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Nokia E63-2 review: Nokia E63-2

Nokia E63-2

Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Bonnie Cha
7 min read

Traditionally, the Nokia E series, which includes the Nokia E71, have been very business-focused and slightly on the pricey side, but the cell phone manufacturer is hoping to attract more consumers by offering its Nokia E63 at a lower price point. Announced for the U.S. market at CES 2009, the E63 is available now for $279 through Nokia's flagship stores in New York and Chicago. Compare that price with the E71, which goes for $500 unlocked, or any other unlocked phone, and you've got a pretty good deal, especially when you consider that the E63 offers a full QWERTY keyboard, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0, and all the e-mail and productivity capabilities of the E71. The only thing you lose is integrated GPS, and you get a lesser camera. Of course, some of that value is lost now that AT&T has announced that it will offer the Nokia E71x for $99.99 with a two-year contract. Plus, the E63's call quality is a little spotty. Still for those who don't want to be tied down to a carrier and want the freedom of an unlocked phone, the Nokia E63 offers a good set of features for more casual users and at a more affordable price.


Nokia E63-2

The Good

The sleek Nokia E63 offers a full QWERTY keyboard and full e-mail capabilities. The Symbian smartphone has integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 3G support. It's also one of the more affordably priced unlocked phones.

The Bad

The smartphone lacks integrated GPS, and call quality could be better. The camera doesn't produce the best pictures, and there's no side-mounted volume rocker.

The Bottom Line

The Nokia E63 offers a more wallet-friendly price tag compared with other unlocked smartphones and does so without sacrificing too many features; we just we wish the call quality and camera were better.

It'd be easy to call the Nokia E63 a thicker, plasticky version of the Nokia E71 and call it a day, but that would be unfair to the E63. Admittedly, we do miss the steel chassis and sleeker profile of the E71, but the E63 isn't an ugly beast. In fact, it's quite attractive and as a more consumer-centric device, Nokia brings a fresher, hipper look to the smartphone by offering the phone in red or blue.

The Nokia E63 is a more consumer-centric smartphone compared to the Nokia E71.

The E63 mostly keeps the same dimensions of the E71 (4.4 inches tall by 2.2 inches wide and 4.4 ounces) but is just a hair thicker (0.5 inch vs. 0.4 inch), so it'll make for a bit of a tight fit in a pants pocket. Despite its plastic casing, the smartphone has a solid construction and feels comfortable to hold while on a call or typing messages. The E63 also has a soft-touch finish on back to give it a nonslippery texture.

On front, you'll find a 2.36-inch QVGA (320x240 pixels) nontouch display that supports up to 16 million colors. The screen is vibrant and bright and is equipped with a light-sensing technology that adjusts the display's brightness depending on your environment. We were able to read the screen in most lighting conditions, though colors were slightly washed out in bright sunlight, not unlike other smartphones. For customization, you can change the Home screen's background image, theme, and font size and choose between a grid or list menu view.

Like the E71, the E63 also offers two different 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. Meanwhile, switching to Personal mode gives you instant access to your multimedia library, the Web, and messages. How effective this functionality is at taking your mind off work is questionable since you can simply switch back to Business mode with a click of a button, but hey, we appreciate the capability and the thought behind it.

The E71's QWERTY keyboard features slightly larger buttons for easy typing, though they're a bit mushy.

Below the display, you'll find the same navigation array of two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, four shortcuts (Home, Calendar, Contacts, and Messages), and a four-way toggle with a center select key. The full QWERTY keyboard is similar to the E71's, but there are some differences. For example, the bottom row includes more keys, and as a result, the space bar is smaller. This didn't pose a problem, however, and the individual buttons are also larger, so the overall typing experience was good. If anything, our only complaint would be that the keys feel a bit soft and mushy when you press them.

On the left side, you'll find a micro USB port and a microSD expansion slot that accepts up to 8GB cards.

On the left side of the smartphone, there's a micro-USB port and a microSD expansion slot. Curiously and disappointingly, Nokia got rid of the dedicated volume controls and user-programmable shortcut key found present on the E71. You can adjust the volume using the E63's navigation toggle, which is fine when you're using the media player, but not so easy when you're on a call since you have to pull the phone away from your ear to do so.

There's a power connector on the bottom, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on top. The latter is protected by a cover, but it's tiny and not attached to the phone so chances are pretty high that it'll get lost at some point. That said, we're absolutely thrilled that Nokia made the switch from a 2.5mm jack to 3.5mm so you can use the smartphone with your favorite pair of headphones.

The Nokia E63 is a little shabby in the accessories department. The smartphone comes packaged with an AC adapter, a wired headset, and reference material, but there's no USB cable included in the box. For more add-ons, please check our cell phones accessories, ringtones, and help page.

The Nokia E63's feature set is largely like the Nokia E71, except it lacks GPS and is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera instead of a 3.2-megapixel camera. We point out some of the highlights and differences in the Performance section below, but for more information about the Nokia E63's feature set, please check out our full review of the Nokia E71.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; WCDMA 850/1900) Nokia E63, and call quality was mixed. To us, calls sounded great with good volume and clear sound. There was minimal background noise or distortion, but this wasn't the case on the other end. One friend said that the audio kept cutting in and out, so he couldn't fully understand what we were saying. I called him back two more times to see if it was a connection problem, and the call was dropped during the second attempt and sound quality only improved marginally on the third try. Another friend also reported lots of static and choppiness, while a third person said the call quality was fine. Surprisingly, the speakerphone offered better sound quality as callers could hear the full conversation without any type of disruption.

We successfully paired the E63 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones. Though there's no integrated GPS, you can pair the smartphone with a Bluetooth GPS receiver to get turn-by-turn directions. It's another accessory you will have to carry, but at least, it's an option. The E63 also support stereo Bluetooth, dial-up networking, file transfer, object push, and more.

The E63 supports AT&T's 850/1900 3G bands but not 3.5G HSDPA. Note that the smartphone also isn't compatible with T-Mobile's 3G network, as it runs on the 1700/2100MHz bands. Using AT&T's 3G network, it took the smartphone about a minute to fully load CNET's page, while it took about 35 seconds for ESPN's and CNN's mobiles sites to come up. The Nokia Web browser is quite good. It allows you to toggle between multiple windows, navigate to a point on a site by the using page overview, and best of all, offers Flash Lite 3.0 support, so you're able to view and use such sites as YouTube. We checked out a couple of clips and were quite impressed by the good quality and uninterrupted stream. There's even a full-screen option.

The Nokia E63 is a fast little machine. We used multiple applications, including QuickOffice for document editing, e-mail, and multimedia, and rarely encountered delays of more than a few seconds. The smartphone also provided smooth playback of songs and video.

The picture quality of the E63's 2-megapixel camera wasn't the best. Images were clear, and coloring was good as long as there was plenty of natural light. In all other situations, the photos looked gray and washed out, even with the use of a flash. The results were about the same with recorded video clips, though overall, we were impressed by the clarity of the picture. The E63 includes 110MB of internal memory, which can be expanded by the microSD expansion slot (accepts up to 8GB cards).

We weren't impressed by the E63's camera.

The Nokia E63 comes with a 1500mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 11 hours (GSM) and 4 hours and 40 minutes (HSDPA) and up to 18 days (GSM)/20 days (HSDPA) of standby time. In our battery drain tests we were able to get 9 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the E63 has a digital SAR rating of 1.24 watts per kilogram.


Nokia E63-2

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7