REVIEW: The Nokia 770 Linux-based Internet Tablet

Nokia sent us in their very successful Linux-based internet tablet, the Nokia 770, for a review. The tablet came pre-installed with the latest 0.51 firmware version and we give it a whirl mentioning the positive points but also some negatives we found on the device.


The first thing that strikes you from the Nokia 770 is its sleek appearance and small size. The device is thinner than many of the PDAs found today in the market but it weighs 230 grams. The N770 features a 4.13" 65k color LCD that is able to deliver the very respectable 800x480 resolution which is a good resolution to browse most web sites today (even if and moved to 1024x768 these days). The N770 users a 250 TI ARM CPU, 64 MB of RAM and 128 MB of flash storage (64MB available for the user). It also sports a 3.5mm headphone jack, a mini-USB port for charging and data exchange, WiFi and Bluetooth 1.2 (dial-up networking being the most used profile). The latest firmware we tested runs Linux kernel and on top it runs X11 and Maemo, a GTK+ based framework.

On the box you will find a protective metal shelf that can accomodate the main device from both sides (hiding or showing the LCD side), an AC adaptor, a cloth carrying case, a kickstand, manual, a driver CD and an RS-MMC 64MB card with an SD adaptor. The device has two zoom/volume buttons, an on/off button (loads an alert asking if you would like to lock the buttons, go to offline mode or switch off the device), a fullscreen/windowing button (some applications can render in full screen), a D-pad navigation system, an Escape button, a "menu" button and a Home button that switches to the main desktop view (or cycles between open windows when pressed and hold).

To fully understand this product from Nokia we must first understand its primary usage goal: an internet tablet. This product is meant to be used with primarily Nokia's Bluetooth phones dialing to GPRS when WiFi is not available. The N770 is a complimentary product to Nokia's phones more than anything else, for those customers who would argue that QVGA phones are not good-enough to browse the web. The N770 was supposed to be a niche product. Or so Nokia thought it would. Linux fans have placed so many orders that it forced Nokia to increase production, in an unexpected for them move. Since the N770's release there were a number of new applications and games released from the Linux community, with the list growing even more and making the device more PDA-like by the day. The N770 allows for firmware upgrades and this year there are new promised official Nokia applications to look forward to, like VoIP, IM and maybe PIM.

After about 55 seconds of booting time (shuts off in 6-7 seconds) you are presented with a unique landscape interface. The UI is very easy to learn as it's very intuitive. The device comes with a slew of applications: a video player that is able to playback low-fps and low-resolution video of the following formats: MPEG1, MPEG4, Real Video, H263, AVI and 3GP (320x176 at 15fps is recommended). The audio player can play instead these formats MP3, Real Audio, MPEG4, AAC, WAV, AMP, MP2 and it also supports online radio (direct URL of stream required, .pls did not work for me). The RSS reader proved very compatible with all the feeds we tried it with, even if it didn't seem to support HTML. The email client was exceptional too as all the basic functionality is there (including IMAP4 support) along a basic address book. Additionally, you will find an image viewer and a PDF reader. The included file manager does the job pretty well, although it doesn't let you browse the whole system (you will need to install xterm for that) but only selected folders, like "Documents" or "Video". Other utilities include a calculator, a two-timezone clock view, a notes application and a sketching app. I found the sketching application incredibly smooth! I have never experienced before such a smooth free-hand drawing on an touchscreen, not even on my 3D-enabled 624 Mhz Dell x50v. On the device you will also find three very nice games, Chess, Mahjong and LGames' Marbles open source game. All three games have beautiful 2D graphics and they run without a problem on the 250 Mhz TI processor. I found the included applications very stable and very fast. The 2-3 times that I got spodaneous reboots were all caused by poorly tested third party applications (nethack for example).

