Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nokia E75 Review

The Windows Mobile community long had the bar with qwerty keyboard slider form factor with their HTC S710. Finally Nokia delivers a S60 device in this form factor to meet the demands of the continually growing text messaging crowd. This was the form factor that I had hoped for a long time that Nokia would make. The slider merges the convenience of a keypad for quick calls while offering a full qwerty for typing out long messages. Find out if the E75 delivers the goods in my review. The firmware on my E75-2 is V 100.48.78 25-03-09 (the initial production firmware). The box contains the phone, AC-8U charger, CA-101 USB data cable, HS-43 Stereo Music Headset, Nokia 4GB microSDHC class 4 memory card, 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 E75-2 NAM so soon. Thanks to WOM World for supplying me the E75-2 in this review.

Full review after the jump.

Quick facts:
Name: Nokia E75-2 NAM (RM-413)
Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 WCDMA 850/1900
Weight: 139 g
Dimensions: 112 x 50 x 14.4 mm
Battery life (stand by): 270 hours (WCDMA), 280 hours (GSM)
Battery life (talk): 260 minutes (WCDMA), 320 minutes (GSM)
CPU: 32bit Freescale MXC300, 369 MHz ARM1136JF-S
RAM: 128 MB

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

The E75 closed:

A simple looking bar phone with the classic Nokia looks.

The E75 opened:

Inside hides the slide out QWERTY keyboard for increased typing speeds.

Top of the phone features simply the 3.5mm headset jack. Left of the phone have the microUSB and microSD slot which have a slight bump for your finger to nudge open. Right of the phone has the recorder, volume rocker, and dedicated camera button (great addition to the E-series devices). The volume rocker is not lighted but is sturdy like the E71.

Aesthetics
Nokia has been hitting the right design cues in their phones lately and the E75 is no exception with its nice metal accent and classy design. Its slide out keyboard has made many people compare the E75 to the very popular E71 and venerable E90.
The glossy top half of the phone mean you'll have lots of fingerprint smudges. The E75's top half has a little noticable wobble when closed and opened. Pushing on the top while the phone is open bends the top slightly. It didn't feel like it would break but makes you a little worried.

The E75 shares a number of design cues from the E71 (right).

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 difference between the normal blink and the email notification blink.

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

The E75 while closed


The E75 while opened

The number pad is disabled while the phone is opened so it's not lighted.

The SIM mechanism is similar to the E71 but even worst. I have a hard time sliding out the SIM card from its holder.

Although the E75 doesn't have a rubber padding on the back of the battery cover, the snug fit and finish of the E75 produces no creaking or rattling.

In terms of thickness, the E75 is just a tad thicker than the E71 if you factor in the E71's camera bulge:

The E75 is thin compared to Nokia's older bar phones like the N82:


Display
The E75 uses a 2.4 inch screen with the same pixel density (320x240) as many of Nokia's other non-touch S60 phones. The screen feels small on this phone because of the large amount of black at the top when closed. But the screen is not too off center when the phone is opened. The E75 perfomed well under direct sunlight with emails readable without having to tilt the screen.

The E75 display has a higher contrast compared to the E71. It looks more vivid than the N82

To help conserve battery power, the E75 has a power saver timeout that blanks the entire screen and blinks the LED under the D-pad. unlike the E71, turning off the Breathing Light will not disable the screen from turning all black.

Keypad

The combination of a number pad and slide out QWERTY keyboard in a compact phone is the E75's selling point. But were compromises made in Nokia's first slide out keyboard phone?

The number pad:

The numberpad keys are very loose and feel cheap feeling. You can push them in between the rows of keys.


The number keys have a lot of give when you push between them

The lowest set of keys are too low on the phone making some keys like * very hard to hit. The left soft key is very close to the home key so i frequently hit the Home key instead so i have to navigate back to where i was. The right soft key shares the same piece of plastic as the Delete key so it's not unusual to hit delete and see the e75 try to delete an application while navigating the menus.
The D pad is very creaky when i push up and also very stiff.
The Bluetooth toogle on the * key is a nice addition allowing quick enabling and disabling of Bluetooth.

The QWERTY keyboard:


Tactile feedback on the qwerty keyboard is at the center of the key so if you hit off center, the phone registers the keypress but you don't get a satisfying feedback. The keys are not very deep so feedback is limited. It takes me more energy to type on the E75's full keyboard than on the E71. The keys are fairly wide so one handed operation is close to impossible. with my index fingers along the sides of the phone when typing, i found it hard to reach the left most keys with my left hand and right most keys with my right hand. It's nice that nokia included the backspace key in both the top have of the phone and bottom. The phone is top heavy so it lies well in your hand with your thumbs behind but typing upside down is a challenge as it tends to fall forward. Pushing the D pad with the phone open will slightly bend the top half back and creak a bit. I was concerned it'd break on me.

The QWERTY keyboards compared between the E75 and the E71:

I still find the E71 more comfortable to type with because it has more closely packed domed keys

I've typed this review on the E75 using the included Notes and find it more difficult to type compared to the E71. I wasn't fond of the flat keys making it difficult to feel the separation.


Software

The E75 is a snappy phone with very fast response throughout the menu.

Impressively, the E75 switches between landscape (QWERTY keyboard opened) and portrait (QWERTY keyboard closed) very quickly. By default the keypad will lock when you close the slider but you can customize this in Ctrl. Panel > Settings > General > Slide Handling

As you may have heard, or not, the E75 runs S60 FP2 but with some modifications. It's very similar to the E71 modifications but include improved icons based on FP5.

