Nokia has also redesigned the slide-out keyboard. This is a good thing as the original N97 version was a bit of a botch job. For example, we hated the D-pad that Nokia added at the right-hand side of the main QWERTY layout as it meant you constantly had to stretch your thumb over it. The keyboard on the Mini does away with this pad and replaces it with standard cursor keys arranged towards the bottom of the main keyboard. But it’s not just the layout that has improved, the new keys are also better as they have a little more travel. That said, they still don’t give as much response as they should and we still found it fairly difficult to type on at speed. The faster we tried to type; the more we felt limited not only by the feel of the keys but also by their doubling up of functions.
As with the new X6, the Mini runs Nokia’s Series 60 5th generation operating system. Next to the likes of the iPhone, Android or Palm operating systems, Series 60 is really starting to show its age. The 5th generation version may have been re-jigged for touch input, but it still seems bolted on over the top rather than properly integrated into the OS as there are too many inconsistencies littered around the user interface. For example, some menus and options require a single tap, while others require a double tap to activate them. Scrolling isn’t as fluid as it is on the iPhone or Android and switching between portrait and landscape mode is slow.
Furthermore, in landscape mode the phone tends to present you with overly large touch boxes on the right of the screen that take up way too much space. And while Nokia has added some home screen widgets for stuff like weather, Facebook and mail, many of them have a slightly unfinished feel. For example, the Facebook widget is quite sluggish to use and didn’t always update properly.
Like the original handset, the Mini has a 5.0-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics. This has a dual LED flash to assist in low light and auto-focus to help you capture sharper shots. However, the lens cover on the original has been removed, so you’ll have to be more careful with it in order to avoid scratches when the phone is tucked away in your pocket. The snapper is actually good by camera phone standards as colours look bright and vivid and detail stands up pretty well when you view shots on a computer monitor. As ever, pictures taken in low light suffer from a lot more graininess, even when the flash is being used, but on the whole the camera is pretty impressive.