On the Control Panel section users will find the ability to install new applications in .deb package format, a Backup/Restore facility mostly to be used when upgrading the firmware, a date and time panel, an LCD display panel allowing to change the time period of which it would go OFF or just dim, a flash memory capacity view, the language and region, screen calibration, security settings, color theme chooser, sounds and text input preferences. The default text input is via a virtual keyboard, but there is also a basic handwriting recognition which is not very good or precise. The device supports a number of languages and I was surprised that my native tongue, Greek, was well-supported. Maybe the most important applet is the "Connectivity settings" which allows one to choose between WiFi and Bluetoth connections. Each time an application wants to connect to the net the N770 will launch a dialog asking you to choose between preconfigured Bluetooth accounts or currently available WiFi hotspots. I found the WiFi antenna very good as it was able to spot and let me choose from more than 7 wireless networks in my area, while my 12" Powerbook barely sees 3. I was not so lucky with Bluetooth. The device did not support my Bluetooth LAN network that I have setup in my office running it via Linux. To make things worse, the N770 would fail to connect to CINGULAR GPRS with 3 of the 4 phones I tried it with (one MS smartphone, two Motorola). I heard stories of N770 not being able to work with most non-Nokia bluetooth phones but I thought that people just didn't know how to properly configure their GPRS settings. Unfortunately, the truth is that a number of non-Nokia phones just don't dial out via the N770, even after successfully paired and all GPRS settings being correctly inserted. It's a hit and miss situation.

Of course, the main application of such a gadget is the web browser. The N770 comes with Opera 8.02 and it includes a 3GPP video plugin and Shockwave. I was very pleasantly surprised by Opera's speed on this device. Sure, loading big sites like Digg, Slashdot or would take a bit longer than it does on a normal desktop, but overall, the speed was absolutely acceptable. Not once I ran out of memory either, even if this was a common complaint the past few months. The full screen mode adds a lot to the web browsing experience too, because SVGA sites render wonderfully. The font size is really small on its default 100% zoom value on the browser (the rest of the interface uses bigger font) so you would indeed need a good eyesight to use this device as the internet tablet it was intended to be used as (zoom can go up to 400%). I did not encounter any problems with web sites at all, Ajax works fine, javascript works fine, cookies work fine too. However, it would be better if it would support autocomplete for URLs and forms so we don't have to enter our Gmail account over and over again...

The device does not have a "traditional" standby mode, but battery life on continuous usage was very good. About 3 hours with WiFi ON and about 6 hours with WiFi OFF. This is as good as most PalmOS and Win2003/SE PDAs.

Problems and wishes

There is no product without at least a few problems. And Nokia's 770, being a first version for its kind, has a bunch too:

* No full standby! Every PPC/PalmOS PDA out there and even the 2001's Zaurus SL-5500 could be ON for up to a month in sleep mode. With the Nokia 770 you have to turn Off and On the tablet all the time in order to not consume all the battery in a few days! This is very inconvenient as it takes 55 seconds to fully boot!

* Mediocre Bluetooth dial-up support. Some Sony Ericsson T6xx phones don't connect to GPRS via the N770, and my Linux-based Motorola E680i doesn't either! It disconnects even before trying to connect to GPRS. It seems that Nokia has only tested the N770 with Nokia phones?!? From the 4 phones I tried connecting to GPRS, only my husband's Sony Ericsson K700i worked.

* Grainy touchscreen! While the LCD underneath is indeed beautiful, the touchscreen layer above it, is extremely grainy. Very visible mostly when the background is white. It irks me.

* No ability to install applications on the MMC card. Just by installing a few third party apps the other night, I was over 50% of the 64 MB of allowance and it resulted in a very limiting experience. No, adding more flash memory to the Nokia internally won't do it for me because it will always be a finite number of bytes to deal with. I would need the ability the install apps on the flash card, as I can with the Zaurus and PocketPCs.

* No graphical interface for Bluetooth's Obex file transfer and no HID support for Bluetooth keyboards (there are only some unstable third party hacks currently to enable these). No support for the A2DP, AVRCP, PAN and HSP/HFP profiles either.

* If you look closely at each full-size screenshot of the N770, there are unused pixel areas on the non-fullscreen user interface that the applications can't use to render their widgets on. There are more than 50,000 pixels there that go to waste!

* No Java support (that would put a toll in the RAM and storage, so I am actually sympathetic on the decision to leave it out).

* No audio/video plugins on the browser except for 3GPP. No support for Flash's FLV video format, WMV or MOV. This takes away a lot from today's modern web browsing experience. Real Player compatibility is a hit and miss.

