The QWERTY keyboard is certainly one of the focal parts of the Nokia N900 hardware. The N900 doesn't open as wide as some other side-sliders we've seen which has reduced the available space for the keys.
That in turn has forced a three-row layout, which means that every key has to serve two or even three symbols. So the Alt and Shift keys will get a lot of use. It's good there is a virtual on-screen numpad so you won't have to dial using the QWERTY keyboard.
The keys themselves are pretty nice to type on. The press feedback and tactility are so good you can achieve pretty great speed. However, the limited space means smaller keys will less spacing in between, so users with large hands are advised to have a hands-on check before splashing the cash.
There are no buttons on the Nokia N900 front panel, just the earpiece, video-call camera, LED status indicator and a couple of sensors on top. Those include an ambient light sensor in charge of adjusting the screen brightness and keyboard backlighting, and a proximity sensor to turn off the display when you hold the handset next to your ear during a call.
The status LED (or notification light as Nokia call it) can be set to blink on a number of different events - incoming email, SMS or instant message as well as missed calls.
The top (if the handset is held in the not so natural portrait mode) hosts one of the speakers along with the microUSB port and the lanyard eyelet.
The other speaker is at the bottom, next to the lock slider, the 3.5mm audio jack and the mouthpiece. The large and a bit cheapish-looking stylus also goes in here.
The left side of Nokia N900 has no controls whatsoever.
On the right you get the volume rocker, the power key and the camera button. The infrared port (!) is also here. A peculiar decision by Nokia is to give the users no control over it and leave it only for remote control applications (so no data transfers).
The back of Nokia N900 hosts the 5 megapixel camera lens and the dual LED flash. They are hidden under a small protective cover which should be more than enough to protect them from getting scratched.
The cover itself is active - automatically launching the camera when you slide it. Once you push it back, you'll exit the camera application.
There's also a kickstand here, which can be extended to allow setting the phone on a flat surface at an angle suitable for watching video. A small magnet takes care of retracting the stand when you're done using it. Neat indeed.
Removing the back panel reveals the microSD card slot (hot-swap enabled) and the 1320 mAh BL-5J battery. Nokia haven't said a word on battery life but judging from our own experience you can count on about a day and a half between charges. At least that's the battery life we got out of it with two hours of web browsing over Wi-Fi, a little less than an hour of telephony and one hour of using the other features. It's not bad we guess but not too impressive either.
The build quality of the Nokia N900 is rock solid. We didn't get to keep the handset long enough to see how it handles wear and tear in the long run, but the smart money are on it turning out pretty sturdy. We didn't hear any creaks or other suspicious noises for the time of our review either.
The slider is smooth enough, especially compared to the bumpy run of the two N97 handsets. The spring is still just a bit too stiff compared to most other sliders out there but the slider locks firmly in both positions. The QWERTY keyboard is near perfect, though let down by the 3-row layout. The N900 is still a very friendly handset that feels solid and secure in the hand and offers a new and exciting touch experience. And our scoop on that is coming up on the following pages.