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Nokia E7 review

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The Nokia E7, or E7-00, caused quite a stir at this year’s Nokia World and is the second device (after the Nokia N8) to be powered by the latest version of the Symbian OS – Symbian^3.

We like the Nokia N8. it has features aplenty and lots of cool connectivity and storage, as well as a 12-megapixel camera. With the Nokia E7, it’s a similar ‘spec-tacular’ story with its 16:9 nHD 640 x 360 pixels AMOLED display, Symbian^3 OS, slide-out Qwerty keyboard and an 8-megapixel snapper.

But does the E7, along with Symbian^3 and the Nokia N8, have what it takes to re-establish Nokia as a name to be feared in the global mobile phone markets? We take a look to find out…

If you’ve seen any videos or shots of the E7 you’ll know that it is a very similar looking device to the Nokia N8 (113.5 x 59 x 12.9 mm). In fact, their anodised aluminium chassis are pretty much identical in terms of style and shape, but the E7, at 123.7 x 62.4 x 13.6 mm, is slightly larger and has that slide-out Qwerty keyboard as well.

 

On top of the E7 is a MicroUSB port, HDMI port, the power button and a 3.5mm jack input. The battery, like on the Nokia N8, is non-removable so users now have to slot the SIM card into a little iPhone-esque pop-out tray that’s located on the right-hand side of the device. A bit further down the right side is the device’s dedicated camera button, which activates the camera with a single press.

There is a single menu hard key on the E7, which sits on the device’s slidable display. One press of this and you’re taken to a familiar Nokia menu. Because of the location of the hard key, it’s easy to access in both Qwerty and non-Qwerty modes.

The E7, like the N8, is a good-looking device and we have to hand it to Nokia in this respect, it’s really done well on the aesthetics front. That said, it is quite large so users that want a slightly more compact device (HTC Desire or iPhone 4 size) might want to look into the Nokia N8 or the C7, which are both slightly smaller with their more pocket friendly 3.5-inch displays.

We do have one issue, though, with the E7’s design, and that’s the Qwerty keyboard’s sliding mechanism. Put shortly, it’s very difficult to open. During testing we passed it around the office to see if other people experienced similar problems to us. Needless to say, nobody managed to do it first time – it does get a lot easier with practise though, so don’t worry too much about this.

The actual mechanism behind the Qwerty slider is very robust and once you’ve got the hang of sliding it up – in the correct manner – you’ll see just how smoothly the display lifts up and floats backwards into its resting position, which is at a slight (30º-ish) angle from the keyboard.

The E7’s keyboard, as we said, is a full on Qwerty and features ever so slightly raised rubber keys that feel extremely comfortable whilst typing. That said, it isn’t perfect. For starters, typing long emails can become quite awkward after a while as the E7 is quite a long device and doesn’t sit that well in your hands. This means that you’ll occasionally fumble the odd keystroke, which did get a bit annoying.

On the plus side, it’s still a very good keyboard and after a few days of usage you’ll be banging on emails left, right and centre without even looking at keyboard – well, nearly. And even if you don’t take to the physical keyboard, the touchscreen Qwerty is just as good and easily on a par with the majority of high-end Android handsets.

Then there is that display. That 4-inch 16:9 nHD (640 x 360 pixels) AMOLED display, which is every bit as good as it sounds – blacks look intense and the brighter colours simply jump off the page. It makes watching videos and browsing the Internet a gorgeous and completely immersive experience. We have give Nokia credit here: it knows how to do its hardware.

 

However, the big thing with the Nokia E7 is its operating system which, in case you didn’t know, is Symbian^3 – AKA: Nokia’s latest attempt to realign itself with the likes of iOS and Android. But is it up to the challenge?

This is a difficult one to qualify, especially as lots of people don’t actually have a problem with Symbian per se, which is fair enough. But anyone that thinks Symbian could have survived the next year or so without a massive – and we mean MASSIVE – overhaul is very much mistaken. Put simply, Symbian^3 needs to put Nokia back on the map – and quickly too.

And on the whole, Symbian^3 is quite a breath of fresh air. It looks decidedly different, has multiple homescreens and is very easy to customise with apps, shortcuts and dedicated Symbian^3 homescreen widgets. Overall, the experience of using Symbian^3 is vastly improved and adds a level of maturity and, dare we say, modernity, to how you interact with your Nokia handset.

