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Nokia E7 review: The Nokia E7 is a superbly built smartphone that has an excellent display and an outstanding keyboard, but its impressive specifications aren't enough to compete with slick and easy-to-use competitors
Nokia may be ditching its Symbian mobile phone operating system, and switching to Windows Phone 7 but that hasn't stopped the Finnish company releasing the Nokia E7, a Symbian-based smartphone with a full QWERTY keyboard. The E7 smartphone is a throwback to the days of the Nokia Communicator, a device that was marketed as a mini computer. Like Nokia's flagship N8, the E7 has excellent hardware but suffers from clunky, unintuitive software.
Nokia E7 review: Design and hardware
The Nokia E7 smartphone possesses excellent hardware. It has an aluminium casing that feels excellent in your hand, and build quality feels superb. The Nokia E7 is chunky device and its hinge mechanism is difficult to quickly pry open single-handedly, but the main impression you are left with that this smartphone is very well constructed. The hinge itself is similar to the HTC Desire Z's, but it feels much sturdier. The Nokia E7 is charged via a regular microUSB port, and has a standard headphone jack and an HDMI-out port concealed by a plastic flap.
Despite its large frame, the Nokia E7's curved edges make it more comfortable to hold than Apple's iPhone 4. Nokia fans, however, will be disappointed with the lack of removable battery, and there is no external storage slot. The E7 comes with 16GB of internal memory and, like the iPhone 4, has a slide out tray that houses a SIM card.
The Nokia E7 has a 4in AMOLED 'ClearBlack' capacitive touchscreen display, which Nokia claims offers superior visibility in direct sunlight. While it can't boast the same pixel density as the iPhone 4's 'Retina' display, the Nokia E7 is definitely easier to see in direct sunlight than the iPhone and has excellent viewing angles. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the E7 is its keyboard; it's large, well spaced and very comfortable to type on. The keys themselves are rubber and provide decent tactility when pressed, though it is almost impossible to type single-handedly due to the design and weight of the E7.
Like the Nokia N8, the E7 is one of the best specified smartphones on the market. Although it lacks the N8's outstanding 12-megapixel camera and FM transmitter, the E7 still has an 8-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash, an HDMI output, Dolby Digital sound, an excellent external speaker, and USB On-The-Go, which allows the connection of USB flash drives. A mini-HDMI-to-HDMI adapter included in the sales package allows the E7 to be plugged directly into the latest high-definition televisions, and multimedia quality (both audio and video) is excellent. The USB On-The-Go feature is also very handy. We connected a flash drive with a range of audio, image and video files — including a 30 minute DivX file — and all of them played directly off the USB device with no issues.
Nokia E7: Symbian^3 software
The Nokia E7 runs Nokia's Symbian^3 mobile operating system. Symbian^3 has improved in leaps and bounds over previous versions, making the E7 smoother, faster and easier to use than previous Nokia phones. However, the E7's interface still looks inferior to most of its competition and is clunky to use compared to the iPhone and the latest Android phones. Performance is sluggish and multitouch zooming, particularly on maps and in the browser, isn't as slick as competitors. Swiping through home screens results in a noticeable delay and transitions between menus aren't smooth. The included Web browser loads slowly and renders pages poorly. It does display Flash (which the iPhone doesn't), and there are a few nice touches, such as browser history shown as separate thumbnails. But text doesn't automatically fit the screen when zoomed and basic tasks like refreshing the page take way too many interactions on the screen. Despite Symbian^3 being a clear improvement over its predecessors, the OS just hasn't been designed with a touchscreen in mind.
Symbian^3 displays a number of live widgets across the Nokia E7's three home screens, but widgets can't be resized. A handy contacts widget allows you to add your favourite contacts to the home screen, while the included social-networking widget displays recent status updates from Facebook and Twitter. It should let you to update your Facebook and Twitter status from the home screen, but instead tapping on the widget simply opens the full client to update your status. Text is too small and can't be resized, the app is noticeably slower to load than clients on other smartphones, and the size restrictions imposed on widgets means that tapping the up and down arrow buttons to read status updates is awkward. Some of the Nokia E7's widgets have an Australian flavour, such as the News.com.au, SMH and Coastal Watch widgets, but they offer nothing we haven't seen on other smartphones.
Extra widgets can be downloaded from Nokia's Ovi Store. Though the Ovi Store has steadily improved since its release, it has far fewer apps than its competitors. There is also a distinct lack of apps that have a 'wow' factor, such as 3D games, and the store itself isn't as easy to use as its competitors. It also crashed on our Nokia E7 review unit multiple times during testing.
One huge advantage of Symbian^3 and the Nokia E7 is the preloaded Ovi Maps application, which includes a lifetime, free subscription to full turn-by-turn navigation. This is an excellent feature considering you often have to pay up to $100 for the same service on the iPhone and other smartphones. The E7's upgraded music player is also slicker than ever and displays albums in a similar "cover flow" style to the iPhone. The E7 handles multimedia better than a lot of smartphones we've tested, with sound quality a particular highlight, along with the range of file formats supported.
Unfortunately, the overall user experience offered by Nokia E7 is ultimately frustrating. The Nokia E7 is a superbly built smartphone that has an excellent display and an outstanding keyboard, but its impressive specifications aren't enough to compete with slick and easy-to-use competitors.
Nokia E7-00 Silver, Blue, Dark Grey @ Mobileciti.com.au