Nokia 770 Wi-Fi Tablet

By Troy Dreier

August 28, 2006

It has no cell phone or productivity apps, just the tools you'll need for surfing, e-mailing, IMing, and making online calls.

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In today's world of handheld gadgets, the Nokia 770 is an unusual device, far different from the slim, multi-purpose items we're used to seeing. This bulky, hefty portable is meant for one thing: going online. There's no cell phone and no productivity apps, just the tools you'll need for surfing, e-mailing, Instant Messaging, and making online calls. Even connection options are limited: the 770 can only connect via WiFi and Bluetooth (with help from a cell phone). It's not a bad choice for single-computer households that need a low-cost second option for going online, but don't think it's a business tool.

The Linux-based 770 measures 5.5 x 3.1 x 0.7 inches and weighs in at 8.1 ounces., so it's a fairly weighty device. You won't get it in a pants pocket; it's definitely a messenger bag kind of gadget. The reason for the size is the gorgeous 800 by 480 pixel, 65,000 color touch screen, which dominates the unit. The screen can display nearly the full width of most Web pages, so surfing with the 770 feels a lot more comfortable than with smaller handhelds.


Internet Tablet, front view.

Design

The 770 has a matte black finish and surprisingly few controls. You'll find a directional pad to the left of the screen, as well as buttons for jumping back one screen, calling up the menu, and going to the home screen. Above them sits the small speaker.

At the top of the 770 is a button for toggling the full-screen view, one for zooming in or out, and the power button. That's it for the controls.

 
Startup screen.

The stylus slides out from the right side, and the bottom holds power, USB, and headphone jacks. It also holds the RS-MMC (reduced size multimedia card) slot. The 770 comes with a 64MB card that you can use to store music. It also has 128 MB of Flash storage, 64MB of which is user accessible. If you need more space, Nokia will sell you a 128MB card for $39.95.

To protect that large screen, Nokia throws in a soft cloth bag and a metal slide cover. Both are poor choices. The bag has a drawstring, and you need to fully remove the 770 before you can use it. While fumbling to get the 770 in and out of the bag, you're more likely to drop it that if you'd had no bag at all.


In its protective drawstring bag.

And the metal slide cover doesn't attach to the 770, so once you slide it off, you need to turn it around and slide it on the back.


With protective metal sleeve.

It's a nuisance. We'd rather see a cover that's easy to retract and stays on the unit, so that you don't have to worry about where to stash it.

The 770 also comes with two wedge-shaped plastic pieces that can be fitted together to form a stand, so that you can prop the 770 up and view the screen at an angle. This is poor design at its worst. While it's a good idea to allow the 770 to stand by itself, some type of kickstand should have been built into the metal slide cover. No one is going to carry around these two extra pieces.


Propped up with the included stand.

Also included in the box are stereo earbuds, a USB connection cable, a quick start guide, and a manual. There's no software needed for transferring music from your PC, you just drag and drop. It can play unprotected AAC, MP3, WAV, and WMA files, as well as a few smaller formats.


Rear view.

Interface & Features

Power up the 770 and you'll be greeted by an efficient quick start desktop that displays all of the main options. At the top center is a Google search box, with an RSS feed reader below it. To the right are controls for Internet radio, personal contacts, and shortcuts. These items are customizable, so you can enter the Home screen edit mode and shift them around, delete them, or add others.

Startup screen.

Along the left side are controls for going to a Web bookmark, going to other apps not shown (like e-mail, instant messaging, or the Internet phone), or calling up a game. The top displays your screen brightness, volume, and battery level with small icons.

Getting around the various apps is easy enough, but the designers could have done more to make all the features accessible. For example, to browse the Web you tap the globe icon in the left column and choose to open a new window or open a bookmark. A Web page then appears (using the Opera 8 mobile browser), with toolbar controls along the bottom.

Since there's no keyboard, you'll need to enter text by tapping. Tap a text box and you'll get either a handwriting recognition bar on the bottom or an on-screen keyboard. Using the keyboard for anything long is tedious, but doable. The handwriting recognition, on the other hand, is awful. It entered spaces where it shouldn't and constantly got letters wrong. As a result, we spent more time correcting what we'd written than actually writing.

We found the page loading performance slow, despite being plugged into a fast wireless network. Pages displayed well, though, and surfing was a more pleasant experience that with a tiny PDA or cell phone.

Checking POP3 or IMAP e-mail is nice and simple with the 770. Click the apps button on the left side to create a new account, if you need to, or open your in-box. Setting up an account took us only a minute, and mail downloaded fairly quickly.

But composing was a chore due to the previously mentioned input options. Our responses tended to look like those from Blackberries: brief to the point of being telegraphic.

We like that the 770 includes a streaming radio player as one of its chief apps, but the developers didn't do much to make it usable. When you start out, it contains only one preset (to a pop hits channel). There's no easy way to add bookmarks for new streams: you'll need to find them in the Web browsers, copy them, and paste them into the audio app. (Adding new RSS streams to the feed reader requires the same tedious process.) Sound quality is adequate, but thin and lacking in range. The 770 comes with stereo headphones for a more pleasant listening experience.


Included stereo earphones.

When first launched, the 770 didn't include Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calling or instant messaging tools, but now it does. Unfortunately, it doesn't include the big apps in either category. For IMing it offers Google Talk and Jabber; for Internet telephone calling, it has Google Talk. However, since the 770 now supports SIP-based VoIP solutions, standalone software applications such as Gizmo Project by SIPPhone, for example, will be available in the future. The Gizmo Project allows users to make and receive calls from public telephony networks.

The rechargeable battery is rated for 3 hours of Web browsing or 7 days of standby time.

If you're looking for a way to bring surfing or e-mailing to the couch as you watch TV, or you need a way for the kids to get online without tying up your computer, the 770 makes sense. But its limited features will mean that it's not a good fit for many.

Story courtesy of PDAStreet.



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