I have been an ardent fan and user of E-series handsets of Nokia, mostly because Nokia managed to get the equation just about right in terms of finding a perfect balance between form, function and usage in shape of E71 and E72. Both handsets were my most used and loved handsets over last couple of years. Well, that is until I converted to Android.
Now, my present review will mostly talk about the handset itself and the way E-series, in terms of software and services, has managed to evolve itself over the last one year.
E7, a device that I’ve been salivating after for the last 6 months i.e ever since it was announced, finally ended up in my lap sometime around two weeks ago. And I’ve since had much fun with it.
So let’s see how Nokia E7 measures up to its past and if it has a future, at least in my point of view.
- Quad-band GSM support
- Penta-band 3G (10.2 Mbps HSDPA / 2 Mbps HSUPA)
- 4 inch, 16 million color, ClearBlack AMOLED Capacitive Touchscreen (640×360)
- Gorilla Glass
- 8 megapixel, ‘fixed-focus’ camera with LED Flash
- 680 Mhz ARM 11 CPU with 256 MB onboard RAM
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
- microHDMI port (720p TV-out)
- GPS receiver (AGPS supported)
- Active noise cancellation mic
- Accelerometer and Proximity sensor
- 3.5 mm audio jack
- microUSB port / USB on-the-go (more on this in the review)
- Bluetooth 3.0
- Hot-swappable SIM card slot (a winner!)
- 16 GB on-board storage capacity
- Symbian^3 OS
- Remote Wipe
- Preinstalled Office documents editor
- Flash and Java supported Web browser
- DivX, Xvid supported
- Free life-time voice-guided navigation via Ovi Maps
Fixed focus on 8 mp camera. – Really Nokia? A major ‘de-gradation’ over Nokia E72’s auto-focus 5 mp camera. No microSD card slot
The phone comes boxed neatly inside a cardboard box that looks sort of recycled paper. Looks like a good initiative from Nokia for the making the world ever so greener.
The phone comes with a wide variety of accessories that includes the charger, mini HDMI to HDMI cable, micro-usb transfer cable, A hands-free kit and some manuals.
Ever since the iPhone hit the scene back in 2007, not much has changed in the way touch-screen devices actually look i.e physically. It is here that Nokia has, quite successfully if I may say so, managed to make E7 look ‘sexier’ than any other touch-screen handset I’ve used till date. For a tad hefty device (given that its all metal), weighing at about 176g, its slightly rounded edges, close to perfect construction including a very strong slide-out keyboard hinge, and a thin body (for a side-slide phone) make it a very pocket-able device. And one that you won’t mind showing off around, either.
The proximity and ambient light sensors are found at the top, along with the video-call camera at top-left side of the screen.
Thankfully Nokia has finally reduced the number of ‘physical buttons’ on the E7, with only one ‘menu’ key gracing the bottom of the screen. And functions such as making or ending calls, back and cancel buttons have all been incorporated in the Symbian^3 UI.
The ‘power’ key can be found at the top, along-side a HDMI-out port, a 3.55mm audio jack and a microUSB slot. The microUSB slot carries a LED indicator, which is used during charging.
The left side of the phone carries a screen lock and unlock slider. While a similar slider, found on the right side is to be used as a volume controller.
It comes along with a dedicated camera key and a hot-swappable SIM card slot, also on the right hand side of the device.
At the bottom of the device, you can find the mouthpiece and but no legacy Nokia charge port. Nokia E7 can only be charged via the microUSB slot, found at the top.
The back of the handset carries a fixed focus 8 mp camera, alongside a dual-LED flash, a loudspeaker and a second microphone for active noise-cancellation and stereo sound-recording.
Nokia E7 has a 4 inch Clear Black AMOLED display capable of near HD resolution (640×360). AMOLED screens usually are a treat to look at but in this case Nokia takes it up a notch and takes care of the problem involving reflected light distorting the view. Nokia by using its new Clear Black Display technology blocks light from entering the screen, which in turn filters the reflections responsible for ruining your viewing experience on AMOLED screens under direct / high ambient light.
The screen retains its high viewing angles and excellent color rendering and produces deep blacks, which makes it a pleasure to look at.
