Nokia E61i

Addresses many of the inherent problems of the original - but painfully underpowered

When IT PRO reviewed the original Nokia E61 last year, we identified a number of weaknesses and plus-points in what was Nokia's first attempt at a BlackBerry-like form-factor device.

Well it seems that Nokia has been listening, at least a little bit, as the E61 has undergone a facelift and re-emerged as the E61i - still a Ford Capri, but now with a fetching go-faster stripe down the side and a remodelled front.

The software has not changed, still using Series 60 9.1, but with a few tweaks to some of the applications. The hardware has had several welcome improvements, starting with the keyboard, which has been reshaped and most importantly now has larger keys. The increase in key size really is only a fraction of a fraction (just enough to make them square rather than rectangular), but it really does make all the difference, moving you away from mistyping and mashing 2-4 keys (a common problem with the standard E61) with your finger to making precise and accurate key presses.

Gone is the mini joystick directional controller, replaced with a multi-directional thumb pad. It is more accurate, but harder to use, requiring small dainty fingers rather than manly ones. Buttons either side of the directional controller for answering and hanging up calls are easy to use, but the navigation and soft keys are too thin and far too unresponsive - you just never know if you've actually pressed them hard enough to register a response.

Unresponsive keys is a problem that Nokia phones have had for some time now, and one of the flaws of the E61, as well as all of Nokia's previous attempts to build devices with a QWERTY keyboard, with the exception of its Communicator devices which have usually faired well in the keyboard department. The main keypad keys, while well sized and spaced are very unresponsive, stiff and offer little movement or feedback. It's an easy thing to fix and would further improve the usability of this device. Compared to BlackBerry, Palm and some of the keyboard-based HP iPaq devices and you realise how important it is to accurate typing to have a keypad that is both easy to press and give clear feedback that a button has been pressed and registered.

One big hardware change from the E61 is the inclusion of a 2megapixel camera. No smart branded lens, but image quality is good, and the Symbian camera utility is easy to use and offers lots of software filters to improve your images, along with an MMS client.

Going back to the software, and there is a lot to get excited about. Support for POP and IMAP email, with Exchange support via an additional download, as well as push email support. The mail client is easy to use, offers a clear interface and is simple to configure. There is a host of office tools for viewing the major document formats and performing basic edits, and there is a host of handy tools usually found on Symbian devices.

The browser is well thought out, allowing you to load a full web page in its original format, rather than trying to recompile it for a mini display; you can then zoom in on the section you wish to view. This is the same method used for viewing web pages on Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch, though Symbian has been doing this in its browser for some time.

However, the device suffers, especially when web browsing, from a lack of processing power. Like many Nokia Symbian-based devices, the E61i feels underpowered, with application changing, loading and exiting all sluggish. Only the core messaging tools such as email and texting seem to zip along while the rest of the applications crawl, regardless of whether you are using a 2G, 3G or Wi-Fi net connection.

Overall - the design is solid, the screen is superb and the software undoubtedly among the best out there, and far and away better than the current BlackBerry OS. However, yet again this device is badly let down by Nokia's complete inability to make a decent keypad, let alone a QWERTY one, and by the thoroughly unsuitable processor. It just doesn't have enough grunt to drive the device and all the great software functionality trapped inside it.

Nokia news, reviews, themes and downloads at Know Your Mobile

Verdict

This revamped version of the E61 smartphone addresses many of the inherent problems of the original. Little things like slightly larger keys have a massive positive impact on usability, while the software functionality will give devices like the Apple iPod a run for their money. However, it is still painfully underpowered, which in turn adds to the frustration of using it.

Operating frequency Quad-band GSM/EDGE coverage for international usage (850/900/1800/1900) with WCDMA 3GPP Release 99 Size Weight: 150 g Dimensions: 117 x 70 x 13.9 (/11.5) mm Display 2.8" QVGA landscape active-matrix color display supporting up to 16 million colors (320 x 240 pixels) with an active area of 56.9 x 42.7 mm User interface S60 platform 3rd edition 9.1a QWERTY keyboard with backlight Email key and LED indicator for new email One Touch keys, Navi key, Power key that can be used as Profile key, MyOwn key, and phonebook key Volume keys and Voice key combine voice recording, voice dialing, and Push to talk functionality Imaging 2 megapixel camera for taking pictures Messaging Email: supports POP/IMAP and SMTP protocols Supports Nokia Intellisync Wireless Email 8.0 and a variety of third-party email clients: Mail for Exchange 1.5 (delivered via Nokia Downloads! Application), Visto Mobile v5.5, BlackBerry Connect v2.1 View and open email attachments Quickoffice, ZIP Manager, and Adobe Acrobat Reader MMS and SMS Instant messaging client Multimedia Music player supporting MP3 and AAC formats Video and audio streaming via 3GPP and RealMedia Forward lock Digital Rights Management (DRM) Memory functions 60 MB of internal user memory Hot swappable microSD Memory Card support up to 2 GB Applications Java MIDP 2.0 games and applications Connectivity WCDMA PS (packet switched data) with maximum upload and download rate of 384 kbps GPRS/EGPRS (Class B, MSC 32) GSM CSD (circuit-switched data) up to 14.4 kbps HSCSD (high-speed circuit-switched data) up to 43.2 kbps Dual transfer mode MSC11, SAIC (single antenna interference cancellation) release v2 Integrated WLAN - WLAN: 802.11b, 802.11g* - WLAN Security: WPA2-Enterprise, WPA2-Personal, WPA-Enterprise, WPA-Personal Email data roaming Integrated infrared module (up to 115 kbps) USB 2.0 full speed supported through Pop-PortTM interface Bluetooth 1.2 specification Browsing HTML and XHTML browsers , Nokia Web browser with Mini Map Data transfer Remote and local (peer-to-peer) synchronization via Bluetooth, Infrared, cable, or Wireless LAN Personal information management (PIM) Calendar, to-do lists, notes, and contacts Nokia Team Suite application for facilitating conference calls and initiating Push to talk sessions with team members In-device search tool File manager Nokia PC Suite 6.82 Voice features Voice features Voice dialing Voice commands for menu short cuts, keypad lock, and profiles Voice recording for making notes or recording conversations Internet Call release 2.1 for making VoIP (Voice over IP) calls (Service Agreement required) Text-to-speech message reader Enhanced voice commands with speaker-independent name dialing (SIND), and voice aid for eyes-free control of core functions Integrated handsfree speaker Talk time (Manufacturer figures) 4-9 hours Standby time (Manufacturer figures) 12-17 days

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