Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nokia E71 Preview

On my visit to the Nokia Flagship store, I had a chance to test out the recently released Nokia E71-2 NAM.
The Nokia E-series has been quiet lately with just a release of the E51 late last year. It's time for some excitement as Nokia has just revamped their best selling E-series phones with a replacement for their QWERTY keyboard E61i and slider E65. The E61i is being replaced with the E71 while the E65 is replaced with the E66. Unfortunately they didn't have a E66 onsite so I was left only previewing the E71. I won't have an E71 test unit to do a full review anytime soon so this preview is longer than my usual.

My initial impressions of the E71 were "wow, this thing is really small and thin". The use of dark grey plastic and chrome give the phone a really classy high end look. It makes the E61 look like child's toy. But one very glaringly obvious downgrade is the move from the 2.8 inch display of the E61/E61i to the 2.38 inch display of the E71.

Quick facts:
Name: Nokia E71-2 RM-357
CPU: Freescale MXC300, 369 MHz ARM1136JF-S RISC + StarCore SC140 DSP
RAM: 128 MB (user accessible: 71 MB)
Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 WCDMA 850/1900
Weight: 126 g
Dimensions: 114 x 57 x 10 mm
Battery life (stand by): up to 480 hours (WCDMA)
Battery life (talk): up to 270 minutes (WCDMA)

With a fast processor, 3MP autofocus camera, GPS, S60 FP1, and a QWERTY keyboard for quick texting/e-mailing, the E71 looks to be the ultimate convergence phone for professional consumers (prosumers) on paper. I carry both a Nokia N82 for the 5MP camera and GPS and a Nokia E61 for corporate e-mail and word processing. Can the E71 replace both my phones?

Scrolling through lists and menus is smooth on the E71 with no lag. It's a big improvement over the E61 and the sluggish E62 (for those of you still using those old clunkers from Rogers or Cingular).

The new theme for the E71 and E66 looks really dull since all the colors are either grey or some pastel color. It doesn't really make the phone's operating system look good. At least you can change them along with the icons.

The most important part of E71 is its keyboard:

Each key is domed giving it the feel of a Treo or HTC Dash. Luckily the keys are bigger than the Dash and spaced equally vertically and horizontally. They're smaller than the usual Treo keyboard however. I must've got used to the Nokia keyboards because I found it easy to type on the E71 and easier to transition to the keyboard than I was with the E61.

The call keys are very narrow and the 4 keys surrounded by the call keys are small too. I don't have big hands but I found myself using my nails to hit more keys than I'd like to. The D-pad on the E71 is tight (no stupid spongy feel like on the N82) and responsive. I didn't try playing any vNes, vSun, or vBag emulator on it but from holding the phone I can tell the keypad will not be ideal for that kind of gaming.

The E71 sports a 2.38 inch TFT display capable of displaying 16M colors. Although it's smaller than the N82 but a little, it feels bigger since it's seated in landscape (wide screen) as opposed to letter (traditional screen). The screen is clear and legitable under direct sunlight. It's protected by plastic unlike the E61/E61i (which expose their display with no protection) so it has a slight reflection and not as legitable as its predacessor. Too bad Nokia has moved from the 2.8 to a smaller 2.38 inch display. The difference is noticable. I still prefer watching a movie on the E61.

To keep the E71 relevant, Nokia has upped the camera from 2MP to 3MP and even included auto focus. As everyone has reported, the T key will perform the auto focussing. I find the workaround reasonable and autofocussing is actually faster on the E71 than the N82. Unfortunately the camera produces noisy photos and a very noticable lag when taking photos. After you press the shutter key, the screen turns black and you have to stay still for a few seconds before the actual photo is taken. What you last saw on the screen before it turned dark is NOT the photo you've taken because of the lag. This camera has the worst lag of any phones I've recently tested like the Nokia 5310b and 3555b.

The video resolution is horrid. Unlike what Phonescoop says (up to VGA resolution at 22 fps, or QVGA resolution at 30 fps), the E71 is only capable of 320 x 240 (QVGA) up to 15 fps.

The E71 sports Bluetooth 2.0, 802.11b/g (WiFi), GPS (yes, a real one that connects to satellites), and Infrared.

The Nokia E71 looks great and it works well. Gone are the days that my coworkers laugh at my E61 and call it either a dinosaur or a calculator. The E71 is a snappy performer. Having 3G support on Rogers and AT&T is a major improvement over the N82 and E61. The E71 looks great spec-wise but you definitely feel trade offs were made to keep the phone small such as the smaller display and cramped buttons.

