Nokia n810 Internet Tablet Review

April 26th, 2008

A while back I tested the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet. I wasn’t impressed. It was slow and clunky. Since then, Nokia announced the n800 followed by the n810 and the n810 WiMax Edition. Based on my experiences with the 770 Internet Tablet, I didn’t pay much attention to these new devices. Still, one day I was bored so I thought I’d give Nokia’s Internet Tablet another try. Boy, have things changed…

When I first took the n810 out of its box I was surprised at its heft. This is a good thing. I also found the design to be very stylish. The last Internet Tablet that I tried was the 770. While the 770 wasn’t cheap feeling it reminded me of a calculator (it was probably it’s screen cover). The n810 on the other hand feels sleek. Let’s take a tour:

On the top there is a maximize, volume and power buttons along with a hold switch and the stylus silo.

The right side has the right speaker, 3.5mm headphone jack, Nokia charging port and a micro USB port. You can’t charge the n810 via the micro USB port. The left has the left speaker.

Along the bottom there’s the battery cover release latch and MiniSD slot. Too bad they couldn’t stick 2 Micro SD slots there instead. The bottom is partially covered by the built-in stand which you use hold the n810 up when it’ sitting on your desk. It can hold itself at three different viewing angles.

The front has a status LED, photo sensor, (so the n810 can adjust the backlight depending on ambient lighting conditions), camera, task switcher and a back button. The sleek design is ruined by a really chintzy stylus that’s stored in the top right. You pull it out horizontally.

Size wise the n810 has a similar footprint to the Nintendo DS lite but the n810 is much thinner.

With one exception I thought the keyboard had a decent layout and the keys are very slightly domed (it’s hard to tell since they look flat. From an ergonomic standpoint it would have been nicer if they were more domed. The keyboard keys have a decent feel to them.

Notice how there are two shift keys – Nice! There’s also a Ctrl key. I wish there was a delete key and an ESC key (great for VI). Luckily the terminal app has an on screen ESC key.

For some reason Nokia put the navigation pad on the left side of the keyboard. It makes the n810 really unintuitive to use since every other keyboard I’ve encountered has the arrow keys on the right side.

The display is a fairly large (for a portable device) 4.13″ LCD with a resolution of 800×480. It’s reflective so sometimes you might run into problems with your reflection. 800 pixels is wide enough that many websites look decent, as opposed to the ‘optimized for your mobile device’ look that you get with narrower displays. 480 doesn’t sound like much but the n810′s UI is such that 480 isn’t as short as it sounds. The maximize button also really helps in this regard.

It’s not the brightest screen I’ve ever seen on a mobile device but it looks fine none-the-less and works awesome in direct sunlight as long as you’re not looking at a black screen. Power is supplied by a 1500mAh battery. You can get 2 or 3 hours of heavy usage (WiFi, surfing the web and remote desktoping) from the n810 and under typical usage you’ll get 3+ easily.

For sound there are two speakers on each side (stereo). They sound decent but they’re very loud. I thought I could watch TV while I was barbecuing but I couldn’t hear the n810 over the veggies I was cooking. In the box you also get a: charger, headphones, micro USB cable, manuals, etc.

You also get a soft leatherette case with a sweet turquoise (blue) lining.


Here’s how you use the n810. The left side of the screen has links to popular programs + running programs. There is a launcher that you access by pressing icon that looks like 4 squares on the left side. The bottom left has a switcher button which brings up a list of windows you currently have open which is useful if have a few web browser windows open plus different emails.

Normally they’re hidden (from view) but you can access program specific menus are accessed by tapping the menu button next to the globe near the top left. You can also access them by pressing the menu button below the nav pad.

There’s a status section that shows screen brightness, system volume, signal (of your WiFi or BT connection) and a battery meter. It doesn’t show the time. There’s room for a couple of extra status icons. I have “load applet” installed which shows the current CPU utilization (which is very important, more on that later), RAM usage and it lets you take screenshots.

