Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Nokia E71 Review

While the business community is clamouring for the Blackberry Bold with its smooth styling, 3G, more powerful processor, and, finally, a full HTML browser, the Nokia community has been enjoying much of those features in the N-series and E-series of phones. If business users knew about the smooth, powerful, and flexible Nokia E71, they would pick this up in a heart beat. The firmware on my E71-2 is V 100.07.76 08-06-2008 (the initial production firmware). The box contains the phone, AC-5U charger, CA-101 USB data cable, HS-47 Stereo Music Headset, Nokia E-series carrying case, and Nokia CD with utilities and programs.

I must admit, I didn't think I'd get the chance to review the E71-2 NAM so soon. Thanks to WOM World for supplying me the E71-2 in this review.




Quick facts:
Name: Nokia E71-2 NAM (RM-357)
Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 WCDMA 850/1900
Weight: 126 g
Dimensions: 114 x 57 x 10 mm
Battery life (stand by): 480 hours (WCDMA)
Battery life (talk): 270 minutes (WCDMA)
CPU: 32bit Freescale MXC300, 369 MHz ARM1136JF-S
RAM: 128 MB (accessible: 71 MB)

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



The phone doesn't stand well on its sides so here are the side profiles:

Top of the phone

The speaker and red power button. It may look odd being colored red but you won't notice it on a daily basis.

Left of the phone

The microUSB, microSD slot, and infrared port. The slots have a slight bump for your finger to nudge open.

Right of the phone

The recorder, volume rocker, and 2.5mm headset jack. The volume rocker is a lighted and sturdy unlike a number of other Nokia phones (like the N95).

Aesthetics
Contrasting greatly against the calculator-like E61, the E71 brings beauty and high built quality long enjoyed by 88xx owners to the E-series of phones. The etched stainless steel battery cover and chrome finishing give the E71 a luxurious feel. Chrome and metal also mean you'll have lots of finger prints. The E71 exhibited no creaking.


A little more than 2 years separate these two phones and Nokia's design has come a long way to improve the E-series' appearance dramatically.

Unlike the E61, Nokia has included rubber padding under the battery cover to prevent annoying battery cover creaking i had mentioned in my E61 review.


The battery cover has an etched pattern which increases grip and feels very good to touch. However, with a metal battery cover, it gets very warm after calls.


The status LED lies right under the d-pad so the ring between the center key and navigation ring will blink when an e-mail arrives. Unfortunately the LED doesn't blink frequent enough and not bright enough to notice. I couldn't tell the differnce between the normal blink and the email notification blink.

The keypad light is relatively weak. As with most phones these days, lighting is controlled by a light sensor.


The SIM mechanism is similar to the E61 but even worst. I have a hard time sliding out the SIM card from its holder.


The Nokia E71 beside an Apple iPhone - it's here just because I know somebody will compare the two:

Quite a contrast in design. One is loaded with buttons while the other is a minimalist.

Display
On my E71 preview I was criticizing the E71 for dropping the wonderfully large 2.8 inch screen from the E61 to a dimuitive 2.36 inch. But once I started using the E71, I totally forgot the screen size was small. The faster CPU, 3G support, pocketable size, and beauty make this screen size just perfect for the E71. The E71 perfomed well under direct sunlight with emails readable without having to tilt the screen.

The E71 display has a higher contrast compared to the E61. It looks similar to the N82 but brighter

To help conserve battery power, the E71 has a power saver timeout that blanks the entire screen and blinks the LED under the D-pad. To turn on the status indicator and time screensaver when the phone is idle, go to Profile > Breathing Light > Off:


Keypad
It's small, no doubt about that. But the keys are highly domed so they're easy to pick out. The tactile feedback is better than the stiff E61 keys. I have an Asian E61 so I have a number of characters on my E61 that I don't often use like Yen but the E71-2 is better optimized for the North American market. There is 1 less Shift key and CTRL and CHR now share one key on the E71. This improves text input a lot.



Space bar has at least two sensor and feedback points so when you hit it at the center, it feels ackward to get two separate tactile feedbacks.
Unlike the older E61, there are less alt/shift/ctrl keys on the phone. The typing software has been much improved with a lot better capitalization handling.

