Nokia has always had outstanding design and build quality with their Eseries devices, so with the E7 tipped as the new Communicator the question is; can it live up to high expectations – especially with all that has gone on recently?
Whilst the E7 doesn’t feature a 1GHz dual-core processor like many devices these days, it isn’t a deal breaker by any means as Nokia has done a great job running the Symbian platform for years on all types of handset, from top of the range Communicators to lower priced smartphones for the masses.
If you look at the E7 as being a N8 with a QWERTY keyboard bolted on, this is certainly not the case. The E7 is a device that stands on its own and as such is being classed as the next Communicator. We’ve not had one of these for a while, but the E90 (and it’s predecessors) have had a massive following over the years.
In a market being overrun with touchscreen devices being at the top, not everyone wants a purely touch-only device. This is where a QWERTY keyboard comes into play and there are not many better keyboards than the one found on the E7. Well spaced keys, good feedback on presses and the white letters on black keys (with a backlight) makes it easy to use any time of the day or night with ease. The only disappointment is that there isn’t a dedicated row for the numbers, as featured on the E90 and earlier Communicators.
The keyboard is very impressive in design, but so is the slider hinge used to access the keys, The N97 Mini had great design and the E7 takes it one step further. The opening of the keys is quite tough at the start but this gives you a feel of a strong design, and something which will not break easily. When the keyboard is open the screen is automatically tilted for the perfect viewing and typing angle, either in the hand or on a desk.
Nokia has taken feedback from their previous QWERTY slider phones and improved on the experience on the E7, for example there is no longer a navigation pad. Instead the touchscreen is used for navigation. They have also made the space bar larger and also in the centre now, with four keys either side making up the full keyboard. This, although simple, is something a lot of feedback was given on and it is good to see Nokia taking this into account.
The large 4-inch touch screen uses Nokia’s new technology called CBD (Clear Black Display) which helps with the screen contrast and also reducing the usual reflections on the screen, giving you blacker blacks which can really be noticed especially outdoors.
The build quality of this Eseries device is top notch with even the volume rocker made from the same materials. There is nothing cheap about the E7 so Nokia was not tempted to cut any corners, in keeping with other Eseries models. Even the SIM tray, which slides out for you to put your card into, is of high quality.
Nokia has had their OVI Store available for a while now and there are now some great applications that are very reasonable priced or in some cases free. The OVI Store goes a lot further than that, as you can also access the store from a web browser and then send a link to the phone to complete the download. It’s easy to do, although not quite as convenient as Android Market where the website can automatically trigger a download and install remotely.
OVI Maps allows you to download content direct without needing to connect to a PC. You can even download full map packs over 3G or Wi-Fi, which will give you access to all the maps you need within a few minutes. Plus with maps working offline you can use it abroad without fear of running up huge data costs.
The camera sensor on the E7 is the same type as used on the C7, namely EDoF (Extended Depth of Field). This is designed in such a way that there is no need for autofocus, as the depth of field is increased to ensure that everything remains in focus. It can look a little odd at first (seeing everything in focus), but it does make it near impossible to ruin a picture. One limitation is that macro-style photos will be limited, with it being impossible to focus close-up. However for a lot of your everyday photos using the new 8 megapixel camera on the E7 you will get outstanding photos with very little effort.
You also get HD video recording (1280Ã720 pixels) and sharing photos with popular online video sites such as FaceBook or YouTube requires just a few taps on the screen. Using the supplied HDMI cable in the box, you can also plug the E7 into your HDTV at home to share your videos and photos with everyone.
Another cable which Nokia has included is great for managing your multimedia. Imagine taking loads of photos and video clips at an event or party and wanting to be able to give the content to someone while you are there. Too big for Bluetooth, you’d normally have to come home, copy to a computer, and then burn a CD or drag the file to a flash drive. Or, using the ‘USB On The Go’ cable, you can cut all of this out and just plug a USB stick (or a portable hard drive, if it has its own power source) into the E7 and copy the files straight away from the integrated file manager.
Connectivity is at the heart of the E7. Not only do you get the HD and USB cables in the box, the E7 comes with all the standard support for Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G, EDGE and GPRS. The phone will also happily work here and abroad, supporting five 3G frequencies; 850, 900, 1700, 1900 and 2100MHz and four 2G frequencies. The E7 comes with a 1,200mAh battery which is non-removable.
When it comes to looking at the E7 as a whole package it is hard to find points to score it down. The hardware is excellent, the camera is up to date in technology terms, producing good quality pictures and HD video, the screen is large with the excellent CBD technology, the keyboard beats the alternatives like the HTC Desire Z and Motorola Milestone 2 and with Nokia promising to update Symbian with a new look later on in the year, this is a phone for now and the future.
Photos from the E7 camera will be uploaded later.
Whilst the E7 might look a lot like the N8 with a keyboard, it’s more than just that. The keyboard is one of the best on a mobile phone, with an even nicer mechanism than the impressive Desire Z. The top-class aluminium unibody makes the E7 a strong, durable, handset to the standard expected of a phone in the Eseries family. Even with the Symbian operating system having an uncertain future, the E7 excels in offering a quality package that works for both businesses and pleasure, with good multimedia support and the additions of an HD output and USB On The Go support.
Ratings (out of 5)
[wpgalleryimage title=”Editors-Choice-5Star” float=right]Performance: 5
Photo Gallery (including E7 camera shots)
A note regarding Symbian OS and Nokia
As this review is published, it is still unclear as to what the future will hold for the Symbian operating system. Nokia itself doesn’t even appear to be completely clear, although the company is promising that there will be support for Symbian for at least the next year. There will also be new features and upgrades offered to existing owners (including other recent releases, such as the C7 and N8) that should improve the user interface beyond the current Symbian^3 version.
For as long as there’s a sizeable number of Symbian users, apps and games should continue to be released – although never on the same scale as on the Apple App Store or Android Market. However, the E7 currently offers the key services you are likely to need – from document editing to accessing Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites. Even if Symbian disappeared tomorrow (and it won’t), the E7 won’t suddenly cease to work. If Symbian owners in the past didn’t buy loads of apps, there’s a good chance many will not wish to do so today.
This review assumes you have made a decision to buy into the Symbian OS, and have most likely used or owned a device running the same OS before. The review is based on the ability for the phone to perform key tasks, and so even with an outgoing operating system it can still be reviewed as a phone in its own right.