Nokia Booklet 3G Hands On: Nice Netbook, But How Much?

The Nokia Booklet 3G has touched down on US soil. The mobile phone manufacturer's first laptop is made of sturdy stuff and is mobile broadband/SIM-card friendly. I'd buy one if the price is right. But chances are it's not.

I've got to say for a company that has never made a computer before the Booklet 3G feels pretty darn good. It is made of the stuff MacBooks are made of. That is, a single piece of aluminium. The palm rest and bottom of the system feel a lot like the unibody Apple lappie and overall I'd say it's as solid. Less than an inch thin, the netbook weighs a bit more than average at nearly 1.2kg, but that includes a whopping 16-cell battery that doesn't jut out of the back of the system like a tumour-looking growth. Nokia claims 12 hours of juice. Yeaaah, I will believe that when I test it.

The keyboard is a very pleasant surprise. Like the Toshiba NB205 or MacBook, it has an island style layout where the keys are isolated from one another, but they aren't all plasticky. My fingers loved the soft-coated keys, but it would probably take them a bit of time to get used to the slightly cramped layout.

The Booklet 3G may have an HDMI out port on its left edge but all you have inside is an underpowered 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530 processor. That should handle basic applications and 720p video, but 1080p doesn't stand a chance. Damn you, Nokia, for not including Nvidia Ion graphics! The 120GB hard drive will boot up Windows 7 Home Premium. Happy to see that Nokia didn't include the Starter edition, like most netbook manufacturers are planning to ship, though the Premium version will add to the price. (Side note: This could be why some netbook makers are going to continue with XP.)

Lots of companies are making netbooks, so why the hell would you buy a Nokia? Well, its bundled Nokia services (Ovi, etc.), GPS and hot-swappable SIM slot make it different. Frankly it is the latter that I'm really feeling. Because I can never find a decent public Wi-Fi signal, I could easily pop a SIM into the right side of the netbook while it's running (most netbooks with 3G have their SIM slots hidden behind the battery) and get on a 3G network. Some may opt to buy the netbook when it is subsided by a 3G carrier (AT&T is the rumour) and commit to service contract, but you should also be able to snatch up the thing without one and slip in a SIM from a broadband card or phone. Of course, if you don't have the right all-you-can-eat tethering plan, you might get destroyed by data fees.

The Booklet 3G's success depends heavily on its price tag when it hits Best Buy (it could ultimately end up at other retailers, but the blue shirts are getting it for sure this holiday season). The rumour is that it will be $US600 (most likely unlocked). That is too much for a netbook, even this one. Here is hoping Nokia doesn't hit my wallet in the baby maker and the Booklet 3G isn't just another overpriced netbook. [Nokia]

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