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


deepakbd said...

Please don't buy it.Its not worth and problem in GPS system and difficult to type the message.Nokia service is worst within 15 days its hanged,service centre taken 1 month to repair it,but still its in same please don't purchase this....worst experience..

Eric said...

@deepakbd I'm sorry you feel that way about this phone. I did buy this phone a 2 weeks after I returned my test one to WOM World. It has been great to me. My first purchased E71 was a dud so I did have to exchange it so buyers beware.

Anonymous said...

Totally bakwaas phone..Nokia is yet not intelligent enough to manufacture smartphones...N the worst service of NCC...Have purchased new black model..within 5 days hang problem occured...NCC only worsened the problem...Please think twice before purchasing it..not worthy spending..