A major improvement for the Nokia Eseries that faces tough rivals. (December 13th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Nokia
Price: $100 (3 yr. CDN, Rogers); $442 (US unlocked)
- Very sturdy, stylish design.
- Good keyboard and navigation pad.
- Much improved battery life.
- Good GPS mapping and media playback.
- Easily accessible card slot and USB port.
- Good camera versus many phones.
- Very reasonable price.
- Symbian still tough to use in some areas.
- Mail isn't full-featured despite the phone's focus.
- Camera is a step down from the N95 in most respects.
- Browsing is still limited; connections aren't auto-managed.
- Rogers music player still at the top level and not very useful.
call quality and battery life
There's little to complain about with the E71's voice quality: while the default volume is quiet, at higher volume it's clear and loud. It's what you would expect from a 3G phone on an HSPA data network. This can vary from region to region but has performed well in this case.
In a pleasant surprise, battery life is reasonably long. Despite its large battery, the N95 8GB quickly ran out of power through moderate data and phone use and just couldn't be left unplugged overnight: a full charge would be drained by half or more on standby. Nokia has solved this through brute force by giving the E71 a much more capacious 1,500mAh battery (up from 1,200) and a smaller screen (2.4 inches versus 2.8). This only gives one if appreciated hour of extra calling time, but is much better for standby mode; light but regular use would let the phone sit one to two days on average before a recharge would be essential. It's the difference between being tied to wall outlets and roaming free, and it all goes a long way towards improving the phone's performance, though it's not quite as good as the claimed performance of the thicker, larger iPhone.
Nokia is often considered the king of cameraphones, and for good reason. It rarely skimps on quality parts and gives users a wide array of controls over the final output. The software controls, at least, carry over on the E71. Photographers can tweak color and white balances as well as choose different scene modes, and there are ample options to mail or upload photos to specific services without needing a third-party app.
Image quality, though, does seem a definite step down from the (admittedly strong) N95 8GB camera. Besides the drop from 5 to 3.2 megapixels, the E71's camera seems more prone to noise even in slightly dim situations and has a harder time focusing on subjects. It's still miles above the same-resolution camera in the Touch Diamond -- pictures are much clearer and the flash is brighter -- but it's clear the E71's unit is more incidental to the phone's real purpose than a key focus.
a note on data sync
Nokia has lately been good about synchronizing content with computers, and there is certainly no shortage of software available. There are suites to cover both business data and media on both Mac OS X and Windows, including third-party tools like Missing Sync; Nokia Media Transfer was used on the Mac for the bulk of this test, but previous tests of the software have shown that it's entirely possible to use all aspects of Nokia's smartphones tightly integrated with the Mac.
The software has been updated a number of times since its last appearance, but it remains near-identicial. Again, in this case, that's a high point. The software is understandably not as intuitive as a direct iTunes sync but faithfully ports over songs, playlists, movies and photos with a fair amount of customization. The E71 comes bundled with a 2GB microSD card and actually makes for a good if stopgap media jukebox, as long as users can accept the basic earbuds.