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Nokia E71 Review

 

Nokia E71 Review

 
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Impossibly slim, sleek, classy metal back, smoky colors. . . one could imagine James Bond carrying the Nokia E71 if he were a man of words rather than action. The E71's predecessor, the Nokia E61 (E62 in the US) once a good looking phone, now looks drab and huge in comparison. No easy feat when you consider that Nokia added features while shrinking and glamorizing the phone.

The Nokia E71 is a quad band GSM phone with EDGE and 3G HSDPA for fast data. It has a full laundry list of high end features including GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0, a 3 megapixel camera and S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 running on Symbian OS 9.2. It has a QWERTY keyboard that puts it up against the likes of the BlackBerry Curve and HP iPAQ 910. There are two E71 variants: the E71-1 is the Eurasian version with Euro 3G, and the E72-2 (our review unit) is for the US with US 3G HSDPA.

As an upgrade to the E61 and E62, the E71 is superb. 3G alone is enough to make AT&T users in major metro areas, where 3G is generally available, giddy. The incredible redesign that makes the E71 easily pocketable is compelling. And there's that GPS. . . The E71, like other recent Nokia E series devices like the E66 and E90 are stunning looking. And at half the price and size, the E71 is the everyman's QWERTY device while the $750 mondo-brick E90 remains niche. Speaking of the E90, the E71 got a few of its enhancements including the split pane contacts and calendar views. Support for Flash, both in web pages and full desktop-style YouTube put the Nokia E71 ahead of the iPhone 3G and most Windows Mobile phones out of the box.

Design and Keyboard

A smartphone this small shouldn't have such a usable keyboard. When it arrived, we looked at it and said "no way can anyone type on that tiny thing". Boy, were we wrong. The keyboard is simply amazing, and only the larger Moto Q9 beats it (our #1 pick for keyboards). Granted, I have experience typing on thumb keyboards, but still-- it's just not normal to pick up a new device and type 35WPM! Nokia somehow found the magic ergonomic recipe-- a keyboard surface with traction, perfect doming and just the right amount of key travel. There's no space between the keys, but the doming makes that seem unnecessary. Granted if you have very broad fingers, the keyboard might present challenges. But none of the folks in our office took issue.

Those of you who've immersed yourselves in S80 phones (the predecessor to the E series phones that includes the older Nokia 9300) might lament the single combined Chr/Ctrl key. The Ctrl key was a Nokia business phone's heart and soul when it comes to typing, making for keyboard shortcuts for page up/down, copy and paste and more. Now you've got to hit the Fn key first (diametrically opposed on the bottom left) before hitting Ctrl + C to copy for example. The good news is that Nokia has added other ways to do these tasks-- for example, hold the shift key while using the d-pad to move along a line of text and highlight it: "copy" will appear as a softkey.

While the Nokia E61/E62 joystick was less than expedient, the d-pad on the E71 is absolute perfection. In fact, we like it even better than the N95's, and that's one of the best in the business. This makes one-handed navigation that much easier, and games more fun. Dedicated application keys surround the d-pad: home, calendar, contacts and email. You can re-assign the 3 application keys to launch other applications and assign an action to a long key press (i.e.: press and hold the calendar key to start a new calendar entry). There's no S60 applications key; the Home key takes its place and does the same job. By default, the left soft key (labeled "Menu") also functions as the applications key (you can change soft key assignments on S60).

Nokia's Active Desktop is here, and you can assign 6 applications to the home screen for quick access, see upcoming appointments, search the phone and Internet and scan for WiFi hotspots from the home screen. The E71, like some other recent Nokia S60 smartphones, has a new feature called Modes that allows you to assign a theme, wallpaper and home screen icons to a location you create, i.e.:

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