Nokia E71 Review

by Reads (174,782)
  • Pros

    • Attractive and useful design
    • Designed for work and play
  • Cons

  • Too many menus
  • No BlackBerry Connect

The Nokia E71 is one of the latest in Nokia’s E-series of smartphones to be released.

Much like the E61/E62 models that have also been sold in the U.S., the E71 includes a QWERTY keyboard rather than the more typical numberpad. However, you should understand that Nokia learned from mistakes with those models and has made the E71 very close to being the best smartphone available today.


Nokia E71Inside this Review

Design

The E71 is totally disrespected by all pictures. The metal body, QVGA screen, and keyboard combine to make a similar device design to the Treos, BlackJacks, and BlackBerry models we are familiar with, but this design has some flair to it. To quote a friend, “it doesn’t look like any BlackBerry I’ve ever seen.”

The 11 mm metal body feels great in the hand and well weighted. It’s not a light device, but the size seems to indicate quality more than anything else. It shines, and can be a finger-print magnet, but otherwise stays striking in appearance all day.

The front of the E71 has the aforementioned QVGA (320×240 pixel) screen. In my opinion, there hasn’t been a screen this well done since Palm’s m515. It performs *very* well in direct sunlight. It’s really scary how well it looks.

Nokia E71Below the screen sits the application and function buttons. Designed similar to those found on the Nokia N95, the softkeys and green/red call buttons flank four application buttons and the directional pad.

An interesting feature of the directional pad is that it will pulse, like a beating heart, when the device is on but the screen is off (in standby).

The application buttons activate one program on a short button press, and additional apps and features when held longer.

The QWERTY keyboard is Nokia’s best yet. Previous issues with Nokia’s keyboards included mushiness and too much spacing. The keys on the E71 are a good deal closer together, and have good feel. They have domes though, and because of the lesser spacing, errors can still happen. If you are comfortable on the Palm Centro, this will feel at home quickly.

The left side of the E71 has the IR port, microSDHC card slot, and micro-USB slot, while the right side has the volume up/down buttons and a voice command button.

The back has the 3.2 megapixel  digital camera with auto-focus. The battery cover comprises the rest of the rear, and has an indented design that keeps this device from slipping in your hands. It covers the SIM slot and 1500 mAh battery.

Nokia E71Yes, that large of a battery in a device that small. It’s really an incredible feat.

The battery life is absolutely amazing. To give an example of how good it is, in one torture test I got a day and a half out of it with a constant data connection (using Nokia’s Mobile Web Server and Nokia Email), an hour of Bluetooth as the device acted as a modem for my N800 Internet Tablet, 3 hours of call time, and several emails. I’ve never had a mobile get through a single day under that much strain.

The E71 has Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi, and GPS in a package that looks great and can last a few hard days. If that’s not good design execution, then I don’t know what is.

As a Communicator

The E71 uses the Symbian S60 operating system. This is the Feature Pack 1 version, not the latest Feature Pack 2. With its intention as an enterprise device, Nokia decided to use the more stable system to build on.

As with this company’s other products, most of the phone interaction starts from the Active Standby screen, which is similar to the Windows Mobile Today screen. However, the E71 benefits from several improvements.

Typing a name when on this screen will instantly search for matches from the Contacts application. Speech bubble widgets for SMS and voice mail appears at the bottom of the screen, and a new email widget will show the last emails pulled from the Messaging application.

Other than that, the phone application remains the same as its been on other S60 devices. There is the option to ignore calls with SMS built-in, as well as some advanced call timers and call logs for those needing to catalog that information for tracking and expenses.

Voice and speaker quality are solid, but can suffer from distortions if you accidentally put your hand over the antenna. Many E71 owners have noted this problem, and it might be hardware related rather than software related.

Nokia EmailThe E71 still uses the Messaging application to handle SMS, MMS, and email. There is no threaded SMS still, but the Messaging application can handle POP and IMAP accounts easily.

Installing Nokia’s free Mail for Exchange application (install stub is on the device) adds Exchange compatibility (email, calendar, tasks, and contacts). BlackBerry Connect is no longer available for Nokia devices.

An additional note is that HTML email support is not handled in a familiar way. When receiving an HTML email, it comes as an attachment that can be opened with the S60 web browser. It’s not seamless, but it is supported.

Overall, the E71 does calling just as well as Nokia’s have in the past and present. This isn’t at all bad, as it’s always been solid. The improvements in communications from the Active Standby screen do help considerably with usability.

