Even though the tag 'mini' might suggest that we will be talking about a very small phone, Nokia N97 mini version can't be put in that category at all. I guess Nokia's design team realized that it would be nice to have a smaller version of the highly acclaimed N97 smartphone for those that are more used to normal sizes. The result is even better than what we expected.
After being disappointed by the original N97's performance compared to other high-end devices, the mini version comes as a bandage on an open wound. Considered by specialists as a fiasco, especially in terms of sales, Nokia N97 has also been outperformed by its smaller brother, which I hope will win more Nokia fans than its predecessor.
Announced in September 2009, Nokia N97 mini version was made available on the market the next month, in November. Available in three colors (Cherry Black, Garnet, White), the smarpthone can be bought for around USD 600$. Design
Don't be deceived by the name of the phone, Nokia N97 mini is not a small device. The name only refers to the fact that it's smaller than the original N97 smartphone, which measures 117.2 x 55.3 x 15.9 mm and weighs 150g (including battery). The mini version only sizes 113 x 52.5 x 14.2 mm and is more than 10g lighter weighing only 138g (including battery).
The gadget features the same full QWERTY keyboard, but misses the joystick on the left, which made the Internet browsing with N97 so smooth. The same metallic stripe encompasses the phone and protects it from possible drops. Also, I was very happy to find that the plastic back cover has been replaced with a metallic one, giving the phone more sturdiness. While I didn’t consider the sliding mechanism of the original N97 too compact, I have to say that the mini version is very, very hard to open. I mean if you don't know which part you need to slide the phone, you won't even notice that it has a full QWERTY keyboard underneath.
Once slid, the phone remains firm and no wobbles have been detected. The illumination under the keyboard is a little bit weird, as the upper symbols are highlighted much better than the symbols you will use more often. Still, the backlighting is even on all the keyboard, so you won't have troubles typing even when you're in the dark. The keys can be easily pressed and are very responsive; I would say they're better than those on the regular N97 smartphone. Even if they're smaller, users will be able to write very fast with no worries of typos. As soon as you slide the device, the screen will turn to landscape mode.
Even if it's a mini version, Nokia N97 mini features a 3.2-inch touch screen. Above the display, a secondary camera has been included and a small ambient light sensor. Below the screen, there are two touch-sensitive keys, and a metallic key, which opens the main menu of the phone. On the left side of the smartphone, there are a lock/unlock sliding key and a small microUSB port. The right side includes a dual volume key and a dedicated camera key. The power button has been placed as usual, on top of the phone, together with a 3.5mm jack port. The 5-megapixel camera on the back features dual LED flash and Carl Zeiss lens. Unlike Nokia N97, the mini version's camera is not protected by any covering lids or anything alike, so it's very exposed to scratches.
I have also noticed that after pulling out the metallic cover on the back, the battery drops out without even touching it. That means that it's a little bit smaller than the spot it needs to fit. The microSD slot for memory card can be found near the SIM slot, after removing the battery cover. At first glance, Nokia N97 mini looks like a regular bar, but the real deal is the full QWERTY keyboard, which turns it into a modern smartphone. The quality of the material, as well as the stylish and compact built, makes it more reliable and appealing than its N97 predecessor. Display and Camera
Nokia N97 mini benefits from a 3.2-inch resistive touchscreen, which can also be controlled with a stylus if you have one, as the sales package doesn’t include one. Even though it's a resistive touchscreen, I was pleasantly surprised by its responsivness, which puts it above the N97. The quality of the image is unquestionably good, including brightness and contrast - at their highest level. The same goes for eligibility under sunlight.
The 5-megapixel camera of N97 mini features Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, dual LED flash, video-light, geotagging and a pretty extensive interface. Unfortunately, the camera lacks new advanced functions such as smile detection, face recognition or blink prevention. In fact, the module camera is the same as on the previous N97 smartphone.
The camera can take pictures with a maximum resolution of 2,592x1,944 pixels and saves the images pretty fast. All the settings and functions can be displayed on the touchscreen: Contrast, White Balance, ISO, Sharpness, Exposure compensation, Color tones and many more.
There's also a touch-n-shoot button on the screen, which enables users to take pictures with a simple touch instead of using the dedicated camera button. This time, the touch button also features the "half way press" function, so you will be able to take advantage of the autofocus feature.
The phone also has a secondary videocall camera that can be used to take pictures. The main camera can shoot clips in VGA mode at 30FPS, while the secondary can record videos in VGA mode at 15fps. Overall, the pictures taken with N97 mini's camera are excellent.Menu and Software
Nokia N97 runs Symbian 9.4 operating system, with S60 5th Edition interface, the same as its N97 predecessor. Little to no improvement has been done to the graphical interface, but lots of bugs have been corrected. Even though the user interface is not that eye-candy as Android's or Maemo's, it's still one of the easiest to use. Thankfully, now that Symbian has gone open source, more graphical improvements will be added.
The layout of N97 mini menus hasn't changed compared to the original N97. To bring up the Main menu key, click the metallic key under the screen, choose Options/Organise, and put your more often used applications on top, so they'll have their icon more exposed to your finger. The Home screen features the same customizable Shortcut bars that contain icons of the applications that users have previously set. They are now functioning like widgets too and offer a little bit of entertainment to the common user. Also, you can now access the connectivity area of the smartphone, directly from the Home screen.
That is only possible if you have a data transfer connection active and displayed on the top right of the touchscreen. You can then click the Bluetooth icon and go directly to the connectivity settings of the device. You will find applications that come pre-installed with the phone together with the clock, notes, office, recorder and other Symbian-specific functions.
