By May 10, 2011

Nokia E7 Review

Nokia E7We first got hands on with the Nokia E7 last September when James visited Nokia World in London. That seemed a lifetime ago but the device is now available to buy.

With Nokia losing ground over their rivals they need to pull something out of the bag to keep their followers interested. The E7 sports a 4″ AMOLED screen with a slide out QWERTY keyboard and an 8mp camera able to record HD video. But is it enough?

Take a look below to see what this long time Nokia fan thought.

 

What’s in the box:

  • Nokia E7
  • USB Connectivity Cable
  • Adapter for HDMI connector
  • Adapter Cable for USB (small to large female)
  • Stereo Headset
  • USB Charger
  • Quick start guide

The 10 second review:

  • Product: Nokia E7
  • Price: Free on contract, £469 pay as you go, £499 SIM free (taken from Nokia site).
  • Summary: Typically excellent build quality with an 8mp camera, a 4″ AMOLED screen and 16GB of storage. Maybe a bit too big and still sporting Symbian which is its downfall.
  • Best of: Camera, Build Quality, AMOLED screen.
  • Worst of: Sizeable frame, slide out keyboard can be fiddly, Symbian.
  • Buy from: Clove

 

Nokia C7 Specs:

  • Symbian 3 for Nokia
  • Full QWERTY keyboard
  • 4" AMOLED touch screen
  • 8 mega pixel camera with dual LED flash
  • 720p high definition video recording
  • Full web browsing of real websites
  • HDMI connection
  • Bluetooth 3.0

 

General:


On the top is the HDMI port, hidden behind a pop out cover. A USB port (for charging and connectivity). A Headphone socket and the power button.

Nokia-E7-2

Nokia E7 Top

On the left side is a slider button that locks and unlocks the phone (as opposed to pressing the button, on the face of the phone, then having to press the ‘unlock’ key – the slider button unlocks and opens the phone in one go).

Nokia-E7-1 

Nokia E7 Left

Over on the right is the slide out capsule to fit the sim card, a slider button for the camera zoom and the camera button.

nokia-e7-all-sides

  Nokia E7 Right


On the back is the 8mp camera lens and dual LED flash.

Nokia-E7-7 

Nokia E7 Back

The ear piece, screen and single button are found on the front of the handset.

nokia-e7-all-sides 

Nokia E7 Front

 

Review
When I was asked to do the E7 review I thought "great, it’ll be nice to see what Nokia are doing these days" (I now use Android but still have a Nokia N95 8GB as a backup). I cut my teeth on Nokia / Symbian for many years and can therefore appreciate it’s robustness as an OS and the build quality of the Nokia hardware. Sadly all is not well in the Nokia stable – and that coming from a Nokia fan. Bear in mind that I’m using my old Nokia N95 as a baseline comparison for many of the features of the E7.

Firstly, it’s got great build quality. One thing you can’t do is knock the quality of Nokia handsets and this one’s no different. It feels solid, sturdy and when you slide the screen out, or press a button, it feels like it’s up to the job. However it’s also heavy and large so if ‘that job’ is defending yourself from a would-be mugger then the E7 is still up to the job.

There is the smallest of rattles when shaking the handset (in comparison my Android rattles much more when shaken) and all the buttons fit well. It’s hard to tell if the case is plastic or aluminum but I think it’s possibly a mixture of both. I do have a couple of gripes with the case, though, and in my opinion is a fairly serious one: The screen slides out to reveal a hardware keyboard underneath but, when holding it in the required position to slide it out using your thumbs, it takes on the characteristics of a bar of soap. Yes, it shot out of my hands more times than I care to mention. Thankfully there was no damage but it’s cause enough that, every time I slide the screen out, it’s on my mind that the phone could become projectile. The second problem is that, when successfully sliding out the screen, my thumbs shot across the screen, enough times to be annoying, and created unwanted touch actions.

I’m happy to report, though, that the screen itself is a lovely affair. Bright, clear and large at 4". Touching it is responsive too and I haven’t had to do a ‘double take-tap’ so far (I have an HTC Mozart WP7 handset I’m playing with, at the moment, and I quite often find myself repeatedly tapping the screen because it hasn’t responded).

Another thing that I like about the Nokia is that it has a USB charging port. Bear in mind that my last Nokia phone had the proprietary Nokia charging port so having a standardised USB port is refreshing (and current, too). I’m not 100% convinced about it being on top of the phone but, when having the handset in a holder – suckered to the windscreen of your car, at least it wont interfere with being seated in the cradle as it can do when on the sides / bottom.

For me, though, a major let down on the E7 is the camera. Yes, it might be 8mp and, yes, it might have a dual LED flash but I’d still say that the 5mp camera on my years old N95 is better. I tested it out, at dusk, in my garden and was disappointed with the results. Considering my N95 managed to pick out the silhouette of a tree, at midnight, in total darkness and yet the E7 struggled to produce half decent results at dusk I’d say that’s a step backwards, not forwards. I presume that’s down to it not being a Carl Zeiss lens though.

 

E7 - 1 E7 - 2

 E7 - 3 E7 - 4

One last thing about the hardware is that I could not see how to get at the battery. Call my a cynic but if I can’t get at the battery to do a hard reset then I’m a little concerned. Maybe there’s a button combination to do such a reset but, if there is, then I don’t know of it.

On to the software…

I had problems right from the outset. Put simply I could not connect. You will notice that I have no screen shots of the Nokia E7 in this review. This was not through lack of trying but If the phone wont connect to the OVI Store then downloading a screen capture application is a little hard!

One of the features of Symbian is the ability to use the phone in ‘offline mode’. So when you don’t have an active SIM card inserted you can still use the functionality of the phone using Wi-Fi. Not so here. Try as hard as I could I did not manage to get it connected. It was connected to my Wi-Fi but it just would not connect to the net. Strangely, even now I have a SIM card inserted, I can still not access all of the services. For example I can browse the web but I can’t use the CNN widget, I also can’t set up any email accounts (it only gives me the option of "Mail for Exchange" – where’s my GMail?). So many of the features I simply can’t test. Sadly, the point is that, as an experienced Symbian user this phone is not working straight out of the box so I can only imagine what my grandma might think if she bought the phone (my Grandma is not a Symbian pro!)

I like the ‘widgetability’ of the home pages. It’s how I wanted my old Nokia to be. Press and hold to go into ‘edit’ mode and where there is an spare space for a widget a ‘+’ appears. Press that and you’re taken to the Widget Catalogue. For this ‘out of the box’ phone you have a choice of the following:

  • BBC News Front page
  • Calendar
  • CNN.com
  • E!
    Favourites
  • Mail
  • Music Player
  • Nat Geo
  • Ovi What’s Hot
  • Phone Setup
  • Player (which appears to be some sort of Virgin Media app)
  • Reuters Top News (RSS feed)
  • Search Widget
  • Shortcuts
  • Social
  • WLan Wizard

Rearranging the widgets is a simple ‘touch and hold’ then drag and drop. Although, unlike as on my Android, you can’t drag and drop to a different home page (of which there are only three).

Something I’ve just noticed, that has reminded me and I’m going to mention it here, is consistency. Or lack of it. For example, when you click on the main menu button you’re presented with a grid of icons. Select the settings option and you’re presented with a list of items. You don’t have the ability to change that to a grid of icons. However, go back and select Music and you’re presented with a grid of icons. The same with Applications. So which is it? Grid or List? It seems both. (UPDATE: I have since discovered that what I have just written is not entirely true. It seems that you can select either list or grid view and that will be for everything except for the settings menu. However I’ve chosen to leave it in because it’s another example of how "hit and miss" Symbian can feel). The other inconsistency that I’ve just noticed is, when adding widgets, it appears to be hit and miss, again, as to which widgets you’re given the choice of. The list above was added to, with an extra two options, when I chose a different home page. However, when I went back to the original home page the widgets available were slightly different with some missing and some new ones. There are other quirks too, such as pressing exit in different places within Symbian has different actions. For example, when writing a message, if you press the menu key you’re presented with options, one of which is ‘exit’. To me, exit means ‘exit this menu’ because from the main edit page you have the ‘close’ option. But exit means ‘exit the message app’. Completely. But I’ve come across other places, which escape me at the moment, where exit means just "exit this menu".

Something I do like is the notifications area. Select the top right corner and you’re presented with a little pop up window that contains touchable items. Items such as WiLan, messages, voicemail etc. When you touch those items you’re taken to the relevant window (such as WiLan settings). Nice, simple and effective.

Something I touched on before was email. The native Symbian client is not bad in my opinion (based on my experiences from my old Nokia). However I couldn’t get it to work on this phone. It complained of connectivity problems that I just couldn’t resolve. Two things worth mentioning here are that it didn’t give me the option to setup my Gmail account (or Hotmail or Yahoo! mail) however that could well be due to the fact that there was no connectivity. The other thing that left a bitter taste in my mouth was trying to enter in an email address was cumbersome. Far more than it should be. I went through the motions, using the only available option of Exchange Mail, and found it not very intuitive. For example… When you’re presented with the input fields you have Email and Password fields. The Email field is already populated with an ‘@’ symbol. However trying to fill out the rest of the details proved to be interesting. I could not seem to move the cursor to the other side of the @ to type "gmail.com". The only way I found was the slide the keyboard out, which changes the orientation, and delete all of the text and start again. I’ve since found out that there are cursor direction keys on the hardware keyboard however that didn’t help when the phone keyboard was not slid out and it’s also indicative of how different Symbian is from other, more modern, OS’.

That said, let’s talk about the keyboard(s). I was a fan of the T9 keyboard and still have fond memories of it. I could type an SMS pretty quickly using T9 and that still holds true (not exactly the best party trick in the world, I know). There isn’t much different about the T9 on this phone from earlier Nokia handsets apart from the fact it’s touch screen and not hardware based. I’m not sure how many people would use this keyboard now though, probably preferring the qwerty keyboards found in landscape mode. I’ve just run a brief typing test and my results are as follows:

T9 keyboard (portrait): 8/10 for speed and 8/10 for accuracy.
Soft QWERTY (landscape): 7/10 for speed and 5/10 for accuracy.
Hardware QWERTY: 5/10 for speed and 8/10 for accuracy.

So I wouldn’t be using the landscape software QWERTY keyboard. It was fiddly and the predictatext was inaccurate and I was left with plenty of mistakes. The Hardware QWERTY was slow and if I’m honest it feels too big in my hands and not so easy to type with. It’s not horrendous but it could be nicer – and I have large hands! It just feels too wide. The T9 keyboard was the best compromise of the three, for me, but don’t forget that I grew up with T9. For sending IM’s and SMS I’d probably use the T9 keyboard but for sending lengthier emails I’d probably end up using the hardware QWERTY keyboard.

Maybe I’m looking at this from an Android users point of view when really I should be looking at it from an existing Nokia users point of view who’s looking to upgrade? However the issue with that is the target market. From seeing the E7 advert on UK television it seems that the target market are young, trendy, ‘mobile lifestyle’ people. The sort of people who would be looking for a smart phone. The sort of user who’s looking at an iphone, Android, Windows Phone or even Blackberry. But this particular phone just couldn’t compete with the likes of those phones. I’d say that this phone was more suited to people, such as my father, who are a long time Nokia user but don’t want one of these ‘new fangled touch thingy phones’ but who could be convinced because it’s a Nokia phone and it runs Symbian which is what they’re already using.

 

Conclusion:

The bottom line, for me, is that I wanted to like this phone. However I couldn’t and wouldn’t recommend it. Not to my father or anyone else. It’s too big, it’s too slippery, the OS is just too outdated and it hasn’t even worked properly for me & I couldn’t get it working properly (an experienced, long time Symbian user). If someone really wanted a Nokia phone then I’d probably suggest they waited for the new Windows Phones from Nokia. Else I’d suggest an alternative OS from a different manufacturer. That said, I still believe in Nokia and I’m certainly not writing them off just yet. Heck, the build quality is excellent on this phone – but that, alone, is not enough. I only hope they can turn it around and I, for one, am eagerly awaiting the Windows Phones from Nokia.

 

Reviewed by: Philip Turpin

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

Five year veteran of the site. BlackBerry specialist, but experienced in most operating systems. Enjoys flower arranging and cross stitch.
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