Nokia N97 mini

The N97 mini is better than the original, but not so when compared with smartphones from other manufacturers. Its S60 OS helps the mini feel like an old phone even before it hits the stores.


7.0
CNET Rating
5.1
User Rating

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In all honesty, the "mini" version of phones is a new phenomenon that is kind of lost on us. In most instances bigger is better, a look at Sony Ericsson's Xperia X10 range will attest to that, but in the case of the Nokia N97, the mini version is the victor. The Nokia 97 mini's tighter dimensions make sense, but it also makes the original redundant in the process. Releasing the N97 mini seems like an admission from Nokia saying "We agree, the first one was just too bulky".

Good things, small packages

The N97 mini is only marginally smaller than the original, with the overall difference seeming irrelevant; a millimetre is shaved off its thickness, and a couple of millimetres off the width and length. The mini's smaller screen is also hardly noticeable, the difference between 3.2 and 3.5 inches isn't enough to make an impact, unlike the absence of the five-way nav pad alongside the QWERTY keyboard under the slider on the N97, a feature some will feel they can't live without.

Though without the nav-pad the keyboard feels roomier, each letter on the pad has a considerable gap between itself and its neighbours, and we've found the typing experience to be on par with the best in the business. The touchscreen uses resistive technology, and while this is a negative on many phones, the N97 mini feels as responsive to use as many touchscreen handsets with capacitive screens. It's not as accurate as the iPhone or the Nexus One, but it's close enough to make menu navigation a smooth and easy experience.

The mini feels fantastic to hold, the cool metal battery cover and the soft-touch plastic trim help give the N97 mini the appearance of a premium quality construction. Less appealing is the design of the user interface; Nokia's Series 60 OS has never seemed as out-of-date as it does now. It's functional enough (and more on that later) but next to the iPhone or the the HTC HD2, the N97 mini looks like Windows 95 next to the latest version of OS X.

Business-like?

Both the N97 and the mini seem like a good fit for business users; full QWERTY keyboards, MS Exchange support, document readers supporting MS Office docs and PDF files, but we can't say we'd easily recommend this handset for a business purpose. A lot of our misgivings come back to the inelegance of the built-in email client, and while this may seem like nitpicking, it does affect the every day experience for a busy business user. The inbox only displays the first 10 characters in the subject of a message, so it is difficult to filter incoming messages, and deleted items won't be removed from the inbox until the next time mail is synchronised.

The calendar feels similarly cluttered. At a month's view it is difficult to select a day without hitting the days beside it, due in part to half of the screen real estate being dedicated to a tasks list and there doesn't seem to be a way to maximise this space in the settings. The week and single day view modes are better and easier to use, and we've had no trouble setting up the calendar with our Exchange credentials and syncing with our business calendar.

Media and the web

For our money, the N97 mini is best when used as a portable media player. Its 8GB of internal storage are best suited to keeping music and video files to play when you're on the move, or for filling up with excellent photos from the 5-megapixel camera on the back of the handset. The camera is a real winner, easily on par with the best from Nokia over the last few years.

Web browsing is less exciting, with the built-in browser struggling to deliver the same level of performance we're coming to expect from smartphones like the iPhone and handsets running Google Android. Pages load slowly and in some instances refuse to load completely altogether. This isn't an issue with connectivity — the N97 mini supports HSDPA data and features Wi-Fi as well — but is about the way the browser communicates with the web. The browser does support Flash Lite, but this is cold comfort when it is so difficult to read the content around the Flash. We did have a better experience using the Opera Mini browser on the N97 mini (available for free through the Ovi Store). This browser renders pages faster and with fewer faults and is a must-have app for anyone who decided on an N97 or the mini.

Performance

It would be inaccurate to describe the performance of the N97 mini as "zippy" or "lightning fast", but it does operate at a usable pace. Menu selections do pause before executing, but overall the experience is fine, especially when you factor in the mini's multitasking functionality.

One major improvement to the mini since our review of the original N97 is the inclusion of kinetic scrolling in nearly all menus. In the N97 when you dragged your finger across a list of names or apps the system would highlight the selection and let you copy it to paste later. Now, on the mini, lists scroll, like the iPhone, and gain momentum based on the speed of your gesture. We should point out that this feature is now also available with a firmware update for the N97, and that the feature is still not available in the inbox of your email where this gesture will still select a large portion of text instead of moving the list.

The user interface is still littered with annoying inconsistencies, like the one mentioned above. For example, most menu items are single touch to select, but there are numerous instances in the UI where you will have to double tap an icon to make the selection you want.

If we could name one compelling reason to buy the N97 mini it would be its stellar battery life. While most smartphones struggle with a day or two of charge, the N97 mini almost doubles that figure to a solid two days with the possibility of a third depending on usage.

Overall

The physical design of the N97 mini is fantastic, and its refinements make it superior to the original N97 in our opinion. But the original did have one major advantage over this new model in the timing of its release. With the current implementation of the Series 60 OS the N97 mini already seems like an old phone and feels superseded by other phones in the market before it even hits the stores. Nokia hasn't skimped on the hardware with this release, but until it releases an overhaul of the Symbian platform its top-tier smartphones will suffer. If you're looking for a real treat from the Finns check out the N900 instead.



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YannickD Facebook
5
Rating
 

YannickD posted a review   

The Good:Camera, QWERTY, design and features in general

The Bad:Buggy, ovi

The phone performs decently and it's features are great for its time. QWERTY is something most phones lack, to their detriment.

