Monday, 10 May 2010

Nokia Booklet 3G - Dawn of a New Era


Many people would not have heard that the mighty Finnish mobile company - Nokia is trying to penetrate into the netbook segment. From what I have researched on the internet, Nokia was desperate in trying to establish themselves as one of the late comers in the netbook market.

Don't forget that it all started off with the Asus Eee PC 7" with an Intel Atom cpu. At the moment, the netbook market is gaining ground. In fact, the total shipment of netbooks have surpassed laptops. This is not a surprise at all as I will be discussing the benefits and the disadvantages of owning a netbook. Generally, a netbook is usually lightweight and does not come with an internal optical drive. The screen size is small (usually 10.1" apart from a few which includes the Acer Aspire One 751h, Lenovo S12[with Nvidia Ion graphics] and Dell Mini 12) and the maximum physical memory which a netbook could handle will be 2GB.

After browsing through many netbook magazines, I still could not find one which is suitable for me. Someone has suggested that I should get a Macbook Pro 13 since the battery will last longer than many netbooks and it has a bigger screen size of 13". I don't think I will want to buy a Macbook Pro 13 as the price is just too steep. For the price of a 13" Macbook Pro, you can buy quite a few netbooks. Well, what else which the market can offer?

Someone whom I know approached me and asked me whether I should take into consideration of a Dell Mini 10v. I was not in favour of the Dell Minis because I have tried them before and I don't like the restrictions on the Minis. You can't possibly upgrade the physical memory on the new Mini 10v without taking everything apart. Secondly, you are stucked with a small hard drive. You can upgrade the hard drive but it will take some time before you can actually disengage the hard drive on the Dell Mini 10v. The Dell Mini 10v is also not the quietest around.

Not too long ago, I was also given an Acer Aspire One 751h to try. It has an 11.6" screen with in build WWAN, bluetooth, 4-in-1 memory card support, easily upgradable physical memory and hard drive, an Intel Atom Z520 cpu and it is whisper quiet. With a standard configuration of a 6 cell battery with bluetooth, data 3G and 11.6" screen, it cost around £250. Wow... That is quite reasonable taking into accoun that the Dell Mini 10v would have cost the same or more but the Mini 10v comes in the newer Intel Pine Trail N450 cpu.


The Z520 cpu on the Acer Aspire One 751h is not too bad though as it is a single core with hyperthreading, similar to the N450. The only difference is that the N450 performs much better as it does not consume as much power as the Z520. With a base package from Dell (The Mini 10v), I am lacking bluetooth which I use a lot, WWAN and the ability to upgrade to 2GB memory. So far, the Acer Aspire One 751h captured my heart. It does not stop there. The price on the Aspire One 751h is just so reasonable! You do get a bigger screen (11.6") but it sucked on the performance though as it uses a Z520 cpu. It should have used a Z530 cpu instead. Nevertheless, the firepower on the Booklet 3G is more than sufficient in handling basic tasks. Moreover, with the extra juicee on the Booklet 3G, it gives the Booklet 3G a breath of fresh air - It is fast!

I have also considered a Sony netbook but the P series netbook is not my cup of tea. It is overpriced. However, Sony have released the W series netbook to silent the critics but it is not really working though.

What about Nokia then?

Big Screen...

Enters the Nokia Booklet 3G... The Nokia Booklet 3G is actually a nice piece of kit. No doubt that the screen is 10.1", you have an upgraded resolution of 1280x780. Wow!!! That is cool...My Dell Studio 1555 is only running at a maximum 1366x768! The good thing with the upgraded resolution is that you could cram more stuff within the tiny 10.1" screen without much problem. I like it. However, due  to the fact that I am quite used to bigger fonts, I have to set the fonts to 150% the original size. It still works properly without using more juice.


When I have received the Booklet 3G from Nokia, I could not believe my eyes (Thanks Womworld especially Albertine!). The chasis is as good as the Macbook Pros, maybe even better! The battery has 16 cells and it lasted 11 hours when lightly used. It is not that far off from the official account of 12 hours with a single charge though. Nevertheless, I am pretty impressed with the battery strength. Can't imagine having 16 cells in such a small package!!! Impressive! Nokia has truely lived up to its name.

