Nokia's 770 Internet Tablet

The sleek wireless device is aimed at the home market but has enterprise potential

Although Nokia's sleek 770 Internet Tablet bears a passing resemblance to a PDA, you won't find the usual PIM applications running on it. That's clearly not the point of this stylish wireless device that promises quick, easy access to e-mail and the Internet.

Priced at $359, the Nokia 770 comes bundled with the Opera 8 Mobile Web browser, an e-mail client that supports POP 3 and IMAP4, audio and video players, a file manager, PDF and Flash viewers and an RSS news reader. It also includes a world clock, a calculator, a sketch pad and a short list of games.

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The 770 runs on an open-source, Linux-based operating system and connects to the Web via Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and compatible Bluetooth-enabled phones, although I was unable to get that feature to work in a recent test-drive of the device.

Despite some drawbacks, there's a lot to like about this stylish tablet, particularly if you keep in mind that it's not meant to do it all. At 8.2 ounces, it's slim (5.5 by 3.1 by 0.7 in.) and easier to tote around than a laptop. Browsing the Web on the 770's horizontal, eye-popping, high-resolution, 4.1-in., 800-by-480-pixel touch-screen is a nice break from squinting at tiny cell phone screens.

Where's the phone?

Like me, you may be thinking: It's a Nokia, so where's the phone? And what about a decent contact manager or schedule wrangler? Not included.

To be fair, Nokia has aimed this device at the home market, envisioning users sitting around the living room looking up stats during the big game or browsing recipes in the kitchen over the family Wi-Fi network. So it's not surprising that the 770 isn't overflowing with business applications.

That said, with some tweaks it's still got potential for use in the office and on the road. For instance, tapping into the open-source development applications trickling out for this device, I downloaded a word processor called AbiWord and DejaPIM from maemo.org. Neither is a barn-burner compared to the full-featured programs you'll find on most PDAs, but they both boosted the 770's productivity potential.

An operating system upgrade scheduled for release later this year will add VoIP as well as an IM client. It will be available as a free download to current owners and installed new units, according to a company spokeswoman.

The 770 is easy to use, despite a couple of drawbacks and minor annoyances. Connecting to hot spots was simple. A display shows nearby connections with small lock icons that indicate whether they're open or closed.

In general, the 770 had great range, rarely dropping the connection. Web pages loaded quickly in the Opera browser, which handled JavaScript, Flash and cookies without a problem.

Configuring a POP3 account was also easy. The basic e-mail client handled attachments well, and the PDF reader worked as advertised. You can also set the e-mail client to send and retrieve mail at scheduled times.

The 770 sports a 250-MHz ARM-Based TI 1710 OMAP processor and 128MB Flash memory (64 available to the user). Nokia throws in a 64MB RS-MMC (Reduced Size Multi Media Card) for additional storage, certainly not enough to satisfy power users.

Simple and functional

The hardware is a model of simplicity. Along the top edge you'll find power, full-page and zoom buttons that make resizing Web pages a breeze. On the front, left-hand side there's four-way navigation, back, menu and a home button. Along the bottom edge there are ports for an AC power adapter, USB cable, headphone jack and an RS-MMC slot.

Text input is via an on-screen keyboard or handwriting recognition. Both methods worked fine.

The user interface is refreshingly sparse and functional. Settings for the device can be accessed via a control panel. You can customize the home screen to display the clock, Web, radio, and RSS shortcuts, or change the background image.

As for multimedia, again think basics. The image viewer does a nice job of displaying still images on the 770's outstanding screen. But it's unlikely that you'll want to kick back with this device after hours, because its video and audio applications support falls short.

It will play MP3s and Real Video, among a handful of formats, but support for Windows Media files is a glaring omission. And don't bother listening to audio over the 770's puny built-in speaker. Try the headphone jack.

I got about five hours of Web browsing and stress-testing in (four days in standby mode), before the 770's battery conked out. Nokia rates it at three hours browsing and seven days standby.

Minor annoyances: The 770 comes with a reversible metal cover. Slide it over the front and it protects the screen; flip it to the back and it's out of the way. However, that makes it impossible to slide out the stylus. That got so annoying, I eventually nixed the cover.

The 770 is also slow to get going. Booting it up took nearly 50 seconds. It's zippy enough waking up from standby mode, but the thought of rebooting made me cringe.

The tablet ships with an AC power adapter, a USB 2.0 cable, a soft carrying pouch, a handy desktop stand, the 64MB RS-MMC, two styluses and mercifully brief documentation. You'll also find help files loaded onto the device.

The 770 connects to a PC or Mac via the included USB 2.0 cable for file transfer. The removable memory card will show up as a storage device, but you can't access the internal Flash memory.

Bottom line: It's no speed demon and limited in storage, but the Nokia 770 is worth a look. It'll be a better deal after the upcoming operating system upgrade.

Michelle Johnson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Her e-mail address is mijohn@mail-me.com.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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