This netbook is an absolute
beast. It’s the first netbook produced by Nokia and inside it has one of the best engineering solutions I’ve ever seen in a laptop. Announced in August 2009, and it hit the market a few months after, with a slightly high price tag, but with bonkers specifics.
So what’s inside this netbook that makes it so special?
The processor. The Nokia Booklet 3G is powered by an Intel Atom Z530 @ 1.6Ghz, which is strong enough for daily routines, but it’s also super secure, being immune to Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, as all Atoms before 2013 are.
RAM: 1GB was more than enough for netbooks back in 2009, before the npm shitshow took over the interwebs. Unfortunately, for Microsoft to license the Windows 7 Starter edition, the RAM is not upgradable, as it’s solder to the main board.
HDD: Out of the box it comes with an 120GB Toshiba MK1235GSL 4200rpm SATA drive, which can be easily upgrade-able to a faster SSD, but the speed increase will be marginal, because even though the laptop uses a SATA connector, the interface is parallel, to a maximum of 133MB/s.
Display: an 1280x720 HD Ready display with a glossy finish is excellent for watching movies, or youtube videos, up to a 720p resolution
Camera: Built-in 1.3MP camera with microphone, was perfect back in 2009 for Skype calls or Yahoo! Messenger chats :)
Operating System: It came bundled with Windows 7 Starter Edition, but the Professional Edition could also be installed. There are also some linux distributions (even modern ones) that can be made to run on the Booklet.
Connectivity: The small Booklet 3G has a ton of ports and connectivity options: 3x USB 2.0 ports, an SD card reader, a full-size HDMI 1.2 port, 3.5mm audio jack, Bluetooth 2.1. In terms of Internet connectivity, the Booklet has a b/g/n WLAN card, and a 3G/HSPA integrated modem with a SIM card slot.
The case: The laptop, as expected from a Nokia product back in the day, had a very good build quality, the body being sculpted from a slab of aircraft-grade aluminum. The plastic on the case, be it blue, white, or black, is pretty prone to scratches and fingerprints, but still looks beautiful. Additionally, with its fan-less design, looks pretty nice and works fine when stacked in clamshell mode, so I’m thinking of making a custom rack mount for them and maybe set up a home server cluster running a modern x386 version of Debian or Ubuntu Server. (more stacked photos below)
The battery: Using a Toshiba MK1235GSL which spins at 4200rpm and it barely draws any power while operating, the Booklet has a battery that can last up to 12 hours per charge. Considering the very small form of the laptop, this is a great feat. Considering the other fact, that the battery is pretty much 30% of the laptop, it’s expected.
The insides: besides the fan-less design of the Booklet, one of its best engineering marvels is hidden to the eye. Due to the small amount of inside space, the booklet has a small main board, containing the CPU, chipset and a few ports (USB, HDMI, 3.5mm jack) and a separate board that hosts the SIM and SD cards and the remaining USB, the internal mini PCI-E connectors (one for the WLAN card, one for the 3G modem). They are connected with a proprietary ribbon cable.
So how rare is the Nokia Booklet 3G?
Because of its high price point (even if it was totally deserved), the Booklet is not omni-present like, say, the MacBook Airs, and they appear very rarely on Ebay and similar sites, not only in Romania, but also in the entire Europe. I was lucky enough to get an unit with a blue lid and snatched a very cheap lot on ebay for EIGHT black-lid units (something like £120 for all). Four of them were already given to some nice kids and they like them a lot. Unfortunately, I had only two chargers for them, but Ali Express came to the rescue and in about a month and a half, I got chargers for most of the units (19V, 1.58A).
One of the models presented in the photos in this post is the blue model (which at some point failed to start, or even to power up), so the display assembly with the blue lid was transplanted on a black lid model with the plastic in a pretty bad shape. This was faster than trying to debug each component separately. I also replaced the hard drive with a 128GB Samsung SSD PM800 and installed a fresh copy of Windows 7 Professional, as I didn’t have a microSATA adapter, to clone its original drive. The other Booklet is an un-altered black lid model.
I’ve added below a drive speed comparison in CrystalDiskMark between the SSD, the HDD, and a 2019 MacMini (my main computer)
I’ve added some screenshots taken on the Black Booklet which shows the Windows Experience Index, system load, some games and the site in Internet Explorer 8. The system has been without power for so long, that the CMOS battery died and threw a nice system info with the CMOS error, which shows the BIOS version (1.50) and the internals.
I wanted to take similar screenshots on the blue one, but the only differences were a lower memory footprint (because I turned off a lot of the services), the different drive in Device Manager, and the Experience Index stuck at 1.0 (because the video drivers throw a bluescreen when benchmarking).
I’ve searched for information, but didn’t find anything relevant, but it seems that the Nokia Booklet 3G was produced in two different editions, one having model number RX-72, the other one having model number RX-75. They seem to be identical on the outside and compatible (I remember the RX-72 was the original body of the blue lid Booklet, the one that just stopped getting power, and I transplanted the display and lid onto a RX-75)
I also tried a bit of gaming on it, and some games that need low requirements (Like Half-Life) can run properly in 640x480 or 800x600 Software mode (as the video card doesn’t support OpenGL). Some other games crashed, but might be because of my crappy old games library. I installed a GameHouse Game Collection and games like Super Collapse, Luxor and Zuma work just fine. I tried to play Need for Speed: Underground, released in 2003, it loads properly, but at 640x480 with the details on the lowest quality (check out the 6 polygon wheels), I get about 4 frames per second and time stretches about 2-3 times (counting Mississippis while looking at the HUD timer). I also could play some nice older games (Worms World Party Remastered, Mortal Kombat and MK 3, and Prehistorik)
More info about the Nokia Booklet 3G: Wikipedia | All About Symbian - Part One: design and hardware | All About Symbian - Part Two: performance, applications, conclusion