I've typed this review on the E71 using Quickoffice (the E71 comes with a full version with edit capabilities) and find it very comfortable typing long messages or documents on it. I would have gotten tired typing the same thing on the E61 since its keys are too stiff.

Software

The E71 is a snappy phone with very fast response throughout the menu.

As you may have heard, or not, that the E71 runs S60 FP1 but with some modifications. I'll go over some of the more common additions/changes:

The much talked about Modes:


With modes you can switch between two modes. Each mode controls:
* home screen application short cuts
* Enabled home screen plug-ins
* Active mailbox and preview style
* Theme
* Wallpaper

Typing on the standby screen will now match first and last names in your contacts. Unfortunately, the Contacts no longer matches contact names separated by ; as stored by Sony Ericsson phones.


The old E61 use to display a huge lock but the new phone locked screen displays a bit more information:


Notifications such as incoming text messages and voice messages are now displayed as small bubbles at the standby screen bottom:


As mentioned by almost everyone, the home key no longer brings you into the menu but into the active standby screen (unless you're already at the standby screen so it'll take you to the menu).

Deleting access points is instanteous and no longer displays a 'deleting' dialogue.

Calendar

The calendar has been revamped but displays the same amount of information. The meetings use to appear as a popup but now appear to the right of the calendar.

Encryption
To the delight of corporations, the E71 now supports encryption on both the phone and memory card so if a device is lost then data from it can't be stolen when phone lock is enabled. You can turn this feature on at: Tools > Encryption. Be aware that enabling encryption on the memory card will prevent it from being used on other devices.

File Manager
The E71 has better file extension support allowing you to open a FLV Flash movie straight from the file manager.

Ugly icons
High contrast straight forward icons help business users easily identify applications.

It looks like a step back from the usual colorful icons in other S60 devices but you'll quickly get use to it and enjoy their no nonsense look. Thankfully you can replace them with themes that include icons.

Browser
The Nokia web browser supports full HTML support and renders pages to look like browsing from a computer. The browser also supports embedded Flash for handling web site that rely on flash for navigation or content like YouTube. Eat your hearts out iPhone and Blackberry users. Nokia has further refined the browser. An example change is the browser now prompts to ask if you want your password saved.

Unfortunately the browser crashes more often than my other S60 phone like on pulse24.com.


Note that some software don't work with the E71 so be sure to test out all your applications. This is what I've observed:
- Best torch doesn't work but S60SpotOn works
- Panoman doesn't work. Complains that 'camera in use'.

Additional Software included with the E71 not included with other typical S60 devices are:
- Active Notes
- Dictionary
- full version of QuickOffice (with edit capabilities)

Although Nokia does not offer a central application store for S60 devices yet, they do offer Nokia Mosh for finding free software. I found software that turns my camera LED into a flashlight, called S60SpotOn, on Mosh.

Mail
A weak spot in the E71. The iPhone uses webkit for their browser and so does Nokia on their S60 phones so why does the iPhone support HTML in emails while the S60 doesn't? The recently released Blackberry Bold supports it so it's a good feature to add soon if Nokia is listening.
Email allows you to highlight the sender and recipients but you still can't copy or email them individually.
Unlike the Blackberry, the E71 will continue to display a wallpaper behind emails messages instead of a flat color as it does when scrolling down the contacts page. This can make reading emails difficult if the background has similar colors to the text.

Blackberry
Much to the bemoan of a few users, the Nokia E71 no longer supports Blackberry Connect unlike its predecessor, the E61 and E61i, which do. The E71 supports Microsoft's Exchange Active Sync through their Mail for Exchange software. E71 users don't have to worry about outages when RIM upgrades the Blackberry network. Two strong functionality in Blackberry lost in the E71 are PIN and chat. Both of these functions bypass the costly sms and data usage. The older Blackberry Connect for Nokia supported receiving PIN but not sending. I'm hoping Nokia addresses this functionality gap by hosting a chat server for their included IM software and put some marketing dollars to educate the public.