Albeit, I must add that I would have liked it all the more if Nokia had gone with an ever higher resolution display. Well, there’s always hope that it will in the future.
As far as touch-response of the screen is concerned, it has come a long way since the early days of N97 and the likes. The screen is now just as touch-responsive as of any other contemporary product any in the market, be it the iOS devices or Android.
The very first impression that you get after sliding out the full QWERTY keyboard in Nokia E7 is that it has an impressive as hell form factor. It carries deep seated keys, with enough space in between them to accommodate users with bigger digits. Nokia has also made sure that all keys follow a standard design form. Hence users upgrading from Nokia E72, will find absolutely no problem in getting used to the fully laid-out Nokia E7 keyboard.
A gentle push downwards from the side of the screen will lift the screen up just enough and then an inbuilt spring takes over and completes the shifting movement.
The keyboard is supported by a very sturdy hinge, much like that on the Nokia N97, although you will feel a tad more robust tactile-feedback. While you might find it a tad cumbersome to open the slider for the first few instances, rest assured, it will only take a few tries to get used to it.
Nokia E7 is running a much cleaner and touch-centric version of Symbian OS. It is a miles ahead of what you saw in Nokia N97, Nokia has finally decided to go about on a cleaning exercise when it comes to designing the UI for Symbian^3.
You start off with 3 panels or screens (unfortunately, you cannot add more of them), which can be populated by either application or function shortcuts or widgets. You can choose to either flip through them or click the middle three button symbol button, to quickly switch between them.
The folder structure in Symbian^3 is not any different from its previous iterations, it still features a hierarchal menu-type. But Symbian has surely done a good job in removing excessive baggage off menus. In most instances the user is provided with direct access to main options, without having to dig in deep like in previous versions of Symbian OS.
There was close to no noticeable lag in Symbian^3 operation under usual circumstances, and even during shifting to the slide out keyboard. The only time I noticed any was when I was surfing data heavy websites. While Nokia E7 comes with a paltry sum of 256MBs of memory, it doesn’t disappoint you in its multitasking performance either, which is a
telling reminder of the fact that Symbian remains till date – one of the most, if not the most, memory efficient mobile OS out there.
Phonebook, Dialer and Call Quality
Having used Android, I must say that I am spoilt when it comes to wirelessly syncing my contacts and calendar entries, along with my emails to my phone. In this case, Nokia E7 can easily be synced with a Microsoft Exchange account, which allowed me to simply wirelessly download my contacts, calendar entires and my emails.
Nokia E7 features a smart-dialer, which means that you just need to start entering the name of the person you want to call, on the main active standby screen and the phone automatically finds the requisite person for you.
As for call quality, we didn’t face any call drops, even in low-reception areas. And the sound was free of any interference. Also, like most of Nokia’s newest handsets, Nokia E7 features noise canceling, which does good work at canceling a lot of background noise. While the now-common features like the proximity sensor and turn-control sensor allow the handset to turn the screen off when its places close to the user’s cheek and silent the device, once its turned upside down – respectively.
Messaging and Email
If there is one aspect of telephony that Nokia E7 has absolutely nailed, it is without a doubt its messaging capabilities.
Nokia E7 featuring a full QWERTY slide-out keyboard, a threaded SMS inbox, painless integration with Microsoft Exchange make it a fantastic messaging device.
Nokia’s native messaging application also makes it a breeze to set up email accounts from any of the main email service providers like gmail or yahoo, it also supports VPN for connecting to secure corporate intranets.
File Manager & USB OTG
Nokia E7 sports a fully featured file manager, which allows all basic file system operations like copying, pasting, moving, sending, sorting and searching. This is a huge upgrade from the de-fanged file managers that the users had become accustomed to seeing on previous E-series devices.
USB OTG is one aspect of this phone, which truly earmarks it for professional use in an environment where data sharing is key to your everyday work. So it does not matter if you have not brought your laptop along with you to a particular meeting with a client or are in urgent need of copying large amounts of data from a USB key or a MicroSD card to your phone, USB OTG handles them all.
Nokia has, in the same tradition set by its contemporaries, offered a cover-flow like interface for its native music player in Nokia E7. ANd with built-in equalizer, support for a wide variety of audio formats and excellent audio quality, Nokia E7 manages to come across as quite a contender in the multimedia category as well and not just business.
