Nokia Corp. via AP
Nokia 770 lets you access the Web wirelessly without the hassle of carrying a heavy laptop.
By Columnist
updated 11/28/2005 5:59:33 PM ET 2005-11-28T22:59:33

The Nokia 770 is not a cell phone, nor a shrunken laptop. Instead, this nifty little handheld tablet computer is designed to do one thing well: Access the Web, anywhere.

That may sound like limited functionality for a gadget in this multi-tasking world, even for one small enough to fit easily into a jacket pocket. But with more and more desktop functions handled online these days, wireless Web access that works is a hot commodity. And the Nokia 770 works extremely well.

Let's start with its size: The Nokia is 5.5 by 3.1 by 0.7 inches and weighs a hair over 8 ounces. The high-resolution touch screen measures 800 by 480 pixels and is capable of reproducing up to 65,536 colors. In actual use, it’s terrific.

Storage is handled by 128MB of internal memory, with a tiny expansion slot that uses the RS-MMC (Reduced Size–MultiMediaCard) format. The 770 comes with a 64MB card, but you can buy these tiny flash cards from the usual places in sizes up to 1GB. The processor is an OMAP 1710 (from Texas Instruments) running at 250 MHz.

Connectivity is handled by your choice of 802.11b/g wireless LAN, Bluetooth (for connecting to the Internet using your Bluetooth-equipped cellular phone), and a USB jack to connect to your PC. There’s also a 3.5mm stereo audio out, for plugging in a set of headphones. The standard battery is a 1500 mAh Lithium-ion device which provides up to 3 hours of browse time and up to 7 days of standby power.

The Linux-based operating system can handle all sorts of files, including some I’ve never heard of: MP2, MP3, MPEG4, AAC, WAV, AMR, JPEG, GIF, B MP, TIFF, PNG, Animated GIF, SVG-tiny, IGO, MPEG1, Real Video, H.263, AVI and 3GP. Nokia is promising an OS upgrade early next year that will add VoIP and instant messaging to the mix.

There are plenty of built-in applications to keep you occupied, including a Web browser, e-mail and news clients, Internet radio, media players, an image viewer, games and more. The multi-lingual interface can be set for American or British English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

That’s more than enough explanation of what it can do — you would probably like to know what it does do. So far, in my testing it does everything it says — and does it pretty well. 

Right out of the box (and after making sure the battery was fully charged) I was able to get the 770 up and running in a few minutes without poring over the instruction booklet.  Built-in basic setting instructions were simple to follow. I found my home Wi-Fi network on a drop-down list (there were more nearby networks available than I’ve ever seen on any other computer device), added my password and was surfing the Web in no time at all.

The 770 is feature rich. After just a few days with the device, I’ll admit that I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what it can do, but so far I’m very impressed.

With my home Wi-Fi connection, the 770 displays Web sites a whole lot better than any other small, handheld devices I've tried. It does a very good job with difficult sites, including feature-rich ones such as MSNBC.  

I’m very pleased with the pop-up keyboard which seems to know to appear on the bottom of the screen every time I need it. Sound quality coming from the 770’s tiny speaker is pretty good. It makes listening to the one programmed radio station very enjoyable.

I hope, in the future, that Nokia decides to program the 770 with more content choices right out of the box. As I just mentioned, there was only one Internet radio station programmed, and a small number of news providers (BBC, Financial Times) for the news reader. I found it necessary to look in the instruction book to figure out how to add more sources.

On the other hand, I brought the 770 with me on a Thanksgiving trip to Europe and I'm really glad I did. While my spiffy new super-duper, wide-screen, connect-to-anything laptop was able to connect to exactly nothing (it found nearby wireless LANs, but I couldn't get my browser or Outlook mail to work), the Nokia 770 did a fantastic job of handling my Web browsing and e-mail needs. As a matter of fact, the 770 found more wireless networks than my wife's new iBook could.

In a week's time I got to love the 770 and appreciate all of its features. In the future I’m considering leaving my laptop at home and just using the Nokia 770 as my very portable tablet computer.  

Nokia is taking orders now for the 770 on its Web site, for delivery in the new year. Price is $360.

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