he Nokia Booklet 3G is the mobile maker's first foray into the mini laptop market. Will this luxuriously built but expensive netbook redefine the category?

The next generation of mini laptops is just around the corner now. Based on cool-running ARM processors and with a Linux operating system for speed and security, they promise long battery life and power to spare for basic online activities.

Nokia is rumoured to be one of the first in the queue to unveil such a smartbook - but until it does, here's the company's first mini laptop, the Nokia Booklet 3G.

A quick glance at the specs suggests that the Nokia Booklet 3G is little more than a routine Intel Atom-powered netbook. Routine, that is, apart from the giddy price. There's the 1.6GHz processor, 10.1in screen, 1GB of RAM and three USB ports. But before you tally up these parts and file under 'yawn', you have to get past the beautiful, sleek, milled metallic bodywork.

It's becoming something of a cliché to suggest that a given new design is borrowing ideas from Apple. Yet it was the Mac maker that first had the idea to sculpt a laptop's body from a single piece of aluminium - hence, ‘unibody' - which really embues its laptops with not just great strength but surprising lightness.

And the Nokia Booklet 3G copies just such a unibody construction, resulting in a weight of just 1.2kg - that's less than many plastic-bodied netbooks - and a finished product that is thinner and feels a lot stiffer and sturdier than any netbook that's ever appeared before.

The other principle stand-out feature of the Nokia Booklet 3G is the high-resolution screen. Even if it makes itself conspicuous for all the wrong reasons.

Netbooks have been restricted to 1024 x 600 resolution by licensing restrictions from chip and software suppliers Intel and Microsoft; yet Nokia has nevertheless boldly selected a 1280 x 720 pixel display.

While this gets around the claustrophobia of sub-XGA resolution screen estate, it also makes interface details horrifically small. And all sealed away behind a highly polished glass front panel, the distracting reflections are about as bad as it can get. But that's not even the worst problem to blight this screen.

The real deal-breaker is the notably poor quality of the LCD itself. It is of particularly low contrast, and with a disturbing sparkly effect that renders whites into silver-greys. The net effect is real difficulty in simply reading from the screen, making this mini laptop very far from a joy to use.

If screen quality is somehow of no interest to you and you're still reading, you may be heartened to hear that the Booklet 3G has a couple of other useful tricks up its sleeve.

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