Nokia N900 review: A new hope
There are a few games too
There are four preinstalled games on Nokia N900. That doesn't make it a game fury right away but it beats the crap out of Nokia N97 and its grand total of zero preinstalled games.
The first game has already been mentioned in the review. The Blocks games is a version of the good old Tetris that we all love and enjoy, played with the four arrows on the QWERTY keyboard. It does take time getting used to it but after all that's what the first few levels are for.
The chess can be played either directly from the touch screen or with the arrows and the enter key on the keyboard. There are four difficulty levels or you can play against a human opponent. The board is nicely drawn and there are also some sound effects so it might turn out a good time-killer for the fans of the classic games.
Mahjong is another classic where you need to remove matching tiles from the board until you clear it completely. You can only use the touchscreen for that one.
The final title is Marbles where you need to get a given number of marbles in a specific formation with as little moves as possible.
GPS: Ovi Maps will lead the way
Nokia N900 comes with a built-in GPS receiver that we find to be very sensitive. It managed to find our position (although not with perfect accuracy) even indoors, about a meter away from the window. Once you go outside it also gets very accurate and has no problem keeping its satellite lock even in dense urban environments.
The large high-resolution screen sounds like a serious premise for good use as a dedicated navigation unit. But don't get too excited as the preinstalled Ovi maps application doesn't even support voice-guidance at this stage (not even for a fee).
The good thing is that routing and tracking come for free. That means that you can set up a route and follow it in real time, except that you will need to look at the display, and not listen to the instructions. A pretty annoying issue with that mode is its tendency to rotate randomly when you stop at a traffic light. If you haven't checked up in advance you might as well forget which way you were heading and make a wrong turn.
Navigation aside, the NAVTEQ-powered Ovi maps is a pretty decently running app, with relatively smooth panning and quick interface. It offers night mode and landscapes as well as three different map modes - Map, Satellite and Terrain.
Unfortunately, there is no way to customize the route-planning algorithm or indicate any obstacles on the road, such as roadwork.
So as you see the GPS experience delivered by the Nokia N900 greatly depends on your usage. It's by no means one-size-fits-all with all its limitations and you should really think if the things missing matter to you. If they don't - you have yourselves a free app with decent maps for free. If they do however you will have to wait for a 3rd party app to come around.
3rd party applications
The availability of third-party apps is currently among the weaknesses of Nokia N900 and the Maemo 5 platform as a whole. The young platform hasn't yet developed a large enough application base, mainly because it's on the market since only a few days.
It's true that the Nokia N800 and N810 ran on the same OS, but its previous version and as we found out not all applications are compatible with N900, if at all. Even Nokia still haven't released the Ovi store Maemo section. They promise this to happen soon though and it will be a good step forward for the platform.
Installing an application is pretty easy. All you need to do is download an installable file and the application manager launches automatically. It will then guide you through the installation process, which is pretty short in most cases.
The Maemo.org website probably has the largest base of applications for Maemo 5 right now but there are quite a lot of other developers that have a few offerings of their own. Most of the basics are covered so in most cases you are a Google search away from finding the app that you need.
Exactly the large amount of independent developers is what makes us believe that the Maemo 5 has such great potential. With so many devs (and users of course) so enthusiastic about the new platform good things are simply bound to happen.
We also think that Nokia will finally realize that they have struck gold with the Maemo and will put some serious effort into the marketing of the device. That nice price that they are selling it for (a launch price of 600 US dollars Stateside) at launch is a good way to get the device in more people's hands. And once the user-base is secured, the application flood is simply a matter of time.
With the rumors of Nokia throwing a second Maemo 5 device our way getting more and more frequent lately things seem to be getting even better. A QWERTY-less version will certainly have more mass-market appeal than the chunky N900 but its sales will benefit both devices.