Essentially, the E71 is chock full of the means to communicate and be communicated to.

As a Mobile Computer

The Symbian S60 web browser is a solid package. It is build off of the same Webkit engine as Apple’s Safari and Safari Mobile. Flash Lite 3 support brings Flash animation to the browser, and some keyboard shortcuts for viewing pages brings usability in line with third-party offerings such as Opera Mini and Skyfire.

The browser is very fast over Wi-Fi connections. The device I’m reviewing was the European version, and therefore testing the browser and other services over 3G was not possible. There is a N. American version of the E71 that supports AT&T’s 3G frequencies, I just didn’t get a chance to use it.

The E71 comes with several productivity applications out of the box: QuickOffice, Active Notes, Dictionary, Search, Zip Archiver/Decompresser, Printer Manager, Adobe PDF Reader, and an application to manage VoIP applications. There is also support for Push to Talk for supported carriers/markets and an IM application that will connect to AIM, GoogleTalk, Yahoo, and other IM services.

Nokia GPSThe GPS is one of Nokia’s best. Using cellular triangulation initially, it gets a lock in less than 30 seconds when outdoors, and in under a minute when indoors. Given the large battery, I’ve gone to keeping the GPS activated all the time by using some LBS applications and the built-in application Landmarks.

Nokia Maps 2.0 comes with the E71 and gives a solid mapping solution. Without 3G, I was surprised at how fast map data would load and refresh while moving. Nokia Maps 2.0 is an OK solution for casual mapping, the paid aspects of the service work great for those who travel more or who need more advanced functionality, such as voice guidance or Lonely Planet support.

As a Multimedia Device

Unlike previous E-series devices, the E71 steps up to the plate in the multimedia department. In addition to the 3.2 megapixel camera, there’s the Nokia Music Player and Podcast applications, an Internet Radio application, and compatibility with Nokia’s Share on Ovi multimedia sharing service.

Nokia E71The camera takes solid still photos, though it can sometimes be oversensitive to light. Some photos can come out more purple/blue depending on what the camera is seeing. Though, most pictures are pretty solid.

The camera is also able to take video. There is not an anti-shake feature to the camera, but it does an admirable job in showing the scene and picking up volume ranges.

Pictures can utilize the GPS for geo-tagging, and then be uploaded to Share on Ovi or Flickr and show not only an image, but a map of where the image was taken.

Music is handled by the Music Player application. This is probably the most no-frills aspect of the E71, even though it works well. Music plays from a single speaker at the top of the device. Sounds are clear, albeit muddy at the highest volume levels.

The Internet Radio and Podcasting applications are nice additions to extending music play. Adding stations and podcasts is as simple as navigating to a site and adding its feed into the applications.

Overall, the E71 takes on multimedia a bit better than BlackBerries have. It builds on the solid applications and reputation of Nokia’s N-series devices, but keeps enough in the background to not override the focus of the E71 as a work-first-play second device.

Specifications

Operating System: Symbian S60 Feature Pack 1
Memory: 110 MB
Screen Resolution: 320 by 240 pixel (QVGA)
Screen Size: 2.4 inches
Keyboard Type: QWERTY
Communications: GSM, GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, UMTS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 
Media Type: microSD
Camera Resolution: 3.2 megapixels
GPS: Yes
Dimensions: 4.5 in x 2.24 in x 0.4 in (114 x 57 x 10 mm)
Battery: 1500 mAh

Conclusion

The E71 is probably the best handset available for prosumers. It takes what many want from an iPhone and need from a BlackBerry and puts it into a package that is well designed.

Features such as the dual-mode — which literally switches the device from a work mode to a play mode — allow it to be further maximixed. The little improvements to the Active Standby keep it usable at a moment’s notice.

Some areas of concern with the E71 include the user interface: menus, menus, and more menus. Many things are buried and most people might not have the patience to find the gems.

Losing BlackBerry Connect support might turn off some widespread enterprise deployments of the E71, though it is able to be managed with Exchange and MOSS 2007, so IT departments don’t have to totally fret.

But that’s really it. The E71 has a long list of positives, and so few negatives that it just might be worth taking the plunge for it. At an under $500 retail price (and can be found for less than $400 currently), it is a best buy easily.

Rumors have pegged it possibly being made available through AT&T in time for the holidays, further making the E71 a compelling buy.

In this reviewer’s opinion, if you need a smartphone that works very hard, but leaves room to play, it’s very hard to find anything out currently that will outdo the E71. Its really that much better than Nokia’s past devices, and many current ones.

 


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