Nokia Internet Tablet Competitors


To start, I will briefly cover what these Internet Tablet devices are: They are small Linux boxes running a 2.6 kernel, an OMAP ARM processor, they have WiFi, Bluetooth, expansion slots and little internal storage. On the software side, the 770 comes with Opera 7 and Flash 6, the N800 with Opera 8 and Flash 9. Both can also run a version of the Mozilla rendering engine used by Firefox called MicroB. As seems to be a recurring theme, Nokia seems to be trying to migrate away from Opera to Mozilla, as Mozilla provides a more complete, if less optimized browsing experience and opens these devices up to use with the most complex AJAX-driven websites such as Google Docs and Hotmail.

The recently announced N810 adds a new version of the OS (IT OS2008) that will be installable on the N800.  It is rumored that the new N800 firmware will clock the CPU up to 400MHz, which ought to improve video playback considerably.  The new OS also replaces Opera with a Mozilla-based browser.  While MicroB on the N800 is a bit slower than Opera, reports indicate that the browser in the new OS is faster than Opera on IT OS 2007.  The N810 also includes a slide-out keyboard, an integrated GPS, smaller size, 2GB of on-board storage but less expansion options.


Asus EeePC ($399 at release, price expected to drop)

While the Asus EeePC is a fantastic subnotebook (especially for the money) it isn't really in the same league as the Nokia Internet Tablet line.  I, for one, have always considered the NITs to be competing against PocketPC, PalmOS and the newer wifi-enabled iPod-based devices, rather than against notebooks.  Even small, inexpensive ones.

Having given the EeePC high praise in the above review, the Nokia Internet Tablets are a far more ambitious project. 2lbs is much heavier than 0.5lbs. The Nokia Internet Tablets are pocketable, while the EeePC is about the size of a student's paper notebook. Having used both, the EeePC is clearly a better general-purpose computer, but the N800 is an order of magnitude smaller and more interesting form-factor and software-wise. (The EeePC is 9x bulkier, according to this post.)

Software wise, the EeePC doesn't have anything like MaemoMapper, doesn't easily do voice recordings, and doesn't make a very good PDA replacement.  This despite including Kontact on the EeePC.

In the end, the only similarities that the EeePC shares with the Nokia Internet Tablets is that it is Linux-based, in the same price range, and has the same screen resolution.

Archos 605 Touch ($350)

This is a 30GB Personal Media Player (PMP) that has built-in WiFi and can be made into a 80x480 web browser for an additional $30 for an optimized version of Opera and Flash.

This device is similar in size to the 770 and would make a better media player. It has a huge drive and can stream music over uPnP like the 770 can. From reviews, the browser is very slow. This isn't an open-ended device like the 770, though. No email, no apps, no text editing unless it all works through the Opera browser.

This is a very cool, media-centric device that probably offers a comparable browsing experience. It is not, however, trying to be a full-blown pocketable PC. It is a closed system and is limited by this.

iPod Touch

Like the Archos, if you're primarily looking for a media player, the iPod Touch is probably a better option than the Nokia Internet Tablet. However, also like the Archos, the Touch is a closed device with very limited options. Yes, it has WiFI, yes it has a full browser (Safari does as least as well as Opera at rendering pages) but it doesn't do Flash, can't do email, IM, file browse, word process or any of the other things that the Nokia Internet Tablets do.  It also lacks Bluetooth, making an external keyboard impossible.

Other UMPCs

Microsoft and Intel recently launched an Ultra Mobile PC initiative (UMPC.) These systems are about the same size as the Nokia Internet Tablet and offer full Intel systems. They are real PCs running Windows and MS Office. As a result, they have almost infinite flexibility. However, UMPC sales have been flat. This is primarily because of three things: Price, performance and usability. UMPCs are expensive, as in $900 (Asus) to $3000 (Sony) expensive. Performance is also usually below expectations, as Intel has to use slower CPUs to provide decent battery life and a small form-factor. Having used an Asus UMPC, the Nokia 770 running at 250MHz feels faster for most tasks than the UMPC running Vista. On the usability side, they are machines running rather unoptimized versions of Windows Vista. This sounds great, except the screen resolution is often the same as the Nokia Internet Tablets, 800x480. This makes for a very cramped UI, as the entire system hasn't been built around these small screens. Full desktop Linux would be pretty much useless on a Nokia Internet Tablet. You can draw your own conclusions from here.