Category Archives: Gadgets

Nokia 6120 classic Impressions

On Friday night I had the chance to play with a Nokia 6120 classic for 10 minutes or so, and here are my quick impressions.

The 6120 classic is a very small HSDPA Series 60 phone. Basically a very stripped down N95, which is no bad thing. Because of this, I’m going to compare the 6120 classic to my experience of owning an N95.

N95 features missing from the 6120 classic:

  • GPS – GPS is getting better on the N95 with the new Assisted GPS feature. However, it’s still more of a nice to have than an essential feature in my view
  • WiFi – This is a significant loss, but is mitigated by the presence of HSDPA
  • Infra-red port – Not a big issue in 2007
  • TV Output – How many people actually use this in the real world?
  • Micro SDHC card support – 2Gb plain MicroSD in the 6120 classic vs 4Gb SDHC (and maybe higher) in the N95 – See the comments

Important features shared by both phones:

  • HSDPA – Super fast data. You’ll never want to use GPRS ever again. Note that you’re going to need an “unlimited” data package to make proper use of this feature
  • Series 60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 – lovely mobile optimised WebKit browser
  • Bluetooth 2.0 – Fast data transfers, and A2DP for audio
  • Audible hiss on the headphone socket – I’ve heard this on all four N95s I’ve played with, and the 6120 classic was no different. Not a phone for audiophiles
  • A navigation pad – A tiny joystick, as used by many phones, is a deal breaker for me

Other differences

  • Physical size – The 6120 classic is a super small phone. Photos don’t do it justice. It’s very very thin for a candy bar phone. The N95 is like a brick compared to the 6120 classic
  • Button size – The numeric keypad and the nav pad on the 6120 classic are good, but the buttons surrounding the nav pad are a little too small for comfort
  • Build quality – The 6120 classic is very solid, and feels much better made than the N95. Annoying, given the N95 is a lot more expensive. I worry about my N95 being damaged by keys in my pocket, whereas the 6120 classic felt like it would have no such problems
  • Screen size – The 2.0 inch screen on the 6120 classic is noticeably smaller than the N95’s 2.6 inch screen. The small font size in the N95 web browser (which I use) is about the same size as the normal font size on a 6120 classic
  • Camera – The 6120 classic is passable with a 2 megapixel fixed focus camera, and 320×240 video at 15fps. Not a patch on the quality of the N95 though. I took the same photo with both cameras, and the N95 shot was clearly much better
  • Speakers – Both the N95 and 6120 classic have very loud speakers. The only difference is that the N95 is stereo, and the 6120 classic is mono. Given how close the N95 speakers are, this is a very minor point
  • Stealth – No one would ever guess the 6120 classic is a powerful smartphone; it looks just like a standard Series 40 Nokia phone
  • Price – My friend who owns the 6120 classic got it for £29.99 on a £15 a month Three contract (18 months). By way of comparison, an N95 on a £20 T-Mobile contract is £249. That fits with Nokia’s suggested sim free price for a 6120 classic of 260 Euros (£176). I’m not sure if that includes tax, but as a comparison, the N95 sim free is still going for around £450. That’s a huge difference

In summary, the 6120 classic is a seriously impressive phone. I’m not going to swap my N95 for one, but if I was looking to buy an N95 now, I’d struggle to justify it over the 6120 classic. WiFi, GPS, the bigger screen, and the better camera are definitely worth having, but I’m not sure they’re worth £250 extra.

See the All About Symbian 6120 classic Review if you want more detail and photos of the 6120 classic.

