Hands on: Nokia N1 tablet

Nokia’s N1 is the Android equivalent of an iPad Mini. It looks and feels as premium as Apple’s top-selling tablet, but features the latest and greatest software Android has to offer.

Nokia’s back in the mobile game, but not in the same way it has been in previous years. Instead of giving us a new phone, it has recently launched a tablet called the Nokia N1, and it’s built to showcase Nokia’s own Android launcher. It’s a very fine piece of hardware, with specs and a design to match (almost literally) the Apple iPad Mini.

Made from a single piece of aluminum, and equipped with an 8-inch (zero-air gap, laminated) touchscreen, the Nokia N1 looks fantastic. The rear panel is completely smooth, broken only be the Nokia brand name and a small 8-megapixel camera lens in the top corner. Its placement is very precise, and the curve matches the curve in the tablet’s body, giving it a subtly pleasing, symmetrical look.

The 6.9mm thin chassis is very light at 318 grams, and the body is sized correctly in that it can be comfortably held in one hand. The edges are smooth and rounded, with the three controls nestled around the top right-hand corner. Those who fumble around with Micro USB connectors — and that’s most of us — will like the reversible Type-C USB connection on the bottom.

It all feels very expensive, and that continues when you fire up that display. The 2,048 x 1,536 pixel resolution makes it as sharp as an iPad, and the IPS panel made viewing possible from most angles. We couldn’t see it used outside, so weren’t able to judge its performance in sunlight, but in theory that’s another bonus of the zero-air gap technology.

Draw the first letter of the app you require on the screen, and the Z Launcher finds it for you.

Nokia has installed the Z Launcher over the top of Android 5.0 Lollipop. Like most launchers, it completely changes the way Android looks, but mostly on the surface. Dig deep enough and you’re back in familiar territory. Z Launcher is designed to learn how you use your tablet, then adapt it so it’s quicker to access the apps and features you use most often. The front page is populated by those apps.

There’s an unusual search feature on this front page, which has you draw the first letter of the app you require on the screen, and the Z Launcher finds it for you. It learns which one you tap, and will bring it to the top of the list. It’s also possible to perform Web searches this way, and the results will include contacts, too. It takes a few days use for the N1 to learn your habits.

A swipe to the right brings up an alphabetical list of all the installed apps, but the tablet often gets confused by the swipe, and registers it as the gesture for deleting a letter you’ve drawn on the screen. Swiping to turn the page has to be made at the right spot for it to properly register, and it could quickly become annoying. However, there’s an option to turn the Z Launcher off if it does.

Nokia N1 22
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Z Launcher is, as third-party launchers go, fairly innocuous. It doesn’t ruin the N1 like some would, but it doesn’t really make it a reason to lust after the N1. The design, build, and performance do that. It’s blazingly fast. Running a series of benchmarks saw it return very impressive numbers — Ice Storm gave it 20,000, and a 23,800 from Quadrant — so there’s no doubt it will make an excellent gaming and home entertainment device. All the power is provided by a 64-bit, 2.3GHz Intel Atom chip with 2GB of RAM.

Interestingly, Nokia’s involvement begins and ends with the design and the Z Launcher. The N1 is built and sold by Foxconn, the mega-corporation responsible for building many of the world’s smartphones and tablets, including Apple’s iPads and iPhones. Currently only for sale in China, the N1 costs an extremely tempting $250, which is $100 less than the equivalent iPad Mini 2. Nokia told us it may sell the N1 outside China in the future, but couldn’t give us even an approximate date, although it hopes to make an announcement soon. The Nokia N1’s great, and we’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t make it to the States.

Highs

  • Great design
  • Beautiful screen
  • Extremely powerful
  • Android Lollipop
  • Competitive price

Lows

  • Z Launcher isn’t very exciting
  • Not available outside China
Product Review

LG Gram 14 proves 2-in-1 laptops don’t need to sacrifice battery for light weight

The LG Gram 14 2-in-1 aims to be very light for a laptop that converts to a tablet. And it is. But it doesn’t skimp on the battery, and so it lasts a very long time on a charge.
Deals

Need a new tablet? The best iPad deals for January 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for December 2018.
Home Theater

Want to mirror your smartphone or tablet onto your TV? Here's how

A vast arsenal of devices exists to allow sending anything on your mobile device to your TV. Our in-depth guide shows you how to mirror content from your smartphone or tablet to the big screen from virtually any device available.
Mobile

Unleash your inner artist with the best drawing apps for the iPad Pro

The best drawing apps for the iPad Pro turn Apple's robust tablet into a canvas worthy of a true artist. Here are 20 of our current favorites, whether you're looking to keep things simple or take your art to the next level.
Mobile

Verizon 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.
Computing

Yes, you can use Android apps on your Chromebook. Here's how

You can now get Android apps on your Chromebook! Google has enabled the Google Play Store app support on its Chrome OS and Chromebook hardware, so to get you started, here's our guide on how to get Android apps on a Chromebook.
Product Review

It may be basic, but the TicWatch E2 is all the smartwatch you need

Want a smartwatch that can track heart rate, has GPS, and interact with notifications — for cheap? Mobvoi’s Google Wear OS-based TicWatch E2 can do it all, for just $160.
Mobile

Is 5G as fast as they’re saying? We break down the speeds

We take a look at the kinds of speeds you can expect from 5G when the networks roll out. Find out 5G compares to the last generation of network technology, what the minimum and maximum speeds will be, and what it means for us.
Mobile

Tizen 4 arriving on Samsung’s Gear S3 and Gear Sport smartwatches

Samsung is updating the Gear S3 Classic, Gear S3 Frontier, and the Gear Sport to the newest version of Tizen 4. Along with of some little tweaks to usability and quality-of-life, Samsung has added some new features.
Mobile

Mobvoi’s TicWatch E2 and S2 are the most affordable Wear OS smartwatches yet

Quality smartwatches don't have to be expensive, and Mobvoi's TicWatch is the proud paladin of that philosophy. Mobvoi's new TicWatch S2 and are both available for low prices from Amazon and Mobvoi's website.
Deals

Save up to $950 with the best smartphone deals for January 2019

Need a better phone but don't want to spend a fortune? It's never a bad time to score a new smartphone and save some cash. We rounded up the best smartphone deals available that can save you as much as $950.
Product Review

Honor schools other phone makers on design with the hole-punch View 20

The Honor View 20 is Honor’s best phone to date. Why? Just look at the punch hole screen, the striking design, and the exciting 48-megapixel camera for evidence. Here’s our review.
Wearables

With weeklong battery life, the new Honor Watches are a real Dream to wear

Honor has unveiled the new Honor View 20, one of the best smartphones of the year. Alongside it, however, the company also took the wraps off of the new Honor Watch Magic and Honor Watch Dream.
Mobile

2019's 10 best dating apps to help you find the perfect companion

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.