You can close programs by tapping the X at the top right of the screen (Ctrl Q usually works too). The minimize icon does just that. For the most part programs always run ‘maximized’. It’s not a big deal but it’s something worth mentioning. When you’re done with it, slide the hold switch so it doesn’t accidentally turn on. By default you get the following programs which are already installed:

  • Map
  • Media player
  • Images
  • Browser
  • RSS Reader
  • Contacts
  • Email
  • Internet Call
  • Chat
  • File manager
  • Calculator
  • Clock
  • Notes
  • PDF reader
  • Sketch
  • Search
  • Control Panel
  • Application manger
  • Backup/Restore
  • Connection manger
  • Chess
  • Blocks
  • Mahjong
  • Marbles

The Mapping software is from Wayfinder. A couple of people expressed interest in the n810 because they figure it’s more flexible than a Garmin or other portable GPS. Indeed the n810 is more flexible but I would still prefer a standalone GPS to the n810 simply because the n810 isn’t easy to use while you’re driving.

Another thing to think about is that the Wayfinder program doesn’t include guidance by default. Guidance is subscription based. A month is 8 euros. If you don’t find Wayfinder useful there’s a free mapping program called “Maemo Mapper” which apparently has free guidance.

There’s a control panel where you can adjust the n810′s settings. I used Media player with Orb mostly. It works well though I’d recommend a bit rate of 320kbps.

The Browser is based on the Gecko browsing engine which is the same engine that Firefox uses. It feels a lot like Firefox. It’s pretty fully featured. It can remember passwords, has support for multiple windows, support for Flash, SSL support (I actually ordered some stuff from Dell using the n810), etc. It also has support for plugins like Ad Block.

The Internet call supports SIP, Google Talk and Jabber. If you don’t like it there are other VOIP programs you can download. Chat supports Jabber. If you want to IM go download Pidgin from

The Email program supports IMAP4 and POP3. It can poll your email server at user specified intervals. One neat feature it has is that you can specify a different SMTP server depending on your connection – neat.

I wasn’t impressed with the Contacts program. It sounds like a fully featured Addressbook but really it’s just for storing email addresses, telephone numbers and Instant messaging handles.

Besides the built-in programs there are links to: Skype, Rhapsody, Gizmo, among others which let you download them from Nokia’s site – awesome!

The programs work fine but a lot of the time I found myself wishing the n810 was faster. Inside the n810 runs Linux. The whole thing is called Maemo, this version is OS2008. Since the n810 runs Linux there is a lot of terrific software avaiable for it. Here’s a small list:

  • Pidgin (IM client that supports:)
  • Various media players (like mplayer)
  • Image viewers
  • Games (Quake, Doom, ScummVM, emulators like mame)
  • Newsreader
  • WiFi utilities
  • USB control
  • Cool stuff (like USB control which lets you connect USB keyboards and USB drives to the n810)
  • OpenSSH
  • VIM
  • MySQL
  • Utilities (disk usage, file managers, screen capture)
  • VPN software (Cisco, OpenVPN)
  • Remote control software (IR control, Media Center controller,
  • Calculators
  • Apache
  • Password manager
  • Perl
  • Themes (if you’re a Star Trek geek there’s a sweet LCARS theme)
  • Sync software (SyncML support)

You can install programs using the built-in package manager. Like other Linux distros you can download package lists to the n810 and then pick and choose what you want to install. I think that if you use Linux a lot, the first thing you should do is install OpenSSH (both the server and client package). That’s what I did.

Once you’ve installed this you can SSH to your n810. It will ask you to assign a root password. Now you can SSH to your n810 – I was drooling once I realized I could do this. It’s also an easy way to become root. Just ssh root@localhost to become root. Be careful, now that you’re root you can really mess things up. Have fun!

The next thing I did was setup OpenVPN so I could access my home network. Generate certificates for the n810 and then copy them to the device. You can use SCP or whatever. Then fire up the terminal, root yourself and then start it /usr/sbin/openvpn /path/to/your/client.ovpn. Once that was working I installed rdesktop. Now I can RDP to my Windows boxes.

Most programs on mobile devices feel like cut down versions of a computer. I feel the n810 is really different in this regard since I feel I don’t have to make many sacrifices when I use it. Many popular Linux programs are available for it and they’re more or less the same. This is just a small taste of what you can do with the n810. Hell, if Nokia would lend me a few 100 or 1000 of these babies along with a load balancer with a few 100 ports I’d like to try hosting HowardForums off of a farm of n810.

One notable program that isn’t available for the n810 is OpenOffice. Hopefully it will have OS2008 support in the future.


I’ve tested a lot of devices so I’m not easily impressed. That said I was really impressed with the the flexiblity of the n810. It’s probably the first small device that I’ve used that I feel could replace a laptop. In fact, since I started using it, I’ve been leaving my laptops at home more – brilliant.

