InfoWorld: 770 is an ugly duckling
Wednesday January 04th 2006, 2:12 am Category: Nokia 770 reviews

Now that 770 has arrived and shipping, the reviewers are taking a more critical look at the device. Neil McAllister from InfoWorld points out that while the Linux geeks might love it, the general public is likely to question the performance and capabilities at this price tag:

Geeks who have seen this device often fall in love with it, so much so that it’s been heavily back-ordered since its release. Unfortunately, however, the Nokia 770 is a disaster as a consumer product. Although designing it to do very few things was a shrewd move, sadly it doesn’t do any of them well. Opening a single browser window taxes the device’s limited resources; open the bookmarks window too and you’re likely to get an “out of memory” error. Complex pages can crash it altogether.

27 Comments so far

I’ve had my 770 for two weeks now, and not once has it crashed or given an “out of memory” error, even with multiple browser windows open. Am I doing something wrong?

I may fall solidly on the “Linux geek” side if the fence, and I certianly would have liked more RAM, a faster CPU, etc., but most often I use it as a simple internet tablet, and have had no problems with it’s performance.

I guess I don’t believe that a “general public” consumer would expect desktop performance from a tiny internet tablet. Sure you can get more capable internat tablets, but at what cost and size? While software can certianly use some refinement, I find the hardware (esp. screen) packed in this device hardly bigger than a wallet to be well worth $350, geek factor aside.

On another thought, I think you could probably call the entire internet tablet idea an ugly duckling, considering the overall market performance of such devices.

Comment by Jerry 01.04.06 @ 5:00 am

The windows CE internet browser is lame…. the 770 with hardware zoom buttons is far superior… you can actuall read real web pages.

Comment by Eric 01.04.06 @ 5:13 am

I agree, we need a nokia 771 to fix some of the short comings of the original. But I am a nerd and I like almost everything about my 770. Its amazing. But I just updated the software from nokia’s website and I cant view gmail any more unless I use basic mode or which is annoying. Oh well software fixes everything and I am just waiting for a minimo deb. Also enabling swap really speeds up this little guy.

Comment by Daryl 01.04.06 @ 11:16 am

After some playing around with mine I personally think that the speed problem is maemo. I’ve used OpenZaurus (OPIE) on the Sharp Zarus 5000D which has half the memory of the 770. And QT Embedded is much faster than maemo. I’ve also used the Agenda VR3 + fltk. And that is a handheld with a 66MHz MIPS + 16 MB of memory. And it is faster.

I’ve compiled solitaire and freecell from the Ace of Penguins card games ( ) for the 770. They are pure X11 applications and each are under 80K in size. On my 770 they are up and running as fast as I take my stylus off the screen.

I don’t know if maemo can be sped up or if developers should try a different approach. flpda like the Agenda or QT like the zarus or GPE from openembedded.

- mark

Comment by arrasmith 01.05.06 @ 2:39 am

Regarding the article… the original Macintosh came with 128K of RAM, a 9″ monochrome screen, and a 400k floppy drive. It ran one program at a time (with the exception of desk accessories, which had severe resource limits), and those programs were pretty limited themselves; MacPaint could edit only one page at a time, at only 72 dpi. Startup was a 15 second wait. And, as we all know, because of these limitations, the Mac product line died a quick death.

Sarcasm aside, it’s the first version’s job to suck; by getting it out there in front of everyone, all the flaws are exposed, which is the first step towards fixing them.

Regarding speed, the mantra is usually, “Make it work, then make it work right, then make it work fast,” and in today’s business model things tend to get shipped before that last step is done. That said, there may be some way to run top or gprof or something to figure out where all the CPU time is going.

Comment by Mike DeSimone 01.05.06 @ 2:59 am

How would I go about enabling swap?

Comment by Vikram Chawa 01.05.06 @ 5:48 am

The 770 has many things going for it, including:
> standard, replaceable cell-phone battery;
> highly extensible debian linux OS;
> built-in wi-fi to obviate a subscription to a cell-phone account for connectivity;
> full-on Opera browser capable of rendering any web-page your desktop can;
> intuitive keyboard tool with learning and auto-complete.

I have had this device for a few weeks and have not had any out of memory conditions as described by some. I think it goes without saying that one needs to be mindful of how many applications one attempts to use simultaneously on any hand-held device with limited memory. Nonetheless, I’ve had no trouble at all using at least any two applications at once. Why would one need to “use” more than that at once, anyway? The RSS newfeeds functionality works excellent; the PIM suite of Calendar, Contacts, and the To Do list features works moderately okay, although I did encounter some pop-up window focus bugs with deleting entries from the Calendar (which is downloaded from maemo, btw, and not native to the 770), leading me to not use the Calendar as much as I do the To Do list feature, which for me does all I need it to do. For $349-$379, it’s hard to see how something like this could not be seen as a well implemented, first-cut edition of an eight-ounce device that browses the web and connects to corporate exchange servers for *free* (when using free wi-fi hotspots).