The camera performance won't match the N82, which I use very frequently for taking photos for my blogs, and the 2.38 inch display is a significant step down to watching videos and YouTube on the 2.8 inch E61 screen . However, the UMTS 850/1900 is definitely enticing. The keyboard, although cramped, wasn't a problem for me to just pick up and type at a good rate. The strong points for the E71 are huge and is one of the phones on my short list. If it wasn't for my frequent roaming between the US and Canada and camera needs, I would consider taking up the E71.

While reading on the E71 CPU, the Freescale solution includes the following:

StarCore SC140 DSP (GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz, UMTS 850/1900/2100MHz, GPRS class 12, EDGE class 12, HSDPA)

So why doesn't Nokia enable triband UMTS on their E71? It's just silly there are some E71 with 2100 while others with 850/1900. I wonder if it's a patent reason.

More Information: PDAdb E71 Fact Sheet

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chicago: Nokia Flagship Store

543 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

Guess where I went this weekend!

Yes, I was in Chicago!

The hustle and bussel of the city streets:

Cloud Gate

Also known as "The Bean". It's pretty cool being directly underneath The Bean and seeing a distant reflection of yourself.

Now what is a Chicago trip without visiting the Nokia Flagship store on Michigan Avenue?

Nokia Store Window:

Nokia is really pushing their Batman tie in.

Inside the Nokia Store:

Unlike their New York City store, this one is single floored.

Phones presently pushed: 8600 Luna, Batman Phone (Nokia 6205), 5310

They also had a number of E62 and E61i at the front of the store. A E71 was also present!

Other phones they had on display were the Nokia N810, E90, E51, E65 (white, pink, and grey), N76, N82, N95, N95 8GB, N81, 6300, 6133. No 6220 classic, no E66.

The flagship store was fairly quiet. No where near the chaos of going to a Tiffany's on the weekend.

The computers at the back had a browser opened to a page with links to WOMWorld, GSMArena, and Nokia. Too bad that computer didn't have Internet access so none of the links worked.

The Nokia flagship store was a little disappointment except for the E71. It resembles more of a store and not really an innovative place to show off the capabilities of Nokia. After seeing a number of Windows Mobile commercials at the airport showing off document editing capabilities, I just wished Nokia did a better job convincing people that they want a Nokia.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nokia 5310 XpressMusic (T-Mobile) Review

Looking to compete against the highly successful Walkman line of cell phones from Sony Ericsson, Nokia started the XpressMusic brand. But unlike Sony Ericsson, who rolls out the same phone with just a color and software change (SE W610 is similar to the K550), Nokia has released dedicated phones to the XpressMusic line. Although phones from the XpressMusic phones bear strikingly similar specifications and design to Nokia's standard line of phones (Nokia 5310b is similar to the Nokia 6301), they do include extra dedicated music keys to set them apart.

Looking to add a bit more flavor to the XpressMusic line, Nokia has unleashed the vibrant yet classy Nokia 5310b for North America. The first thing that caught my eye is its thin dimension. It's a nice looking phone but can it deliver in the multimedia experience as its XpressMusic labelling seems to suggest? Let's find out!

The firmware on my 5310 is V 05.91 20-02-08 (the initial production firmware) and runs S40 5th edition. The box contains the phone, AC-3U charger, Headset / HS-45 and controls AD-57, BL-4CT: 860 mAh battery, USB data cable (CA-101), 1GB microSD (sd-C01G) memory card.

Quick facts:
Name: Nokia 5310b XpressMusic (RM-304)
Network: GSM 850/1800/1900
Weight: 70g
Dimensions: 104 x 45 x 9.9 mm
Battery life (stand by): up to 300 hours (GSM)
Battery life (talk): up to 300 minutes (GSM)

My phone was manufactured in: (your phone's country of manufacture could vary) Mexico.

A staple of the Nokia brand are its quality bar shaped phones and the Nokia 5310 continues this tradition in its very attractive thin design. Everyone I've shown the 5310 loved the look and impressed by the 9.9mm thickness. The red side bars add excitement to an otherwise traditional black phone.
The light sensor is immediately to the right of the ear piece

The left is the charger and music player controls. The right has the volume rocker

A very simple back with the camera at the top and the speakers at the bottom

On the top of the phone is the 3.5mm headset jack, microUSB, and power button.