Stability
During my time with the E71, I only recall two reboots in the three weeks I've had the phone. One just happened while I was writing this review.

Multimedia
Those who say S60 is designed mainly for creating and not geared as much to consume multimedia must not fully use their phone. Out of the box the E71 supports H.264 video, the same video format used by the iPhone. With some added third party software like Coreplayer and MobiTubia, the E71 can open DiVX movies and stream YouTube videos. With the included 2.5mm stereo headsets (or get yourself a pair of AD2P stereo Bluetooth headsets) and music player supporting album art, you can easily have your favorite MP3s blasting in your ears. If you're an audiophile then you can install OggPlayer. S60 gives you more flexibility than both the locked down iPhone and the "lacking in software" Blackberry.

Camera
The E71 includes a 3.2 MP camera with autofocus and macro mode.

The E71 sports a LED for flash and a mirror for self portraits

The E71 uses the same camera software as the N-series line of devices.


Camera uses the center key for taking photos so the menu is hidden by default unlike other s60 devices with a dedicate shutter button. Since the center key takes photos and makes menu selections, you can't take a photo with the menu displayed. press the left soft key or right on the dpad to show menu and hit left on the dpad to hide the menu.
You can silent the camera but the led will automatically flash
As mentioned on most reviews, the T key is used for autofocussing. Focussing is quick taking half the time of the N82 but the focussing is not as accurate as the N82.

N82 macro mode without flash:


E71 macro mode with auto flash (yep, it fired):


E71 macro mode without flash:


Outdoor auto:


Overall, the E71 produced grainy photos even under direct sunlight. Colors reproduction was not accurate with photos coming out bluish or reddish. Hopefully Nokia improves this in their next firmware update. I tried to use the E71 to take some photos for my food blog, but the outcome was disappointing.

I have taken a number of photos with the E71 on a recent road trip that you can see here.

Video
The maximum video recording resolution supported by the E71 is 320 x 240 pixels which is perfect for uploading to YouTube.

These are the available quality settings:
High: MP4, 320 x 240 pixels, 394 kbit/s
Normal: 3GPP, 176 x 144 pixels, 184 kbit/s
Sharing: 3GPP, 176 x 144 pixels, 82 kbit/s

Reception
The E71 had about 2 bars less than the N82 when reception was not perfect. Although bars isn't an accurate measurement of a phone's reception, when the N82 had 2 bars and the E71 had 0 bars and couldn't make or receive calls, the bars make a difference. There are a number of threads on Howard Forums complaining of reception issues. However, within a call i never encountered drop calls unlike my iPhone 3G friends.

Speakerphone
The audio was not as loud as the N82 but good in a quiet setting.

Headset
I didn't have a chance to test this.

Connectivity
Unlike the Blackberry and iPhone, the e71 offers a wealth of Bluetooth profiles that allows you to share files with other devices, listen to music over a wireless stereo bluetooth headset, or sync data to your home computer.
As with all E-series devices, infrared is included to share data with older devices or laptops without Bluetooth.
connecting the E71 to a computer using a USV cable will automatically keypad unlock the phone (but not phone unlock) allowing you to select the connection type (mass storage, nokia suite, etc.)

WiFi
The WiFi sensitivity is similar to the Nokia N82. As usual, the sensitivity is weaker than the standard Centrino package from Intel for laptops.

Global Positioning (GPS)
The E71 has an integrated GPS chip to get an accurate position of the phone.

Here is a comparison of the N82 to the E71 GPS status screen:

Both phones had their GPS started at the same time from cold boot

The N82 was consistently faster at locking a position and much more sensitive. The N82 usually took half the time to lock compared to the E71.

TIme to lock is dependent on your location and weather conditions. Turning on assisted GPS in Tools > Settings > General > Positioning > Positioning Methods will reduce lock time but requires a data connection.

External Memory
Unlike most other S60 Nokia handsets, the E71-2 NAM does not include a memory card with the retail package. However it easily supported the 2GB microSD and 8GB microSDHC cards I had on hand. The small slot and rubber cover make inserting the memory card very tricky. Make sure you don't insert the card upside down because it's really hard to take out. The memory card goes gold connector side facing up.



