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The Nokia Human Research Department has been experimenting with the Nokia N97, and Experiment #097 saw the birth of the Nokia N97 mini. So let’s take a look and see how the mini differs from its original design and what effects these changes have on the overall experience of using the handset. The first thing you will notice when you pick up the Nokia N97 mini is its size. At 113 x 52.5 x 14.2 mm, the device fits perfectly in the hands, more so than the Nokia N97. The metallic back cover gives the device a very solid feel with no cracks or creaks at all, bringing this N-Series newbie even closer to the solidity of the E-Series range.

Design

I have the black/brown variant, which to be honest isn’t a good combination. The device looks quite dull, and I would advise anyone in the market for one to have a look at the mini in store, before deciding which colour variant to purchase.

Looking head on at the device, we can see the slightly smaller, yet completely capable, 3.2″ widescreen display with a QVGA resolution of 640 x 360 pixels. Above the screen to the right, there is the daylight sensor and front facing secondary camera for video calls with a VGA resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. In the centre is the speaker and on the left is the proximity sensor. Notice that ‘N97 mini’ is not used as the model name, instead it only states ‘N97′ and the Nokia logo on the side of the screen has been removed on the mini. Below the screen lies the menu key along with the send and end keys. All three keys are evenly spaced out across the device, and the menu key doubles up as a notification light, pulsing when any messages or calls have been missed. It has a dotted print on it to allow a more ambient light through, rather than a bright one as on the Nokia N97. The green send key is slightly pale compared to the end key and instead of being dark green, the colour seems to be quite washed out. Maybe the location of the LED underneath has caused this. Finally surrounding the front of the N97 mini is the metallic bezel, which gives the device that sexy look.

Around the back of the device there is the metallic brown battery cover to match the bezel around the front. This however, has a matte finish, compared to the gloss finish around the front. To remove the battery cover the clip is on the side this time and not in the usual centre position. I have given a quick demo removing the cover in the unboxing video posted earlier this week.

The 5 megapixel Carl Zeiss lens from the Nokia N97 is still present, however it is slightly raised and does not have the self-harming lens cover from the Nokia N97. The actual lens is slightly embedded so I wouldn’t see this to be an issue. I kind of prefer the device without the camera shutter as I used to accidentally activate the camera on many occasions when the N97 was in my pockets, which in turn used to drain the battery. The Dual LED’s are no longer directly next to the lens, and have a small break in between. It will be interesting to see if this changes anything because on the Nokia N97 many photographs I took had a bright fade on the left hand side of the image. More on this soon.

Looking around the edges of the device we have the power button at the top, along with the 3.5 mm headphone jack that sports TV-Out compatibility too, one of the key perks of owning an N-Series handset. On the right side of the N97 mini is the volume rocker and the dedicated camera key, which has a great feel to it by the way. On the left are the two stereo speakers in the corners, a MicroUSB port for synchronizing and charging your handset and the key lock switch, or should I say screen lock. The MicroUSB port has a small notification light as on the N97 to notify you when it is or has stopped charging. At the bottom you will find nothing but the tiny hole in the corner for the wrist strap.

Slider

The slider of the Nokia N97 min feels much better compared to the N97. The ‘thud’ when opening the slider is more pronounced and generally feels more solid. The angle of the screen is slightly smaller than the N97 as you can see in the image above. I like it, and I think it’s more suitable to use at this angle. However the screen angle does have its downsides. When the device is placed on a desk or table the viewing angle is not as great as on the N97, and you have to be sat upright to actually see the screen, no slouching!

Other than that, there is a noise coming from the device when you shake it while the screen is closed. If the screen is open the noise disappears. Sounds like something is loose inside, could be the ridiculous SIM card holder, but not too sure. Any ideas?

Keyboard

The N97 mini brings the new revamped keyboard, which I feel is a great improvement on that of the Nokia N97. The useless D-pad has been removed and replaced with some very useful arrow keys, as on a real keyboard, and has meant that the sym and function keys had to be thrown over to the left, which is perfect. The comma now has its own key and a few function keys have been remapped. The top two rows have moved one space to the right, which after a day or two is easy to adjust to. One issue I have, which I have stressed on many occasions, is the lack of a ctrl key. Although copy and paste has been made easy with a long press of the shift key, there are still many other shortcuts I like to use the ctrl key for. The sym key could have easily been used as a ctrl key because I still haven’t found the need to use this key yet. The usability of the keyboard has improved compared to the Nokia N97. There is more physical travel from the keys, and the fact that the N97 mini has a metallic back cover means that there is no longer a creaking noises coming from it when typing, like on the N97.

Issues

A major problem I have been having is when the device is sat on a desk. Despite the small tilt angle, with the N97 there were times when I used the keypad as I would on a laptop, and got in to the habit of placing the device on the desk or table to type longer messages and emails. This is not possible on the N97 mini because the camera module on the back is slightly raised and off centered, so the device does not sit completely flat. Therefore pressing the space bar or any of the bottom row keys, causes the device to annoyingly wobble. This may not be a problem for everyone but it certainly is for me and a few others I have spoken to.

That’s all for now, I will bring more coverage on this device soon so stay tuned. If you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to http://thenokiareview.com/feed/ so you don’t miss out.

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