Nokia sent me a brand new N95!

The display on the N95 I purchased last August was going crazy, blanking out and stuff, so I sent it in for repairs. As instructed, I only sent the phone. No SD card, battery, charger, etc…just the naked unit. Well, they couldn't fix it and sent me a brand new unit in a full retail box with ALL of the accessories! Yup, now I got an extra battery, charger, 1GB microSD, remote control cable, etc. That is beyond good service! Nokia, you've got a customer for life.

I been reading a few horror stories about people sending their units in for the same exact issue and getting the same unit back with the same problems. Guess I'm lucky. 

Additional Tablet PC costs adding up!

 Well, I've been trying to hold back buying additional things for my new LE 1700 Tablet PC, but so far I've racked up the following:

Two new pens – $72. The device basically won't work w/o the pen so just in case I figured I needed a back up. Motion Computing prices them so that a 2nd one is not much more than just one so I got 2.

Bluetooth keyboard $32. This was a must have if this was gonna be my main PC.

4Gb ram – $108. Vista is a memory hog and 2GB seems to be the recommended minimum. It was only $50 more for a full 4 Gigs so… I'm hoping this fixes the full screen video playback sluggishness.

New router – $130. Vista would not connect to my old router.

Total = $342

Oh well. guess I could argue that The router really wasn't just for the LE 1700. Still, I got such a good deal on the unit itself, I shouldn't complain.

Motion Computing LE1700 Tablet PC…Near Perfection.

I’ve always been intriuged by Tablet PCs, particularly the slate (not convertible) type, but since they have never caught on, I’ve been a little skeptical. Well, with my birthday coming up, I decided to treat myself and take a chance. I could only find one slate PC with decent reviews and that was the Motion Computing LE1700.

A PC World review indicated the Core 2 Duo model got very hot and recommended the Core Solo version. With Vista getting such horrid reviews, my initial instinct was to get XP; however, Vista’s Tablet PC features were supposed to be superior to XP, so in the end I got the model with a 1.2GHz Core Sole, 1GB RAM, Vista Business…and crossed my fingers.

I thought I would blog some of my thoughts since I found the various reviews kind of lacking in the actual usability department. I found my questions on how the darn thing works in the real world unanswered. Hopefully, I can answer some of your questions.

* * * * *�

After four days with the device I can uncategorically say, “I love it!” It is everything and more that I thought it would be. The build quality is superb. Solid. The are some videos on YouTube of people dropping this unit several feet (apparently) without problem. Also, the Core Solo CPU gets a little hot, but not unbearably so. It also seems powerful enough to do everyday tasks.

I LOVE the fingerprint recognition feature. I have a rather long
Windows password and not having to type it all the time is wonderful. It even
works with some applications that require a login. Cool! (See the tip
below for best results!) �

The Display

It has a large and bright 1400 x 1050 display that is very easy on the eyes. Most of the time I use it in portrait orientation which is great for web surfing. I do much less scrolling compared to my widescreen laptop with it’s 1280 x 800 resolution screen. It does seem to have an issue with remembering the orientation when booting or returning from standby, but since there is a hard button to change it, it’s not a real big deal. The recent software update was supposed to fix this, but I haven’t seen it work yet. There is an auto-orientation feature, but that just seems to cause me more confusion that it’s worth.

How I Use It

Generally, the bulk of my computer use is web surfing, checking email, and reading RSS feeds. The LE1700 is a dream for these tasks. I’ve even done some light web development, but you really need a keyboard for heavy input chores, like writing this post. Of course, you can add a keyboard, I’m thinking a Bluetooth one would be perfect. Motion Computing offers a nice keyboard that docks the slate in it and another USB version that has a built-in touchpad. Since my regular laptop works fine and isn’t worth that much on eBay, I figured I’ll just hang onto it for those situations where I need to use a keyboard and mouse. You can never have too many computers.

Pen Input

I am basically floored at how accurate the handwriting recognition is. I can often barely read what I wrote and it seems to guess the correct words. I think that’s the trick they use. Instead of trying to figure out each individual character, it guesses the word. In addition to just scribbling out a word or sentence, you can input character by character. This is a good mode for entering usernames and passwords that might mix letters and numbers. There is also a full floating virtual keyboard.

