Nokia E71

Can Nokia stake a claim against the iPhone in the high-end smartphone wars? Stephen Pritchard certainly thinks it can.

On the front of the E71 there is a smaller lens for video calls, a 2.5mm jack for a headset, a micro-USB connector and a Micro SD card slot with support for up to 8GB cards. The USB and card slots are sealed behind a rubber cover, although the headphone socket is not.

The supplied Nokia stereo headset is good quality, and audio playback from the E71 is generally excellent. The phone will also use any standard headphones, via a suitable adapter if necessary. If the set does not include a suitable microphone the E71 defaults to using its in-built mic, which is a neat touch. The E71 is not backward compatible with earlier Nokia E and E series car kits and headsets however.

On the road

Nokia has taken the opportunity with the E71 to boost connection speeds to HSDPA, against plain UMTS in the E61. The E71 is a Class 6 device, which gives downloads of 3.6 mbps and upload speeds of 384 kbps.

This is slower than the maximum throughput of HSDPA, but email and web browsing were both snappy on Vodafone's HSDPA network in central London. Performance on "ordinary" 3G was also good, but connectivity did suffer when the phone was forced to fall back to GPRS a common issue with 3G handsets.

None the less, Nokia's full web page browsing is close to the iPhone in speed, compatibility and ease of use. This should be no surprise given that Nokia's browser is also derived from Apple's Safari.

For our money, browsing on the E71 is as good as it gets right now on a non touch-screen business device, at least until Microsoft releases its much vaunted upgrade to the mobile version of Internet Explorer later this year.

The main reason most business users will look at an E71, rather than a full-screen handset such as the iPhone or a more compact device, is for email. Here, the combination of an updated Microsoft Exchange client and the overall performance boost of the E71 delivers a vastly improved user experience.

Email on the E61 could be a very frustrating experience, even on a Wi-Fi connection. Nokia appears to have fixed this, and the E71 synchronises nicely with Exchange servers, via the included Mail for Exchange (MfE) application.

MfE adds a dedicated Exchange mailbox in the list of email accounts, and automatically updates calendar, contacts and task information on the handset's main screen. This is equivalent to Active Sync on a Microsoft-based handset and provides much more functionality than the prosumer BlackBerry Internet Service, which only updates email.

Exchange users will not benefit from some of the automated set-up tools Nokia has developed for its E series, and it pays to take the time to set up access point groups and other settings in Mail for Exchange. This, though, is well within the capabilities of an experienced smart phone user.

More worryingly, Nokia sees the need to warn users not to use USB sync if they are running MfE; it would have been better to turn that off by default if it causes conflicts. Users of consumer email accounts such as Yahoo and Google Mail have no such problems, and should be up and running in a few minutes. There is, however, no client for BlackBerry Enterprise Servers on for the E71 at present.

Verdict

Nokia has both slimmed down and pimped up its flagship email phone with the E71. HSDPA connections, vastly improved performance, good battery life and extras such as Assisted GPS navigation, built-in VoIP, remote wipe and hardware encryption for both the device and the memory card, makes for a rounded, business-grade handset.

A striking design rounds out an excellent package. If there are criticisms, it is that the user interface icons are not the greatest, and one of the E71’s hero features, switching between work and personal modes, is on the slow side.

But unless you need BlackBerry server connections, or really, really want a touch screen rather than a keypad, buy an E71.

Size: 114 x 57 x 10 mm

Weight: 127 g

Battery type: Li-Po

Talk time (mfr): 270 min (WCDMA)

Standby time (mfr): 20 days (WCDMA)

GSM frequencies: Quad-band EGSM 850/900/1800/1900

GPRS: Yes

3G: 900/2100 HSDPA

Screen size: 2.36 inch

Resolution: 320x240 pixels

Colour depth: 16 million colours

On-board memory: 110 MB

Memory card type: microSD

Connectivity: Infrared, Bluetooth, WiFi, USB, GPS receiver (AGPS)

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