Comment by Nick Gottuso 01.06.06 @ 12:18 am

Despite its obligatory nods to the open-source world, Infoworld is a Windows-centric publication. If it were Windows-based the 770 could stink on ice and still be great in their eyes. Yes, the 770 is capable of improvement, but it’s a new product in a new product category, and already light years ahead of any competitor, no matter what operating system it uses. At this point, “good enough” is more than adequate.

Comment by Gary 01.06.06 @ 6:14 pm

Gary, it’s not true that InfoWorld is a Windows-centric publication. That is, it’s no more Windows-centric than we live in a Windows-centric world; take it as you will. Most of us on the edit staff have no particular undying love for Microsoft. It just so happens that 99 percent of our readership — IT workers in businesses — are using Microsoft products. That said, a great many of those “obligatory nods” to open source you talk about are my doing — so it’s not out of anti-open source bias that I knock the 770. I just wish it were a little better than it is.

As for the 770 being an entirely new product category, though… Nokia keeps saying so, but I’m not totally sure I buy it. We’ve seen lots of products like this one before. We call them PDAs. Nokia gave this PDA a better screen than any of the others we’ve seen so far, but it left out the most important part: the PDA software. Thus, we’re all left guessing what to use it for. Personally, I suspect I’ll end up using mine for some light Web browsing and FBReader more than anything else. If I ever get around to it I’m going to try to write a simple CBR/CBZ reader for it, and see how well that flies. Otherwise, I haven’t found too many functions that I’d actually want to count on the 770 for. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Comment by Neil McAllister 01.07.06 @ 2:20 pm

Like we need yet another review…. anyway, I wrote a 6 page review for my user’s group and posted it here for now:

Comment by MD 01.08.06 @ 10:49 pm

(Try 2)
Like we need yet another review…. anyway, I wrote a 6 page review for my user’s group and posted it here for now:

Comment by MD 01.08.06 @ 10:50 pm

Mark is right. The slowness problem is with maemo. More exactly the toolkit used to create maemo - GTK+. This API is well known for being slow.

Too bad the NOKIA 770 isn’t running QTopia from Trolltech.

Comment by icasty 01.09.06 @ 5:47 am

[…] InfoWorld: 770 is an ugly duckling […]

Pingback by Nokia 770 :: Neil McAllister: Where are useful applications? 01.09.06 @ 7:49 am

Two comments:

1. Why are you trying to make the Nokia 770 into a PDA, the direction is Web Information Manager (WIM), not (PIM)….take the PDA hat off, its a new direction.

2. Memory, we are so used to running bloated operating systems, fat laden software, that we immediately think we need 4 GB of memory…we ok, yes we do :) …but apply the Web Information Manager concept again, and the browser is all we need…

Comment by Don Ware 01.09.06 @ 10:19 am

Neil, you are not getting it… But it’s OK, lots of people are not getting it, but plenty others understand the Nokia 770, and that’s all that really matters!

The 770 is a full blown late 90’s spec computer running a modern full blown OS - it just happens to fit in your pocket, connect to instantly to almost any kind of wireless network, use a memory card instead of a hard drive, feature a 800×480 display that no PDA can even remotely compete with, and run Open Source software, all this for just $350.

Just another PDA - yeah, right :) Nokia has started something new: some of us don’t care about PIM - we care about RSS and the web and about being always connected. Read this, and maybe you’ll understand:

Comment by tnkgrl 01.09.06 @ 12:53 pm

MD: In your review, you say that the 770 uses RS-SD memory instead of RS-MMC.

Comment by Vinh 01.09.06 @ 2:46 pm


Show another PDA that handles web pages remotely as well as the 770. I’ve been thru them all, WM2003, WM5, Palm.

You have to get over the fact that the 770 ISN’T a PDA, its designed to get you online. The Web, mail, and news all work great, and the screen is the best part!

Comment by matthew 01.09.06 @ 3:44 pm

I love my Nokia 700 internet table. It is all I expected it to be. I have had numerous handheld computers in the past and this one blows them away by far. Too many people are comparing this internet tablet to other devices. It is a device unto itsself. I was going to get the Pepper Pad until I stumbled across this on the internet. The Nokia’s wi-fi is totally awesome. I went across the street at work and picked up at least 12 wi-fi signals. I haven’t been able to do this on my other wi-fi devices. I thank Nokia for putting out this marvelous device with all its functionality.

