $480 but can often be purchased for much less on Amazon.

More Nokia N810 coverage on Pocketables:

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

More posts by Jenn | Subscribe to Jenn's posts

34 thoughts on “Review: Nokia N810 Internet Tablet

  • February 12, 2008 at 6:57 pm
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    Good review Jenn. I think there are a few apps you should definitely give a try. For one is Maemo Mapper, a free GPS app which can match the functionality of Wayfinder without the $130 price. Another is the rtcomm update which gives you support for a lot more IM protocols within the default IM app which I find better integrated then Pidgin though Pidgin is a great app).

    Do you take the N810 with you when you leave the house, or is it a stay at home tablet? I suppose the iPhone handles a lot of similar functionality with the benefit of having cellular web connection.

    Reply
  • February 13, 2008 at 12:25 am
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    Excellent review and great pics to go with! Thanks…

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  • February 13, 2008 at 5:33 am
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    A little mistake in your otherwise great review, there is not upgrade to the processor. With OS2008, the N800 runs at 400mhz juts like the n810.

    Ill also join Benz145 in suggesting apps, personally I use pidgin a lot. Other greats apps are the GPE package, i use gpe calendar, todo and summary together for calendar, to do list and sumamry to view tasks and such on the home screen. Transmission is a nice app, its a torrent client and works great, although constantly writing to SD takes a LOT of power. Lastly i use load-applet, which has two functions – it shows CPU/RAm usage, and it allows you to take screenshots. I couldnt help noticing that your screenshots were taken with a cam, which is wasted time when you have load-applet to do it for you :) it also allows to take delayed screenshots (timer) if you need to switch to ful screen mode etc for your shot.

    Reply
  • February 13, 2008 at 10:25 am
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    Thanks for all the app suggestions. I haven’t expanded my N810 very much (as you saw), so I’ll give them a try.

    @ Benz: It’s strictly an at-home device for me. I did take it to CES thinking that I’d carry it along and post from the floor, but I ended up leaving it in the hotel room so that I could carry as little as possible with me.

    My iPhone is SIM-less, so it’s basically just a slightly glorified iPod touch now. It’s pretty much just a pillow device. I keep it next to my pillow and use it to check the time (I wear contacts so I can’t see the main clock in the bedroom when I wake up), surf the web, and read email while contemplating whether I should start my day or go back to sleep.

    @ Cptnodegard: Ah, I haven’t updated my N800 to OS2008 so I still associate the hardware with the CPU running at 330MHz.

    I have a screen grabber on the N800 but decided not to use it (or any other tool) for the N810 screenshots because text clarity is compromised when resizing (you can see that throughout the N800 review). It’s also easier/faster for me to take it with a camera since I’m already taking all the other pictures. I only need to unload my memory card once. :-)

    Reply
  • February 13, 2008 at 10:41 am
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    i was wondering how viewable the screen is outdoors in direct sunlight compared to the Fujitsu u810 or the Everun?

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  • February 13, 2008 at 12:00 pm
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    I don’t have the Everun anymore to check, but the N810’s transflective display is definitely much better outdoors than the U810’s. I think the U810’s screen is transmissive, so outside it dims almost completely to black and looks like it’s not even turned on.

    Reply
  • February 13, 2008 at 8:11 pm
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    @ Jenn: Going very off topic, but I have contacts too (and i can almost assure you mine are stronger :3 ). My solution for time is a cheap projection clock (this one actually) which i just whack randomly and it shows time large and clear up in the ceiling

    Reply
  • February 13, 2008 at 9:13 pm
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    about carrying the N810 around.

    it looks to be about the same size as the N800, and i found it to fit nicely in the upper pocket of the urbantool basicholster.

    Link

    only thing to be aware of is that one have to rotate it a bit in there so that it points slightly upwards. but as the pocket basically covers most of the inside, thats no big issue.

    thoughtfix have tested other products from the same company, the hipholster and slotbar.

    Reply
  • March 6, 2008 at 7:52 pm
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    How is this device as a doc/text reader? If you wanted to grab word docs, pdf’s, excel files and read them on the go (subway, taxi) would you recommend it?

    Reply
  • April 7, 2008 at 1:33 am
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    Great review! I’m very interested in buying a N810, but as Jason, I’m wondering if i can read and also edit pdf’s, and word/excel docs. If N810 can do this it would be perfect for me, because i need to carry manuals, procedures and fill reports on the go all the time at work.

    Reply
  • April 21, 2008 at 5:08 pm
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    If it was a phone too then it would be my perfect device. I currently carry two cell phones…one is my high call volume business line and the other is a Samsung 760 smartphone which I use for emails, personal calls, and some remote running of my business while on the run.. My current setup works great but more screen size like this Nokia has is what I want in my next generation smart phone (320×240 is NOT enough).

    Reply
  • April 26, 2008 at 2:23 pm
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    The ‘oil spot’ is really a polarizing coating placed onto the screen to help glare issues. It is also found on Camera lenses, Laptop screens, and other applications to help filter out the ‘yellow green’ light of the sun.

    The ‘mushiness’ of the screen is simply what it’s supposed to do. You did test a defective unit. I have a Nokia N800 with the same kind of screen, and it’s worked for 3 months without 1 hiccup.