* I was in the situation recently where I wanted to read this .pls file in order to copy the URLs listed in it so I can make the online radio application playback the streaming music (it wouldn't play that .pls directly, bug?). Tough luck, the "Notes" application won't read the .pls file (even if it's in plain text), and the File Manager won't let me "see" the .pls suffix or let me change it (any attempts would result to filename.txt.pls instead of filename.txt). And so I was left without the ability to add my favorite radio station on the N770's audio player rendering this streaming mp3 feature, useless for me.

* No option to change the font size and left-vertical-frame size on the email and RSS clients in order to maximize the amount of relevant text information on the screen.

* No option to see the exact battery life left, like we can on PocketPCs or PalmOS. It's important to have a scale from 1 to 100% instead of the current 4 bars so we can precicely schedule our browsing and usage time with the device.

In addition of wishing the fixing of the current software problems described above, here are some extra hardware wishes for the next model:

- Support for normal SDs instead of RS-MMCs. This way users can easily and cheaply buy SD cards up to 4 GBs.

- More internal flash storage (maybe an upgrade to 512 MBs?). If that's a go, don't include a flash card in the retail box, to minimize retail costs.

- More CPU speed (416 Mhz XScale?), as QVGA 30fps videos don't play well (PalmOS/PPC don't have this problem at 200 Mhz). Maybe 128 MB of RAM too if Java is to be included.

- A full size USB-master port to allow for input device connections. Also, allow battery charging via USB.

- Make the device even smaller (even if it has to be thicker). There are a few milimeters of space that could be removed around the screen (thin borders like in the iPod Video are always sexy).

- A built-in kickstand on the back of the device like all multimedia players have (sample picture). It would make video-watching more enjoyable in a bus, train or airplane. Also a lanyard/wrist-wrap hole would be most welcome.

- A move to Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, which is very important for users who use 3G data speeds via their cellular network. It does not make sense to have an expensive Nokia 3G paired phone that can download files at 100KB/sec and then have the bottleneck of Bluetooth 1.2 only able to receive that data at ~35 KB/sec, because that defeats the whole purpose of the "internet tablet".

- I can't stress enough how much more work the Bluetooth needs in general, in terms of compatibility, user interface and profile support.

- Include an integrated microphone for VoIP and voice-IM (not sure if the current device does have one, the manual does not mention it although Nokia has promised a VoIP app soon).

- A fix for the grainy touchscreen layer as described above. Leave the actual LCD as is, it is beautiful, but please fix the grainy effect.


Don't let my above long list make you think that the Nokia 770 is not a good product, because that was not my intention. The N770 is the best commercial embedded application of Linux I have seen on any product, ever. The hardware is beatutiful and the software has received extra care from Nokia. And the community is working day and night to provide more drivers, support and applications. It still needs more work though and I am confident that Nokia will employ the right resources to work on the remaining problems as the tablet had an extraordinary success so far.

The real question is: What this product means for existing or potential PDA users? Here's the kick: Nokia's 770 is not necessarily a better PDA than a PocketPC or a PalmOS one. But it has a killer feature that sets it apart from the competition: its screen resolution. At 800x480 --at last-- we have a small device that is able to truly browse the web as its webmasters were intended it to, without scrolling horizontally all the time. For gadget users whose internet surfing is more important than PIM, Nokia's 770 is a fantastic solution. If you have access to cheap GPRS or multiple WiFi hotspots, get yours today! For those who want a multi-purpose powerhouse though (browsing, PIM, multimedia, 3D, more apps), maybe the VGA Dell x51v is a better solution. Use the best tool for each job.

Overall Rating: 7/10


Eugenia, like every other reviewer you have totally neglected to mention the real potential of this product - as a wireless handheld X terminal.

That's because:
1. None of us reviewers are sysadmins of Unix desktop systems and we feel that it's something very niche. In fact I find VNC or rdesktop to be used more than X in this device in the future.
2. This product does not exist so it can be an X terminal. It is an internet tablet and as a secondary role, it is a lite-PDA and later will also be VoIP client. These are Nokia's plans, plain and simple. Any additional usage patterns are on the per-user needs and they won't be supported or endorsed by Nokia.

