After the disappointment that was the Nokia N97, the N97 mini looked like a strange possibility. It is after all a "cut-down" version of the N97 with a smaller screen, smaller dimensions and lesser internal storage among others. However, the mini comes with a better optimized UI and is Rs. 6,000 (US$129) cheaper than its predecessor and is a very good product.
Irrespective of the "mini" tag, the N97 mini is still a high-end product. As a result, I did not feel that it left anything wanting in terms of features. Connectivity options are especially well taken care of thanks to the phone's support for both Wi-Fi and 3G. Also, it supports GPS and comes with the excellent and now free Nokia Ovi Maps. The mini has a 3.2-inch resistive touchscreen, smaller than the N97's 3.5-inch screen. However, the resolution stays the same at 360x640 and so does the color output at 16M colors. The N97 mini also has a similar 5MP camera with an LED flash but unlike the N97 there is no lens cover.
The N97 mini also uses the Symbian v9.4 S60 v5 OS that the N97 used. This means we get the same solitary homescreen that can be customized with up to five widgets. This does seem quite less as compared to what other phones nowadays offer. However, the mini also comes with a huge number of pre-installed apps and it also allows access to Nokia's Ovi store which itself has grown up to encompass thousands of apps. However, I thought the store had a lot more ground to cover as compared to the Apple app store and even Google's Android Market in terms of completely free apps that are still useful.
The N97 mini also comes with 8GB of internal storage as compared to N97's 32GB but that storage is expandable to 16GB using the microSD slot. There is also a three row hardware QWERTY keyboard and a bunch of hardware buttons to aid in using the phone.
Design & Usability
At the very outset let me mention that my first impressions with the mini were much better than with the N97. The mini is sleeker and smaller but it also has a superb build quality. The phone uses the right amount of plastic and metal and is one of the very few slider phones with a near-perfect build.
Although the mini's 3.2-inch screen might be smaller than other high-end phones, it is still quite good looking. It might not be AMOLED but it is still good to look at. Plus, it also holds its own even under direct sunlight.
The N97 mini still uses the same OS as the N97 and as a result there are plenty of little kinks and issues with it. However, it is definitely a much better and usable affair. First, the mini has kinetic scrolling which means that scrolling through lists and menus is smoother. Second, the Symbian OS sports a simple to use design that will be instantly familiar to users who are familiar with older Nokia phones. There is still plenty to diss about the phone's UI though. The inconsistent UI remains and inexplicably starting an application still requires a double tap. Also, although I was thankful for kinetic scrolling, the movement was nowhere as smooth as the one I had seen in other phones. The N97 mini also uses a full QWERTY keyboard like the N97 and it is a pleasure to use. The keys are placed perfectly and are easy to use.
Since the mini does belong to Nokia's N-series, it's a true multimedia performer. The mini's music playback performance is very good and the sound quality is also excellent. The music player itself might be kind of basic but I can't fault the music playback. Plus, the external speakers are also loud and clear and the in-ear headphones bundled with the phone are among the best I have seen come with a phone. Watching videos on the mini's screen is also good but the player is seriously hampered by the fact that it can't play DivX or XviD files.
The mini's 5MP camera is surprisingly good whether it came to shooting with the flash on or off. The images I shot came out free of noise although there were a couple of indoor shots that looked dull. Shooting in macro mode is excellent and the subjects in focus looked sharp and clear. The camera does forgo a couple of additional features though such as smile detection and face tracking. Also, the video recording isn't too good and the videos look too compressed.
The N97 mini might be a cut-down version of the N97, but no way does that deter it from becoming a very good product. Plus, at Rs. 23,300, it is at least Rs. 6,000 cheaper than its bigger brother. Couple that with its very good design and multimedia performance and we have an impressive product from Nokia's stables.