    Reply
  • May 11, 2008 at 5:19 pm
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    I’m confused about this “mushiness” issue. When you press down on the screen with a finger or stylus, does the screen bend inwards? Is it any different between an N800 and an N810? I’ve tried a Dell Axim x50v before and the screen was rock hard. You could press as hard as you want on the screen, it just won’t deform at all (till you press to hard and it cracks ;-)

    Hope you guys will answer this, as I’m mulling over buying an N800 or N810 in a few weeks. Thanks.

    Reply
  • June 2, 2008 at 8:37 am
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    I read somewhere recently that the bluetooth DUN doesn’t work well. Does anyone have any feedback on this? I want to use this unit with a cell phone for internet usage…is the speed up to par when doing this?

    Thanks!!!

    Reply
  • July 9, 2008 at 9:07 am
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    Can it play videos over WiFi? Say I have a media-server at home, can I just play the avi-files stored there instead of copying them to the n810 first?
    thanks!

    Reply
  • August 21, 2008 at 9:15 pm
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    I think you are really forgetting the biggest shortcoming of all (although I still think it is a beautiful device).

    A battery life of only 4 hours. That’s almost a dealbreaker for me. I would use a device like this to stay connected al through my house. But as it is right now I might just as well use my ultraportable. The nokia is smaller, yet the battery life is not much better.

    Reply
  • August 23, 2008 at 1:44 am
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    Great read!

    I’m new to the N810, although I spent the days preceding it’s arrival over at “Internet Tablet School” getting the basics down.

    I’m impressed with what the N810 can do, considering my Low-End Mio C230 GPS unit is running the same CPU!
    (Off topic, but when unlocked the C230 is a surprisingly capable PMP on it’s own!)

    I like how when I get more comfortable I can “climb under the hood” and tinker with the N810 as well.
    It’s part of why I bought it, actually.

    Sure it’s not for the main stream, but I can’t remember when I swam there myself. ;)

    Reply
  • September 5, 2008 at 2:00 am
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    I want to know
    how much this phone?

    Reply
  • September 30, 2008 at 7:42 am
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    Excellent review. I setup an N800 for a friend and loved the device, but I prefer thumboards to touch keyboards. The N810 answers this for me.

    I am changing cell phones now and I am looking at the Nokia e71. Has anyone used that device as a WiFi hot spot with the N810? What phones on the market now has anyone successfully connected to the N810 for bluetooth DUN?

    Thanks for the help.

    Reply
  • September 30, 2008 at 8:05 pm
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    @ Josh: Here’s a tutorial for tethering the AT&T Tilt to the N810: Link

    It’s the only phone I’ve used with the N800/N810, but just about any device that with DUN support should work.

    Reply
  • October 4, 2008 at 10:10 am
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    Great review. This thing is expensive. Anyone know where I can get it?

    Reply
  • October 4, 2008 at 4:40 pm
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    umm, is this thing a phone? cause if not how do u get the signal for internet. plz respond

    Reply
  • October 13, 2008 at 10:43 pm
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    How much is this ?
    can it be transferd into pounds (£) ?.

    Reply
  • October 15, 2008 at 4:53 pm
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    Hey!
    Is there any possibility of it coming with a sim card in the near future?

    Reply
  • October 21, 2008 at 9:12 am
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    Jenn K. Lee, thanks a lot for review!

    I wanted to buy this device because of Skype, document functions, good video camera, ability to write articles, etc…

    But in comparison to Iphone it looks poor. Yes, the “window” is big, but colours are not clear, the surface is “yellow”, multimedia is really bad, there is no GPS, battery is only valid durind 4 hours, it’s dangerous to be without charge with yourself…

    Good that it has Opera, because Safary can’t switch off pictures and Iphone has no flash. I want Windows to upload different programmes for education but Nokia runs Linux… And it’s memory is very small in comparison to 16 Gb!

    Oh, God, I still don’t know what to choose.
    Both Iphone and this Nokia can’t give complete service and functions.

    Iphone costs MORE than 1000$ in Russia, I like it’s design, but Iphone looks like attractive mobile only, it is not professional.

    Unfortunately, this Nokia is also not perfect.
    Could you recomment smth with Skype and see above, please?

    Regards

    Reply
  • November 3, 2008 at 12:12 am
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    Lol @ all the people asking if its a phone, or whats the price of this phone. Oh man, n700 and n8xx series have been made by geeks for geeks, love it.

    Reply
  • May 19, 2009 at 1:10 pm
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    is this a phone????????????

    Reply
  • June 30, 2009 at 6:51 pm
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    nice comment Isaac, it seems that the focus on making a phone is no longer there, its just an added extra
    ha ha ha ha ha

    i loved that review, thanks for sharing that. i also noticed that there is an android version out now.

    Reply
  • July 16, 2009 at 7:30 pm
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    I have the N810 and I love it. I just don’t understand why people whine about slow fix times. My n810 gets a GPS fix VERY fast (I’m in the western US).

    Reply
  • October 28, 2009 at 4:47 am
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    i really appreciate to the one who invented n810
    it’s very nice and handy!!!

    Reply
  • September 1, 2011 at 3:07 pm
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    Boa noite se não estou muito equivocado eu li algo e entendi que posso baixar um arquivo onde posso instalar o 3G em nosso N810..
    Por acaso isso pode ocorrer,nem que seja no futuro..obrigado pela ajuda.fico no aguardo deste suporte

    Reply

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