After a Week - Browsing the Web

My Web Browsing Needs and Wants

One of the reasons I bought the N900 was to let me be productive when away from my laptop and give me better "on-the-go" browsing. I really like my E71 but the browser is an abomination. One, the screen is too small. Two, it's not touch capable, and three, it's just not a great implementation of WebKit which is otherwise a great rendering engine.

My "Needs"

Sure. No one "needs" a web browser. But in the relative world of need for an American freelancer I "need" access to a web browser. I need to be able to check client websites and update configurations. The E71 web browser just doesn't do it for me. I need a modern, standards-compliant browser that will show me client's sites as they would appear on a desktop or laptop computer as well as mobile devices.

My Wants

I frequently check prices when I'm out shopping. I try to do as much before I leave the house as possible but sometimes you need to be able to check a price when out. In my case, frequently.

I also like to keep up with friends on twitter, read slashdot, look-up articles and do other leisure-time activities when I'm waiting for clients, children or at the odd train crossing.

Web Browser

The web browser on the N900 is good, very good in fact. That's in no small part due to the decision to use the Gecko layout engine and in fact most of Firefox for the web browser. "Most of Firefox" because it's not a simple install of a compile version of Firefox for the ARM microprocessor. Like all applications on the N900, it has been "Hildonized" to the look and feel of the Maemo Hildon interface. But in terms of rendering it's all Gecko. It's fast and accurate. Every web page I've looked at so far looks just like it does in Firefox on the Mac or Windows. There's no single-column layout like the E71 browser. No mobile-version like some of the cheesy "dumb" phone browsers. This is HTML in all its glory, fully rendered.

Enough hyperbole. It's a good browser.

What the Browser does Well

  • Rendering Web Pages
  • Adobe Flash
  • Double-Tap Zooming
  • Layout
  • Javascript
  • Scrolling
  • Selection
  • Multiple Windows
  • Fullscreen
  • Hardware Zoom Buttons
  • Plugins
  • Settings

Where the N900 Browser Fails

  • No Portrait Mode
  • Screen Refreshing
  • Double Tapping to Zoom Out
  • Scrolling

Conclusions

On the whole I'm happy with the web browser. It's head and shoulders above previous Internet-Tablet browsers as well as the browser in the E71. There is room for improvement but we're not talking orders of magnitude, at least not that I can see. I fully expect we'll see some refinements to the browser. Nokia are working on a major update to Maemo, it's first "service" pack (PR 1.1). No doubt some issues will be resolved and we'll see more refinement to the browser but for now it's quite a piece of work and I'm pleased.

Does it meet my needs? For the most part, yes. I can definitely use it for my "emergency needs" of editing client websites. And I can also use it for my leisure browsing. I'd like to figure out how to drag elements in the interface (/e.g.,/ Drupal menus) and if I could zooming out to work consistently I'd be happy but I can live with the browser for now. And that's enough.