The boot time of 55 seconds is absolutely terrible. Embedded GPS products from Garmin and TomTom put this device to shame in terms of responsiveness. Why release a product without first addressing the performance issues? In my mind that will be the first thing reviewers and potential customers will hit upon.

so, let's see ...

the N770 is compared to PDAs, embedded GPS products and even MultiMedia Players.

sure there are many other devices out there which do even better in their departments. none of those is an Internet Tablet.

there is no better wireless internet thingie for that price.

maybe it should be compared with other Internet Tablets.

Pepper Pad, anyone ?

It also boots slower than my Toaster, freezer and my Car stereo!

It must suck because it takes so long to boot!

The reviewer forgot to mention that simply slipping the cover back on puts it in a sleep mode that if you charge it every other day is perfectly fine.

NO device like this can go for weeks between charging. expecting it to is plain silly.

I've got an "old" Sony Ericsson T610. My 770 connects through it with bluetooth/gprs without any problems whatsoever.

Others were not as lucky as you are:

I am experienced with Bluetooth and I have dialed out with all these phones with paired PDAs, Linux, MacOSX etc in the past. So, the phones I tried with Cingular's GPRS are (the connection APN/login/pass settings are common for all phones, and yes, they were correct):

Motorola E398 = failure
Motorola E680i = failure
i-Mate SP3 = failure
Sony Ericsson K700i= Success

That's 25% success in my book, which is pretty low. Other reviewers wouldn't even try with a second phone, but I persisted. I would have loved to try a Nokia phone too, but the only Nokia phone I have here, the 3300 US-Edition, doesn't have Bluetooth.

Yup, I tried my T610 with a friend's 770 last night (before ordering mine today!) It recognised the T610 straight off and could mount it and see the files on it. Getting it to connect to the Net via GPRS was a bit trickier. We fiddled about a bit and weren't doing well and in the end he said, jokingly, "I suppose we'd better RTFM" and threw me the manual.

In there it gave a slightly obscure path to get to a set up wizard which asked us which country we were in and then who my telco was. Selecting Virgin Mobile, my mobile telco, got us a connection.

There's no explicit suspend because the hardware supports advanced run-time power management. Closing the device disables bluetooth and wireless, the screen turns off and the processor comes to an almost complete halt. I see massively more than 7 hours of life in this state, so it sounds like something's gone a bit wrong if you're barely managing that.

It was about 7 hours, yes. But even if yours is 10 hours, or even 20 hours, this is a FAR CRY from Palm's, Windows' and even Zaurus' 3-4 WEEKS of sleep.

I am sorry, but having no real standby, is the single biggest problem this device has. It is almost outrageous having to think about it. Having "advanced run-time power management" says nothing to me if it can't go to sleep and wake up instantly. Rebooting all the time is just not acceptable.

I'm talking about days. I've never had a PocketPC device last a week when suspended, but if you'd like I can go and charge one up now, leave it with the 770 and see when they die?

>I'm talking about days.

Might have been because i used the device in the meantime a tiny bit (I only got the device on loan for about week anyway so I spent Thursday testing its standby battery life and used it very-very little on that day).

>I've never had a PocketPC device last a week when suspended

My brother's Dell Axim X5 lasts about 4 weeks (1440 mAh). My Dell x50v does about 3 weeks (1100 mAh). My iPaq rx3115 can do about 2 weeks as it has a considerably smaller battery than the other two (920 mAh).

The Zaurus SL-5500 I sent to the Netherlands and took more than 3 weeks to arrive because of a complication in the declaration office there, it was alive and well and it arrived, hadn't lost anything in its RAM (920 mAh too).

The Nokia 770 has a 1500 mAh battery in it, and it can't compete with any of the above PDAs. Whatever you say, I stay put on my opinion: Nokia must implement a true suspend system. 7 hours or 7 days, is just too little when it's compared to the competition.

Firstly, 7 days is somewhat different to 7 hours. One is usable. The other is useless (if my working day is 8 hours, I'm not going to be able to charge it before it runs out). Secondly, as you said, it's designed with a different market in mind. It's a device that's meant to complement a phone. Its standby time is similar. Charging your phone? Charge the 770 at the same time.

