HOME / PRINT
Nokia E90 Communicator
Enter, the Big Daddy of all phones! The E90 may look like and perhaps feel like any other communicator, but is it really? The answer is a resounding NO! The previous models, although still quite popular in many arenas has nothing on this baby. With a combination of elegance, style and a sturdy demeanor, the new addition to the business i.e. "E" class of Nokia phones has promised to overshadow its predecessors. But whether or not it can actually live up to that is what we’re here to find out. So let's get to it.
Although the design is quite like any Communicators of yore, this one has a few upgrades. For example this is the first to have a fully functional ‘External Phone’ with a 16million color display and a resolution of 240x320 pixels. The reason I refer to it as an ‘External Phone’ is simply because it pretty much looks like any other Nokia phone inside some sort of shell. Whatever a normal S60 phone can do, the outer phone can do as well. No exceptions this time. This may also be the first time Nokia has placed the power switch on the side of the screen rather than on top.
The rear houses the 3.2 megapixel, Auto-Focus camera with a flash and the speakers. At the very bottom you'll notice a little flap, which is where the microSD card can be inserted. All you have to do is slide it open and insert the card. The bottom is where you’ll find the mini USB (2.0), charger pin and a 2.5mm earphone socket. What’s most noticeable are the two steel hinges. This is another factor that sets the E90 apart from the previous models. The steel hinges make the phone a lot sturdier and add a certain rugged appeal to it. On the side are 2 keys. The one on the top is a dedicated voice recorder key, and the one at the bottom just below the infrared sensor, is the shutter release key for the camera. However, it's not a dedicated key to activate it which is quite odd.
Flip it open and this is where all the magic happens. The large internal screen is what this phone is all about with a crystal clear resolution of 800x352 pixels and 16 million colors. On the sides of this fabulous screen are 2 pairs of keys. On the right just underneath the secondary camera is a set of call take and end keys and on the other side of the screen is a set of soft keys. But I don’t like the positioning too much as they’re a bit too far from the nav-pad, so you end up having to adjust your hold every now and again when selecting options.
The Full QWERTY keypad makes the E90 look like a miniaturized laptop. At the very top of the keypad Nokia has graciously provided us with direct shortcut keys to various functions and one key to call your own (Open key). There’s also a separate key to switch on the keypad light when it's dark and on the other side of the keypad is a five way Nave-Pad. So that’s it for the design of this big boy. Let's see what he’s capable of doing.
Keeping you Connected
Wait. I'm not done yet. The E90 is also more than capable of handling any other type of 'local' connectivity, to your PC, laptop or any other phone perhaps. How? With Bluetooth v2.0 compatible with A2DP no less, Infrared, and USB as well, I'm not sure if there’s anything else really. Maybe one more thing though - it has integrated GPS.
But the big question is, how well does it perform with these features? The answer is – Without a hitch. With Software like 'Settings Wizard' to guide you through the process, you can’t go wrong. Of course you’ll still need to contact your service provider for a few settings in case you’re not sure. But how hard is that. So once you have your settings in order, there’s nothing else to do but get connected. Surfing is easy, and I quite liked using the large display and QWERTY keypad.
The browser isn't exactly. If you've seen that of the N95 or any other 'N' series, this will be easy to use. Unfortunately Nokia has not yet figured out a way to allow the browser to open multiple pages. However it does open links in new pages. When scrolling across the screen you'll notice there's a small preview that appears at the corner, which I’m not sure serves any purpose other than give you a microsecond glimpse of the page's layout. There is a separate setting which you'll have to manually use to check a page preview and jump to any specific portion.
Business on the go
Apart from the varied options of connectivity, how really business-like is the E90 would be the next question. The Communicator range, to begin with, was designed to be a tool for the businessperson who's constantly on the move and needs to stay connected without having to carry a 900g laptop around. So it needs to be and IS equipped to handle that burden. The Quickoffice program allows you to access your Word, Excel and PowerPoint slides. They aren’t in a read-only format so you can make changes as well and create your own word and excel files to be attached to mails. There’s also a .PDF file viewer and a Zip manager to help save you a little space.
What's new in the office applications is Active Notes for one. It's exactly like the normal Notes function that all phones have but with an upgrade. This version of Notes allows you to insert media (including videos) into the note. You can also link the note to any particular contact so it will pop up when the person calls. Neat! Another addition is Nokia's Teams software. This really comes in handy. It allows you to create teams from your contacts and instead of having to send messages individually or conference call by selecting people the same way, this allows you to send a single message to everyone in a particular team. It also helps when making conference calls. It's similar to creating a group in your contacts, but allows for so much more by keeping all information including calls, messages etc. from members in one place.
Among other functions there's also options to wirelessly connect to printers that support the same or, connect to a Bluetooth enabled keyboard and best of all, a Wireless Presenter software (which is free to download but not pre-installed) that allows you to connect to a computer that has the same software installed (again free).
Of course the regular features include a converter, calculator, notes and scheduler in the calendar for tasks and top-dos. Nokia has also added a search feature to ease location of files. It looks for files in any folder you choose exactly like a PC's search option. Another great feature that only enhances the E90's user friendliness.
As I mentioned before, the Communicator range of mobiles was specifically meant for business with a limited amount of leeway provided for media, but not the E90. This baby gives you a full-blown media experience as well. The large display is perfect for watching DVD like quality videos provided of course they are in a 2.27:1 proportion. Considering the length of the screen a normal 4:3 or 16:9 ration will leave black bars on either side of the video playback, except of course when played on the front screen. The only problem is, Nokia doesn’t provide any video converter, even in the PC suite. So you’ll have to find your own. But the picture clarity on the screen is simply WOW!