Whisper Quiet

As I have mentioned about the chasis, it is truly remarkable. I have tried to listen to the noise emitting from the hard drive while the Booklet 3G is switched on. I could hardly hear a thing! Do you know why? Apart from the hard drive noise (You have to strain your ears to be able to hear it), I could not hear anything at all. That is because Nokia has adopted a fanless design for their Booklet 3G. I'm impressed with the whisper quietness of the Booklet 3G. I have not come across such a beautiful engineered piece of hardware since the Macbook Pros. I think Nokia is wise in indulging into building a quality chasis, unlike Dell... Well, you get what you pay for, isn't it folks?

You See Me, I See You...
I have to admit that the screen on the Booklet 3G is remarkable although it is not quite legible under direct sunlight. Nevertheless, when you switch it on, you will feel that Nokia has done a great job and you will be pleased with the screen.  You will find a 1.3MP webcam which is pretty decent for day to day use although it is not as good as the webcam on my Dell Studio which is 2.0MP. I think Nokia is trying to come up with something to prove that they are capable of producing a reliable product here. Until now, I have no objections to the Nokia Booklet 3G so far.

Keyboard/ Touch pad

After using a Dell keyboard for many years, I am not really accustomed to the frame keyboard on the Booklet 3G. It takes a while to get used to it. Once you have got used to it, you will find that typing will be much smoother as the day goes by. I have to admit that I do have large fingers and it take a while to get used to it. The keyboard strikes a similarity to the later Sony Vaio laptops though. There is no problem with the keyboard at all minor tweak lik the arrow keys could have been better placed. They are too small!!! I don't really like to use the arrow keys though. I would slow down whenever I have to use the arrow keys. Nokia should work on it to improve the user friendliness of the arrow keys in the future. Nevertheless, I would really appreciate that Nokia would provide a backlit keyboard. It will definately help those people who like to work in the dark. Typing on the keyboaard is smooth and it is comfortable to type for a long period of time. I also like the touch pad. The size is just right. Well done Nokia!

When it comes to portability, I don't think people will expect netbook users to bring along their external mouse. Who would bring along their external mouse whever they go? Would they do so when they travel abroad? I don't think so. These days, airline companies are pretty strict with the  weight of customer's hand luggage or check in luggage. To save cost, I think it will be better for customers not to bring along their external mouse. To do so, the touch pad must be efficient. The Booklet 3G shines here. The touch pad is one of the biggest I have seen among netbooks! Bravo Nokia! I like the touch pad. It is responsive but they could have done better on the left and right click. They are too hard to press. You need to use some energy before you hear a click. It is a big contrast to the Samsung NC10 and the Acer Aspire One 532h as their touch pads are so small!


Since the Booklet 3G is bluetooth enabled, I was thinking that it will be good for me to try out their bluetooth connection. I was quite fortunate that using bluetooth on my Nokia E72 was a breeze as the Booklet 3G is equipped with the latest Nokia Ovi Suite! Well, I don't quite like Ovi Suite though as it does not allow me to keep calender records for more than 30 days where else the older Nokia PC Suite will allow me to keep calender records for up to 99 years! Bluetooth connection was smooth and I could use a bluetooth headset without any problems too.

The next stop will be testing the WWAN. I did try using a Vodafone Sim card and it worked fawlessly. Bear in mind that the Acer Aspire One 751h also offers similar functionality. Apart from that, I did try on the OS itself.

Windows 7 Starter

The Booklet 3G came Windows 7 Start pre-installed. I was thinking that I could reformat and install a Windows 7 Pro on it. I did hesitate a little but in the end, I have decided against doing so as it is not my netbook anyway. I must try to preserve the device. Using Windows 7 Starter on the Booklet 3G is not a problem though but there are restrictions like you can't change the desktop theme. It is expected that the Intel Z530 cpu will work its charm. After all, it is a 1.6 Ghz beauty and not the Z520 1.33 Ghz cpu found on the Acer Aspire One 751h!

I have to admit that playing HD video on youtube is NOT impossible. It is fine but it has some jerkiness. Well, you can't really fault the Booklet 3G as it comes with Intel 500 graphics card. The Ace Aspire One 751h has it too. Well, why is it playing HD video on youtube is better on the Nokia Booklet 3G and not on the Aspire One 751h? I think the main cause of the slowdown in the Aspire One 751h is due to the slower Intel Z520 cpu. Pretty pathetic, eh? Nevertheless it comes with F-Secure Antivirus 2010 (Save some money in buying an antivirus software).

