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May 29, 2008 / Marco

Nokia E61i Cell Phone Review: Part 1 Welcome to the Eseries World

(Note: Click on URLs starting with the “IMG:” prefix to view their relevant images. The N82 has been used to take all pictures.)

Nokia E61i Cell Phone Review: Part 2

Nokia E61i Cell Phone Review: Part 3

Switching from an Nseries cell phone handset to an Eseries smartphone is like migrating to a foreign country. These two product lines are so dissimilar that you might think two different companies are behind their production if you’re not familiar with Nokia. I’ve been a huge fan of Nseries handsets for a long time, and am positive nothing can change this deep-seated interest. However, when I received a Nokia E61i from WOM World few days ago, I came to the conclusion that an ideal handset might not necessarily belong to the Nseries family. In this article and the ones which follow I’m going to bring the E61i into the limelight and answer the below questions.

  1. Are Eseries cell phones capable of replacing Nseries smartphones for conventional/non-business-oriented users?
  2. What should Nseries handsets learn from Eseries smartphones?
  3. What should Eseries smartphones learn from Nseries handsets?
  4. What should be done to bring Eseries smartphones on a par with Nseries handsets in terms of worldwide recognition and acceptance?

What is Nokia E61i?

At first sight/touch, Nokia E61i reminded me of a solidly-built calculator. In fact, when my friends saw it one of them who isn’t familiar with the smartphone world said: “Does Nokia also manufacture calculators?” The E61i is a handset with a solid and metallic body, a full QWERTY keyboard with backlighting, and a 2 megapixel camera: IMG: Nokia E61i. The handset has a “messenger” or, to use a familiar analogy, a so-called “candy bar” form factor and the very first thing you notice upon picking it up is its spacious but quasi-PDA keyboard. It weighs 150 grams.

To produce a better picture, the E61i is slightly taller, quite thinner and noticeably wider than the N82. The extra width is due to the fact that the E61i accommodates a full QWERTY keyboard. In passing, I should add that I like the non-sliding design of the E61i because, personally speaking, I’ve not yet been able to come to terms with slider phones. Anyway, I should admire Nokia for producing a handset which doesn’t generate any creaks. Its body construction also surpasses all Nseries handsets very easily. I’m now wondering why the N82 doesn’t have a metallic body. Is it due to the fact that it belongs to the Nseries family? If so, I don’t call it a sound justification. The N95 more or less resembles the E61i in terms of body construction; however, all members of the N95 family are rather wobbly, even without taking into account their sliding form factor.

Important specs

The following spec list best describes Nokia E61i.

Operating frequency:

  • Quad-band GSM/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900) with WCDMA 3GPP Release 99.

Size:

  • Volume: 97 cc.
  • Weight: 150 g.
  • Dimensions: 117 x 70 x 13.9 (/11.5) mm.

Display:

  • 2.8 QVGA landscape active-matrix color display supporting up to 16 million colors (320 x 240 pixels) with an active area of 56.9 x 42.7 mm.
  • Display contrast and brightness control

User interface:

  • S60 3rd Edition.
  • QWERTY keyboard with backlight.
  • Email key and LED indicator for new email.
  • One Touch keys, Navi™ key, Power key, MyOwn key, and phonebook key.
  • Volume keys and Voice key.

Imaging:

  • 2 megapixel camera.
  • Video recording.

Memory:

  • 60 MB of internal user memory.
  • Hot swappable microSD Memory Card support up to 2 GB.

Connectivity:

  • WCDMA PS (packet switched data) with maximum upload and download rate of 384 kbps.
  • GPRS/EGPRS (Class B, MSC 32).
  • GSM CSD (circuit-switched data) up to 14.4 kbps.
  • HSCSD (high-speed circuit-switched data) up to 43.2 kbps.
  • Dual transfer mode MSC11, SAIC.
  • Integrated WLAN.
  • Integrated infrared module (up to 115 kbps).
  • USB 2.0 full speed supported through Pop-PortTM interface.
  • Bluetooth 1.2 specification.

