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April 28, 2009

Nokia N97: Let down by lacklustre hardware?

by Ernest Doku

N97 A really interesting post today on Symbian Freaks, where they've given a big thumbs-down to Nokia's flagship S60 device for 2009 - the Nokia N97.

Now that the handset's internal architecture has become public knowledge, those guys are distinctly unimpressed by the decision to go with a single 434MHz ARM processor and 128MB of RAM for the smartphone powerhouse, making it identical in terms of processor to the N86 8MP and lower than the recently announced Nokia 5630 XpressMusic's 600MHz CPU.

The Nokia N97 is still cutting edge in terms of Symbian S60 5th edition for touch support, huge 32GB of internal memory and a stunning sliding QWERTY form factor, but what about actually using it?
Will the handset's arresting transition animations, home screen widgets and wealth of software be as slick as the concept videos or be nearer the slightly slow version we saw at Mobile World Congress?

Whilst not a cause for concern in isolation, the quality of competition like the impressive Samsung Omnia HD cannot be ignored.

Despite being an S60 device, the Omnia HD features a proprietary TouchWiz 1.5 user interface overlay and is running on a super-fast Texas Instruments OMAP3 chipset. Adding a powerful QHD display, 720p video recording and 8 megapixel camera into the mix makes the handset a real threat to the N97's success, with both phones due for a June launch.

The big question is why have Nokia done this? Are they cutting corners on the innards of the N97 to make it cheaper, or are they simply aiming to use low-end architecture and optimise code and software?

What do you guys think? Is the Nokia N97 still looking quite as attractive?

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Comments

Andre

My girlfriend was always making fun of me when dealing with photos on the N95... when waiting for the processor she used to say tick tack tick tack....

I was going to buy the N97 as it is advertised as a mobile computer. But thanks to this announcement I want to let Nokia know that they can keep it. I am a huge fan of Nokia's products but will stick around with the n95-8 until i test drive the omnia - if i like it i might go for it but am missing the physical key board

Tzer2

If the N97 is too slow, then the processor choice was a mistake.

If the N97 is fast enough, then the processor choice wasn't a mistake.

In the real world 99% of phone users don't know or care what kind of CPU is in their device, all they care about is what appears on the screen.

What I'm interested in is how the N-Gage games will work on such a huge screen. The N97 resolution is much larger than existing N-Gage devices (640 x 360 instead of 320 x 240), so what will happen to the frame rate on 3D games like Bounce etc?

Tim

I've got to say, when I heard the news about the processor, I thought that it was a mistake. I have run the gamut of Nokia devices from the N80, N95-3, and N82 over the past several years, and have finally reached the point that I am considering other alternatives. What always kept me was the easy availability of Symbian apps the fact that Nokia packed more features into their handsets than anyone really needed. The downside is that my Nokias have always seemed a bit underpowered, with generally poor battery life. This looks to be a continuation of the trend, and if this information is true, I'll go elsewhere (thank you very much). It's tough to justify spending over $700 (US) on a phone that will probably underperform on several key fronts. This is part of a continuing trend from our Finnish pals that may prove to cost them in the long run. All things being equal, I'll take a long, hard look at the Omnia HD.

Cheung Yuen Wong

I was quite disappointed in this news myself. Waiting gladly for the next N-series flagship and then realizing that it only had one single CPU which runs on a clock speed just a bit faster than the 5800 XpressMusic just doesn't do it.
And the 5800 we know have had several issues in terms of the icon effects and transitions.

I read an interview which someone brought this to attention and they said that it shouldn't be of concern as software was optimized. However the psychical hardware itself will always be a bottleneck.

Joe B-H

This news comes as a real shame. That said, I'm sure that Nokia are using the N97 to showcase their brand as much as their capabilities in producing a flagship device. I would imagine that if the N97 is under-powered by its single-core CPU, then this would have come up in testing/pilot. In a world of ever-evolving iPhones and Blackberrys, I'd be surprised if Nokia would have accepted poor performance in order to cut costs given that their reputation hangs in the balance here. That said, the credit crunch has hit Nokia hard with profits collapsing by upwards of 90%. Perhaps the budget was just running out? Perhaps it's all been too good to be true? I think I'm still going to opt for the N97, but I'm keeping all fingers and toes crossed that the under-powered debate turns out to be a non-issue.

Giles

I think Nokia have developed the Microsoft problem of becoming complacent. They've had a really good run but seem to have lost touch with what matters. When last did you see or hear of anyone saying that Nokia's been listening to their customers? The phones are all POTENTIALLY brilliant, but who wants potential? I want actual brilliance. I've had my buggy N85 for more than 4 months now and haven't seen a firmware upgrade yet. There was one BEFORE I got the phone but not since and it really needs a fix-up. My wifes N82 come out with the Xenon flash and EVERYONE raved about it. Have there been any other new phones with Xenon? Etc etc. I'm so tired

krb

Looking at the preview photos my concern is different: is there going to be phone's version for right-handed? I.e. for people that whole life have been using their right hand to operate cursor keys/pads.

bw

I wish that they'd do more than "aim to optimise code and software", since 5800XM doesn't have all those widgets and all and it's got "good enough" performance. But if adding whole lot of stuff (that potentially is always running?), how can one expect even that "good enough" perf??

It's somewhat silly that Samsung makes a killer S60 device with OMAP3 - on the other hand it's a show of good trust/relationship between these rivaling companies, right? It's rather strange, since I'd think that they would have very very different business cultures.

Carlos

Hello,
clearly the N97 has been designed as a flagship device, and so it has received lots of attention from power users and reviewers (I
'm thinking about symbian-freak). It's those people who Nokia have to impress with a flagship device. So maybe the device will perform "decently" and most people will not never know nor care if it has 1 or two cores or 3D HW acceleration, but as a flagship it has created great expectations and has failed to deliver.. so Nokia it's going to severely pay the bad press. With the N95 the hardware was really great (for the time) and it started a trend (3D HW accel., decent camera, etc.), there were lots of great reviews from people who really know about mobiles and as a consequence lots of people (even without any technical knowledge) just bought it because it was the latest and the greatest. With N97 it seems to me they are not having this advantage and the only possibility to succeed is to lower the price from 600 EUR to about 400.

IMO Symbian as a platform as less and less appeal in each iteration. Even Samsung has started developing a UI on top of S60, so I suppose they are noticing it too.. :(

And it seems with each new model they have again bugs which were corrected in older models.. so something smells really bad in their design. And then you have symbian signed stopping you from installing nokia software on samsung phones.. very disappointing.

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