You can't expect a cpu with a 512KB L2 cache to work as fast as a Pentium Core 2 Duo. Realistically memory speaking, with one window open, you are looking at a cpu usage of around 3% but the memory usage will be around 65% for most of the time when there's an activity in a window itself. What can we do about it then? Simple! Just upgrade the physical memory bank then, isn't it?


NO!!! You can't! Imagine this..The only optional item which you can remove at the moment is the battery. After removing the battery, you will see no screws and by no means you can upgrade the memory from 1GB to 2GB. Do you know why? The physical 1GB memory is soldered onto the motherboard!!! Obviously, they did so to ensure that the Booklet 3G is slim and light. They are right. However, by doing so, it does not allow customers to upgrade the memory bank! It is just like the new Dell Mini 10v!!! What a shame! Well, at least the Dell Mini 10v will allow customers to change the internal hard drive easily. What about the Booklet 3G then?

With the Nokia Booklet 3G, don't even think about doing it by yourself though. You do need a professional to open up the entire casing at the back before you could change the hard drive. The Booklet 3G comes with a 120GB hard drive. Gosh...Nokia is a little bit stingy, isn't it? Most of the modern netbooks come with 250GB hard drive. With 120GB, you would probably will have to get an external hard drive. Say no more!

No problem with it as there are three usb 2.0 ports for disposal. Wait a minute, if I use one usb for the external hard drive, I would only have two usb ports left. Well, you might want to use another usb port for an optical drive and another for an external mouse. Well then...there'll be no spare usb ports for your disposal!!! Oh dear... I do think that Nokia should have increased the availability of one more usb port for consumers which justifies the premium £650 for a 10.1" Booklet 3G over other netbook providers.

Well, you do have a HDMI out port, a pair of stereo speakers which are bass-less but sounded very good on the treble side. I found an audio out port but no microphone port!  There is a microphone on the Booklet 3G itself so I think there's no need for the microphone port. Then, I was looking out for a LAN jack but could not find one... Oh no! There's no LAN jack! It will mean that one would not be able to use the cable. The argument is why do you need LAN when you have a spectacular wireless connection which is compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n?

Certainly it was a breeze when the Booklet 3G was connected to the Wireless N router in my house. There was no drop in the signal at all so I think Nokia should get the credit over here. After realising that I should poke into some benchmarking, I then started looking at the Windows Experience score. It had a 2.4 which is not too bad at all though considering that the cpu has only 512KB of L2 cache! It reminds me of my very old Pentium Pro 180 cpu. Ha! the difference is that the PP 180 was manufactured under a 130nm wafer and not the same as the Intel Atom Z530 over here!

I then tried to start Futuremark but it does not seem to move after a while. The Booklet 3G was frozen. Well, I can't expect the Nokia Booklet 3G to run graphics intensive benchmark, right? However, I did manage to play NFS: Undercover on low settings without any jerkiness. Not too bad, eh?

I think Nokia should have installed a Windows 7 Home on it instead of the Starter Edition as there are a number of restrictions which I would not have encountered if I am using a Home Edition. I could turn off the Aero effect on the Home and it should work wonders.

Update #1: After using the touh pad and the left/right button for numerous times, I do find the both left/right click a little bit hard to press on. I do think that it is better if Nokia were to adopt Dell's Studio range of left/right button.

Last but not Least...

On the whole, I am quite satisfied with the Nokia Booklet 3G. I do find it lightweight and with sturdy build. It appeals to many but let down on it's capability to upgrade the internal hard drive and also the physical memory. Statistics showed that if 2GB is installed, there will be at least 20% increase in a netbook's speed. Shame... You can't possibly upgrade the physical memory bank unless you are clever enough to do some dirty work by replacing the 1GB with a 2GB without damaging the internal circuits. The sceen is brilliant but it should have a backlit keyboard. With in build A-GPS, I would love it even more! You will never get lost! Nokia should have installed a 250GB hard drive on the Booklet 3G too... I'm just overwhelmed with the chasis of the Nokia Booklet 3G. It looks good, very good indeed!

Stay tuned for more updates with graphics intensive games...

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