That said, if you don’t use Linux you might not find the n810 that great. I think the amount you’ll enjoy the n810 is proportional to your Linux knowledge. Since the n810 is so computer like, it suffers from the three wants when it comes to computers. More speed, more RAM, more storage. What it needs most is more speed followed by more RAM. You can add Micro SD cards for more storage.

Pricewise it’s hard to say whether the n810 is a good deal or not. At around 400 bucks it’s similar in price to the Asus Eee PC. Yeah they’re totally different devices but they’re both small computers that run Linux. The Eee PC is more powerful which makes it more flexible in that sense but the n810 is much more portable plus it has longer battery life. In the end I’ll probably have both of them but I’ll get the n810 first.

Howard Chui

Entry Filed under: Misc Gadgets

13 Comments Add your own

    WOM World / Nokia »&hellip  |  April 28th, 2008 at 9:44 am

    [...] Howard Chui – we all know him as the man behind Howard Forums – has posted on his site about the test drive he recently took with the N810. [...]

    Scott Janousek  |  April 28th, 2008 at 9:52 am

    1. Is if possible to install apps to external memory? Anyone know? I love the tablet, but it’s silly to not be able to insert an 8GB micro and take advantage of storing apps there … so far I have not found an easy way to do this via UI or hacks … perhaps Nokia would push a firmware update to change this? Nokia, think S60 like where you can choose where to install apps upon installation!

    2. Also, with the included worldmap … the cities are not complete … it does not even have Boston of San Francisco to choose from! Please update the list to reflect all major cities globally. :)

    Howard  |  April 28th, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    I haven’t tried this but is it possible to move the program to your memory card using the command line?

    mv /path/to/program/directory /media/mmc2/new/path

    D Tuazon  |  April 29th, 2008 at 11:21 am

    I’m very happy with the device as a web browser. Its great to have something very light for when out and about. I just wish the email would work for imap. There are other sources that can be down loaded but for linux beginners like myself, things can be a pain.

    I’ve had the device for about two weeks and I’m already getting installation errors and crashing. There are sites dedicated for IT faqs but everyone seems to be far ahead that newbies are at lost when posting inquiries.

    For me, this will take a while to get into.

    The man, the myth, the Ho&hellip  |  April 29th, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    [...] fame, posted his own personal review of the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet. Go check it out over at I have to personally say that this is one of my favorite reviews that I have read thus far. I [...]

    Friend  |  April 30th, 2008 at 4:25 am

    On my russian Nokia N810 blog i’ve posted information that online retailer is offering a discount on the N810 WiMAX, and if you are a new user of google checkout, you can recieve additional bonus.

    So, if you want to buy that device, it is best time to realise your thoughts :)

    Borbulhantes da comunidad&hellip  |  May 7th, 2008 at 7:04 am

    [...] dos Internet Tablets, notada pelo Howard Chui (sim, ele mesmo, o pai do HowardForums) na resenha que ele fez do [...]

    Nokia N810 Review | Best &hellip  |  May 10th, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    [...] Nokia n810 Internet Tablet Review- A while back I tested the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet. I wasn’t impressed. It was slow and clunky. Since then, Nokia announced the n800 followed by the n810 and the n810 WiMax Edition. Based on my experiences with the 770 Internet Tablet, … [...]

    Anthony Barker  |  June 13th, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    You missed three of my favorite apps

    evince for reading pdfs – kills any other phone type device
    fbreader – for reading offline html files and ebooks
    mplayer – for watching offline tv shows

    if price is an issue – look at the n800 – you should be able to pick one up for $200 and change. It supports the new operating system as well as 2 SD cards – I use 16 GB and 4 GB cards – but you could use the 32 GB ones. Note over 4 GB they are a bit slower.

    Cheers and thanks

    totul  |  July 11th, 2008 at 9:28 am

    i like n810 very much. n810 are not abalabl bangladesh.

    johnkzin  |  January 3rd, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    You mention wishing that there was an escape key on the n810.

    There is. The “undo” button on the face of the device, that looks like an arrow curved back in a circle… that undo/go-back functionality is implemented via… Escape :-) It works just fine while using vi. It’s just a little out of the way.

    wendy wong  |  January 23rd, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Hi Howard,

    My question is…am I able to install EXE file/program onto this N810 ?
    I would like to know if I could simply click and play the EXE program on this touch screen LCD just like what I could do on my desktop.



    Ed Grant  |  February 22nd, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Very nice review Howard!

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