The N97 packs a modest 128MB of RAM and a healthy 32GB of internal storage. This ample storage capacity may be expanded through the N97's MicroSDHC expansion slot.
I was impressed with the N97's storage options, but was displeased with their implementation.
Specifically, the device offered me the option of installing applications and storing data on either the unit's 128MB of RAM or its 32GB of flash storage. The two storage locations were labeled C: and E:, respectively. The N97 taps the memory in its C: drive not only for storage but as memory for running applications. Several times during my tests, the combination of running applications and C: drive storage added up to annoying out-of-memory prompts.
In most cases, I was able to set the N97 to use its large E: drive by default, but I had to spelunk through various different menu structures throughout the device to make these configuration changes. I would have preferred that the N97 use the 32GB of storage automatically. It's possible, however, that this C:/E: division serves some backward-compatibility purpose-I found that the third-party screen shot application that I used for my review was unable to access the E: drive, which forced me to shuttle my screen grabs out of the scarce C: drive as I took them.
Also, while installing new applications onto the device, I found that some applications would ask where they should be installed and some would not. I installed three applications in a row from Nokia's Ovi app store-the first and third prompted me for an install location and the second did not.
The N97's most prominent physical characteristic is its large, 640-by-360-pixel, touch-sensitive display, which, as with Apple's iPhone, responds to changes in orientation by swapping between portrait and landscape layouts. Nokia has employed resistive touch-screen technology for its display, which registers input when touches or taps cause metallic layers within the display to make contact.
This is in contrast to the capacitive screens that the iPhone and the Palm Pre feature. The upshot of this difference in technology is that the N97's touch-screen is markedly less sensitive than these rival phones. On the positive side, the N97 can respond to taps or presses from non-conductive sources-such as gloved hands.
Personally, I'd take the greater sensitivity of the iPhone-style display over the glove-friendly N97 technology, as I found it rather difficult to scroll through pages with the N97's touch-screen. I would have liked to have seen some sort of wheel or rocker button on the face of the device to compensate for the display's poor scrolling performance.
The N97's slide-out keyboard sports a five-way control pad, which I ended up using for most of my page navigation needs. For typing, the device's keyboard served me well enough, but I prefer the higher-profile keys on the Nokia E71 smartphone that I reviewed last year.
Through most of my tests, I didn't pay much heed to the N97's handwriting recognition option, or to its miniature stylus, but the pair performed as well as any handwriting recognition feature I'd previously tried. That is, they performed well enough to scratch something out, but not well enough to prevent me from sliding out the unit's keyboard or opting for the regular cell phone-style multitap input system.