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Nokia E5 review: Nokia E5

Your fingers will positively adore the Nokia E5's lush Qwerty keyboard, and its rugged construction and eye-catching design only endear the phone further. These positives are balanced out by a poor screen that's hard to view in sunlight and a below-average camera.

Damien McFerran
Damien McFerran has more than a decade of experience in the interactive entertainment and technology sectors. He is also the Editorial Director of Nintendo Life and co-director of Nlife Ltd. Damien is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.
Damien McFerran
4 min read

Like the cheaper C3, the Nokia E5 is an attempt by the Finnish veteran company to encroach on BlackBerry's territory. The Qwerty keyboard is bound to attract text-happy users and is ably supported by terrifically solid build quality, but the screen is a major disappointment.


Nokia E5

The Good

Excellent Qwerty keyboard;. Solid design;. Good battery life;. Excellent connectivity options.

The Bad

Poor screen;. Symbian feels outdated;. Camera could be better.

The Bottom Line

Your fingers will positively adore the Nokia E5's lush Qwerty keyboard, and its rugged construction and eye-catching design only endear the phone further. These positives are balanced out by a poor screen that's hard to view in sunlight and a below-average camera.

The E5 can be obtained for gratis on a £15, 24-month contract. SIM-free, you can expect to part with around £200.

Whole lotta buttons

Dominating the front of the phone, the E5's keyboard is unquestionably its key (pun absolutely intended) selling point. Despite the small nature of the buttons, typing is a joy. There are rare moments when you accidentally push two keys simultaneously, but, on the whole, we were in text heaven with this tap-friendly device. The addition of time-saving shortcut buttons -- which are bound to oft-used activities such as turning on Bluetooth or using the camera's LED flash as a makeshift torch -- is another welcome touch.


The E5's Qwerty keyboard is its biggest selling point, with a generous number of keys and shortcut commands.

The E5 is a definite step up from the rather cheap-looking Nokia C3. The plastic casing feels robust, and the metal battery cover not only protects the phone but also lends it a sense of cool desirability. A band of metal is present on the front of the phone, surrounding the direction pad and action buttons. Say what you will about Nokia's recent design philosophy, but the E5 is undisputedly attractive.

Unfortunately, the cost of including all that lovely metalwork seems to have had a negative impact on other parts of the phone. The screen is the biggest culprit. The QVGA TFT display has a paltry resolution of just 320x240 pixels and is practically impossible to use in direct sunlight. Even when compared to the AMOLED displays on the Nexus One and HTC Desire -- both of which don't perform particularly well under a blazing sun -- the E5 ends up looking bad.

Symbiotic relationship

Despite the seemingly never-ending rumours of Nokia switching to Android, the E5 comes packing good old Symbian. Series 60 third edition, to be precise. The operating system continues to lag behind its rivals, but Nokia has, at least, taken steps to include additional functionality, such as a handy home-screen contacts bar.


Symbian S60 beats at the heart of the E5, with 'business' and 'personal' home screen arrangements offering up impressive customisation.

Ovi Maps offers free turn-by-turn navigation and the pre-installed Facebook app allows you to control your social networking world -- albeit rather awkwardly-- on the 60mm (2.4-inch) landscape screen. The Ovi Store naturally offers other downloads, including games, apps and widgets. The E5 comes with the excellent Vlingo speech-to-text application, pre-installed. Already a hit on the iPhone and Android platforms, this program lets you control aspects of your device with your voice alone.

Browsing the Web is predictably difficult given the E5's lacklustre landscape screen and measly pixel count. The default Web browser is also quite sluggish, even over a Wi-Fi connection. Pages take noticeably longer to render than they do on rival smart phones, and the lack of a touchscreen means you'll have to use buttons to zoom in and out.

Never mix business and pleasure

It's not all bad, though. We will admit we were quite taken with the ability to effortlessly toggle between two home screens -- known as 'business' and 'personal.'

The former adopts a no-nonsense approach, presenting all of your salient information and options in a structured and logical arrangement. The latter is the opposite, focusing more on your contacts and friendships. Both of these modes can be fully customised, allowing you to craft the home screen that best reflects your personality.

To widget-rich Android fans, this rather tame degree of customisation may seem a little pathetic, but it's a step in the right direction for Nokia and arguably puts the iPhone's limited home screen set-up to shame. Judging from what we've seen of Nokia's latest flagship phones, including the N8, it's indicative of the company's strategy from this point forward.

In terms of connectivity, the E5's membership of the once-legendary E Series of business handsets is well justified. 3G, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are all present and correct, and with 256MB of RAM and a capable 600MHz processor, the underlying specs are decent, too. You also get 250MB of internal storage to mess about with, which can be easily expanded with microSD cards.

Sonic Youth

Sonically, the E5 has some surprising tricks up its sleeve. The 3.5mm headphone jack allows you to effortlessly replace the dire bundled headphones for your own pair, and the unique 3D ringtone effects create such an impact you may get some funny looks from your fellow commuters. The speaker is punchy and powerful, meaning you're unlikely to miss a call with this phone in your pocket.


Few could be unimpressed by the E5's metallic battery cover and cutting-edge design.

It's a shame, then, that the camera spoils the party. It's fortunate enough to come equipped with an LED flash, but lacks autofocus. There's a method to this madness, however. Using innovative Extended Depth of Field (EDoF) technology, the E5 essentially does away with the need to focus. Almost every object in a shot is pin-sharp, even things way off in the distance, but close-up images create problems. The tech is incredibly impressive. If conditions are perfect, it allows users with no photographic experience to conjure up snaps David Bailey would be proud of. Sadly, the E5's sensor produces washed-out images with worrying regularity.


Although Nokia is currently selling the E5 on its official website for £259, you can actually obtain it SIM-free from other retailers for around £200. Taking this reduced RRP into account, the E5 is in direct competition with the likes of the BlackBerry Curve 8520. Superior build quality, excellent connectivity and a great Qwerty keypad help tip the scales slightly in Nokia's favour, but the dismal display is unquestionably the phone's Achilles heel.

Edited by Emma Bayly