Here is the Nokia 5310 compared to my 6230b:

Side Profile:

With almost the same functionality, the 5310 comes in a smaller package

The build quality of the Nokia 5310 is solid despite being of mostly plastic construction. Unlike most other Nokias, there are no creaking and very little gaps. Almost no dust enters the battery compartment unlike my Nokia 6230.

The 5310 is, however, a fingerprint magnet on all it's glassy surfaces (the entire front of the phone).

The SIM mechanism is really bad requiring you to push the SIM into the thin slot and push it out from the back. I suppose the cheap construction was to keep the phone thin.

The SIM card isn't under the battery but a little switch is pushed into the SIM by the battery that prevents the SIM from being pushed out.

The screen is a good size and resolution is standard Nokia at 240 x 320 pixels (2 inches) and can display up to 16.7 million (24-bit) colors. There is a light sensor to vary the brightness of the screen.

A very standard TFT display that's readable under direct sun:

Keys are stiff and the glossy surface makes it slippery. The call and soft keys are both flat and flush so distinguishing between the two usually requires you to look at the phone.

A traditional keypad that works:

The number keys have a subtle hump in the center that help you distinguish between each row but it's smooth between columns

The keypad is small for those that have big fingers:

I'm right handed and find the right most keys difficult to press as they're so close to the edge of the phone and because the phone is thin.

The keypad light is very bright. No complaints about it.

I have a T-Mobile branded 5310 but you can configure change its theme and turn on active standby to mask the branding:

Unfortunately there are two aesthetics things I noticed that can't be changed easily:
- T-mobile icons
- right soft key can't be changed and it's set to t-zone

General menu navigation was smooth and very snappy. There was no perceived lag.

Since my last review with a S40 5th edition device, the Nokia 3555, I noticed the following significant difference:

  • Auto keypad locking - auto key lock settings > phone >automatic key guard
  • Call timer during a call - settings > call > in-call timer
  • pretty cool screen saver but useless
  • locking the phone is no longer the left soft key then *. Its center key then *
  • With sleep mode on you don't see anything on the display with it off you see the typical Nokia black screen with a white strip containing the date, time, and indicator icons
  • change font size - Settings > Display

The active standby feature allows you to display up to 4 items from the following: Calendar, Countdown timer, General Indicators, Music Player, My note, and Short cut bar. You cannot choose the same item type twice; for example you can't have two sections for countdown timer. I have chosen short cut, music player, and calendar above. Within the short cut bar you can choose from a long list of core phone functions like profiles or camera but added Java applications are not available options.

Very flexible active standby screen with 4 choices

With the introduction of S40 5th edition, Nokia phones have become very customizable but with that, Nokia phones are creeping towards being complicated and menus are getting very deep.

For example, to access the calculator, if you don't have it as a short cut, it's in Menu/Fun&Apps/Organizer. It takes a bit of time to get use to it. The display shows 4 menu items at a time. There are 14 groupings in Settings.

Menu Structure:
-- Music
-- Log
---- Call Log
---- Missed calls
---- Received calls
---- Dialed numbers
---- Message recipients
---- Clear log lists
---- Call timers
---- Packet data counter
---- Packet data conn. timer
---- Message log
---- Sync Log
-- t-zones
---- t-zones (online)
---- Bookmarks
---- Last Web Address
---- t-zones inbox
---- Settings
---- Go to address
---- Clear the cache
-- IM & E-mail
---- Instant messages (t-mobile app and online)
---- E-mail (t-mobile app and online)
-- Messaging
---- Create message
---- Inbox
---- Drafts
---- Outbox
---- Sent items
---- Saved items, Delivery reports, Voice mail, Service commands, Delete messages, Message settings
-- Fun & Apps
---- Gallery
------ Memory Card
------ My Album (online)
------ myFaves Icons (online)
------ Images
------ Voice Clips
------ Music Clips
------ Themes
------ Graphics
------ Tones
------ Recordings
------ Receiv. Files
---- Games & Apps
------ Memory Card
------ Games (online)
------ Games - all demos
-------- AMF Bowling Deluxe (limited number of times)
-------- (Who wants to be a) Millionaire Music
-------- Surviving High School (girl game - level limited)
-------- WSOP Pro Challenge (time limited)
------ Collection
-------- Converter
-------- t-zones
-------- Wallpaper creator
-------- World clock
------ Media
-------- Camera
-------- Video
-------- Music Player
-------- Radio
-------- Voice Recorder
-------- Equalizer
------ Organizer
-------- Alarm clock
-------- Calendar
-------- To-do list
-------- Notes
-------- Synchronization
-------- Calendar
-------- Timer
-------- Stopwatch
-- Help (online)
-- Phonebook
---- Names
---- Synchronize all
---- Settings
---- Groups
---- 1-touch dialing
---- My numbers
---- Delete all contacts
---- Move contacts
---- Copy contacts
-- Settings
---- Profiles
---- Themes
---- Tones
---- Display
---- Date and time
---- My shortcuts
---- Sync and backup
---- Connectivity
---- Synchronization
---- Call
---- Phone
---- Enhancements
---- Configuration
---- Security
---- Restore Settings

