Have you ever wanted to have a smartphone with large QWERTY keyboard allowing quick and convenient text entry but Communicators were too bulky for you? Have you thought of having a device with large screen for email and Internet, yet still small enough to carry it in your pocket? If so, then E61 is the right choice for you.
Nokia E-Series E61, announced on October 12, 2005 and shipping in April/May 2006, is the third Symbian OS 9.1 / Series 60 3rd Edition smartphone reviewed by us. It's the first S60 phone with built-in full QWERTY keyboard and also the first S60 device with such a big display (its resolution is 320x240 pixels like in several other S60 phones but because of larger pixels (and orientation rotated by 90 degrees) its physical dimensions are 56 x 42 mm, which makes it of the same height but 23 mm (i.e. 41%) wider than typical S60 display).
First impressions are VERY GOOD. The phone is well built and feels very solid. No loose elements, no cracking or squeaking. The casing is composed of very elegant light silver and dark silver plastic. Almost entire upper half of the front side is taken by the huge screen and the lower half is occupied by the keyboard. The phone is relatively light (144 g) and quite convenient to hold and operate. It's thin enough to fit in your shirt's, jacket's or even jeans' pocket (the screen is not touch sensitive which allowed to cover it with hard, protective plastic).
The keyboard requires getting used to. You'll have to learn using Shift, Chr and the green arrow to get the desired characters. The size and spacing of the keys is quite sufficient not to press several of them at once and the tactile feedback is acceptable (though the keys are a little bit too soft and too shaky to my liking, I'd prefer a perceptible click). Most applications automatically set the keyboard to appropriate mode, e.g. on the standby screen the keyboard is set to the numeric mode so that you can dial numbers directly using the central, green part of the keyboard, just like with conventional numeric keypads, without having to press and hold the green arrow key. The keyboard is backlit which makes it usable even in complete darkness.
The UI is controlled using five-way joystick located below the screen. It is surrounded by two configurable soft buttons, two large buttons providing direct access to Menu and email as well as Send and End buttons.
As I mentioned, the screen is really BIG. It is of high quality (although not as smooth as N80's or N71's display as its larger pixels are clearly noticeable), shows 16 million colors and allows adjusting brightness and contrast. The UI has been slightly tweaked to take advantage of the bigger display, however the changes are not revolutionary and the additional screen area could have been used more optimal. The Active standby screen shows more icons (seven) and provides more space for calendar and To-do entries of the "Today" list. The main menu shows four icons in three rows which is the same number (12) as in other S60 phones with 320x240 pixel screens (only rotated by 90 degrees) but in E61 the icons are larger (they're actually of the same resolution but larger pixels make them look bigger).
Text editors provide slightly more space for text, e.g. the Messaging editor fits 37 characters per line (30 characters in N80) and 7 lines instead of 6. Many applications like e.g. Calendar look exactly the same (only bigger) and don't take advantage of the larger screen at all.
On the contrary, Office applications (Documents, Sheet, Presentations) use every inch of the screen and provide very good user experience.
Above the screen you can find the Power / Profiles button and a white status LED. On the left side of the device there is loudspeaker (providing very good quality - the sound is very clear and extremely loud), volume up/down buttons and Voice recorder button also serving as a Push-To-Talk button. The bottom part of the phone is occupied by Pop-Port connector (USB 2.0 full speed, 11 Mbit/s), infrared port and charger socket (the new, smaller plug; converter for old chargers is bundled with the phone). Like all new S60 phones, E61 supports USB mass storage, which means that it lets you exchange files with PC via USB cable, without any additional communications software. Simply connect the USB cable and you'll be asked to choose connection mode: PC Suite for data synchronisation or backup, Data transfer for file exchange or IP Passthrough for network access.
The E61 uses BP-5L 1500 mAh battery which, according to Nokia, provides up to 11 days of standby time. In practice, the phone should work two-three days with typical use. E61 supports Bluetooth 1.2 and offers the following profiles: BIP-ImagePush, DUN-GW (Dial-up Networking), FT-Server (FTP), HandsFree-AG, Headset-AG, OBEX, OPP-Client and OPP-Server (Object Push), SIM Access-Server.
Like all E-Series models, the Nokia E61 supports Wireless LAN (WiFi) connectivity with transmission speed up to 54 Mbit/s (IEEE 802.11 g). Connecting to a wireless network is very easy - the device can search for available networks and automatically connect to open networks. In case of networks with restricted access you will be asked to enter login data and/or encryption key; then you can store it as an access point setting to login automatically next time. Supported security modes include WEP, 802.1x and WPA/WPA2. In connection settings, you can assign your access points to custom groups and set the order/priority in which access points are used.
The ARM9 processor in the E61 runs at 206 MHz, which is slightly LESS than in Series 60 2.6 and 2.8 smartphones (220 MHz). However, the device is simply VERY FAST, MUCH FASTER than 220 MHz Series 60 smartphones. It's especially noticeable with the Nokia Web browser. Opening and rendering advanced web pages like My-Symbian home page with all pictures and banners over WLAN connection takes only SEVERAL SECONDS! It is the new Symbian OS 9.1's optimizations making the S60 3rd Edition devices that fast.
The new Nokia browser is not only fast but it's also very easy and convenient to use. The browser displays so called "mini map" which is a semi-transparent miniature of the currently loaded web page and allows quickly scrolling and locating the desired part of the page. The browser supports different zooming options which can be set separately for images and fonts.
"Page overview" function shows scaled down view of the entire page and lets you quickly select the content you want to view. What about history of visited pages? Forget about simple textual links, the Nokia browser shows you miniature screenshots! Quickly scroll through them using the joystick and just click on the selected one to re-open that page again. So.... is the new browser perfect? Almost. I miss just one thing: a "fit-to-screen" small screen rendering-based mode. Browsing in 100% size or manually changing zooming options for text and pictures is not always convenient.
Nokia E61 comes with Office suite preinstalled in ROM. Documents, Sheet and Presentations are compatible with Microsoft Office applications. Screen export program lets you show contents of your phone's screen with a projector.
E61 is not equipped with any digital camera. It'll certainly be considered an advantage by business users but I wish Nokia released a version with built-in camera as it would make the device COMPLETE and warmly welcome by private users. Being an UMTS phone, the E61 does support video calls but (because of no camera) one-way only. E61 is a quad band phone (GSM 850/900/1800/1900 and WCDMA 2100) which makes it a true world phone.
With such a big screen, built-in keyboard and various connection options, the E61 is obviously meant to provide fast and easy access to your email accounts on the move. Messaging editor is quite convenient to use and provides all typical functions. E61 fully supports POP3 and IMAP4 accounts and allows automatic email retrieval (headers only, size limit, full messages and attachments), which can be limited to home network only. There's nothing exceptional about the email client - it looks similiar as in other new S60 phones and it simply does what it's supposed to do with the great aid of the huge display and QWERTY keyboard. Below you can find some screenshots showing the Messaging application.
E61's large screen is also hard to overestimate when it comes to multimedia. The phone is equipped with the usual Gallery, Music Player, Voice Recorder and RealOne video player applications and comes with Flash player preinstalled giving you access to rich multimedia content on the web.
Nokia E61 comes with built-in support for Internet telephony, for which you can define separate ringing tone, call waiting setting and other options. You can also decide which call type (Internet or cellular) is the default method. The phone allows you to configure your own SIP service settings, choose any access point, proxy server, registrar server, user name etc. so it should work with any SIP service.
E61 has 75 megabytes of free internal storage memory which can be expanded using miniSD cards. To access the memory card slot one has to remove the back cover which may be considered inconvenient. Fortunately, removing and reattaching the cover is easy and simple (unlike in some other Nokia phones) and it provides good protection to the slot and the card. E61 generates high quality stereo sound through Pop-Port compatible headphones. The built-in Music Player includes equalizer with predefined settings for most popular music types and shows current song name on the active standby screen.
As mentioned earlier, E61 is a Symbian OS 9.1 / S60 3rd Edition device which has an important impact on its compatibility with existing Series 60 software. OS 9.1 and S60 3.0 running on top of it ARE NOT backwards compatible which means that you cannot run applications released for older Series 60 phones. Applications have to be updated, recompiled and re-released by developers for the new system and platform version. At the time of writing this review there are absolutely no native 3rd party applications available and users of S60 3.0 smartphones (only Nokia 3250 is commercially available at the moment) are limited to Java MIDP software. It should not take developers too long, however, to release S60 3.0 compatible versions, so the situation will most probably change quite soon. All new software, as always, will be announced and made available from My-Symbian and the My-Symbian Software Shop.
The reviewed unit had an early firmware version but it was VERY STABLE. The phone didn't crash or hang even ONCE during the entire test period. It seems that both the Symbian OS 9.1 and the 3rd edition of the S60 platform are now fully mature are ready for public availability.
So, how to describe the E61? Is it a normal S60 phone? Yes, people who are familiar with other Series 60 smartphones won't have any problems with using it and will find all the usual features included. Is E61 good for reading and creating documents and messages? Yes, the full QWERTY keyboard makes text entry much faster and much more convenient than on any other S60 device. Built-in Microsoft Office compatible applications make very good use of the large screen and provide similiar functionality as on the Nokia 9500/9300(i) which makes the E61 a very good choice for people who need mobile access to email and documents but consider the Communicators too large or too heavy. Is the E61 good for mobile Internet? Yes, it provides all popular connectivity options (UMTS, EDGE, GPRS, WLAN), large display and exceptionally fast and powerful browser. Is it a multimedia device? Sure, it generates high definition stereo sound, it's fast enough to display good quality video and the proportions and physical size of the screen make it a very good movie player. Shortly speaking, the Nokia E61 is the most advanced Series 60 smartphone released to date. The only thing non-business users may regret is lack of high-resolution camera, which would make the device complete. Hopefully Nokia will release a version of the phone equipped with a camera....
- very large screen
- QWERTY keyboard
- quadband phone with worldwide coverage
- UMTS, EDGE
- WLAN (IEEE 802.11 g, 54 Mbit/s)
- Microsoft Office compatible editors
- USB mass storage
- very fast
- Nokia browser
- integrated support for Internet telephony
- very stable
- non-business users will regret the lack of camera. A separate version of the E61 with built-in camera would be warmly welcome.
- limited 3rd party software availability until developers port their S60 2.x applications to the new OS.
- some built-in applications (e.g. Calendar) don't make use of the larger screen
- no A2DP Bluetooth profile for high quality stereo audio via Bluetooth.
- lack of on-device fax sending and receiving.
VERDICT: If you like devices of this size, just get it! It's the most powerful S60 smartphone ever made. Highly recommended.
Discuss about Nokia E61 with other users and request detailed information on our S60 3.0 Discussion Forum.
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