What I really like about the Nokia 770

Looking at the title you probably think this is a sarcastic joke. I've been a harsh critic of the 770 and more than complained about the Nokia 770's flaws and limitations. If I can't stand it, why I even bother to power it up, let alone use it?

The reason I continue to use my 770 is the bundled browser, Opera. It showcases the best physical feature of the 770, its display. The 770 display is landscape oriented, 4 inches in size and has a resolution of 800 x 480 with 65K colors. It's large enough to easily read web pages, sharp as a tack and the colors are gorgeous. The only other application that comes anywhere close to Opera in quality and usability is, thank goodness, the wireless connection manager.

Let's first start with the wireless connection manager. It has the ability to show every open Wi-Fi access point within range, and allows you to pick any of them to connect to the internet. If the connection needs an access key it will ask for it and save it with the name of the connection. It will remember that connection and allow you to select it for later use. But it gets better than that. You can either select a connection before you open the browser, or you can open the browser and let the connection manager automatically select one of your saved connection points if it finds one near you. This means I can walk into Panera's and just open Google mail, and within about 15 seconds the connection will be established and I'm reading my mail. Connection manager is matched only by the Network Manager found on distributions such as openSuse 10.1, SLED 10, and Ubuntu 6.06 LTS. The ease of wireless connectivity and management matches, if not exceeds, what I've experienced on Windows XP.

Then there's Opera itself. Opera is, in my not so humble opinion, the best browser on the market today. I've been a constant user of Firefox since it's 1.0 days, but Opera on the 770 convinced me to give it a whirl on Windows and Linux. I now use Opera on both and I don't intend to switch back any time soon. One big reason to use Opera on any OS is that Opera is quite efficient in its use of memory. Firefox is a pig when it comes to memory usage. As an example of this, I run SLED 10 for AMD64 on a Boxx system at my work. The system is outfitted with 4GB of DRAM. On more than one occasion I have had to kill Firefox because it had consumed 1.2 GB (and that's not a typo) of system memory. Under 'normal' use it easily consumes between 100-150 MB on just every OS I used to run it on. Since switching to Opera I've not had those issues. I've also noticed that Opera is a lot quicker at rendering pages than Firefox. In short, Opera is a top-notch high quality 'killer' application that make the 770 truly shine in use.

Of course, what good is a browser without content? What do I use Opera for? Let me count the ways.
  1. I use Google Mail to read my mail and mail lists on the go. The 770 isn't good for creating long detailed emails, but I can easily read my mail and make a quick, if brief, response if needed. When I'm back at a regular machine with a keyboard I can write long detailed responses.
  2. I use Google News to aggregate the news. The page is tailored to my tastes and is light-weight so that it renders quickly in Opera. It replaces the screwy RSS feed reader that comes bundled with the 770 OS.
  3. I use The BBC News home page at news.bbc.co.uk, not the 'new' link that comes with the OS 2006 update. I switched it back because, like Google News, it's light weight, renders fast, and it fits nicely on the 770's screen when Opera is full page.
  4. Living in Florida I check the National Hurricane Center. It's light and simple enough such a way that it renders quickly and cleanly whether Opera is in normal mode or full-screen mode.
  5. I read Wired. Wired, while well designed and quick to render, wants to control horizontally how its content is laid out. As a consequence you're forced to scroll horizontally even if Opera is in full-screen mode. However, the articles are on the left and they aren't cut off, so I can ignore the junk on the right as I scroll down the page.
  6. Living in Orlando, just down the road from Kennedy Space Center, I read Spaceflight Now. This is another good, fast site that doesn't fix the horizontal size of the page. It renders as well in normal mode as in full-screen mode.
And the list goes on. In short I have plenty to scan when I can find a connection, either at home or in public. All of the content is static, of course, since the 770 does such a poor job of playing streaming video. And fancy AJAX features don't work well, especially features like drop-down menus that require a mouse fly-over. Some pages don't render, such as Google Calendar, and some pages tell you up front Opera on the 770 isn't supported at all, such as Google Spreadsheets. But there's enough good sites out there that allow me to keep up with the world.

If you want a very light-weight device that has good Wi-Fi management and connection capabilities, and if you can spend 99% of your time in Opera and don't care about any other application, then the Nokia 770 is your ticket. It's certainly far better than any cell phone/PDA I've every used or seen, and it's far lighter and cheaper than a notebook (the problem with notebooks is that you can get cheap, but not light-weight, or you can get very light-weight, but pay dearly for it; and in either case the battery life is still shorter than the 770's).


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