The video player in Nokia E7 is capable of playing DivX and Xvid formats natively and supports resolutions up to 720p. This along with HDMI out, turns Nokia E7 into your personal video player for big screens.
Camera and Video
Now, coming from Nokia E72, I had gotten used to a couple of things like excellent image quality and autofocus. My only major gripe with Nokia is that they have rid Nokia E7 of auto-focus. While I agree that their target demographic is a business user, but I am supposing that even a business user would like to take pictures which are properly focused.
Here are a few images that had been snapped using the phone’s 8 MP camera:
The camera application still offers advanced features like face-recognition and basics like geo-tagging and ability to customize camera settings like ISO, sharpening, color tone and contrast.
While Nokia E7 does compromise upon its still image taking capabilities, its video taking capabilities fair far better. It offers digital image stabilization and captures video in 720p resolution at 25fps. The resulting video is extremely smooth, features good colors and keeps the noise levels low.
Browser and Connectivity
Not unlike any of its siblings from the E-series, Nokia E7 supports extensive connectivity options and does not disappoint in this regards.
The connectivity suite includes GPRS/EDGE in quadband and 3G/HSPA (10.2 Mbps HSDPA / 2 Mbps HSUPA) in all five bands (850/900/1700/1900/2100 Mhz), WiFi (b/g/n), Bluetooth 3.0 (stereo), USB 2.0 and a miniHDMI port (Nokia E7 comes with a miniHDMI to normal HDMI port).
Nokia E7 browser, while featuring multi-touch and support for FlashLite 4.0 and good page rendering, does leave some expectations unfulfilled. The entire interface feels a bit dated and reminds you so much of S60 UI. But I am quite hopeful, that Nokia will be removing such clinks on the software front through frequent software upgrades.
Organizer, Officer editor and Applications
Nokia E7 lives up to the legacy of E-series handsets and features a ton of organizer options built in.
Nokia E7 comes with a fully enabled (supporting reading and writing Word, Excel and Powerpoint files, up to Office 2007 standard) version of Quick Office.
The application suite includes a Zip manager, a PDF file reader, a unit convertor, calculator, voice recorder and a Notes application.
Finally! It can now be said that Nokia has started paying some proper attention to its application distribution methods. The new OVI store for Symbian^3 looks, performs and feels much better than before.
Nokia has updated the entire UI of the OVI stores, giving it a refreshing new look, with categorization at the top – Applications, Games, Audio and Video Content, Personalization or content grouping in shape of Home-screen Apps, Tools for Professionals, Go Green, Highly Addictive Games and Web Tv. It also allows you to maintain a personal profile through your OVI user-id and allows you to install applications and media separately.
The OVI stores already has most of the mainstream applications including Skype, IM+, Foursquare, Whats App, YouTube and thousands more.
But I must add, that being an avid twitter user, I did miss the presence of a full featured twitter client, which is available for free. While Gravity is a top-notch effort, it is still a premium software.
GPS and OVI Maps
Nokia E7 comes equipped with a GPS receiver, A-GPS and OVI Maps 3.04. As of earlier this year, Nokia has made navigation on OVI Maps free of cost, which makes OVI Maps one of the best navigational tools available, because unlike Google Maps, you are no need of constantly downloading Map data on your phone. The OVI Maps application also features pinch and zoom.
The handset comes with a digital compass, which is turned on by default, but doesn’t work in turn-by-turn navigation mode. It however automatically gets engaged, when you are making your way around on foot, as it rotates the map to match even your slightest change of direction.
Nokia has packed its 1200mAH (BL-4D) battery within the handset and tweaked E7’s OS for optimum battery performance. I was able to use E7 for two straight days, even with heavy usage (including GPS, EDGE/3G and WiFi).
The year 2011, might as well be the last year of Symbian OS – specially when Nokia will start churning out phones with WindowsPhone 7 on board, towards the end of the year or early next year.
In such a scenario, Nokia E7 might as well be one of the last few of the best that E-series has to offer on Symbian OS. It is a powerful device, which comes with USB on-the-go, ClearBlackDisplay AMOLED, HDMI out, a sleek and what is probably the best keyboard made by Nokia, all of which make it an extremely attractive buy.