My Life in PDAs

Ordered by date acquired, with :

  1. PalmPilot Professional – faulty, so I only had it for a few days
  2. Psion Series 5 – never found a real use for it. Plus it was expensive, and the rubber skin started peeling
  3. Palm V – slim, and beautifully made
  4. Casio EM-500 – starved of RAM, but such a gorgeous screen for its time
  5. Palm IIIxe – Cheap, rugged, lots of RAM
  6. HP Jornada 568 – liked the flip down screen protector
  7. Sony Ericsson P800 – weird but promising. Felt like an alpha product
  8. Handspring Treo 600 – lovely build and software integration. Pity about the voice quality
  9. i-mate JAM – great form factor, but unstable, and poor telephony
  10. Dell Axim X50v – great screen, super fast, dual memory cards. It’s just a little too large
  11. Nokia N95 – see my review

Eleven PDAs in 10 years, and still the search continues for my perfect device 🙂

iPhone Thoughts

I don’t have an iPhone

I have never touched, or even seen a real life iPhone

But based on all the comments out there, I’m going to offer my personal opinion anyway 🙂

At a high level Apple have done an amazing job. It looks like a killer iPod, and the slickest phone I’ve ever seen. But for me, the devil is the detail. Many of the details below come from this great Macworld article and Engadget’s review

Annoying things I could live with:

  • 2 megapixel camera
  • No video recording – a silly omission these days
  • No 3rd party apps
  • No landscape keyboard – hopefully there will be a software fix soon
  • No support for memory cards
  • No Flash support
  • Non-standard headphone socket – what was the point of a non-standard 3.5mm socket?
  • No MMS – this is 2007, not 2003
  • No VOIP – annoying, but understandable
  • No instant messaging – taking things too far in my view
  • No GPS – if Apple add this, please make a good chipset. Fast acquisition really matters on a phone
  • No MP3 ringtones – I want to at least be able to upload MIDI and WAV files. Why should Apple force me into some walled garden? It’s like deciding to stop supporting MP3 music. So much for no DRM Steve

Critical issues:

  • No 3G – needs to be fixed before it arrives in the UK, otherwise the iPhone is dead to me
  • Network restricted – if I can’t have it in the UK on a decent unlimited 3G data tariff (Three, or T-Mobile right now), I’m not interested. Ideally I’d like it sim free. And, yes, I’m prepared to pay a premium. O2, or worse Vodafone, will not be considered unless there are massive changes to their data tariffs
  • Limited bluetooth support; no A2DP or OBEX – this lock really cripples the iPhone for me. I need the ability to transfer files and sync over bluetooth. My N95 is great at this, and it’s a non negotiable feature. A2DP would be nice as well
  • Can’t be used a modem – not acceptable

The good news is that all the issues above are fixable. The question is will Apple fix enough to tempt me away from my N95?

PDA Databases

For those of us who are never satisfied with our current PDA, I can thoroughly recommend the following sites: is Windows Mobile only (no Symbian), but is fantastically comprehensive otherwise. I’ve wasted many hours searching in vain for my perfect PDA.

Steve Litchfield’s 3-Lib hosts a great comparison of all the Series 60 Symbian smartphones. I’d also recommend his Grid comparison (which includes some Windows Mobile devices), and his All About Symbian site for general Symbian news.

Nokia N95 Review

In September 2006, I posted my thoughts about the announcement of Nokia’s N95.

A few weeks ago, I actually bought one, so I thought I’d follow up with my thoughts in my usual format. So you’re aware of my background, I’m coming to the N95 as my first S60 device, having previously used a Samsung D600 phone, paired with a Dell Axim X50v PDA.


  • The build quality isn’t stunning. The slider wobbles a bit for a start. Nowhere near as good as my old D600
  • The screen feels like it would be easily damaged by coins or keys in a pocket. This is in contrast to my D600, which after 18 months of abuse, is still in almost perfect condition
  • For complex PDA work, the N95 really feels like it could use an alternate form of input to the numeric keypad (slideout keyboard or touchscreen)
  • The battery life isn’t great (two days of normal use for me). But to be fair, I didn’t expect anything else
  • The range of software is rubbish compared to Windows Mobile, and having to deal with unsigned apps is a pain
  • My N95 had a loud hiss on the headphone socket, and has just been sent off for replacement. Hopefully I’ll have a replacement soon


