The Communicator is alive and has transformed into what is now the Nokia E7. It has gone a long way — slimmer, lighter and faster while retaining that signature form factor. Check out our full review of the Nokia E7 after the jump.
If you’re familiar with the popular Nokia N8, the Nokia E7 looks very similar — a solid, metallic unibody design with a large 4-inch touch screen — but when you flip it sideways and open up the sliding keyboard, the handset transforms into something totally different and reminiscent of the N900 or the decades-old Nokia Communicator. It’s basically an N8 with a physical keypad.
The body is relatively thin (just a few millimeter away from the slimmer N8) and has a somewhat rounded edges with the top and bottom corners a chopped off to make room for ports and buttons — a USB port, HDMI, power button and 3.5mm audio jack is positioned on top while a slender Home/Menu button is placed at the very bottom of the front panel.
Since the Nokia E7 comes in a unibody casing, the battery is built into the device and is not user-replaceable. Likewise, the SIM card slot is accessible from the outside via a small cradle that slides out from the top right side of the unit. Beside it is a slider for controlling the zoom of the camera and on the far end, a dedicated button for the 8MP camera.
On the left side is a single switch that’s easily accessible by the middle finger or index finger that controls the screen lock. At the back is a non-descript 8-megapixel fix-focus camera with dual-LED flash (more on that later).
The slider mechanism is similar to that of the Nokia N97 as it is positioned in a titled angle once fully opened. Nokia was able to make this handset a bit thinner but carving out a few millimeters off the unibody which somewhat buries the display panel into the body.
The full qwerty keyboard is large and spacious although the individual keys are a bit buried into the surface and comfortably typing with both hands could get a little bit time to get used to (the review unit given to me has a different language setting so I’m still groping around with the keyboard ).
When closed, the touch screen has a virtual keyboard you can use to navigate and make calls or send text messages. Sliding out the full keyboard allows you to type longer messages at a much faster rate — like composing mails or even mobile blogging.
The large 4-inch screen is among the largest I’ve seen on a Nokia handset — it’s clear, bright and crisp, thanks to the AMOLED screen and Nokia’s ClearBlack display. The 360×640 pixel resolution seemed a bit low but that’s not noticeable most of the time.
The E7 is among the few Nokia handsets that have move on to using capacitive screen and the performance on this unit is pleasantly surprising. There are 3 home screens you can flip across with widgets and shortcuts you can customize.
Probably the biggest debate among smartphone users is the Symbian^3 OS that’s installed in the handset. It’s been a long while since I’ve extensively used Symbian so I’m not very familiar with the improvements. The last time I’ve really owned one was with the Nokia 5800XM (which was like 3 years ago) so when I’m force to compare it with this unit, I’d say there’s been very significant improvements. For Nokia N8 users, this is practically the same. In any case, if you’re very familiar with Symbian phones, this handset will not disappoint.
IMO, I’d wish they’d consider running Meego/Maemo on this unit like what they did with the N900 (which was on Maemo). If you’re into apps though, there’s the Nokia Ovi Store you can browse thru to download games and other apps. I like Ovi’s integration with 3rd-party email accounts and social networking sites like Facebook & Twitter though (of course, you’ll need to sign up for an Ovi account in order to set that up). The built-in browser isn’t the best we’ve tried but it’s simple and works just fine. Fortunately, you can just hope on to Ovi and download Opera Mobile.
Moving back to the camera — I was initially excited about the camera of the E7 and knowing that they have a similar genetic make-up as the N8, I was hoping to get almost the same photo quality. Unfortunately, they are miles apart — the 8-megapixel camera is fixed-focus and uses dual-LED flash instead of Xenon.
Photos take with the Nokia E7 are decent but not exceptional. General scenes, large and wide subjects are pretty easy to shoot at but once you come closer, macro shots are almost impossible. Here are some sample photos taken using the E7.
The HD video quality is pretty good though which is a bit of a redeeming factor for the unit that’s supposedly geared towards executives and the business sector.
Here’s a sample video taken with the Nokia E7.
Understandably, this is Nokia’s way of drawing the line between their business class E-series phones and the multimedia class N-series phones. That and probably cost savings on expensive camera parts which they can pass on to consumers.
Nokia E7 specs:
4″ polarized AMOLED display @ @ 640Ã—360 pixels
Gorilla glass display & capacitive touch screen
680MHz ARM 11 processor
Broadcom BCM2727 GPU
16GB mass memory
350 MB internal memory
8MP fixed-focus camera with dual LED flash
720p HD video recording @ 25fps
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
HSDPA 10.2MBps, HSUPA 2.0Mbps
FM Radio Tuner
GPS w/ aGPS support
What’s a bit disappointing is the lack of microSD slot and the 1200mAh internal battery isn’t at par with the earlier E-series Nokia smartphones like the E72. You’ll have to contend with the 16GB built-in storage for music, video and photo storage.
Really liked the USB-on-the-Go support and the TV-out via HDMI. The review unit did not include the entire box so I’m not sure what accessories come with the unit (will update this once they send me the entire box and all its contents so I can show them too).
Over-all performance of the handset is pretty good despite the processor being rated at only 680MHz (when other smartphones come in at a minimum of 1GHz). The dedicated mobile GPU also helped in video processing so that’s a huge plus. Video playback is good as well as the audio quality.
Here’s another shot of the Nokia E7 showing the hardware and user interface.
The Nokia E7 is supposed to arrive in the Philippines later this month but we’re not told how much the suggested retail price would be. I reckon it will be a bit more expensive than the N8′s SRP and lower than the N900′s SRP so that would put it somewhere between Php25k to Php28k. That’s just my guesstimate though.
Update: I’ve been told that pre-order for the Nokia E7 will be opened from March 14 – 22, 2011 and they’re giving away a free DC11-K charger. The suggested retail price of the Nokia E7 is Php32,000 (a bit off from my previous guesstimate).
Disclosure: Nokia Philippines is an advertiser on this blog and this handset was lent to me for review purposes.