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Nokia E71 review: First thoughts

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Nokia E71

Nokia E71

Yesterday I received a Nokia E71 for trial from the S60 team.  I opened it very anxiously and finally the great E71, winner of the ”Phone Of The Year” and ”Best Smartphone Of The Year” was in my hands.  My expectations for the device were very high, I expected a mind blowing and very impressive  S60-powered smartphone.  Here are my first impressions as well as my after-24 hours of usage thoughts.

Before unpacking the box I examined it very carefully, it is half of a normal NSeries box and only brings 7 days of free navigation with Nokia Maps, opposed to the generous 3-6 months NSeries phones usually bring.

I opened it, and as I expected, the E71 was right in the middle. The box brings the USB Cable, the starting CD, the instructions, and manuals, which in my opinion, as a mobile expert, they are quite boring. But in the box there were two things you normally don’t find on a NSeries box, a fine leather pouch and a little leather strap. I realized that it does not bring a memory card, not even a small 512MB one. Anyway, 2GB microSD memory cards are inexpensive so I don’t find it a problem, but I would like to see a longer period of free navigation with Nokia Maps included. After examining the box I proceeded to insert the big battery into the slim body of the E71.

I noticed that the power button is red, a weird colour in a grey steel phone. I pressed it and the phone vibrated, and started-up in an impressive short time.  The stand-by screen looks nice, not as naked as in the N95.  I looked for the S60 Menu button and I got surprised when I found there is none, it is replaced by a key with a ”Home” symbol which has the exact same function. Then I looked through the menus and found horrible icons, they are grey in colour and are not in 3D shape. In my opinion, those grey icons make the E71 look as if it were still under development and had an early beta OS, but I will not change them since the people that designed them know more about this than me. I believe they are not in 3D because they make the screen look smaller.

The D-Pad is very responsive, and a back light called ”Breathing Light” shines every 10 seconds as if the E71 was breathing, I find the breathing light a very elegant and sophisticated touch.  There are key shortcuts for E-mail, Calendar and Contacts.  A complete QWERTY keyboard is included, which seems to be comfortable, but only time will tell.  There is a voice command and up-down buttons on the right side of the E71.

While navigating through the menus, I felt that the E71 is a bit faster than the N82 or N95, it is very responsive to commands and there are no lags. The E71 is a S60 3rd edition Feature Pack 1 phone, so it is supposed to look almost the same as the N82 or N95 which also run Feature Pack 1, but there are some special features from the ESeries line. To name a few, the E71 lets the user search contacts in the stand-by screen  just by typing the contacts name, it also has three special boxes for MMS, SMS and E-Mails under the ”Search” line. I noticed the E71 has the screen completely off when in stand-by mode, while other S60 devices show a blue line with the current profile as well as the time and date.

After unboxing it I left it plugged, the next day I wanted to trial it and see how it performs.

I knew the E71 had a 2.5mm port, and as I had the E90 before, I have 2 different adapters to the 3.5mm port. The first one did not work but the second one did, but it is too big for the E71.  I decided I was going to use the headset that came in the box.  I started the music player and I noticed it is exactly the same as in the N95 8GB. I plugged the headset and started playing music. Soon after I stopped, I realized that those headphones offer a very poor experience as I am used to high-definition noise-cancellation headphones. I did not like the music department on the E71, adapters are just not convenient and there are no 2.5mm decent headsets. It does not bring a memory card so it is pretty difficult to experience music on a ESeries device, I really don’t blame the E71 because I understand it is not designed to offer music capabilities, but 3.5mm jacks would be really nice on ESeries devices.

Since I did not have music I started browsing the web, the standard browser is the same as in the N82 or N95 8GB but gives a sensation of a more stable and fast browsing experience. I wanted to write a long post to try the keyboard, I started and found myself writing very fast for the first time. I had a E62 and used to type with two hands, on the E71 it is not possible because is less wide and there is not enough space. I think there should be a small tutorial showing how is the user supposed to type according to the design of the keyboard.  I typed with one hand and after the first letters, I liked the keyboard, I typed the post without looking at the screen and when I finished I did not found any mistakes, so the keyboard is pretty good, being my first time.

Then I tried the card reader, I thought it would be a useless application that works only 20% of the times, but after actually trying it, I was completely speechless, the E71 recognized every character correctly and positioned it on the correct spot. The E71 has Auto-Focus, but I noticed it is almost fixed for long distance and it is mainly there for close-up pictures. Compared to the N82, the E71 can take closer pictures between its focus range.

Although the N82 has a bigger display than the E71, the natural landscape position makes it look much bigger than the N82’s screen. The same happens with the E62 and N95 8GB, they have the same screen but the landscape display on the E62 makes the N95 8GB screen seem smaller. The E71 display is satisfactory, very crisp and sharp, size is on the limit, although would like to see a 2.5” screen.

So far the E71 proved to be a great device, build quality captivates everybody, BlackBerrys look like toys compared to the metallic E71, the design of the device is brilliant, has very elegant shapes and its features are ahead of many other devices.

In the first 24 hours I have been liking the E71, but wait for the review, in which the E71 will be completely exposed.

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By , International Correspondent on Oct 28th, 2008 GMT +2

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