The earnest Finns have brought elegant industrial design to the netbook. But can an Atom machine ever be worth £649?
Many have tried to add a bit of class to the ultimately cheap and cheerful netbook. Machines like the Sony Vaio P and Asus N10J have glammed up the cut-price innards with a designer gloss, but so far nothing's quite convinced us that an Atom-based machine can ever be worth more than £350.
That may just change with Nokia's Booklet 3G. At £649 it's an outrageous extravagance for a netbook. But, crikey, it's nice.
Make no mistake, in terms of raw computing power there's no difference at all between this and an Acer Aspire One, which costs less than half the price. The Intel Atom processor handles Windows 7 well, but it's still noticeably sluggish compared to a real laptop and the graphics chip isn't up to games or video.
The only extras you get inside the shell are a 3G modem and Wireless N as standard. But this is from a mobile phone company, so what did you expect?
You might not have expected this: the Booklet is the best netbook currently available, by some margin.
There's a reason the Scandinavian firm is still the most popular phone manufacturer in the world, even though its software is lagging behind iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. That reason is embodied in the design qualities that have gone into the Booklet 3G.
It's small, as a netbook should be, but the tiny keyboard is well spaced out, solid and a pleasure to use. The high-resolution screen is a healthy 10.1in, but the machine is smaller than an Asus Eee PC 901.
The battery life can stretch to eight or nine hours (not quite the advertised 12 hours, but still impressive), and the only piece of preinstalled software is an elegant switcher for controlling the wireless functions. The mousepad is, of course, multitouch.
The Booklet 3G is the perfect example of function defining form. There's no bloatware pre-installed, while its simplicity and purposeful nature make it the most pleasurable netbook to actually use.
Wait for one
As covetable as the Booklet 3G is, though, it's still impossible to justify spending this much on Atom hardware.
Like all great gadgets, you're going to be much better off waiting for a second generation model that's a bit more capable. Think original 2G iPhone versus the 3GS, and put your credit card away for a bit.
That comparison, though, brings us to a rather neat conclusion. If Apple made netbooks, they'd make the Booklet 3G. And if Nokia ever get round to making proper laptops, they'd clean up.
Nokia Booklet 3G review
Beautifully designed and highly covetable, but just too expensive to be a must-have