Battery:

  • BP-4L, 1500 mAh.

Locating the components

The small led in the upper left corner of the front side of the E61i is an ambient light detector used to control the backlighting and the display brightness. Therefore it serves as a useful power optimization tool. It also acts as a light-notifier for certain events, and the way it functions is customizable. The call speaker is located to the right of the light sensor, and the easily-detectable Power button is in the upper right side of the front panel. The huge 2.8 QVGA active-matrix color display is right above the D-pad: IMG: Nokia E61i display. The display does a great job of operating under the sunshine. Unlike what you can find on the N82, the E61i display doesn’t come with a robust surface protector; however, the display isn’t flush with the surface of the handset, and this offers a degree of protection. As the E61i has a generous 2.8-inch display, it can comfortably show 7 icons on the active standby screen along with other indicators.

The D-pad can be located right below the display: IMG: Nokia E61i D-pad and keyboard. The E61i’s D-pad is the best of its kind – never compare it with those of the N82 or the N95! The D-pad and the Select key respond well to pressure without shaking. Since we’re dealing with an advanced Eseries handset, we should expect to find more buttons around the D-pad. The Menu key, the Phonebook key, and Key 1 are located to the left of the D-pad, and the Call key is placed under Key 1. As such, Key 1 and the Call key are smaller than their adjacent keys. By the same token, the Email key, the configurable MyOwn key and Key 2 are to the right of the D-pad, with the Exit key located below Key 2.

The huge QWERTY keyboard occupies the rest of the handset with 39 keys. I’ll talk about the layout of the keys and the way we should switch back and forth between characters and numbers in the next post; however, here suffice it to say that mastering the ins and outs of this keyboard is easy as pie, and that the key which is used to type both the letter “G” and the number “5” has a raised dot for tactile identification. If you spend a day or so with the keyboard, you can type on it using just one hand, and I use my left hand to achieve this. The keyboard also provides excellent tactile feedback, and the non-square surface of the keys prevents our fingers from accidentally pressing neighboring keys.

The left side of the handset houses the Volume up and Volume down keys and the slightly recessed Voice key. The loudspeaker is above the Volume up key, toward the upper left side of the handset: IMG: Nokia E61i left side. It is worth mentioning that the speaker is located on the lower edge of the back of the handset so as to avoid the production of muffled audio when the phone is put down on its back.

The bottom part of the handset houses the charger port, the Pop port for connecting the USB cable and the headset, and the Infrared port: IMG: Nokia E61i bottom part. Alas, no 3.5 mm audio jack can be seen here. Both the USB cable and the headset should be with you because the E61i isn’t compatible with newer Nseries accessories. I wish it could use a macro-USB or a micro-USB port.

The back of the handset houses nothing but the 2MP camera whose lens doesn’t have a physical shutter/protector: IMG: Nokia E61i back. In keeping with the E61i’s body, the battery cover is fully metallic, and the cover slide into and out of its place when it is inserted or removed. The memory card can be inserted and removed without removing the battery, although the battery cover should be removed to do either of these. Oddly enough, the E61i package doesn’t come with a memory card. Finally, the top and right side of the handset don’t accommodate any components.

What we know so far

Before moving on to the next E61i post, we can conclude by saying that it:

  • uses one of the best batteries Nokia has ever included with a handset,
  • enjoys a wide range of connectivity options,
  • offers a nice 2.8-inch display,
  • comes with a well-designed QWERTY keyboard with backlighting and D-pad,
  • isn’t creaky or wobbly,
  • has a well-positioned speaker,
  • doesn’t have a 3.5 mm audio jack,
  • is on the thin but rather hefty size,
  • makes use of a non-proprietary USB cable and headset,
  • forces you to buy a memory card.
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2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Jonathan Quirk / May 30 2008 4:22 pm

    The location of the speaker is such that when the phone is laid down on a hard surface sound output is enhanced, presumably because the surface acts as a reflector for the sound.

  2. Amir / May 30 2008 4:32 pm

    That’s true, Jonathan, though I wish the E61i had two speakers rather than one.

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