BenQ Siemens EF81
- Industrial design, Display, Solid features list
- Sluggish interface, Long load times, Poor hinge, Flat keypad, SIM card slot,
The EF81 is a decent 3G offering with a solid features set, but users will be frustrated by its slow user interface and sluggish load times.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
Prior to their purchase by BenQ, Siemens produced some good quality mobile phone handsets, so we were looking forward to seeing some new units. The EF81 is BenQ's first effort after the acquisition, and while it offers a few interesting elements that may attract certain buyers, it is plagued by a sluggish interface and long load times.
One of the most notable features about the EF81 is that it comes preloaded with a set of Star Wars themes. Everything from the ring tone (Yoda telling you to answer your phone) through to the message alert (Darth Vader breathing menacingly) follows this theme, and while we can see how it may appeal to Star Wars fans, we just found it plain embarrassing! Nobody wants to open their phone on a peak hour train to have it make the sound of a lightsabre firing up. Of course the tones can be changed, though some may appreciate the added character.
Sadly though, the phone doesn't seem to be powerful enough to cope with the included interface. It takes anywhere from 20 to 40 seconds to power up and can take as long as two seconds just to open the menu. There is a noticeable lag when navigating the menu icons and the overall process of using the phone can be quite frustrating.
Speed aside, the interface is fairly good. Everything is clearly marked with animated icons and it looks quite snazzy. All the usual functionality is there, including a media player, calendar, sound recorder, alarm clock and stop watch.
It's interesting to note the EF81 only has a single two megapixel camera. Most 3G mobiles have two; a VGA internal camera for video calls and a second, higher resolution sensor on the exterior, for taking day to day snaps. This means the camera can only be used for regular photographs with the unit folded up. The quality of the camera's pictures is quite good, comparable with other two megapixel camera phones in this category, although not up to the standard of a standalone digital camera.
With a reflective silver chassis and black back plate, the EF81 has an industrial design. It is about average in size for a 3G flip model and doesn't weigh too much. It's quite sturdy too, with the entire front being constructed from metal; however the back plate is just regular plastic and could be a point of weakness. The hinge is another area of concern - it's quite stiff and poorly constructed. Additionally the SIM card slot is located below the battery, making it extremely difficult to put in. We had to use a pen to click the card in and out of place.
The keypad sports the increasingly popular flat design, with imprinted keys on a single sheet of metal, rather than individual raised buttons. It's comfortable to type on and quite responsive, although some people dislike flat designs.
The internal 256K colour screen is impressive, and handled the opening Star Wars animations and our video calls very well. What was more surprising however was that the smaller external screen also looked quite good, probably because of its use as the viewfinder for the camera, though it's a little small for this purpose.
The EF81 has 60MB of inbuilt memory, which is about average for a 3G model, and thankfully supports microSD cards for further capacity. The phone supports most of the usual connectivity options including proprietary USB and Bluetooth (although infra-red is absent), and has full T9 dictionary functionality for text messaging. The quoted battery life is rather impressive, at 300 hours stand-by time and a whopping 4.5 hours talk time. Our tests were consistent with these figures, with the phone going four or more days without needing a charge.
All up, the EF81 is a great offering with plenty of functionality and features that should entice the avid 3G buyer. Especially if you like Star Wars.
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