Even though many software developers took the chance and started to make applications compatible with the new Symbian version, there are still some inconveniences, as not all apps are fully compatible. The device has a variety of input methods: stylus (not present in the sales package), plectrum and finger touch support for text input and UI control, but the best by far is the full QWERTY keyboard.
To sum it all up, here’s what we get in Nokia N97 mini: complex calendar, notepad, calculator, converter, file manager, recorder, IM. There's no media sub-menu, but you get some dedicated apps under the Music menu: music player, Stereo FM RDS Radio, Gallery, RealPlayer, Podcasting, Music store. There's also a YouTube client, PDF reader (trial version) and QuickOffice applications, which can only be used to display documents, but you cannot edit any unless you pay for an upgrade.Communication
Nokia N97 mini is a quad-band GSM (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900) handset, HSDPA 900 / 1900 / 2100 (3.6 Mbps) compatible, which features GPRS class 32 (100 kbps), EDGE 32 class (296 kbps), High-Speed Circuit-Switched Data (57.6 kbps) and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g (UPnP technology).
Unfortunately, you don't have a WLAN shortcut on the Home screen anymore to quick access Wi-Fi. If you want to connect to the Internet, you must first define an Access point (EDGE, WLAN or 3G). You can do that by going to Main menu - Tools - Settings - Connection - Access points and define which access point is to be used whenever a network connection is required (Main menu - Home network – Settings).
The integrated browser is the same that you can get in the older N97 phone. It has full Java and Flash support, but fails at the ergonomics control. I have noticed big improvements in terms of speed compared with the one included in N97, but it's not the best out there.
The handset features a GPS receiver, which works in conjunction with Ovi Maps. I have tested the localization times and noticed that Nokia N97 mini GPS is pretty fast. The built-in GPS receiver features the A-GPS function, which makes localization even faster. It quickly pin-points you even when the phone is indoors.
Other connectivity tools include Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP and EDR support, and microUSB for PC synchronization (no charging). The Bluetooth connection reached almost 145 KB/s when sending files and 160 KB/s when receiving, which is way above average.
In terms of messaging, the phone offers a complete solution, accepting all available message types. Furthermore, given the fact that it features a QWERTY keyboard, you'll be able to type your messages faster. The message client works with POP3, SMTP, and IMAP4 protocols, and supports more than one email account. Also, it can download headers or full email, and supports attachments.
The quad-band (GSM 850 / GSM 900 / GSM 1800 / GSM 1900) network compatible handset has a very good GSM signal reception. The sound is very good at both ends, and pretty loud too. The vibration alert is also above average in intensity, so you don't really need to set it to higher levels.Processor and Memory
Nokia N97 mini is powered by the same ARM11 family processor running at speeds of up to 434 Mhz that has been embedded in N97 model. The device works pretty smooth, but I have noticed some lags when using other applications while the browser is open.
Unlike Nokia N97, the mini version only features 8GB storage space, which can still be extended with 8GB more, thanks to the microSD slot placed under the battery cover. The smartphone also features 128 RAM, which are more than enough to run any possible application without getting the "memory full" message.Multimedia
I have found that the multimedia department is another strong point of the gadget. The smartphone features the same standard looking music player as Nokia N97 and Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, with little to no cosmetic changes. Nokia N97 mini music player is simply exceptional in all aspects.
You have five pre-installed equalizer modes: Bass booster, Classical, Jazz, Pop and Rock. Other settings are: Balance, Loudness and Stereo widening. The device features Radio FM with RDS function as well, but lacks the FM transmitter, which was present in N97. Reception is very good, and sound is above average. The Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support enables you to listen to music wirelessly.
The 3.5mm jack port is a good addition, as it enables you to change the earphones that are coming with the phone (WH-701).Battery
The 1,200 mAh Li-Ion (BL-4D) battery has an officially stated life expectancy of 320 hours in standby (310 for 3G) and of about 7 hours and 10 minutes in talk time mode (6 hours for 3G). I have noticed that the phone has a very good playback autonomy (32 hours official), whereas the talk time tends to reach about 3 hours at the most, regardless of the network used. I managed to keep the phone for about 4 days, with 25 minutes of talk per day and about 1-2 hours of music playback per day. While it's not the best battery, this is a big improvement compared to N97's battery autonomy.Impressions
Nokia N97 mini is a big improvement in terms of design and performance, compared to the previous N97 high-end smarpthone. The smaller size, the stylish look, as well as the build quality exceeded my expectations. Perhaps a lower price would have made it sell much better than the original N97.The Good
I would highlight here the quality of the build, which makes the phone more compact and sturdy than its N97 predecessor. Also, the display seems to be better, as well as the battery, which has a higher autonomy. The multimedia part of the device is very good as well. Other strong points includes: full QWERTY keyboard, HSDPA connectivity, GPS receiver, 8GB internal memory, 5-megapixel camera and 3.5mm jack port.The Bad
I think Nokia should've thought to put in some free document reader, such as Adobe PDF. Also, the lack of some free business tools is another letdown. Perhaps a graphically improved user interface would've made the device more appealing, but I guess Nokia fans like it as it is.Sales Package
Nokia N97 mini smartphone
Nokia Battery 1,200 mAh Li-Ion (BL-4D)
Nokia High-Efficiency Charger (AC-10)
Nokia Connectivity Cable (CA-101)
Nokia Music Headset (WH-701)
Ovi Suite DVD 1.1.