It may be that the Nokia E series sometimes suffers from Jan Brady syndrome, as it gets overshadowed by a flashier member of its family--the Nokia N series (aka Marcia Brady). But the E series is just as bright and deserves some recognition too. Traditionally, the E series devices have been very corporate-centric and serious in design, but now Nokia is updating the line with the introduction of the Nokia E66 and Nokia E71, bringing with them a modernized look and a fresh set of features.
For this review, we took a look at the Nokia E71, which steps in to relieve the older Nokia E61i. What the company has done with the E71's design is remarkable, as it's taken the once-bulky smartphone and turned it into an incredibly sleek QWERTY device. You do lose a bit in screen and keyboard size, but we feel it's manageable. Plus, with its strong messaging, productivity, and connectivity features and solid performance, it's worth those little sacrifices. The only downfall is that it has yet to be picked up by a U.S. carrier, so your wallet will take a hit, as an unlocked version of the Nokia E71 will go for about $500.
The first thing you'll notice about the Nokia E71 is its design. It's noticeably sleeker and sexier than the Nokia E61i, sporting a compact frame that measures 4.4 inches tall by 2.2 inches wide by 0.4 inch deep and 4.4 ounces. The slimness is especially noticeable when you use the E71 as a phone, or just hold it in the palm of your hand. In addition, the handset has a solid construction with its steel frame. Our only complaint, and it's a minor one, is that the back gets a bit tarnished with fingerprints and smudges.
On front, there's a 2.36-inch QVGA nontouch display with a 16-million-color output and 320x240-pixel resolution. The screen is a bit on the smaller size, but text and images look sharp. It also has a light sensing technology that adjusts the display's brightness depending on what environment you're in. A new feature that's not readily apparent from looking at the phone is the Business and Personal home screens. You can now toggle between two different home views, depending on whether you're at work or at home. In Business mode, you'll have immediate access to work tools, such as e-mail, the Web, and the file manager. After hours, you can switch to Personal mode and have your music and photo gallery a click away. Of course, you're not really "off" from work since you can easily switch back, but its a nice thought anyway.
Below the display, there's a standard navigation array of two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, and a four-way toggle with a center select key. In addition, there are four shortcuts to the Home screen, Calendar, Contacts, and Messages. You also get a full QWERTY keyboard. Given that the E71 is physically smaller than the E61i, the layout is a bit more cramped with less spacing between the buttons. Still, I found it pretty easy to use, though I do have small fingers. Customers with larger thumbs might want to give it a test drive. On the bright side, the keys don't have that squishy feel of the E61i; they give more of a satisfying, clicky tactile feedback.
The left spine holds a microSD slot and a micro USB port. It seems Nokia is sticking with the decision to go with the less standard micro USB port at this time. It's definitely not a deal-breaker, just a minor inconvenience since you can't use the more widely used mini USB accessories. On the right side, you have a 2.5mm headset jack, a volume rocker, and a voice command activation key. Both sides also have buttons to release the battery cover. The power button is located on the top, while the power connector is on the bottom of the unit. Finally, you'll find the camera, flash, and self-portrait mirror on the back.
The Nokia E71 comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired headset, a 2GB microSD card, a protective pouch, a lanyard, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page
If the QWERTY keyboard didn't give it away, the Nokia E71 is a messaging-centric smartphone, though it's certainly not limited to just e-mail. The E71 works with Microsoft Exchange Server, POP3, IMAP, and SMTP accounts and has a full attachment viewer. The device is also compatible with a number of push e-mail solutions, including Intellisync Wireless E-mail, Visto, and Seven Always-On Mail. The E71 includes a new wizard to help set up your e-mail as it automatically looks for the settings needed to access your account. There are no instant messaging clients preloaded on the device, though you can certainly download software to do so. In fact, there is a download catalog right on the device where you can find such titles. We'd also suggest taking a look at CNET Download.com for more suggestions for third-party applications.
Using the new wizard, we configured our review unit to access our Yahoo Plus account by simply entering our username and password. There's also a voice aid utility that uses text-to-speech technology to read aloud not only your messages but also your call history, contacts, clock, and more. The feature worked fine in our tests, though the voice sounded quite robotic. We'd say this function might come in handy when you need to hear a message while driving; otherwise, it might just be easier to read the information off the phone.