If the 770 was supposed to be competing with PDAs, it would have a cradle. It would ship with synchronisation software. It would have a diary. But it's not, and it doesn't. It's not too little when it's compared to the competition, because right now there isn't any competition. It's possible that there never will be, and the entire thing will be a failure. But, realistically, nobody is going to be basing their purchasing decision on whether they can leave it unplugged for 3 weeks and still have some charge when they come back.

(Something of an important point when compared to PocketPC hardware - applications get installed into flash and not RAM. Data gets saved into flash and not RAM. Running the battery all the way down loses the webpage that you're on, not the next 6 weeks of appointments and all your phone numbers.)

I have this device and the only thing treakie about suspend is that it is somehow weird not to power down the device when you dont need it.

But battery lasts a week and when you open up the protector the system is there immediatly.

Power is NOT a problem with the device.

If you are going to be 3 weeks without using it, then it makes sense for me to power it down!!

The killing aplications for me are:

* A great Kontact/Evolution-GPEPIM sync environment?
* A working mplayer/xine/vlc so we can play everything we want with the machine.
* BlueZ output speakers so we can use it as a jukebox for our cars.

The comunity and Nokia implication will tell.


from the screenshots I see you have installed statusbar applets - these can be real battery swallowers, as if they are not PM friendly, they will be running all the time.. The device is easily cable of living 7 days in suspend. Ofcourse, it is kind if platforms fault that it does not survive with powerdraining apps.

Also you CPU comments show your lack of insight, 406Mhz Xscale is slow. Havent you learned that Mhz does not mean ANYTHING from the PC world?? The problem for video playback is the screen resolution (800x480), which needs a lot more bandwidth than a qvga display of pda.. - it needs more memory bandwith to move 800x480x30fps...

And worst of all, you complain about lack of propiertary media formats (Flash, WMV, MOV), and endorse SD (the only thing SD has more than MMC is DRM), and you call yourself "tux":tops.

I am sorry my friend, but if someone lacks insight, that's you.

>statusbar applets - these can be real battery
>swallowers, as if they are not PM friendly

I don't believe this to be true, but if it is true, then it is not my problem. People create applications so others can use them. And these other people are using these applications because they need them. And I needed third party applications both for my personal needs and for the needs of the review (to take screenshots). IF these third party applications misbehave, then the SYSTEM or the default API must find a way to make them not misbehave. If ALL third party apps misbehave as you claim, then the PLATFORM sucks. So, make up your mind and see the whole thing from the USER'S POINT OF VIEW, and not the zealot's.

>406Mhz Xscale is slow.

No, it is not. First of all, I said 416 Mhz, not 406. The latest model of XScale 416 Mhz is a good choice.

>you complain about lack of propiertary media formats (Flash, WMV, MOV)

Of course I do. I am a user, not a Free Software fanatic. I want a MODERN machine, not one that doesn't offer features that a RANDOM user would expect! Remember, Nokia doesn't care selling only to Linux zealots, but also to RANDOM people who have EXPECTATIONS.

>and endorse SD (the only thing SD has more than MMC is DRM)

You are wrong. The reason I asked for SD is because it can be found for 2 or 4 GBs for HALF THE PRICE the MMC do. I didn't even know (or care) that it had DRM. That was not the reason I suggested it.

> and you call yourself "tux":tops.

Read above. You ACCUSED ME unfairly. You drew your OWN CONCLUSIONS about the SD thing.

As for calling this site TuxTops it's because it has an incline towards Linux embedded news. But it's not only about Linux. You are mistaken this site for

> The latest model of XScale 416 Mhz is a good choice.

It's not the latest and it is not a good choice. Xscale came out in as 400Mhz model, and it was a massive disapointment - a 400Mhz Xscale model lost to a 206 Mhz StrongARM in multimedia performance.. Later Xscales with double memory bandwidth and 624Mhz clock are somewhat better - at a expense of batter life..

Need more evidence? Find out what powers most Portable Video Players with Hard drive? a TI DM320 or TI DM270 - Which are essentially very similar to the OMAP 1710 on the 770. Intel is good at marketing, but not at Arm cpu's..

You are right about the random people expectation, but what inclines you towards embedded Linux if not freedom? Propiertary (and patented) codecs and DRM have good chances of ending the embedded (and desktop) Linux story.