The Ovi Store is integrated well into the UI as well. For instance, when you’re adding a widget to one of the homescreens there’s an option to go straight to the Ovi Store and download apps, widgets and games straight of the bat. Unfortunately, Symbian^3 homescreen widgets are a little thin on the ground at the moment, so there’s not as much choice as we’d have liked, but hopefully this is something that will improve with time.

Each homescreen, when you go into Edit mode, has six boxes that you can place either individual apps or entire widgets into. Granted, this isn’t as much potential customisation as you get on iOS4.1 or Android, but it’s a massive improvement on what was available to Symbian users before.

 

The E7 isn’t quite as snappy as the Nokia N8, unfortunately, and there were some noticeable moments of lag when its 680MHz ARM processor struggled to keep up with what we wanted it to do. This was most apparent whilst browsing the web and occasionally when skipping between homescreens – maybe Nokia should have opted for a 1GHz like it did on the Nokia N8? We think so.

The web browser on board the Nokia E7, like the one on the Nokia N8, is pretty good packing in Flash Lite 4, HTML, XHTML MP, WML and CSS support. This means that you can view web pages just as you would on a desktop PC – or, the HTC Desire or Galaxy S.

The pinch-to-zoom function is a massively welcome addition to Symbian^3 and makes viewing web pages a practically otherworldly experience when compared with how it used to be. The stock browser’s UI is also very straightforward and easy to use, you simply tap the icon in the bottom right corner and up pops your options: Options, Go To and Bookmarks. Simple.

Adding bookmarks, subscribing to RSS feeds and the extensive Options folder, which gives you access to tools like ‘Find Keyword’ and ‘Go to Feeds’ mean using the E7’s browser on a daily basis is a rewarding and intuitive experience. Unfortunately, though, general browsing on the E7 isn’t quite as smooth as it is on the Nokia N8 but again this is entirely to do with processors and not the actual browser, so we’ll leave it there.

Setting up and using email on the E7 is also very straightforward. On board, there’s support for Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Windows Live, Hotmail and POP/IMAP services and, most importantly for professional users, Mail for Exchange.

You can have as many email clients open as you like on the E7 and view them all in one unified inbox, which is certainly a cool feature – although, it’s something you have been able to do on other platforms for quite sometime now.

There’s also a whole host of other (more hidden but equally useful) resources like Ovi Maps with free car and pedestrian navigation, compass for correct orientation and all the other cool Ovi apps that can be accessed via the Ovi Store from your handset.

In short, if you liked Symbian before – or you’re not really that much of a tech-geek – then you’ll probably absolutely love Symbian^3. It has everything the latter did but has been severely overhauled in a way that’s made it more presentable, more intuitive and basically a hell of a lot better.

 

Alternatively, if you won’t hear a word said against Android or iOS4.1 and think it’s the best thing since breathable air then you probably won’t be too impressed by Symbian^3. You might even describe it as an ill-fated bastardised hybrid of what happened when Nokia attempted to combine iOS4.1 and Android 2.2 together and hope no one noticed.

Either way, we think Nokia has included enough hardware on the Nokia E7 to impress consumers sufficiently. For instance, it’s got 16GB of internal storage (but sadly no microSD support) and a HDMI out, so you can hook it up to your TV and watch films and videos direct from the handset.

The camera is also pretty impressive too at 8-meapixels with Dual LED flash and Face recognition software. Then there’s its ability to shoot video at 25 fps in HD quality 720p resolution and its front-facing VGA (640 x 480 pixels) camera, which makes short work of video calling.

In addition to this, you can also use the pinch-to-zoom function to examine photos in more detail – and when you’re shooting in 8-megapixels, you can rest assured that there’s plenty of detail.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s photo and video editing apps built into the device, so once you’ve taken a picture or filmed a video, you can pop them in that and edit them with effects until your hearts content – and once you’re done with that you can send them via the E7’s HDMI port to your TV for all to see.

All in all, the Nokia E7 is a thoroughly decent phone. It has more than enough going on inside it to more than satisfy the needs of the vast majority of consumers. It’s got lots of storage, a well integrated apps store, decent camera and video facility, an intuitive new OS and it lets you view web pages in remarkable quality and very quickly thanks to its more than adequate data support – HSDPA Cat9, maximum speed up to 10.2 Mbps, HSUPA Cat5 2.0 Mbps, Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 b/g/n, EDGE, GPRS.

Job well done, Nokia.

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