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Nokia E5 - Is it as Easy to Use as it Looks?
In all its QWERTY-ness, the Nokia E5 made it out and its popularity has been steadily increasing since its launch. It’s no BlackBerry, but then again it offers no presumptions of being one. The E5 looks like a slightly higher-end and much needed update to the E63 which was Nokia's affordable E-series business class phone for those users who didn’t have the extra Rs. 6000 to shell out for the E72. Here’s a closer look.
The E5 is a simple looking QWERTY keypad loaded handset. It’s comfortable to use as the buttons are large and soft enough to go into a typing spree without your fingers getting coarse. The space bar also doubles up as a ‘Torch’ key. Essentially it turns on the LED for the camera to be used as a torch light. The 3.2-inch QVGA display is not scratch resistant so I’d suggest a screen guard as a precaution. The charging port, micro USB slot and 3.5mm handsfree socket are both placed at the top of the device making it really convenient for usage. A set of volume/zoom keys are on the right side of the device. Like the Nokia C3 two buttons on the side pop open the rear panel.
A real downer in the design is that the E5 has no hot swap for the microSD card. That’s also just about the only flaw in the whole design.
Features and Performance
There’s nothing radically new with the S60 platform except for the new Home Screen. It’s just a horizontal variant of previous versions but does make things just a little bit more interesting for access. The built-in Facebook application allows you to sync your phonebook contacts with your online contacts and merge them automatically. A couple of oddities in this system are – if you’ve saved contacts with nicknames, syncing is a big problem so you’ll have to manually handle most. Secondly, even though the system picks up the profile pic of your contact from FB you can’t use that image as a contact thumbnail like you would in Android. You’ll have to use an alternate image stored on the handset or capture one using the camera. The layout of these shortcuts is well designed though. You can access all correspondence with a contact in your shortcut bar from one space.
On the whole, the UI is smooth when it comes to navigating the menus or accessing apps. The E5 also handles multi-tasking quite efficiently. There’s just one instance where the handset isn’t as fast as required, but I’ll get to that in just a little while.
The E5’s music player is, simply put, brilliant. Without tweaking the audio, music quality came in loud and clear as ever. If you don’t agree that’s probably because you’re using the bundled handsfree. My recommendation – don’t! Get yourself a better set and you’ll get a real kick out of the player. Amongst the EQ presets is a customizable option with an 8 band graphic EQ set up. Bass Boost and Stereo Widening options are also provided to add a little more pizazz to your tunes. The E5 is also provisioned with a Stereo FM radio and an Internet radio option which would work a whole lot better had 3G been prevalent all over. It works on EDGE of course but buffering takes a lot longer. Wi-Fi will obviously give you optimum quality.
Videos are easy to view provided they’re in the appropriate formats. The E5 reads files in MPEG4, 3GP and WMV formats. The handset's overall multimedia capabilities include a 30 day trial of Shazam, a voice recorder, Music search (that really didn’t work at all), a podcast app and Nokia’s Home Media app that let’s you sync media files from your home wireless services to your handset.
The handset came with no games preloaded but it’s an E-series device so you shouldn’t really expect any. If you want those apps though there are plenty available via the Ovi Store.
From 3G to Bluetooth with A2DP (and AVRCP) and everything in between like EDGE, Wi-Fi and USB 2.0, the E5 is well equipped to handle all your connectivity needs. The native browser, although just a little slow, is superb for browsing with a mini map option to view full pages a little better and comes with xSP framework support. As I mentioned, a native Facebook apps is preloaded and so are Twitter, Hi5, MySpace, Friendster and YouTube apps. A chat application for Ovi chat (Nokia’s own little version of BBM) and other popular services like Gtalk and MSN is also on board. The Ovi Store with access to apps, music, games etc. is also available for downloads.
Syncing your device with your Ovi account is a good way to ensure your contacts, calendar entries and notes are backed up. If you’re switching from one Nokia handset to another use Nokia’s Switch app that uses Bluetooth to transfer details between devices. The Psiloc Traveler apps is great for those long journeys out of town and keeps you in the know of all the details you need for your trips. An AP (Associated Press) and Bloomberg app are also thrown in.
The E5 is also a GPS-enabled (with a-GPS support) handset that comes loaded with Ovi Maps 3.0 that’s free for life.
Aside from the mundane features like a calendar, alarm clock etc. the E5 also comes with a full version of QuickOffice that allows you to create as well as edit MS documents. A PDF and Zip reader are also available. Amongst these Nokia has also included their Active Notes feature that allows you to add more than just text to a note. You can include images, videos and voice recordings to each of the notes you wish to save. Nokia’s universal Search option and text to speech reader for messages have also been included with the handset.
The E5’s 5 MP camera is of the fixed focus variety which might be a bit of a turn off for some. Settings include exposure level adjustments, White balance, ISO setting, scene modes and more. Even with the lack of auto focus functionality the camera manages to deliver quite well. Images, even in slightly low lit conditions, come out relatively sharp and focused. The downside it takes a little bit long to process an image so don’t make any sudden movements after hitting the capture button. The auto stitch Panorma mode doesn't do as good as job as Samsung's. The camera also records video up to 640 x 480 pixels @15fps.
The most remarkable aspect of this handset is the absolutely brilliant battery life. On a single charge I was able to use the battery for over 2 and a half days with calls, messages, music and a little bit of video as well. Keeping the handset in an ‘Always Connected’ setting for Push Mail or FB updates etc. will reduce battery time to about 2 days and change. Talk time averaged in over 5 and half hours easily. It even has a battery saver mode that boosts battery efficiency even more.
The Bottom Line
With a price tag of Rs. 11,100 (MOP) the Nokia E5 is the perfect handset for those looking for a QWERTY loaded handset with plenty of connectivity options and pretty decent multimedia. The E5 also happens to be the Second Runner up in our 2010 GOTY list under mid-range Smartphones. It certainly deserves it.