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Nokia E71 NAM First Impressions

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A few weeks ago, I got an email that I almost discarded as spam, asking me if I would like to try out a Nokia phone for a few weeks. As it turns out, the email was completely legitimate, and the offer was genuine. The good folks over at WOMWorld Nokia wanted to send me a Nokia E71 NAM (the NAM is for North AMerica, since there’s a slightly different European version) so that I could try it out and see if  I liked it. Either way, I was welcome (encouraged) to write about it, talk about it, and generally let people know what I thought of it. This is the first of 2 posts that I will be making about the phone and the experience I had with it. I wanted to do one as a “first impressions” post, and then one at the end of the test period (unfortunately, I have to send it back 🙁 ) with more detail on my experiences.

Unboxing

I took a few snaps while I was opening the delivery, and of the phone when I first got it, also comparing it to my current Nokia E61 handset. In addition to the handset, they also sent me a Nokia BH-602 bluetooth headset to try out (as you’ll see below).

Unboxing Nokia E71 Unboxing Nokia E71

Side by Side Phone on Phone Action

Exterior

As soon as you lay your eyes on this phone, you’ll see it’s a sexy little number. It’s got a very similar form factor to the iPhone, although obviously there is a full keyboard in play here, so the screen is a lot smaller relatively speaking. Let’s check out a few of the things I noticed immediately:

  1. Uber-hot chroming/shiny-ness all over
  2. Dimpled stainless steel back-cover
  3. Much more compact (read: smaller) keyboard than my E61
  4. New keys! There are new keys which looking at the icons are (L-R): Home, Calendar, Contacts, Mail. The E61 had a weird “menu” key and a Mail key only.
  5. Thinner and narrower, but same height
  6. The screen appears to be slightly smaller (but when you turn it on, it’s crisp and sharp and very bright)
  7. External access to the memory card slot and a mini-USB port
  8. They’ve switched the volume up/down buttons to the other side of the phone
  9. There’s not one, but TWO cameras on the device. One on the back (with an LED flash and a small mirror for “MySpace photos”) and one on the front, I assume for video calls.
  10. The E61’s kinda poky joystick has been replaced with a nice big square key, surrounded by a single, connected directional key for L/R/U/D.

Gettin’ Dirty

Once I’d gotten over how much sexier this handset was than my current one, it was time to play around with it a bit and see if the actual experience of using it lived up to the exterior (never judge a book by its cover and all that).

One of the first things I noticed was that the screen was very crisp, and the colors were sharp. I’m not 100% sold on the font selection on the device, but generally the visual side of things is an improvement over the E61. All the icons got an update, but I actually liked the older, angled versions a bit better. Some of the color selections for highlighting things (black with a red outline?) are a bit odd as well on the theme that was active when I got it.

As far as responsiveness goes, the E71 blows the E61 out of the water. Going back now and comparing the 2 makes it feel like the E61 is running in a bucket of molasses, trapped in a time-warp where everything goes in slow motion. I really can’t stress the difference in speed that’s evident doing anything and everything on the phone. The E71 is quick, smooth, and jumps from task to task without a pause. Even when you leave a bunch of applications running it still seems to handle itself better than the E61 with nothing running.

The keyboard, although smaller than on the E61, actually feels better. It took a little getting used to but the new key style is more responsive and the tactile feedback is much nicer than the squishyness on the E61. There are a few compromises made to get the keyboard smaller though; namely the removal of the right shift key (makes it tricky to do shift+@/x/c because they’re so close). They’ve also moved a few special characters around (or hidden them off in the character selection menu somewhere) which is a pity, because I often use double-quotes (“) and ampersands (&) and both of these got sidelined.

Having a camera back on my phone is a treat that I’d learned to live without. The E61 was an “enterprise” device, so they decided that it didn’t need a camera on it (the E61i released shortly thereafter fixed that mistake), so I haven’t had a cameraphone for almost 2 years now. I was quite surprised with the quality on the camera – it’s decent, but not quite as good as I remembered 3 megapixels to be honest.

Here’s a couple of sample pictures to show you what it can do (click through for full-sized versions). L-R are: Inside, overhead incandescent lighting; Outside, mid morning, natural lighting; At night, with the LED flash only.

Mini Christmas Uphill

Parking Meter

Other than that, a lot of the features are the same or similar to the E61, so I’ll post a bit more of a comparison once I’ve played with it more. I am supposed to return the handset after the new year unfortunately. I already really like it, and am finding myself enjoying it a lot more than my E61.

More to come closer to return-time, stay posted.

Written by Beau Lebens

December 20th, 2008 at 4:09 pm