Editors' note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluation of the Nokia N8, since the two phones share some similarities in terms of features.
If you've been a cell phone fan for a while, you might remember the days when the Nokia Communicator series was the status symbol of a powerful businessperson. Nokia eventually developed the line into the E series, and its latest flagship model, the Nokia E7, is available now for an unlocked price of $650. The company has done a lot to refine the design, and it's running the revamped Symbian 3 operating system. However, a lot has changed since the days of the Communicator. Does the E7 have the chops to make it in the business world? Read on to find out.
The Nokia E7 takes a number of style cues from the Nokia N8, which isn't a bad thing in our view since we loved the N8's hardware. The E7 is made of the same high-quality materials--aluminum body and glass AMOLED display--giving it a very premium feel. It's slightly bigger and heavier than the N8 at 4.87 inches tall by 2.46 inches wide by 0.54 thick and 6.2 ounces, but considering that the E7 also manages to fit in a full QWERTY keyboard, it's actually pretty amazing that it's only 0.03 inch thicker and 0.1 inch longer than the N8.
The E7's glass touch screen measures 4 inches diagonally and has a 640x360-pixel resolution. In general, it's clear and bright and you'll have no problem reading what's on the screen. However, with a lower-resolution screen, you're not going to get the same sharpness or definition as on today's qHD, Super AMOLED, and retina displays. The pixels are more visible on the E7, so images and text don't look quite as smooth.
On the bright side, the touch screen is very responsive. Launching apps only required a single tap, and we were able to navigate through the various screens and menus with no problem. There are three home screens in total, which you can customize with various widgets and shortcuts, and the main menu of apps is presented in a simple grid format.
Of course, as we've stated before in our reviews of the N8 and the Nokia Astound, Symbian 3 brings a one-touch user interface that makes it much easier to navigate these phones than previous versions of the operating system. However, it still feels clunky in some parts compared with platforms like iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, so Symbian certainly isn't leapfrogging the competition.
For text entry, you get an onscreen keyboard, though in portrait mode you only get an alphanumeric keypad. It's not as big of a deal as it was on the Nokia N8, since the E7 offers a full, physical QWERTY keyboard. To access it, you simply push the screen aside. The sliding mechanism is smooth and the hinge feels sturdy. The screen securely locks into place and sits at a slight angle to make it easier to see when using the keyboard.
Nokia did a really nice job with the keyboard. The buttons are a decent size with good spacing and a comfortable layout. The space bar is centrally located and not off to the side as on the Nokia N97 Mini, so in general we were able to type at a good clip with minimal mistakes.
There are a handful of other controls on the smartphone. Just below the display, there's a menu button. The left side features a lock switch and on the right side you'll find the SIM card slot, a volume/zoom key, and a camera button. Like the N8, the E7 doesn't have a user-replaceable battery, so you insert the SIM card on the side. However, we initially had a rather difficult time pulling out the SIM card tray, and after about 20 minutes we finally pried it open with a sharp object. Also, the slider volume controls take a bit of getting used to; we found it easier to use a rocker control to adjust audio while on a call, but this is really a minor issue.
The top of the phone houses the 3.5mm headphone jack, power button, HDMI port, and Micro-USB port. Note that there is no expansion slot on the E7. Last but not least, the 8-megapixel camera and dual LED flash are on the back, and the front-facing VGA camera is located above the display in the upper left corner.