Battery
The E71 uses Nokia's longest lasting phone battery, the BL5L, with 1500mAH. The E71 consistently lasted at least 2.5 days of usage before needing a charge. I spent a whole weekend without a charge and this included having the phone on dual mode (3G and GSM), e-mail synching throughout the business day, browsing the web for about 10MB of data, and occasional phone calls for about 30 minutes total. A great battery where i didn't need to think about charging as i do on my N82.

Conclusion
After 3 weeks of testing the E71, I had a hard time letting it go. With a beautiful compact design, the E71 is quite a looker. The E71 supports Rogers and AT&T highspeed 3G HSDPA networks and 802.11b/g wifi giving users a variety of connection methods. Nokia's open nature with software ensures a wealth of third party software is available for the S60 platform. If you're a business user who doesn't need Blackberry support or a frequent text message sender looking for a phone with a QWERTY keyboard and multimedia capabilities, I highly recommend taking a look at the Nokia E71.

Ratings:
Performance...........9
Build quality...........10
Keypad...................8
Connectivity...............9
Features for $.........8
Software................8
Camera..................6
Battery life.............10

Overall.....................9.5


PROS:
*elegant compact design
*lots of memory to run apps simultaneously
*WiFi
*Great build quality
*Great incoming sound
*Amazing phonebook organization
*fast navigating menus
*lots of existing S60 games/apps
*great built in web browser
*landscape screen
*long lasting battery
*good tactile keyboard feedback

CONS:
*slow locking GPS
*no support for HTML in e-mails
*relatively weak RF
*grainy camera
*Paying for navigation in Nokia Maps
*small screen
*buggy software
*tight keyboard
*smudges easily

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Eric
To use the GPS MUST you use Nokia Maps or can you load, say, Tom Tom and not pay for navigation at all?
Retailer specs say it does NOT have GPS, yet I think you say it has assisted and true GPS. Can you clarify this?
Cheers
N

Eric said...

Hi N, it has a true GPS. And you don't need to use Nokia Maps if you don't want to.

I've installed Garmin XT on my E71 and do not pay any additional charges for navigation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Great review!
N

adam said...

hi.

how to enable shortcut by entering contact name while standby mode? when im try to call, it said invalid number. thanks.

Eric said...

Adam: I've read online that searching for contact names on the standby screen is region specific. For example, most APAC versions do not have this functionality

Blackberry Gtd said...

This has been the best review of the E71 I have read, I enjoyed it very much, thanks

Anonymous said...

this was a great.
it helped to get one right now! (in tree days =_=)
the pics with this cel is almost anywhere... there you uploaded :D

Anonymous said...

can i use my tmobile sim card for this phone

Anonymous said...

i know this is stupid but how do you know when the battery is fully charged? Does the charging meter stop? Is there a screen where i can see the battery % ?

Eric said...

TMobile SIM card will work on an unlocked E71.

The battery bar will stop being animated when it's fully charged. There's also a "Battery Fully Charged" message immediately after it's full.

Anonymous said...

I've just received my E71 and have charged it for the first time for over 4 hours: while the battery bar does stop being animated, there is no "Battery Fully Charge" message on my mobile. I agree that this is confusing! Any ideas? Might there be something wrong?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I have the same issue here with my E71. I have no message saying the battery is fullt charged. It only stops blinking. Is it normal? About its performance it is fine, it lasts about 3-4 days

Anonymous said...

wow, this review helped me a lot, thank you eric.

Nokia E71 Review said...

Great review, Beautiful pictures. Thanks a lot!

Nokia e71 review said...

Nice review!! Nokia e71 is the smartphone runs fantastically with Symbian S60, is a business centric phone with its messaging features and full QWERTY keyboards. The Nokia E71 is fairly a smart looking phone simply due to its sparkly and silver design. Overall it’s the best phone for business people.

Anonymous said...

pls how can i use the camera light as torch

Eric said...

@anonymous You can use S60SpotOn to use the camera light as a torch