The Nokia 5310 didn't come with Snakes. That is just wrong. All the included games are demos either limited by play time or number of times played. Also included are T-Mobile's suite of online apps such as t-zones, Instant messages, E-mail (there is no native S40 e-mail client on the 5310), and myFaves Icons

There is no task switching key as found in Sony Ericson’s and Nokia's S60 operating system so there's a limited amount of multi-tasking possible.

Music Player
The built-in music player is native to S40 and can run in the background and while the phone is locked or running another application.
The music and video player look good with the included t-mobile skin:

The default skin is horrid and makes the phone look complicated:

I pulled this image from my 3555 review since it's the same

The sound circuit theme is a minimalist theme.

The music player feels sluggish with a split second delay after each key press. While the music player supports playing videos, the music player feels even more sluggish with a longer delay for each key press. Equalizer looks good.

The 5310 supports 3.5mm headsets but does not support Nokia A/V so the 5310 does not support TV out.

The 5310 includes dedicated music keys unfortunately they're not back lit:
There is no way to easy lock keys like a dedicate mp3 player

Java applications open fairly quickly with a little load time when opening and closing. Within the application, the response is snappy with no lag like old implementations of Java. It's become so fast that some included applications that use to be native are now implemented with Java like the calculator.

Once again the calculator has gone through a revamp.

Standard mode:

The calculator has now adopted a style similar to Calcium for S60

Scientific mode:
 You have to scroll down to see more functions making it hard to use

My favorite function of the calculator is the new loan calculator:
You'll never get stuck figuring out if you're getting a bad deal at the car dealership

You can't leave a Java application without closing so this limits you to one Java application open at a time.

Note: Java applications no longer start with a display of the Java logo.

Sim-less Mode
The Nokia 5310 has flight mode where it will function with the antenna deactivated (Settings/Profiles and choose Flight) and without the sim-card.

You can connect the 5310 to your computer using Bluetooth or USB data cable. You can install Nokia PC Suite to synchronize the 5310 with your computer.

You can pair devices, you can send images/music files/video clips/themes and virtually any content via Bluetooth to another device. Each time you want to connect to another device, the 5310 needs to scan for devices even if you've previously connected with the device (this gets annoying if you Bluetooth a lot as you need to wait for the search to finish). If your BT is off you can still send media, the phone prompts you to turn on BT and will automatically turn off BT when the transfer is done. So if S40 can automatically turn off BT, why can't S60 do the same?

Sending files occur in the foreground (cannot multi-task) but receiving files occur in the background so you can multi-task during this time.

Pairing the 5310 with a PC gives you these features in the included Bluetooth profiles:
Dial up networking
HS Audio gateway
OBEX Object Push
OBEX File Transfer
Serial Port
Network Access Point Service

There are not as many profiles as on Sony Ericsson phones but its good enough for most people. I paired the 5310 to my laptop and N82 with no problems.

With most people already over the whole triband fiasco of 2004 with plentiful quad band GSM phones and moving on to complaining about 3G WCDMA frequency compatibility (North America uses 850/1900, except T-mobile who uses 1700 while the rest of the world uses 2100), I find it cheap that Nokia only included triband GSM support, throwing us back into 2004.

Sound Quality
With no support for T-mobile's 1700 network, the Nokia 5310 experienced weak and spotty reception and signal strength in the NYC area. thankfully i had another T-mobile SIM card for testing so i compared the 5310's reception to my other Nokia phones. The 5310 had weaker reception compared to my N82 and E61. i experienced in and out voice and static during calls but none of my calls were dropped.

You can set your own MP3 as a ring tone too.

The 5310 has weak speakers with no bass. The audio quality is worst than the E61 and N82. It also only plays mono through the speakers.

Headset use
Wow. I don't have the most sensitive ears but the quality is very good being as good as my Nokia N82. The 3.5mm, of course, supports stereo. This is definitely the way Nokia intended music to be played and here is where the added digital signal processor (DSP) helps. The 5310 also supports Bluetooth stereo headsets through A2DP but I wasn't able to test this.