However, every n97 and n97 mini I have ever come across (and I have seen quite a few) has come with complaints of it being buggy and slow at times. Messages freeze up, the screen becomes unresponsive or blacks out, memory leaks, photos folder takes a long time to load. Added to ovi's lack of pretty much anything (not entirely Nokia's fault), this phone leaves the user experience much worse than it could have been.

JessieJ Facebook
4
Rating
 

JessieJ posted a review   
Australia

The Good:the qwerty keyboard

The Bad:everything!!!

the phone goes blank everytime i want to unlock it, or if i want to open the camera the screen goes blank as well, for me, it took 1 game to load up in 10mins, it lags like HELLLL, it doesnt let mee see some of my photos in my album, it doesnt show missed calls, i thought it was a good phone at first but once u start putting ur photos up downnload music etc it starts going really stupid!!!!

000Drkangel000 Facebook
10
Rating
 

"Excellent!"

000Drkangel000 posted a review   
Mexico

The Good:Everything

The Bad:it's underated

Excellent cellphone. It's almost a year since I bought it and I only had a problem, but updated the software and it got fixed.

The camera quality is one of the bests I've ever seen, the only one superior is the N8 camera.

This kind of keyboard is amazing and useful. Other brands tried to copy it, but they are completely uncomfortable.

Symbian is very logic and easy to use, you just need to use your brain!

I use it daily, and battery lasts about a week, using wi-fi and music player many times, I only removed the 3G option. Battery is not one of the bests but it's good.

Speakers are stereo with a nice quality sound

hopsta
8
Rating
 

"geat looking compact nokia"

hopsta posted a review   

The Good:small and fast browse.

The Bad:format is a bit of a waste of time

good phone.fast net.looks good and not too big to fit in pocket.camera good.battery better than most.expensive looking phone that works but format is not user friendly like most nokias for some reason.

 

"Great smart phone without the apple pricetag"

mlta posted a comment   
Australia

The Good:everything especially the keyboard

The Bad:the odd freeze - but nothing that can't be fixed by turning it off/on

This is my first smartphone and I am really happy with it. I got it from virgin on a $19 contract and can't believe I have got a phone that does so much for so little. Love the keyboard and design. I also like the UI despite it being bagged by every reviewer around. I have always had Nokia phones so I find it quite easy and familiar to navigate around. Whilst it might not be as 'cool' some other phones, ultimately it does the same thing as they do. It also has fantastic call quality - I have heard much better than iphones - which after all isn't that what these are PHONES! Also to lyric39 you can find missed calls in the log widget >recent calls>missed calls.

WilsonM Facebook
1
Rating
 

"ive had mine for almost a year and its been nothing but trouble""

WilsonM posted a review   
Australia

The Good:nothing good

The Bad:everything

had for 6 months battery drains quick ,always want to update itself, screen not working properly .
freezes evrytime u try to answer a call or get miss calls cos it doesnt ring,
i updated through the net as i was told by the shop and now it lays died on the table cos it updated and cooked the battery i cant turn it on anymore its dead as a brick and that what it is a brick or door stopper

lyric39
6
Rating
 

"dissapointing on some levels"

lyric39 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Nice interface, reasonably user friendly

The Bad:I have the white Nokia n97, I find the keypad almost impossible to read in mid light situations. I also found that OVI's gps navigation could not keep up with the melbourne CBD updates.

Appart from the imediate missed call message, I can't locate where else to view other missed calls.

 

"ive had mine for almost a year and its been nothing but trouble"

AmsterdamK posted a comment   

The Good:nothing

The Bad:where do i start

screen freeze's, wont unlock, cant answer calls, says memory is full an wont open apps, wont let me reply to txt's, keeps changing time, this phone has more issues than a bipolar schizophrenc with servere food allergys to milk products, peanuts, you get th idear i have always had nokia's but after i sort this crap out i will never get anoyher nokia between th phone and the way the company have treated me

warning
1
Rating
 

warning posted a review   
Australia

The Good:nothing

The Bad:everything

just warning you,
ive had this phone for about 6 months, ive had it replaced comepletely and sent away numerous times because of faults in the software. it freezes daily, often doesnt allow me to read messages or reply, randomly opens apps.
its literally the worst phone i have ever had or heard of i know 3 people with the same phone and similar problems.

 

000Drkangel000 posted a reply   
Mexico

Did you ever update it? I did a year ago, and it got completely fixed

rucka
10
Rating
 

rucka posted a review   

The Good:EVERYTHING

The Bad:nothin bro

it very goodley


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User Reviews / Comments  Nokia N97 mini

  • YannickD

    YannickD

    Rating5

    "The phone performs decently and it's features are great for its time. QWERTY is something most phones lack, to their detriment.

    However, every n97 and n97 mini I have ever come across ..."

  • JessieJ

    JessieJ

    Rating4

    "the phone goes blank everytime i want to unlock it, or if i want to open the camera the screen goes blank as well, for me, it took 1 game to load up in 10mins, it lags like HELLLL, it doesnt let me..."

  • 000Drkangel000

    000Drkangel000

    Rating10

    "Excellent cellphone. It's almost a year since I bought it and I only had a problem, but updated the software and it got fixed.

    The camera quality is one of the bests I've ever seen, th..."

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