One of my favourite things on the Nokia 770 was watching TV recordings on the subway to work, transcoded using 770-encode. The 770’s pre-installed video player is quite limited in playback, but the Maemo port of mplayer is able to play files at higher resolution and bitrate.
I’m using the N800 to learn Vocal Percussion with Wes Carroll’s DVD: Too bad it looks stupid to practice beatboxing while watching it on the subway.
For the N800, the pre-installed video player has improved a lot and can handle larger files, although some new nasty bugs have shown up. mplayer on the N800 is still quite unstable compared to the 770 version. Thus right now, watching video has become a bit less enjoyable on the new device, but these bugs will most likely be fixed within short time.
It’s a bit disappointing that the video still needs to be transcoded to be suitable for the device, though. The following is a rather unfair comparison, but it shows the quality tradeoff between a transcoded video and the original DVD:
Click the preview to compare the transcoded video’s quality.
While I know little about embedded devices and may be naive about the hardware of the N800, the specs suggest that it might be able to decode DVD content at fullscreen resolution, and with SDHC coming up, it also brings the storage space to carry a full movie or two with you.
A very similar video format is used for DVB broadcasts. (Germany is switching to digital-only broadcast TV right now.) It is surprisingly easy to watch DVB TV through a multicast on a local TCP/IP network (we did that during the games of the last soccer world cup) and the N800 would be a perfect little portable receiver for digital TV or DVD streams.
But the software can’t handle DVD or DVB, yet. I hope that Nokia or 3rd party developers can overcome this limitation some time in the future.
Update (08/2007): Since I wrote this article a few months ago, Nokia has improved the video codec and the device can now play much higher bitrates than shown in the DVD comparison above. However, you still have to transcode video to a lower resolution and bitrate and you still cannot play a raw DVD-rip in fullscreen.