I’ve been playing with Nokia devices for a few years now thanks to the blogger relations program but the program has been focused on the Nseries line. This past week however, I received an E71 which has made me an instant Eseries convert. The E as you might expect stands for Enterprise which would lead you to believe there’s a corporate focus here and while that’s certainly a strong suit (ahem) there is nothing conservative here at all.
The styling is awesome – metal, sleek and shiny. The build quality is the best I’ve seen with the exception of Nokia’s 8800 which was designed as a luxury device. The E71 makes my Blackberry Curve feel like a toy by comparison.
The E61 and E61i which I’ve also used are the prior generation of this device and yet aside from the QWERTY keyboard there’s very little in common in experience so far – and that’s a very good thing! I actually loved the E61 when I first purchased it a few years back and was excited to try the E61i which enhanced the original with a slightly refined body and a camera. Both however, simply did not have enough memory to multitask and I found the batteries was easily drained by mid-day running push email. I had the opportunity to switch over to the E61i from the BB Curve but had to return to the Blackberry after a short time due to a weak battery as well as issues staying synced with Exchange. Exchange sync has been fixed thanks to the free Mail for Exchange updates and the E71’s battery is a whopping 1500Mah – the same as the Nokia N810.
As you can see in the above shot the E71 is between the Curve and iPhone in shape and size, though it’s thinner in both thickness and width than either device. It feels amazingly solid feeling in your hand and easily slides in and out of your pocket as you need it.
I think the more logical comparison of the two is the Blackberry since that’s really the target for a device like this but there’s not much to compare. I’ve always found Blackberries to be very strong in wireless sync and speed between messages and while the prior E61 series were not stellar here, the E71 is super quick. Aside from the speed, I’m running a ton of apps concurrently and using gobs of data on both cellular and wifi simultaneously. Handy Taskman reports 61MB of free memory on boot which easily lets me do anything I can imagine with the E71. I typically run two push email accounts, Nokia Chat, Jaiku, the browser with multiple windows and have the Music Player open. On my commute I’m listening to music or podcasts over A2DP. I’ve found in the past week that my usage of the Nokia Internet Tablet has gone from several hours a day to only a few minutes … The E71 can handle just about anything.
While the E71 has a very solid qwerty keybord, the software also includes predictive text which works better than other systems I’ve tried (NIT and BB). Anything you type can be added to the system dictionary and is then available anywhere you need – whether in a note or even in a form field within the browser. I’ve added at between 50 and 100 new words if not more since starting out. The text prediction works with contractions, but for some reason does not add a period after a double space. Hopefully that can be addressed with a software update. The keyboard layout seems far more optimized that the E61 as well. It’s easy to reach key punctuation and symbols without having to hunt around or use the character shortcut key.
The Browser has received a nice boost on two fronts. I discovered fullscreen mode immediately and have not looked back. This elimiates the soft key shortcuts and page titles to maximize the page view. With a double press on the left soft key you are at the menu for bookmarks setttings etc. A single tap is handy to see how much of a page has loaded since you can’t see the loading bar in fullscreen. I would love to see the fullscreen mode drop back to window view when a page is loading and then back to fullscreen on completion so you never had to guess what was happening. I’ve actually suggested this to “some people” and hope it makes it in on a software update schedule. The other key detail here is that new windows spawn when opened from other apps or via an active standby screen shortcut. I love this one. It’s seriously annoying to lose your place when coming over from an email link and having a new window open instead is the same way I use my desktop browser.
In software, there’s a nice dictionary which can serve either as a traditional dictionary or if you download (for free) additional languages you can also use it as a translator which could be quite handy when traveling in another country. Otherwise the on-board software is as you might expect from S60 though for some reason Access Groups are no longer on board. This was a handy way to package both cell and wifi AP’s together in a single stack. I really hope this returns. The new Nokia Chat beta application actually has a nice facility for selecting multiple AP’s by type for access … perhaps this is a new direction for things and will make it’s way in to the rest of the system as well.
The E71 is as close to a QWERTY Nseries as I think we might see. It does everything a high end Nseries does with though lacks Carl Zeiss optics and automatic auto-focus (press T when the camera is open). The 3.2mp camera does a fine job – not great, but substantially better than most phones. From a multimedia angle, music, podcasts and video are all fine. Sound is fine for my daily needs and while video looks great on this screen, the consistency in framerates are not at the same level as what I’ve experienced on the N95. Though I can’t say I necessarily expect the same level of entertainment access with an Eseries.
One last function to note which I’ve honestly barely used is the ability to switch modes. The idea here is that you get one device with multiple personalities. If you want work messaging on until the weekend and a focus on your personal stuff after hours and on weekends, you can press one button and switch over to a more personal (active standby) view. I’ve been running both email accounts all the time – I guess I’m too Type A not to just leave it all going all the time.
In general, the E71 is one helluva solid device. The only thing missing here is 3G support for the US, but that’s coming …and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!
Here’s some more E71 goodness via video: