Review: Nokia E7

The E7 may be one of Nokia's last Symbian-based smartphones, with a top-shelf price - but does it have top-notch performance to match?

NameSmartphone: Nokia E7
At a glance:Aimed squarely at business users,Symbian^3 operating system,Extremely long battery life
Summary:Great battery life and slide-out keyboard, but way too flawed to justify the price tag.

If there’s one thing we like about a smartphone, it’s the reassuring click of a keyboard sliding out from underneath. We can practically hear the angels sing about tactile, responsive buttons. The Nokia E7 actually has the screen slide up to reveal the keyboard, but the effect is the same.

The E7 is very obviously designed with business users in mind, who travel a lot and need a full QWERTY keyboard and big screen to tap out lengthy emails and documents. As such, it comes with a bunch of office apps installed, including Adobe PDF, the Quickoffice suite, a file manager, and even a dictionary. We’ve used Quickoffice for Android before, and on the Symbian operating system – Nokia’s own OS which it has recently abandoned* in favour of Windows Phone 7 – the office suite is just as intuitive.

The AMOLED screen isn’t the biggest we’ve seen, but it’s still pretty large at four inches. It has a resolution of 360 x 640, which is high-ish for a smartphone. Between the resolution and lacklustre font smoothing, reading on the E7 just isn’t that great. You certainly wouldn’t want to be reading long financial reports on it, although Nokia seems to think you would – there’s a Bloomberg app to keep track of business news and stocks.

Since high-flying business folks are always on the run, there are a host of travel apps – including some travel-related games – and the phone has an exceptionally long battery life. If you’re likely to be on the road for days at a time without much of a hope of charging your phone, the E7 can go the distance.

We’ve expressed some grievances with Symbian before, and nothing much has changed there. In short, it’s the most unintuitive smartphone operating system we’ve used. The E7’s version, Symbian^3, has a home screen, a regular menu and an applications menu, rather than integrating them into one. Worse than that, the only way we could access the regular menu was by going into the applications menu from the home screen and then hitting the ‘back’ button.

The Ovi store also leaves a lot to be desired, both in terms of its interface and available apps. Even some apps that we would consider near-necessities don’t show up in the Ovi market - there’s no IMDB app, no Kindle, and no official YouTube app. The selection really is abysmal.

It’s not just the software that lets the E7 down, though. While its hardware is solid as a rock – it’s aluminium all the way – the 8MP camera just isn’t that great, even with flash. The colours aren’t true and images were often blurry even in good light.

It also has just a 680MHz processor, and lags well behind other phones in the same price range. Though it launched at a staggering RRP of $1,299, the price dropped to $999 in June, to match competitors such as the Galaxy S II and LG Optimus 2X.

In actual fact, we found the $399 Samsung Galaxy Mini to be more user friendly and faster performing than the Nokia E7. Why anyone would pay more than twice the price just for a keyboard is beyond us.

* While newer phones will feature Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform, Nokia assures us that it is "fully committed to the Symbian platform through 2016, which means ongoing software support." and that "Anyone buying a Symbian phone can be confident they will be supported for the lifecycle of their product."

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Tags E7smartphonesymbianNokiakeyboardslider

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Siobhan Keogh

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