Multimedia Features

The 5310 has a 2MP (1600x1200 pixel) camera.

The photos produced by the 5310 are blurry. A slow shutter forces you to hold still for a split second when taking photos. The phone takes a picture a noticeable split second after pressing down on the shutter button. Saving photos is slow taking about 7 seconds so you can't take many photos in succession.

Surprisingly, the 5310 stores pictures taken in the Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) format but the only EXIF data stored are width, height, bit depth, equipment make, model, firmware, and Color Representation.

There are 7 picture sizes

Image Quality

Landscape Photo
Switches the camera UI to landscape mode.

normal, false colors, sepia, grayscale, negative, polarize

White Balance
Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent

Building in Daylight

Nokia 5310

Nokia N82

The 5310 produces a photo with accurate colors but comes out blurry.

There is no night mode, but it's interesting to see how normal mode in 5310 fares against the Nokia N82.

Nokia 5310:

Nokia N82:

The 5310 produces very blurry photos. The indoor photos from the 5310 are very bluish. It feels like Nokia just stuck in one of their crappiest 2MP camera modules to this phone so, spec-wise, it qualifies as a midrange phone. You can see all the blurry photos I took with the 5310 on one of my recent trips on Jumpcut.

To turn off the camera sound, within the camera app go to Options > Settings > Camera Sounds
On/Off (it really turns the phone silent unlike most S60 cameras)

The 5310 also records video. You can record directly to the memory card and length of the movie is only bound by the amount of free space available (remember to change the Video clip length to maximum).
Video recording was also bad as seen to this comparison to a recording by the Nokia n82

Video clip quality:

Video Resolution:

The resolution is really low and isn't adequate for anything useful. Even YouTube supports a higher resolution (320x240).

Here is the video I took uploaded to YouTube:

Audio Recording
Audio recording is horrid picking up lots of background noises and heavy distortion. This is an audio recording by a lake: Download Audio

External Memory
A 1GB microSD memory card is included in the 5310. The memory card is not obstructed by the battery or SIM card so you can hot swap the memory card.
can pop out memory card with no phone warning and pop back in and it'll pick it up. Alarm using sound on memory card will default to Nokia tone when memory card not available

Battery is weak for a S40 phone. The 5310 lasts 2 days from full charge. Without a SIM card or placing the phone in flight mode, the phone lasted 5 days without a charge (sometimes I wonder if this is the mode most manufacturers use to determine the standby time they publish).

Build quality...........10
Features for $.........7 (T-Mobile $50 for 2 years, Rogers $50 for 3 years)
Battery life.............3


*Attractive exterior design
*It's really thin while staying managable in the hand
*More advanced S40 5th edition operating system
*Great build quality
*Dedicated music controls
*3.5mm headset jack
*Fast menu navigation
*Free on T-Mobile
*Support for various IM and e-mail services like MSN and gmail
*reasonable price, T-Mobile $50 for 2 years, Rogers $50 for 3 years

*Weak speakers
*Poor call quality
*Triband with no 3G support.
*Complicated menu system
*No physical keypad lock switch
*no native e-mail client
*Short battery life

Overall the Nokia 5310 is a great low to mid-ranged phone with a very compelling design and great build quality. It offers a very thin, compact, and classy design. It may not shine in the imaging but it's a very strong phone in the music department. The 5310's weak outgoing/incoming call qualities and reception are uncharacteristic of Nokia's bar shaped phones.

The Nokia 5310 unit reviewed was supplied by WOM World. Thanks guys!

Cross posted on HowardForums

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Nokia 5310 XpressMusic Preview

Thin is in and Nokia isn't going to let Samsung, Sony Ericsson, or Motorola dominate that field without a good fight.

Introducing the 9.9mm thin Nokia 5310 XpressMusic. The 5310 is targeted to a younger crowd with its vibrant red trim and XpressMusic branding but I'm sure many consumers looking for a thin, light on your pocket phone will surely appreciate the 5310's no non-sense design.

Initial impressions are very positive with a very thin classy design, bright sharp display, and solid no creak build quality. The 5310 is almost 50% of the thickness of the Nokia N82! The screen and matte front attract finger prints, the keypad is slippery and small for big fingers, the D-pad is small, the soft keys are call keys are flush with each other, and the speaker phone produces scratchy output. Things aren't sounding too good for the Nokia 5310 already.

Stay tuned for a full review of the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic!