Review: Nokia E7

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Nokia E7 has already hit Australia, and targets both the business-orientated or the social person. It blends Nokia’s simplistic design and excellent, high-grade hardware. But the most important fact is Symbian. Has it improved since we last seen the OS in the Nokia N8? Has some of the changes Nokia has made improved the OS?

Our verdict of the Nokia E7 is after the jump.

  • Score:

    7.5 / 10

  • The Good:

    8MP camera, Ovi Maps, multimedia features, solid design

  • The Bad:

    Symbian^3, web browser performance lags, social network options limited

  • Bottom Line:

    A business-orientated phone packed full with excellent hardware

Design

The Nokia E7’s design is very reminiscent to the Nokia N8 (remember that?), with its very slim body chassis, though not as slim as the iPhone (it is 13.6mm thick, compared to the iPhone 4’s 9.3 mm). However, while it adds some thickness, it doesn’t drawback the phone’s slick metallic body. What’s different to the Nokia N8 with the E7 is that this is more for the business-orientated person, and hence why it has a slide-up keyboard included.

The included keyboard is a nice addition, however when using the keyboard, it can be slightly awkward to hold due to the extruding sides. Normally, keyboards tend to be flat, but then again, the screen is shifted on a nearly-45-degree angle rather than simply sliding up. The mechanism for the slide-up keyboard can be improved, as I encountered some trouble in opening the phone’s keyboard. They keys, however, are nicely spread out and are raised slightly so typing is a breeze.

Like I said, it takes some design keys from the Nokia N8, and that includes the fact that it has no removable battery and therefore the SIM card slot is on its side. While it provides easy access to swap SIM cards, it does also mean that you cannot swap batteries when on holiday. Though, unlike the Nokia N8, the camera does not extrude outwards.

It has now a center “Home” button which also acts as an indicator light for any status updates such as low battery, etc; and has the standard camera button on its side and screen lock. At the top, Nokia as placed the power button, headphone jack and miniUSB and HDMI ports, which makes it a bit of a hassle to take a call when you have a cable coming from the top. Interesting is their choice of a volume rocker, which is the the screen lock, rather than soft keys. Though, it does the same job, so we pretty much don’t have any hassles with the choice.

Hardware and Features

The phone, like many other high-end Nokia smartphones, packs a punch. Specifications include a very vibrant 4.0-inch AMOLED screen and 16GB of internal storage. For some reason, and we are really noticing this trend, that Nokia has started not including microSD card slots, allowing users to expand beyond that. It has done in the past, and it would be a mistake not to allow that. The company also put in an 8-megapixel camera, which includes dual-LED flash, geotagging and HD video recording – and the camera picture quality is again outstanding.

Sound-wise, the company has put in excellent Dolby Digital-sounding speakers, which make this the phone you want if you want to play music on the go. Even better, the phone has HDMI output, so you can watch HD footage from your phone straight to your TV. Also neat is the USB On-The-Go, which allows the phone to handle connections of USB drives, meaning that photos can be played or transferred from a USB drive to the phone directly, rather than using the PC.

Away from the multimedia features, the phone also includes Ovi Maps with free lifetime navigation and voice directions. The phone not only caters for the consumer world, with business users will be happy to know that the Nokia E7 also has push email with Exchange support, Adobe Reader to read PDF files and internet access via VPN. The phone’s security options include protection with F-Secure Anti-Theft for Mobile.

Again, another Symbian^3 phone?

We seem to have a love-hate relationship with Nokia. While we really love the hardware, we really don’t like the OS that it uses. While we are happy that Nokia is kicking Symbian to the curb and producing phones for Windows Phone 7, that’s not going to happen until 2012. So we’ll be stuck with Symbian^3 until then. However, it should be noted that the interface and performance has been slightly improved, it still does not match up with the same design as Android and same ease of use as iOS and Windows Phone 7.

As I previously noted in the Nokia N8:

The home screen also feels cluttered, with some of the space dedicated to carrier applications. […] As well, you are defined to six blocks per page ā€“ and only three pages. Compared to Android, where you have some sort of freedom to place your applications, and iOSā€™ simplicity ā€“ this is not a really good home screen. However, that being said, it is at least better than Nokia Series 60ā€²s home screen where changing the home screen was a pain.

It still suffers that same problem. Though, there are some relevant applications to Australians, such as SMH and Coastal Watch, but they really aren’t that impressive.

We’ve noticed some performance lags in the home screen, and transitions can be jittery at times. The web browser is still Nokia’s weak points. While it support web standards – they are from 2008. It has no support for HTML5 or CSS3, the new standards out there; and while it supports Flash content – a big plus to it, as iOS does not – and some additional tweaks, such as thumbnail browser history, the problems really do quash the positives. It still loads pages slowly and has problems rendering pages – and even when trying to zoom in, there is a noticeable delay.

Social networking features are still lacking. Like the Nokia N8, it requires Ovi and only limits you to Twitter and Facebook. Interface has been improved, however compared to other applications, it limits the user to only replying and liking/favouriting. It does not have retweeting capabilities, nor also lists support on Twitter. However, with the Ovi store, you can definitely find a better alternative.

That said, there have been some improvements. One focus is its multimedia functions.The Music player has been updated and now displays albums in a “Cover Flow”-esque layout like the iOS devices, and the range of file formats does impress us. Video playback is excellent, as well as its controls. In addition, Ovi Maps is one of the most comprehensive maps applications I have seen. And with now voice directions and turn-by-turn direction – all for free – it does make it much better.

Call Quality

Call Quality is really good, like other Nokia phones. It is very clear, free from interference, and you can pick up the voice of the user. It should be noted that network performance, however, will depend on the carrier. While the phone is heading over to Optus and Vodafone, the phone network we chose is Telstra due to I had a pre-paid SIM card around the office (the review unit was unlocked). Nokia has not revealed any plans of the phone heading to Telstra’s way anytime soon, however.

Editor’s note: Quality will, of course, depend on your location and your network.

Conclusions

The phone takes several cues from the Nokia N8. Despite the above-average features and excellent hardware, the phone is still let down by the operating system’s performance and usability. While Nokia’s Ovi Maps and multimedia features are the envy of the mobile phone world, Nokia still has a long way to go in order to regain its dominance in the phone market – and the dumping of Symbian will help it along the way.

The Nokia E7 is available on Optus and Vodafone.

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