The input panel sits mostly hidden on the edge and appears when you click or mouse over the edge. Although you can dock it to the top or bottom, it doesn’t have a auto-hide feature unfortunately. If you close it when it’s docked, it goes back to a floating panel.�

The writing surface is nice and hard. It feels quite natural to move the pen tip over it. You can move the cursor around without actually touching the screen which takes some getting used to. By default, the pen’s cursor (a small) dot indicates the the position on the screen, but I turned that option off and just use the normal mouse cursor.

The limitation of pen input is quickly found when you need to use the Ctrl or Shift key with mousing, like selecting a range or multiple items. You must press the key on the virtual keyboard, which stays on, and then do the mousing chores. A minor nuisance. I suppose you could reprogram one of the hard buttons, if you really wanted to.

Note that you MUST use the pen for all input. The device does not support touching with your finger. From what I’ve read, Motion was suppose to offer a touch option, but decided not to. Not a big deal I guess, but don’t lose the pen!�

With USB keyboard, Flex dock and DVD+-RW drive.

On a related note, Vista’s speech recognition is very cool. It has
to be very quiet if you use the built in mic, but I imagine it would be
great with a headset. I need to try that.

Connectivity

For some reason, Vista would not give me Internet access when I connected to my D-Link 634M WiFi router, a fairly recent model. It would work, however, with my ancient Linksys WRT54GS. My web search results show that this is a very common problem. I ended up upgrading to a new D-Link DIR-655 with draft N and gigabit switch and it works fine. �

You can get a Sprint wireless broadband card, but I did not get this option.

Battery

I get about 2 hours on the standard battery. You can get a super slim snap-on extended battery which supposedly will add another 3 hours. Since I’m usually near an outlet, I’m passing on this for now since it will add more weight.

Tips

  • If you use Firefox, get the Grab and Drag add-in. This allows you to grab the page and scroll rather reaching for the scroll bar.
  • Go to the Motion Computing downloads section and update all of the software and drivers that need it.
  • By default, the fingerprint scanner will scan two fingers. Your left thumb is the most convenient digit based on the placement of the reader. The other finger I used was my right index. TabletPCBuzz poster alltp posted a great trick. The trick is to fill all 10 fingerprint samples, but just use the same two fingers. This makes your success rate much higher when using the fingerprint reader. I used 8 “fingers” for my thumb and 2 for my index. Scan the repeats using different directions and angles for the best results. (This reminds me of an old joke from Get Smart where the villian argues that his (gold) thumb is a finger.)
  • Get an extra pen. Since the device doesn’t support touch, you’ll be dead without one. I’ll probably remove the tether string once I get my spares.

Can’t dump my N95 for an iPhone

I just love the Safari browser on the iPhone, but I just can't dump my N95. Here are my main reasons:

  1. The N95 has a 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss Optics.
  2. I can teather a PC to the N95 and use it as a modem over Bluetooth. Can't do that with the iPhone.
  3. I can swap the AT&T SIM card to other phones, but can't with iPhone SIM
  4. The N95 can play XVid and Divx videos
  5. The N95 has a cool Podcast app that let's you download podcasts automatically over WiFi. You have to use iTunes and a computer with the iPhone.
  6. The iPhone doesn't handle subscription music services

On the other hand, the iPhone has a great browser. Still, the new Opera browser may equalize things a bit on the N95, but at the same time the iPhone has a much nicer screen. I've considered the iPod Touch, but since that lacks Bluetooth, you are dead if you aren't near WiFi.

 

N95 v20 firmware Podcast app saving problem identified

I love the new Podcast app that comes with the new v20 firmware for the Nokia N95. However, it would sometimes mysteriously start saving the podcasts to the phone memory instead of the memory card. Well, I finally figured this one out. Anytime you connect the USB cable for data transfer and the app is running or runs due to auto-update scheduling, the app will switch the setting to Phone Memory and leave it there.

You can imagine the problems this causes since podcasts are usually very large files. Phone memory fills up pretty fast and you are left scratching your head…”how did the Save To setting change to Phone memory???”  

I did have it set to auto-update every hour, but now I've changed it to update only once a day at 3am. Of course, this doesn't prevent the problem if the Podcast app just happens to be running in the background when I connect the USB cable. Guess I'll just have to try to remember. I don't often use the cable unless I'm transferring large files. It does flash a warning note, but it disappears real fast and you can't really read it if you aren't expecting it.

Kinda dumb. There should be an option that says, “Use Phone memory, if other storage unavailable” or something like that. It should not just assume you want to change the setting. I hope Nokia fixes this. Very annoying.