When it comes to music, apart from the painful fact that Nokia used a 2.5mm and not 3.5mm socket here, I have to say I was totally unimpressed with the output of the sound. Although the quality may have been just alright, the volume was very surprisingly just too low. It was a rather big disappointment. I even tried using a converter pin (not provided unfortunately) so I could use another pair of earphones but the outcome was the same.
Here's a funny thing though. I happened to be testing a Bluetooth headset and decided to give it a shot considering the E90 is A2DP compatible. I was pleasantly surprised to find the output was excellent and the quality was phenomenal. Now that's what I was expecting when I first plugged in the earphones that Nokia provided. So if you have a great set of Bluetooth headphones, go with that. You won’t be disappointed this time. Trust me. There’s also a flash player, voice recorder and an FM radio. Unfortunately you can’t record from the radio. On the plus side it takes just a couple of seconds to tune and save all the available stations.
Even a hardcore businessperson, I'm sure, would like to just kick back with a few oddball games now and then. Although the E90 has no regular Nokia pre-installed Java based games other than a few flash games, you can download Global Race. It’s a badass street racing game with some really cool graphics that look simply stunning on the large screen.
The E90 is equipped with a 3.2megapixel Auto-Focus camera with a flash and plenty of settings to help you get the best out of it. But sadly, irrespective of the many varied settings you can adjust them all you like, but that won’t really make the pictures any better. Normal images taken with the most conducive settings seem like they were painted with watercolors. Greens appear blurry and patchy at best. Although they may look great on the camera, the truth beheld on the PC, is nothing short of bad.
Close ups although seem clear also have the same watercolor effect unfortunately. No matter how you set the camera. But the good thing is you can really move in up close to objects so its more like super macro.
Settings include 8 screen modes that include Auto, Night, Macro and Night portrait. There are also settings for the flash, timer, sequence mode, exposure balance, white balance settings, color tone including sepia, black and white, light sensitivity and a separate setting for adjusting the contrast. So with such a vast amount of settings how come the pictures still appear a bit like paintings? I also think Nokia should have included an image or video editor, you know, just for kicks.
Besides the many features and functions I've already mentioned, there are plenty more where those came from. Another few things that set this Communicator apart from the rest is the fact that it has a vibration setting.
Like the N95 the E90 also has a Barcode reader that utilizes the camera to read bar codes on products that sometimes contain information like email addresses and phone numbers that the E90 is able to store. But for a business class phone to have a feature like this is rather odd. What it should have had is a Business card reader. Now that would have been excellent considering it has an Auto-Focus camera. You'll have to download and pay for a software called BizReader from www.bizreader.com. It costs around Rs. 1457 ($36) though. I’ve seen the software in action and it’s good, but if a Motorola Ming can have it I don’t see why a heavy hitter like the E90 couldn’t.
The E90 also has a message reader software. It has a male or female (whichever you select) voice that reads out your messages. But the problem is that you have to mark all messages, and then select the 'Listen' option in order to activate the setting. You can adjust the speed of the speech, but the whole point is missed if you have to manually set it. Another feature a lower end phone like the Motoming has. The QWERTY keypad is excellent for typing messages too. And you can begin on the main screen and continue where you left off when you open up the phone.
Among other voice related functions the E90 has a Voice Command feature that allows you to simply call out a command and the phone will comply. These commands include those to activate the camera, Bluetooth, voice recorder and phone profiles.
There's also a Voice Aid option that opens a menu consisting of recent calls, contacts, Dialer, voice mailbox and clock. Only in this setting is everything read out loud, including the options, contacts name and numbers being dialed on the pad. But the moment you leave this menu you’re back to normal. What I also really like are the small indicators on top of the menus that let you know what applications are still running in the phone.
The integrated GPS module works like a charm. But if you don’t want to pay and download maps, just download Google maps. That’s the next best thing with a considerably lesser amount of functions but it still looks darn good. There are plenty of other free applications that you can download to spice up your E90, like Data Mover for transferring data from your old Communicator to the E90. You can also download World Mate, which is extremely helpful with maps, clocks, flight schedules, currency converter, a world map and satellite imagery for the weather. There’s also a weather forecaster that you can set to activate any time and call out the weather for you. This is a really awesome application.
The E90 is also the first in its class to use a 1500mAh, BP-4L battery. It lasted me for a total of 10 hours of almost non-stop usage. But talk time, I’d have to say averaged out at just around 4.5 hours plus, which isn’t bad at all. With regards to memory, the E90 has 128Mb of internal memory and you can increase that with microSD cards up to 2 GB. So no worries there either.
The Bottom Line
The E90 is currently priced at an MRP of Rs. 40,499 and is available in 2 colors - Mocha and Red. However I’m afraid it doesn’t seem to be worth that high a price. Other than the few things that the E90 lacks this is however, still, the Big Daddy of all the Communicators. It's fast and efficient not to mention an extremely sturdy and durable phone. Trust me, I tested it. It's pretty darn hardcore. As Business phones go, it's Aces in my book. I’m just going to wait awhile and hopefully when the price drops a bit, I’m going to get mine. But apart from the superbly large and clear display, the N95 is the closest competitor the E90 has.