Columbus, Ohio

Comment by Guest 01.10.06 @ 2:04 am

I am (or was) about to get a Nk770 - but the comments so far are giving some concerns. All I’m after is something which will work as a small portable terminal on my home WLAN, giving me the ability to interact with local web pages off my network. So the WiFi and touchscreen seem to be just what I need. Several people have mentioned that there are ‘alternatives’ so, before I commit to buying the Nk770, can anybody say what the other options are please ? Thanks.

Comment by Kevin 01.10.06 @ 4:22 am

This is to Kevin. That is all I wanted the Nokia 770 tablet for to access my e-mail and do internet browsing in another part of the house where I can relax. I have researched all the alternatives out there and the Nokia 770 is the only affordable one with a lot of functionality. All the other alternatives run between $800 and $2,000. I can surf the web on my PSP but it does not have all the functionality that Nokia has and I cannot access my e-mail off my ISP server on it. Do a search on internet tablets on Google’s Froogle site and you will see the other alternatives. I took my Nokia table to a cafe on lunch hour today (free wi-fi place) and checked my e-mail and browsed a few sites. The rest of the people in there had laptop computers plugged into the wall. I didn’t have to plug anything in but just sit there and do my thing with my small internet tablet. There is an advantage to not lugging a laptop computer around. Good luck in what you decide to do.

Columbus, Ohio

Comment by Guest 01.10.06 @ 8:01 am

I had my first great real-world “need” for my 770 this past weekend. I’m looking at getting a small dog now that I have a townhouse, so I went to the library. I wasn’t really finding much in their pets section, so I was able to use my 770 to look up some great sites: took an online quiz for which breeds best suit your needs, as well as checked the local non-kill shelter for pets up for adoption. I did find some good information, but in tandom with some handy searching I got a lot more done in a short amount of time. And then I stuck it back in my jacket pocket…

Comment by David 01.14.06 @ 3:27 am

“it’s not true that InfoWorld is a Windows-centric publication.” - Neil McAllister

Oh really? Look at the top 5 read stories on the front page - two of them are regarding Windows and none have anything to do with Linux or open source.

Its fine that Infoworld is geared totally toward Windows users - but to deny it just makes you look foolish.

Comment by John Adams 01.21.06 @ 8:28 am

“Its fine that Infoworld is geared totally toward Windows users - but to deny it just makes you look foolish.”

I’m a little late to this game, but I really have to take issue with this stance. I’m a Senior Contributing Editor at IW, and I can guarantee you that this isn’t the case. I’m an RHCE, haven’t run Windows as a workstation OS in ten years or so, and do all my writing on either a Linux workstation or my Powerbook.

In fact, the majority of the pieces I’ve written or blog entries at my IW blog have nothing to do with Microsoft, and I’m not alone.

That said, I’m digging my 770.

Comment by Paul Venezia 02.23.06 @ 10:04 pm

The device will come down in price. They always do. The early adopters will work out the bugs for the subsequent wave of everyday users.

The reviewers *should* all know this old-hat stuff. They are jumping the gun with many of the criticisms.

If the 770 doesn’t mature within a year or 2, THEN their complaints will have some validity.

Comment by texrat 02.28.06 @ 12:13 am

It could have been a great device for users and developers alike, but choosing Linux and wasting precious time on this nonsensical ego trip called maemo killed it off instantly. What a pity.

Comment by AC 03.09.06 @ 2:44 am

I’m a Nokia fun, but i have some notice.

770 is beatiful but is leak a gsm/gprs module ( CPU has hardware part for cellular function, and nokia is a communication company ).

Maemo is beatiful but is in hearly stage, compare d with gpe or OpenZaurus( opie ).

I think that Nokian go in wrong way. I’m trying to port a qt application in Maemo , but there are not all information for porting ( some code is not open ) and i’d to rewrite many things , hand use poor documentated framework. I’m not a weekend developer, i’m a business oriented and if i must spend too time to port an application, i think that other have same problem.

The question is, Nokia 770 is a real product, to make business or only a teoric experiment of same people that think to be a purist and no other people can use and make money with his software ideas ?

People love Linux because is open (not only free) you can read and modify source code, uses standard and very useful and documentated library ( like qt and gtk+) and is possible to port application between palmtop to widescreen , services from minidevice to super cluster.
Company would not loose time , to port application to poor framework that is only a loosing time exercise for some little middle time thesis.

Get Up Nokia, because lot people will buy Motorola Linux SmartPhone or ImComsys Linux Phone , with GPS module at some price of N770 .

Comment by Max 05.04.06 @ 6:56 pm

I am a senior citizen and at last am out of the Windows platform. The Nokia 770 is one of the greatest devices in recent times. Wi-fi, PDF reader, open source programs to get my videos loaded and more to come. Shame on all the “bashers” and Bravo to Nokia!!!

Comment by Allie 11.05.06 @ 8:15 am
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