Nokia N1 review – hands on

MWC 2015 was the moment we finally managed to get our hands on the Nokia N1 tablet. The Android 5 Lollipop device was launched in China at the beginning of January, and promptly sold out in 4 minutes, so it looks like there’s still appetite for Nokia-branded goods in the consumer electronics market.

The N1 is a 7.9in tablet with a 2,048×1,536 display. The screen has a 4:3 aspect ratio, like the iPad, and the entire tablet is rather Apple-like. This certainly works in the N1’s favour. The tablet has smooth, rounded metal back and sides, is easy to grip and cool to the touch – it’s a lovely thing to hold, and we prefer it to the plastic Google Nexus 9.

As you’d expect with a screen with that many pixels and a high 324ppi pixel density, text on the N1’s screen is clear and sharp. Whites were clean and blacks dark, too, but the colours looked weak under the show floor’s lighting, without the punch that we’re increasingly used to seeing on modern phones and tablets.

We had no complaints about the N1’s performance, however. Inside is a quad-core Intel z3580e SoC running at 2.33GHz, and Android 5 Lollipop runs beautifully. Menu transitions are smooth and the tablet responds instantly when panning around or zooming in and out of web pages. The N1 completed the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark in 646.4ms, and we saw a strong 19,398 in the 3DMark graphics benchmark.

The N1 has a custom launcher on top of stock Lollipop, called the Z Launcher. This is an interesting spin on navigating Android. The home screen has a grid of your 12 most-used apps, and supports handwriting recognition. If you want to launch an app not already in this grid, you just need to scribble a letter or two and the grid will show you apps that match. Once it no longer has any apps to match what you scribbled on the screen, the rest of the circles in the grid show matching suggested web searches. For example, scribble the letter “m” and the grid will show app icons for Maps, Play Music and Play Movies, followed by web searches for MapQuest, Macy’s and Minecraft.


Scribble a letter on the screen…

We found the system worked very well indeed, recognising every one of our scribbles. We also found it a more intuitive way to navigate Android’s installed programs than scrolling through screens of apps. You can always switch back to the stock Android launcher in the Settings menu if you don’t get on with Nokia’s version.


…and the corresponding apps and web searches appear

We’re very impressed with the Nokia N1. We like the build quality, the performance and the innovative launcher; the only downside was the screen’s slightly lacklustre colours. In China the tablet is on sale for the equivalent of $260 (around £170); if the tablet makes it to the UK at that price in the near future, we’d like to snap one up. 

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