  • The connectivity is wonderful. Having 3G, HSDPA, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 2.0 in one device is a revelation. This is the first device where I’ve ever felt properly connected wherever I go
  • The builtin web browser, is the best mobile browser I’ve ever used, with the exception of Opera on my N800. Browsing on my N95 is better than Internet Explorer or Opera on my Dell Axim
  • It’s a very good phone. Not a PDA with some passable phone functionality, but a genuinely impressive phone, with great reception and voice quality
  • The size is just perfect; small enough to never be a burden, yet large enough to make it useful PDA
  • Great quality photos and video from its camera
  • While I had issues with its headset socket, I’m blown away by its speakers. They sound great, and are very loud for a portable device. Obviously they can’t perform miracles, but I’ve happily wandered round my house getting ready to go out, whilst listening the N95 play my favourite MP3s from the pocket of my jeans
  • The N95 uses a nice big d-pad to navigate its menus, rather than the horrid tiny joysticks used on lots of phones (manufacturers: please note that I refuse to buy any phone with a tiny joystick)
  • It syncs beautifully with my iMac over Bluetooth 2.0. Calendar, tasks and contacts all sync across. Who needs an iPhone?
  • Google Maps over 3G is great. If they could just add support for the builtin GPS, it would be almost perfect


It’s far from perfect, but it’s the best smartphone I’ve used yet. I had planned to carry my X50v along with the N95, but so far I’ve been happy to leave the X50v at home. Wikipedia and Google Maps in the pub, and Gmail while queuing at Marks and Spencer are my current killer apps 🙂

And as for the fabled iPhone, I’ll consider it when Apple bring out a 3G version with third party app support, but until then, I’ll be sticking with my N95

T-Mobile web’n’walk (UK)

About a month ago I switched my mobile contract away from O2 to T-Mobile, lured by their web’n’walk data packages, and so far I’m absolutely delighted by the service.

Unitl recently, mobile data in the UK has involved slow speeds (GPRS mostly), high charges, and walled gardens.

Rather, than tying myself into a contract with a branded phone, I went for £7.50 a month sim only deal, with 50 minutes of calls a month, and a one month minimum term (note that I’m not a heavy voice or SMS user). OK, I have to provide my own handset, but the service is cheap, and I don’t have to put up with any carrier branding.

Next I added web’n’walk plus for £12.50 a month. That gives me 3Gb of data (including 3.5G HSDPA), with the only restriction being a ban on VOIP applications.

The experience has been a revelation. I can now get connected almost anywhere I want, without concerns about the cost, and often at very high speed. No problem with connecting via a laptop or my N800.

At long last, the promise of useful 3G connectivity seems to have arrived in the UK.

Apple should release a $449 (£299) Mac mini

As a Mac mini owner, I’ve been left rather cold by all the hype surrounding the Apple TV.

The Apple TV is just a crippled Mac mini, without a full OS X license.

Some of the most useful apps on my Mac mini aren’t available unless you install OS X, and that usually means paying for a new OS X license.

VLC, Safari, Firefox, full iTunes, MacTF, Google Earth, YouTube. All these apps run beautifully on my Core Solo Mac mini, and are far more powerful than Front Row.

There’s also an awful lot to be said for having USB and Firewire ports, so that it’s easy to connect to external devices.

Rather than having people hack their Mac minis, Apple should reintroduce the Core Solo Mac mini, with 40Gb of disk space, and sell it for $449 (£299), exactly halfway between the price of a Core Duo Mac mini and an Apple TV. It’s not as if the hardware inside the Apple TV is going to be significantly cheaper to manufacture, so $449 should be a completely achievable price point.

Until Apple do this, I’d recommend a used Mac mini over a hacked Apple TV.

As a related aside, I’ve discovered that a trackball works much better than a mouse when you’re sitting on a sofa. No more leaning forward to move a mouse round my coffee table. However, the fact that I care about this is pretty damning…

Nokia N800 Review on an N800

Click the image above for a more detailed view, and visit if you want to see how the site pictured (one of my sites) renders in a desktop browser.

