Nokia's E61 is one of three newly available E-series handsets and a fourth is on the way. Like its relatives the E50 and E60, the E61 is aimed at business users, but uniquely among the E range it has a very familiar look to it, reminiscent of the original BlackBerry.
Nokia has packed just about every feature it can think of into the E61 in the hope, no doubt, of stealing some glory from the aforementioned handheld organiser. But it isn't just going to appeal to business users. The wide spread of features might attract the consumer looking for a smart phone with email at its heart and lots more going on. Just don't ask for a camera, because there isn't one.
The E61 is available SIM-free for £340 from Expansys as well as other outlets, and we found it for free on contracts starting at £25 per month on Vodafone.
Nokia has produced some superb smart phones in the past, and has often gone out on a limb on the design front. Not so with the E61, which has an extremely familiar look about it, thanks to the PDA-sized hardware, big landscape screen and full Qwerty keypad.
It is no coincidence that the E61 looks like a BlackBerry. That's exactly what Nokia was trying to achieve.
The E61 is both large and heavy at 70 by 117 by 14 mm and 144g, and you are going to need more than a small shirt pocket to carry it around. But its design is such that you feel Nokia has done its very best to keep the size down and still cram lots in.
The Qwerty keypad, for example, is made up of relatively large keys that are well raised from their surround, making them as easy to hit quickly as any we've tried. The large screen seems positively crammed into the available space, and between the two Nokia has made room for a bank of control keys which are, again, relatively large.
The six control keys comprise call and end keys, two for the menus and two, sitting left and right of a very sturdy and responsive mini joystick, which take you to the Nokia applications menu and messaging centre -- mobile email being a key feature of the device.
There is barely space on the front fascia for the on/off button and email indicator light that shows you've got mail. On the bottom edge, Nokia has found room to house an infrared port next to the Pop-Port connector, while on the right edge, and only accessible when you remove the battery cover, is a miniSD card slot. The left edge houses a volume rocker and a button that on a short press starts a sound recording and on a long press lets you use voice commands.
Nokia has chosen plain silver for the colour scheme, with blue flashes on the keypad to pick out highlights such as the number keys for manual dialling. It isn't an especially eye-catching colour scheme, but then it doesn't have to be, as pretty much everything else about this handset's visuals has that covered.
There is so much going on with the E61 that the fact that you can use it to make voice calls almost seems incidental. You can though, and this quad-band handset should be usable around the world.
When it comes to data exchange the E61 supports 3G, but there is no camera built into this handset, not even a small, front-facing one, so you can't make video calls.
As already noted, mobile email is a key feature of the E61. You can set the handset up to deal with personal email accounts and it also has support for plenty of options for companies wanting to send email updates to handsets over the air automatically.
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and infrared are all built in, and we found using Wi-Fi for Web browsing worked a treat, thanks to the E61's relatively large screen.
A smart phone like this would be nothing without calendar software, and true to the third edition of Symbian's Series 60 operating system, there is indeed calendar software on board. Nokia's PC Suite software for synchronising this and other data with Outlook on your main PC is included. We often find using the calendar on Series 60 handsets frustrating due to their screen size, but in this case the large screen comes into its own. We would be quite happy to work with this device instead of a dedicated handheld organiser.
There's oodles of other software here, including a word processor, a spreadsheet and presentations creator compatible with Microsoft Office software, and, just for fun, a music player. There's no FM radio though, which is a shame.
There is 64MB of built-in memory and Nokia provides a further 64MB in a miniSD card, which should be enough to get you started. with what is, quite probably, likely to be Nokia's most compelling alternative to the BlackBerry.
We had no trouble maintaining a 3G signal with this handset, and voice conversations were loud and clear. The volume output by the loudspeaker when playing music was so loud at its maximum that we had to put the E61 in a drawer to tone it down. Audio quality was acceptable, but not outstanding.
Battery life, on the other hand, was outstanding. We got a shade more than fourteen hours of music playback from the E61. Unsurprisingly, it survives on standby for days on end.
Thanks to Expansys for providing a review sample of this phone.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide