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Even though they were denying - well, just not confirming - it into the wee hours of last night, Nokia got all official today in putting their flagship device, the N97, on sale ... well, sorta - it's a pre-order online but apparently can be had now at Nokia stores in NYC and Chicago.  $699 direct is a lot of dough, but it'll get you a lot of smartphone - at least on paper. 

N97 is available in black and white, and features a 3.5", 640 x 360 pixel touchscreen that slides and tilts out of the way to reveal a full QWERTY thumbboard in landscape orientation.  You'll also get a touch-optimized version of the S60 5th Edition platform with all kinds of crazy home screen widgets (Facebook, contacts, etc).  Add to that 32 gb of internal storage backed by a microSD card slot, a 5MP camera with dual LED flash and VGA and nHD (640 x 360 widescreen) video recording, and the usual slew of connectivity options like HSDPA, WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth.

There's no denying the N97s technical prowess when it comes to storage, connectivity, and multimedia creation AND consumption features.  My question is: How is it to use the thing?  In the age of Pres, iPhones, and TouchFlos, tech specs may no longer be enough.  Especially when the bill comes out at $700 up front whlie there's a recession happening.

Still, I'm glad to see the N97 on sale, hope it actually ships REAL soon and can't wait to get my mitts on one to try it out for myself. If you hit a flagship store up, let us know about availability in the comments, will ya?  Thanks.   If you'll recall, I really liked a lot about the Nokia 5800 but couldn't stand the virtual QWERTY implementation.  Will N97's hardware keyboard be enough to win me over?  Stay tuned ...



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