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Nokia 770 Internet Tablet Week-long Test Drive

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David Chisnall takes Nokia's new 770 Internet Tablet for a week-long test drive to see if it delivers on its promise to be an elegant tablet for effortless surfing.
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The Nokia 770 is marketed as an Internet Tablet, rather than a PDA. The distinction is important, as it indicates the kind of software you will find running on it. For example, there is no address book or calendar supplied by the 770. Instead, you will only find a web browser and mail client.

Figure 1

Figure 1 The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet with stylus

The most interesting thing about the 770 is that it runs Linux. On top of Linux, it runs X11. Most of the apps are built around GTK, giving a completely open development platform. There is already a community of open-source developers porting existing GTK applications to the platform.

Usability

The first thing that strikes you about the 770 is the screen. The resolution is 800x480, but in a tiny space giving over 200dpi. The most noticeable effect of this is that text is very clear, even at very small sizes. I read two eBooks (courtesy of Project Gutenberg) from it without any form of eye strain. The default font size for this was under ten point, but the text was still clear enough to read without squinting.

The user interface is quite NeXT-inspired. There is a dock on the left hand side, and a button produces a vertical menu. To indicate how important Nokia believes the Internet is to this device, the web browser and email client get their own dock-icon, while everything else is hidden in a menu. Active windows get their own, smaller, icon.

The desktop is similarly Internet-centric. The four things present on it by default are a clock, a web link, a summary of RSS feeds, and an Internet radio player. The audio CODECs supported by this include MP3 and AAC but omit Ogg Vorbis, although apparently this is under development.

In the top right hand corner is a system tray, containing a battery state monitor, connection information, screen and speaker settings. The built-in speaker is crackly at high volumes, but not bad up to about 75%. Volumes above that seem designed for things plugged into the headphone jack.

Deviating from a normal Linux desktop, only one window is visible at a time, either surrounded by the dock or full screen. This makes efficient use of the screen which, although high resolution, is only 4" across the diagonal.

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