Nokia E61

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Nokia E61
  • Nokia E61
  • Nokia E61
  • Nokia E61

Pros

  • Keyboard, Design, Controls, Features, Connectivity options, VoIP calling, Battery life

Cons

  • SD card slot location, No camera

Bottom Line

An outstanding smart phone for business users, the Nokia E61 is packed with all the features you can imagine. An excellent keyboard, large display and an intuitive user interface combine to make this one of the best on the market.

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The Nokia E61 3G capable smart phone just about has it all: full QWERTY keyboard, large display, push email support, native Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and even the ability to make VoIP calls.

Nokia's latest communication tool aimed at business and corporate users, the E61 is very similar in terms of features and capabilities to the Nokia E60, only it adds a full size QWERTY keyboard, so it is ideal for those who constantly type emails or SMS messages. The combination of features and keyboard makes this phone a real alternative to a range of smartphones including the popular BlackBerry range.

Design

Measuring 117mm x 69.7mm x 14mm and weighing 144g, the E61 is quite large, but is a manageable size for a smart phone equipped with so many features. One of the best is the included keyboard and this is the main reason the handset is so large. Although it is a full sized QWERTY keyboard, the keys themselves are big enough and fairly well separated to ensure that even those with large fingers will be able to type comfortably. Furthermore, the E61 keys have a soft rubberised feel and are very easy to press, so punching out long emails is quick and very responsive. We believe this is the best and most comfortable keyboard currently present on a smart phone, bettering the likes of BlackBerry and HP models by quite some margin. Nokia has definitely got it spot on with this unit.

We liked the small light on the front left side of the unit which flashes when you receive an incoming message, email or call. On the left hand side of the phone is a volume control and dedicated record button, which can be used for both voice recording and voice dialling. The right side of the E61 is free of any buttons, although sliding off the back cover reveals an SD card slot which would have been better positioned somewhere other than under the battery cover. Unfortunately, the E61 charges and synchronises via a proprietary port, rather than a standard mini-USB connection.

If you are familiar with the regular Nokia interface then you should have no problems using this phone. The E61 has two selection buttons, answer and end call keys, menu and message buttons as well as a five-way navigational joystick. The joystick is fairly responsive and comfortable, although we felt it could have been slightly larger and a little more stable, as it feels somewhat flimsy at times. Still, navigating around the interface is a relatively hassle free process and unlike BlackBerry's jog wheel system, the E61 can be operated flawlessly both left and right handed.

Being large, the E61 is equipped with a rather generously sized display. It is very bright but unfortunately not as sharp or crisp as some other models we've reviewed such as Sony Ericsson's M600i. That said, the E61 screen is capable of displaying 16 million colours at a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels and has an excellent viewing angle. It is also clearly visible in direct sunlight and includes an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the backlight and keyboard lighting to suit your surroundings. For example, if you are in the dark, the light will appear brighter, but if you are outside in the sun it will turn itself off. Our tests found this feature quite effective and it had a noticeable impact on the display.

The E61 has plenty of features, headed by its push email capabilities. Push email is a service that retrieves emails from your account and forwards them directly to your mobile device. The E61 supports POP3, IMAP and SMTP protocols as well as third party email clients including Visto, BlackBerry Connect, GoodLink and Seven Always-On Mail. When located near a wireless network, the E61 can use native Wi-Fi to retrieve your email, but when you're on the road it uses GPRS, and thus you will be charged standard service provider fees which can be quite expensive. We tested the unit's email application with a standard POP3 Yahoo! account and it worked fairly well. It allows you to retrieve new emails or your entire inbox and can also view, save and even edit your attachments using the phone's memory; either the 75MB of internal memory or the SD card. Unfortunately, Nokia does not include an SD card in the sales package. The E61 supports a range of attachment file formats including JPEG, 3GP, MP3, PPT, DOC, XLS, and PDF files.

The other great thing about this model is that it also comes with a SIP client, so it is able to handle VoIP calls through PBXs that have SIP servers. This is strictly for corporate users though as regular VoIP services such as Skype are not compatible with SIP. We particularly liked the fact that Internet calls appear in the call log menu (marked with a distinctive Internet graphic) along with regular mobile calls. The E61 can also hook up to compatible Wi-Fi based PBX systems and act as a normal office extension. It supports the same features as your regular office phone when doing so, such as call transfer and four digit dialing.

As expected, connectivity is a strong point of the E61 as it offers Bluetooth, infrared, USB, WAP 2.0, wireless LAN and GPRS. We had no problems connecting to our wireless network and were up and running in a matter of minutes. The E61 can search for wireless access points every one, five or 10 minutes and you simply select the network with which you wish to make a connection. Nokia also includes a USB cable in the sales package for connection to a PC and users are able to synchronise emails with Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. Unfortunately the included PC Suite software is not compatible with a Mac.

The E61 runs on the Symbian v9.1 OS and is equipped with a full array of smart phone applications, including QuickOffice Word, PowerPoint and Excel document viewers, a host of PIM features (calendar, contacts, to-do list, task list, alarm clock, notes, converter, calculator) and both voice recording and dialling. The handset is also fully compatible with Zip Manager and Adobe Reader. We were pleased with the speed of the E61 interface, although its start-up times are a little slow.

The E61 has 3G capabilities, but being a business orientated handset, it doesn't include a camera. This means you can make a 3G video call and see the person you are calling, but they won't be able to see you. We were impressed with the call quality of the E61 on the whole - volume levels were more than adequate, even in noisy environments and the hands-free speakerphone also worked extremely well. The E61 supports conference calling with up to six people, as well as push to talk, voice dialling and speed dialling.

According to Nokia, the E61 offers up to 9.5 hours of talk time and up to 17 days standby time. We were pleased to report that these figures were very close to the mark and, with the multitude of features that the E61 offers, this is an impressive result. We found ourselves charging the unit every three to four days on average - this despite regularly hooking into our wireless office network to check our email and of course, the latest football news and results.

Overall, the Nokia E61 is an outstanding smart phone. Its keyboard is the best we've seen on one of these devices and it is packed with just about every feature available, including VoIP calling. We think it's a must have for those in the corporate world and at the time of its release it's definitely ahead of the competition, despite some solid offerings from BlackBerry and HP.

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