• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

Back in the mists of time (which isn't that long ago in mobile phone terms) beloved of the geek squad were Nokia and its range of Communicator mini-PCs. The last device to carry that name was the E90 (in 2007), but Nokia has brought it back to life in the E7 - interestingly just as Nokia has revealed that it is dumping the Symbian OS to partner up with Microsoft to make the Windows Phone 7 smartphones. In terms of closure, it would have been delightful if the E7 had proved to be a wonderful swansong for Symbian, but unfortunately the software just makes the handset really hard and irritating to use.

Looks

On the outside, the E7 looks very professional. It has a smart-looking metal chassis, which feels solid, as well as a four-inch touch-screen with Nokia's Clear Black display and a resolution of 30x640. The touch technology has been well designed - there's a really nice soft haptic blip when your touch is acknowledged. Under the display you'll find the home button, which is also the all-programs button when you're actually home. On the side edges are a dedicated camera button which fires up the camera when you press and hold it, volume button and a lock-screen switch.

An HDMI port will let you watch your HD content on the large screen of an HDTV. All good so far - but when we tried to slide out the QWERTY backyards we found the mechanism really stiff and hard to move. Once you get it going, it flies out with a loud crack, for all the world as if might trap your fingers. We really like typing on the keyboard - although it might be a bit of stretch for smaller hands as the direction keys mean the keyboard's middle is further to the left than normal.


Symbian^3, is supposed to be an update of the old Symbian found on Nokia's more aged smartphones, and gives the handset a business look with its uniform widgets and squared off edges. There are three customisable homescreens, but you can't add app shortcuts directly, which is a bit of a faff - instead you have to first add a shortcut widget, to which you add your chosen apps. Strangely, Nokia has taken away the usual small clock/time at the top corner and replaced it with a large weather widget and clock that can't be taken away.

While the OS looks better than its predecessors, it just can't compete with the usability of iPhone or Android systems, nor prove as efficient as the BlackBerry OS.

Back to basics

There's a comprehensive lineup of features - social networking, sat-nav, camera, email and web. You'll find a preloaded shortcut that lets you set up all your accounts, although before you sort out social network accounts you have to first set up an Ovi account. It's a bit of a faff, but no different to having to set up a Gmail account to activate Android handsets.

The handset is operated via a combination of keyboard and touch-screen, which works pretty well, and the responsive touch-screen means that the virtual keyboards (QWERTY in landscape and T9-style number pad in portrait mode) are very easy to use when typing.

Phone calls are easy - enter the first few letters of a name and their profile will appear - but text messaging is not so simple. To get a recipient, first you have to press on the contacts book, then type in the contacts name, then choose by which method you want to contact them.

The E7's 680MHz processor doesn't live up to the 1GHz chip in the present superphones, but the handset can manage ‘true' multitasking - which the iPhone, for instance, can't do. This means, for instance, that you can check out your emails even while you're waiting for a website to load. Mind you, it all slowed to a halt when we had eight programs running - and an alert popped up tell us to shut something down. This you can achieve through the multitasking menu - something even some Android handsets can't manage.

Battery life is disappointing - maybe because of its multitasking capabilities. We only managed nine hours with Wi-Fi- but no sat-nav or music - on. If you were heading out after work you'd be wise to charge it at your desk before you go.

Internet

The four-inch display offers a decent enough space for browsing the web, but the browser is so clunky that if you bring up the display address bar, the boxes that appear to assist you in navigating to the next page take up at least half the screen. If you want to visit a previous page hit the back button and a carousel of your previously visited pages will appear. It's sort of useful, but very different to the simpler options from other handsets.

The social networking app for Twitter and Facebook feeds suffers from the same problem. There are huge bars at the base and right edge of the screen that covered up the activity feed, while if you want to use Twitter, you won't be able to retweet - only reply and favourite.

Snapper

Things improve with the eight-megapixel snapper, which offers a dual LED flash, auto-focus and face focus. There are lots of pre-and post-production tools for tweaking your images - exposure and contrast settings, preset scene modes, plus rotating, cropping and colour correction. A nifty feature is when you pinch the screen the aspect switches between 4:3 and widescreen.

Daylight images looked good, but zooming in revealed pixelation. The colours are a little darker than in reality, but when we tried to change the exposure the lighter colours were overexposed. While it has a certain artistic element, the camera is by no means the point-and-shoot model found on the N8.

Redeeming features

The E7 has two saving graces - excellent email and sat nav. It is possible to sync up to 10 email accounts, and inbox widgets will automatically appear on your home screen. It is easy to switch between your various accounts and there are keyboard shortcuts for composing, replying to and deleting emails easily. The white text appears on a black background - it may be plain but it is also efficient.

Whether from web mail or Microsoft Exchange server email, we found that new mails appeared immediately - sometimes before they even appeared on the desktop account. If you really only wanted a handset for emailing, the E7 would be your answer. And on the navigation front, there is Nokia's free Ovi Maps, which proves a very decent replacement for sat nav, especially on the E7's display. The GPS proved accurate down to the door number and there are loads of features such as the ability to set a ‘home', and voice directions as well as TripAdvisor and Michelin add-ons that provide information of service nearby.

There are business features too - including QuickOffice, Notes, PDF reader - there's even a zip file maker. Voice Reader can read back text messages - and we found it surprisingly accurate.

The verdict

The shame about the E7 is that it has so many cool features and useful additions - but it's all let down by the Symbian operating system, which is just not intuitive or user-friendly enough compared with the competition. It's confusing, clunky and still suffers from the issues that bugged older versions of the OS. It just proves too frustrating to use, despite its excellent email and sat nav functionality.

Specifications

Specifications

 

Type of phone:

Smartphone

Style:

Slider

Size:

123.7 x 62.4 x 13.6 mm

Weight:

176 g

Display:

16 million colours

Resolution:

N/A

Camera:

Eight megapixels

Special Camera features:

LED flash, auto focus

Video recording:

Yes

Video playback:

Yes

Video calling:

No

Video streaming:

Yes

3.5mm jack port:

Yes

Handsfree speakerphone:

Yes

Voice Control:

Yes

Voice Dialling:

No

Call records:

Practically unlimited

Phonebook:

N/A

Ringtones customization:

N/A

Display description:

TFT capacitive touch-screen

Website:

www.nokia.com

SAR:

N/A

Portfolio:

N/A

Standard color:

N/A

Launch Status:

Available

Radio:

Yes

Operating system:

Symbian UIQ

Connectivity:

MicroUSB, A2DP, TV out, USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WLAN

Announced date:

September 2010

What's in the Box:

N/A

RAM:

256MB

International launch date:

April 2011

Battery life when playing multimedia:

N/A

CPU:

680MHz

FM Radio Description:

Stereo FM with RDS

Internal memory:

1GB

Memory Card Slot:

microSD

Messaging:

IM, MMS, SMS, Email

Internet Browser:

HTML, XHTML, WAP 2.0

E-mail client:

IMAP4, Push email, Attachments, POP3, SMTP

GPS:

A-GPS

Java:

Yes

Games:

Yes

Data speed:

HSDPA, 3G, EDGE, GPRS

Frequency:

Quad-band

Talktime:

300 minutes

Standby:

480 hours

Display size:

Four inches

Keypad:

QWERTY

Audio recording:

N/A

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