It's always been a shame that Nokia's E series of smartphones (as well as the Nokia N series for that matter) rarely make it to U.S. carriers since they offer great business features in slick designs. However, AT&T customers got good news at CTIA 2009 when the companies announced that the carrier would bring the Nokia E71x to its shelves.
Sharing the same design (though coming in a classic but sexy black color) and similar features as the unlocked Nokia E71, the E71x is an extremely sleek and messaging smartphone for business users. However, AT&T made an attractive device even more attractive by giving the Nokia E71x a $99.99 (with two-year contract) price tag. It's a great value, especially compared to AT&T's other QWERTY smartphones, such as the Samsung Epix and RIM BlackBerry Bold, considering what you get and the quality of the phone's design.
For this review, we'll be concentrating on the new features and performance. For more information on the Nokia E71x, including full details on its design, please check our full review of the unlocked Nokia E71.
As we noted earlier, the Nokia E71x's features are akin to the unlocked version, but it adds a number of AT&T services, including AT&T XpressMail, AT&T Navigator, Yellowpages.com Mobile, and AT&T Music and Video.
We tested the quad-band Nokia E71x in San Francisco using AT&T service and call quality was good. We enjoyed mostly clear audio during our conversations with just some minimal hissing in the background, and we did experience a dropped call. On the other end of the phone call, our friends reported no major problems or complaints. Speakerphone quality was decent with good volume.
The smartphone offers Bluetooth 2.0 with support for a number of profiles, including stereo Bluetooth, file transfer, object push, and dial-up networking. We successfully paired the E71x with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
In addition to being a quad-band world phone, the Nokia E71x also supports AT&T's 850/1900MHz HSDPA bands. Wi-Fi is also onboard as an alternative if you're out of 3G coverage. The 3.5G speeds made Web browsing fairly painless. CNET's site loaded in about 50 seconds, while ESPN's mobile site came up in 17 seconds, and CNN's mobile site loaded in 18 seconds.
General performance was good with minimal delays. We were also quite pleased with the multimedia experience. Tracks sounded rich even through the phone's speakers; we only wish Nokia had equipped the smartphone with a 3.5mm headset jack so we could plug in our own headphones. Video playback was smoother than other smartphones we've tested, with minimal blurriness and synchronized audio and picture.
The picture quality of the Nokia E71's 3.2-megapixel camera wasn't great. Though we were satisfied with the sharpness, the coloring wasn't very good, as it looked dark and orange.
The biggest hiccup we encountered with the Nokia E71x was with the GPS. Using AT&T Navigator, we tried to set up a route from CNET's downtown San Francisco office to the Marina District. However, on the initial try, the smartphone could not get a GPS fix and consequently could not find our location or give us a route. We were in an open area with a clear view of the sky on a sunny day. We tried for 20 minutes and even exited out of the application several times and restarted the phone to no avail, so we finally gave up for the day. However, the next day the smartphone was able to locate our position immediately and held its lock as we drove throughout the city. AT&T Navigator provided accurate directions, though slightly slow on the route recalculations. Yellowpages.com Mobile also worked as advertised, offering numerous business listings and their contact information, though we found that some of the search results were outdated.
The Nokia E71x has a 1,500mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5 hours (GSM)/4.5 hours (3G) and up to 13 days (GSM)/12 days (3G) of standby time. The smartphone provided 11 hours of talk time in our battery drain tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the E71x has a digital SAR rating of 1.53 watts per kilogram.