With a home bathed in wireless connectivity, a Mac mini in my living room, and a Dell Axim X50v in my pocket, you’d think there would be no room in my life for another device for accessing the Internet. That was probably true, until a Nokia N800 came into my life.

I’ve always like the idea of an instant on web tablet, but an affordable and usable device has never quite made it to market. After a few weeks of living with an N800, I’m pretty impressed, but there’s still some work to be done before it’s a device suitable for non-geeks.

On the face of it, the N800 is just a largish PDA, with an ARM processor, WiFi, Bluetooth, and running an Opera browser. Superficially very similar to my Dell Axim X50v then, but when you use the N800, it could hardly be more different.

As is my usual style, I’d going to describe my thoughts about the N800 through several lists of bullet points.


  • The Price – At £279 in the UK, it’s too expensive. Thankfully I managed to pick mine up off eBay for £232 inc delivery, which was about the right price as far as I’m concerned
  • The Software Quality – It’s patchy. The N800 currently feels like a beta product. A very promising beta, but a beta nonetheless
  • The Size – It’s pocketable, but it’s right at the limit of what you can get away with. For comparison, it’s very similar in size to a Nintendo DS Lite. In fact I’m actually storing mine in a DS Lite case
  • The Screen – It’s just a bit too small to read comfortably for long periods


  • Opera – The browser on the N800 bears no relationship to your average PDA browser. It feels like using desktop Opera on a slow notebook with a small screen. That’s light years ahead of any PDA browser I’ve ever used, and that includes Opera on my VGA Dell Axim
  • Flash and AJAX support – even sites like YouTube and full fat Gmail work decently
  • The Browser Controls – Hardware buttons for fullscreen, zoom in and out, and tab switching. Scroll around web pages just by dragging the page with your stylus. Again, this is so much better than any other PDA browser I have ever used before
  • The Screen – 800×480 is just enough resolution to render mainstream websites properly
  • Great WiFi reception. At least as good as my Inspiron notebook
  • Easy configuration of Bluetooth phones. It was much easier to connect the N800 to my Samsung D600 phone, than connecting to the D600 with my Dell Axim. It even knows about the settings for different mobile carriers around the world
  • Dual SD card support. Much better than any of the new fangled micro cards. And custom kernels support SDHC for cards over 4Gb

Things it’s not great at (yet):

  • It’s not a good organiser – my Axim is much better as an organiser
  • Games or multimedia – again, my Axim has better games and multimedia apps available
  • Surfing the net for more than about 15 minutes – the screen is just too small
  • Writing long emails – not much fun on an onscreen keyboard
  • Browsing late at night – the screen is just too small when your eyes are tired

Things it’s good for:

  • Quick web searches when you can’t be bothered to turn on a computer (Wikipedia and IMDB being favourites of mine)
  • Internet on the move. It’s significantly better than any pocketable device that I’ve ever used. Hopefully I’ll be pairing mine up with a Nokia N95 soon, so I should have access to HSDPA connectivity, which will keep the N800 connected at almost broadband speeds
  • Checking webmail and news

In conclusion, although the N800 is far from perfect, it’s sort of like a beta Blackberry for the web. If that sounds like your sort of thing, it’s definitely worth a look.

Great Pockets

The Great Pockets promo site for the Nokia N95 really hit a nerve with me. As friends will attest, I tend to cram as much technology onto my person as possible.

As soon as the N95 is available for a reasonable price, I’ll be picking one up. I doubt it will stop me stuffing my pockets full of gadgets, but you never know…

The Gadget Show

Just a quick note about The Gadget Show on Channel 5 here in the UK. I’d always avoided it, as techie TV programmes usually end up being complete rubbish. Recently however, I somehow ended up watching The Gadget Show, and I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. The presenters were up-to-date and were giving out genuinely useful advice. It was also refreshing that the prices displayed were realistic Internet prices, rather than irrelevant manufacturer prices.