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Nokia Booklet 3G review

This small netbook has options galore - including an HDMI port and built-in 3G - but you’ll have to sign up to a contract for a more attractive price. John Brandon takes the Nokia Booklet 3G for a test drive…

Price: £500
Tech Specs:
OS Tested: Ubuntu for Netbooks Remix
CPU: Intel Atom 1.6GHz
Memory: 1GB
HDD: 120GB
Dimensions: 264 x 185 x 19.9mm
Weight: 1.25kg

Pros: Tiny netbook PC has a fresh design and outstanding options
Cons: Expensive unless you sign up for a 3G contract. Keyboard a bit cramped

Is this what the netbook has become? Since the debut of these small notebooks last year with models from Lenovo, Acer, HP and others, the netbook market has certainly matured – now evolving into an even smaller model from Nokia that has built-in 3G access, an HDMI port and Bluetooth stereo.

The Booklet 3G has a sleek metallic design, one that is not that different in colour treatment and accoutrements from a typical Nokia smartphone (which are also often black and silver) and is just portable enough – at 1.25kg – to act like a smartphone. Here’s what we know for sure: this model has enough portability to encourage a little more playful use, such as grabbing the unit sans a laptop bag for a day at the park or for code-testing at a coffee shop. Yes, measuring 264 (W) x 185 (D) x 19.9mm (H), the Booklet deserves a slightly different classification from a typical netbook. The only debate left is: do all of these new features also deserve a much higher price?

Actually, if you can accept a network provider contract for the 3G access, the Booklet should cost about as much as most netbooks. It’s just that you need to double the price, to about £500, if you want to buy the Booklet without a 3G contract. That’d be a shame, as this model connected easily to 3G access even after we installed Ubuntu for Netbooks Remix (UNR) and configured a driver. Ubuntu found the HDMI port and allowed us to connect the unit to a Viewsonic projector for home movie viewing and for running a slideshow using OpenOffice Impress. The Booklet 3G, like the Sony VAIO P netbook, also supports 100Mbps 802.11n wireless access.

Processing speed was predictably sub-par using the Intel Atom processor, although the Booklet 3G found new life and vigour using UNR over the pre-installed Windows 7 Starter edition (which is so entry-level you can’t even change the desktop background). For basic chores – updating your Twitter account, editing a document, playing a casual game – the Booklet 3G worked fine. When we upped the ante a bit by running the Scribus page layout program with multi-layered graphics, the Booklet suddenly revealed its true colours as a basic-purpose netbook without much power. That said, Nokia does not expecting you to use the Booklet for more than web browsing and email. We would have preferred Nokia to further promote this usage model by equipping the netbook with Maemo 5, as used on the N900 smartphone, but we know some industrious user will get that Linux ported soon.
So what are the downsides to this elegant, fully equipped netbook? For one, the keyboard is slightly cramped. It’s not as tight as the one on the Lenovo S10, even though the Booklet also has a 10.1-inch display. In fact, the springy keys allowed us to type fast once we got used to the small confines of the keyboard. We strongly prefer the keyboard on the HP Mini. Fortunately, the trackpad on the Booklet 3G is quite a bit larger than the one on the HP Mini and is just as useful as a full laptop trackpad. The Booklet is one of the thinnest and lightest netbooks we have used, and outshines the field in every way except for the small and cramped keyboard.

However, the killer is price. Is an underpowered netbook worth spending so much on, or signing up for a 3G contract, when there are so many equally adequate netbooks? HP recently released the 311 netbook with an HDMI port and faster graphics, with a much better keyboard. The design is less appealing, but the price is much better.

Verdict: 4/5
Great design and plenty of extras, with a cramped keyboard and a high price.
John Brandon