Note that some software don't work with the E75 so be sure to test out all your applications. This is what I've observed:
- S60SpotOn doesn't work
- Screenshot doesn't work.
- Vampent vBag doesn't work

Although Nokia has once again rejuggled where everything is again. S60 still needs a lot more work to be intuitive for first time users. For example to handle Wifi connections you don't look under Control Panel > Connectivity (where WLAN wizard and Conn. Mgr reside) but you have to look in Ctrl Panel > Settings > Connection > Destination > Internet.

Mail
Nokia has finally added HTML support to their S60 mail but the HTML version of the email arrives as an attachment to the text email. The recently released Blackberry Bold and iPhone both support embedded HTML so the email appears formatted once you open it.
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. Thankfully the included themes use a white text and dark background.

Blackberry
Much to the bemoan of a few users, the Nokia E75 doesn't supports Blackberry Connect like the E61. The E75 supports Microsoft's Exchange Active Sync through their Mail for Exchange software. Unlike other E-series, you can't upgrade the Mail for Exchange software through the separate Mail for Exchange install file.

Stability
During my time with the E75, I only recall about 3 reboots in the three weeks I've had the phone.

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 E75 can open DiVX movies and stream YouTube videos. With the included 3.5mm 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 E75 includes a 3.2 MP camera with autofocus and macro mode. Sounds the same as the E71 but it's a lot better.

The E75 sports a LED for flash and a mirror for self portraits

The E75 uses the same camera software as the N-series line of devices.

Camera uses the dedicated camera button which is a big improvement over the E71.
You can silent the camera but the led will automatically flash.

Outdoor Auto (E75, E71, N82):


Indoor Macro (E75, E71, N82):


Outdoor Auto (E75, N82):


Outdoor Macro (E75, N82):


Dim Indoor with Nightmode (E75, E71, N82):


Dim Indoor with flash (E75, E71, N82):


The E75 produced very impressive photos under direct sunlight that rivalled Nokia's photo-centric N82. Colors reproduction was more accurate just siding a little to more vivid. The night photos with and without flash were very poor. The E71 photos were poor in any condition and not worth mentioning.

Video
The maximum video recording resolution supported by the E75 is 640 x 480 at 29fps which puts it on par with N-series devices. Unfortuately, the results weren't so great.

These are the available quality settings:
TV high quality: MP4 640 x 480 29fps 2.93Mbps
TV normal quality: MP4 640 x 480 15fps 1.46Mbps
E-mail high quality: MP4 320 x 240 29fps 873kbps
E-mail norm. quality: MP4 320 x 240 15fps 454.
Sharing quality: 3GPP 176 x 144 15fps 93kbps

*Sample video offline*

The image quality is very grainy in an indoor setting. The camera is also not set to be focussed on close up objects.


Reception
The E75 had about the same number of bars as the N82. Although bars isn't an accurate measurement of a phone's reception but a phone without bars can't make calls.

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 E75 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.
Sadly, after a number of criticisms, Nokia has removed infrared from this E-series device. I still primarily use infrared to share small files between laptops that don't yet have Bluetooth.
Connecting the E71 to a computer using a USB 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 weaker, picking up less wireless routers, than the Nokia N82 but stronger than the E71. As usual, the sensitivity is weaker than the standard Centrino package from Intel for laptops.

In case you were wondering, you can find the E75's MAC address behind the battery or on the box. I wish it came up with the *#0000# command on the home screen.

Global Positioning (GPS)
The E75 has an integrated GPS chip to get an accurate position of the phone.

Here is a comparison of the E75 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 E75 usually took 1 minute more to lock compared to the N82. The E75 locked on far faster than the E71 which never achieved a lock on within 10 minutes.

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
Like most other S60 Nokia handsets, the E75-2 NAM includes a memory card with the retail package (4GB microSDHC class 4). 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 E75 uses a thin BL4U Nokia battery with 1000mAH to keep the thickness down. The 1000mAH is adequate for light usage. Under medium usage with occasion wifi and GPS usage, the E75 lasted about 1.5 days compared to 3 days with my E71 under similar usage.

The E75 still has the smaller Nokia charger jack at the bottom. But, surprisingly, also supports USB charging through the microUSD jack! I wish all Nokia phones will keep both because I still have a lot of legacy Nokia chargers.

Conclusion
After 3 weeks of testing the E75, I grew to like it. I initially didn't like the cheap feeling numberpad and disliked the flat wide QWERTY keyboard but I slowly got used to the QWERTY keypad. The camera on the E75 is possibly the best on an E-series device. It gave my N82 a good challenge. Unfortunately photos in dim situations were not so good. The E75 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 E75. It is the form factor that I had longed for but I like my E71 much more and the Xenon flash on my N82 always wins. If you can't carry two phones with you, then the E75 is a great mix of the two!

Ratings:
Performance...........9
Build quality...........8
Keypad...................7
Connectivity...............9
Features for $.........9
Software................8
Camera..................8
Battery life.............7

Overall.....................8


PROS:
*compact design
*lots of memory to run apps simultaneously
*WiFi
*very impressive camera under sunlight
*Great incoming sound
*lots of existing S60 games/apps
*landscape screen
*long lasting battery
*number pad or QWERTY keyboard when needed
*slim design

CONS:

*HTML in e-mails as attachments
*grainy camera in dark
*Paying for navigation in Nokia Maps
*small screen
*wide keyboard
*smudges easily
*organization of menu items still not intuitive

2 comments:

rstuart said...

On all Nokia E Series phones *#62209526# (*#mac wlan# on the phone keypad) displays the wireless MAC address.

Eric said...

It works on the N97 as well. Thanks for the tip rstuart!