BenQ-Siemens EF81 mobile phone - FIRST LOOK

With a new brand, comes three swanky new phones, but can BenQ-Siemens flagship model, the EF81 deliver the goods? We managed to get a first look at the launch of the new handset in Berlin.

On first glance, we know what you are thinking, and you’ll be pleased to know that we thought it to. That’s right, it looks very similar to the Motorola V3 RAZR.

In fact when we asked a BenQ-Siemens spokeswomen at the presentation whether she acknowledged the similarities the answer we got was an affirmed “Yes”, but surely a company that has already started preaching about how it wants to be different to all the other manufacturers hasn’t fallen at the first hurdle?

Luckily for BenQ-Siemens (yes it is a mouthful isn’t it) the company’s efforts should be rewarded.

So what do you get for your buck, pound or euro? Well you get 3G connectivity for starters, you get a slim magnesium, aluminium and stainless steel body and a 2 megapixel RAZR beating camera.

The slim and light phone, its dimensions are 91x51x15.9mm and weight is just 110g, looks, and is, tough.

In a nod to crazy marketing speak, the company is boasting that the EF81 is Sqound, yes that’s right - Square and Round, Sqound.

Madness we know, and in reality all this means that the corners of the phone have been rounded off slightly.

Bullsh*t marketing aside and the all-metal body, including hinges, covers and everything else in the phone certainly gives it that swish look and feel and the build quality on the model we had a chance to play with was top notch. The front might be shiny but the back has the same feel to it as a Digital SLR camera - nice.

The front also sports a 120x160 pixel QCVGA display and BenQ-Siemens were proud to boast that you can control the multimedia functions of the phone, i.e., the camera and the MP3 player without opening the device.

Open it up however and it's here the main similarities to the RAZR become apparent. The keypad is virtually identical with the same blue “Tron”-esque lines and styling. According to another journalist also looking at the phone he felt the keys are slightly more refined.

Above the main keypad is a rather confusing looking spider web of shortcut options and above that the camera for video calling.

The phone's internal screen is a 262k 240x320 2.2-inch QVGA display.

In what we feel is rather an innovative move, the EF81 while only having one camera has designed it to rotate with the screen. When the phone is not fully open the camera points outwards, but when completely opened it points inwards - simple but effective. However due to space saving measures BenQ-Siemens has decided not to include a flash of any description.

Inside and the phone offers Bluetooth, Quad-band and 3G connectivity making it suit any business traveller.

64Mb of internal memory is designed to meet your multimedia requirements either for saved images or music to play on the phone's MP3 player and the company has opted to include a external micro SD slot for further expansion down the line.

Verdict

Three years ago, Siemens Mobile was on at the top of its game with models such as the sliding SL55 (a predecessor of sorts to the Samsung D500 and D600 models) but towards the end of its life the company managed to lose its way. Even Clemens Joos, the former CEO and now COO of BenQ-Siemens admitted that time to market and poor design hindered the company.

“The old design wasn’t working - hence the change. We are now using BenQ’s R&D department in Taiwan.”

However the new EF81 shows promising stuff from the newly formed company. Its feature packed list of goodies is likely to appeal to the business “set” forever keen to show off the latest and greatest and the slim design means its one of the sveltest 3G phones we’ve seen to date.

The catch? No matter how hard you try to get away from it, it does look like yet another Motorola RAZR V3 wannabe.

Damn that phone’s got a lot to answer for.