>but what inclines you towards embedded Linux if not freedom?

The geek factor. I am a geek through and through and I have a pile and stacks of gadgets.

I am not interested in the philosophical crap about software, I am interested in the software and hardware itself and its abilities to please me. If it runs Linux, or Windows, or OSX or whatever else, is of a secondary importance to me. What matters to me, is the product to work as it is expected to be.

And when I review products for big companies, like Nokia in this case, I take the stance of a "random consumer". What a random consumer would expect from such a device? Does the device deliver it? And I review accordingly.

actually there is a built-in mic

TI's website lists the 770's OMAP 1710 processor at a maximum 220MHz. Is Nokia overclocking this thing?

1. What sort of storage device does it have?

2. Are the kernel sources for this available or is vanilla good enough to use?


3. Whats happens when you configure suspend to disk or patch the kernel with suspend2?

... Just wondering

If you have to start tweaking kernels to get the thing to stop eating power, I would say there's more broken here than meets the eye, forget about this model and wait for version 2.

I think the article was fair and I loved the polite phrase "It irks me". Sure, maybe the article didn't show off all the capabilities of the device but it is a Linux powered device and therefore very configurable so the list could be long and never finished :-)

A portable device that needs constant tethering to a power socket is not portable. And 55secs to boot ! for the love of .... Fix the power, I can live with the boot delays.

This is from the Maemo blog ( ):

"Given that 'sleep' isn’t sleep at all, but merely 'turn off the display and break WiFi and Bluetooth connections'..."

So, there is really no "real" sleep/suspend on the device, whatever the fanatics say about it over here. It's sad that there are still people around here who dispute that!

One of the above Anony-mouse's stated:
"So, there is really no "real" sleep/suspend on the device, whatever the fanatics say about it over here. It's sad that there are still people around here who dispute that!"

Cheer up, mine sleeps just fine for days and days. A tap to the screen brings it back instantly. But if you put the cover on while it is playing audio from flash, the audio continues to play with a dark screen on the assumption that you are going to stuff it into your pocket and go jogging or something.

There may well be other apps that keep it from going to sleep. The current software is not without its bugs, as Nokia freely admits. But even in its current state, there is nothing that can touch it as a shirt pocket web browser. The hardware may never be any good at displaying video, but I have no complaints about performance given the size and price. Speed and memory compare well with a desktop from the late 1990's.

I bet it's been mostly geeks with unix exposure who have bought out the stores over this first month, much to the surprise of many at Nokia. Using it as an X terminal via WiFi and SSH into the workstations at my job has wow'ed everyone who's seen it. Source for the kernel and many apps can be found at With python installed and my ThinkOutside bluetooth keyboard, I can even script up my own multimedia apps directly on the device.

Eugenia stated:
"IF these third party applications misbehave, then the SYSTEM or the default API must find a way to make them not misbehave."

I disagree here. Nokia is caught between protecting the user from errors in third party applications and allowing innovative applications to run. I prefer maximum flexibility, users expecting no surprises can choose to install nothing beyond what Nokia provides. Regardless, the way Nokia has locked root access down should prevent anything really serious from happening.

This is one of the most informative reviews I've seen of the '770. Lots of detail, and Eugenia does get the big picture. Nokia has plenty of bugs to squish. But the hardware is solid, and nothing can compete for those wanting a pocket web browser.


Can this device run a bash shell? can it be used for pen testing?

Have to agree. Not disputing sleep mode, just the silliness of the argument. Mine seems to last about a week like this (suspended) -- and that includes some useage. Just close the cover and walk away. Start-up is instant. I think the power useage of this was poorly tested in the review and this is a non-issue. No, it's not 3 weeks or a month, but this isn't a PDA -- so I think it's unfair to compare on this aspect. A weeks useage from a high-res monitor with blutooth and wifi radio? Not bad, I think. Nokia also states in the instructions full battery life may not be achieved until after several charge/discharge cycles.
Also, data is not lost on power loss.
I love the power management on this device -- it seems very intuitive. I think if you're getting 7 hours per charge their is something seriously wrong with your 770.

Agreed. This is due to a bad review on powerconsumption. I have no problem whatsoever with it's powerconsumption myself.