It seems like we’ve been waiting for the Nokia E7 for a very long time. First announced last summer it has finally arrived with Symbian 3, slide-out QWERTY keyboard, 8-megapixel camera with HD video recording, an HDMI output and a host of handy features.
It’s a big ol’ chunk o’ metal, with a casing hewn from a single slab of aluminium and measuring 124 x 62 x 14mm and weighing in at 176g. Despite the bulk, there’s no space wasted. The 4-inch screen takes up almost all of the front, with just a single home/menu button beneath it, while on the sides are a lock switch, volume switch, camera button and SIM card slot with a metal slider. At the top are Micro-USB power/sync and covered HDMI ports, power button and 3.5mm headphone jack.
The AMOLED screen with 640 x 360-pixel resolution looks brilliantly sharp and clear under its glass cover, even from oblique angles, and in sunlight, and its multitouch sensitivity makes it a pleasure to use too.
The top flips up and out to reveal the QWERTY keyboard, with the screen sitting at an angle on its hinge. The 42 keys are made of tactile, rubberised plastic, nicely spaced and as easy to use as any phone keyboard we’ve tried - nice to see the @ symbol, comma and full stop buttons with their own keys too.
So far, so good, but using Symbian can still be a frustrating experience. Navigating through the menus always seems more convoluted than it needs to be, and the lack of a dedicated back button means you’re reliant on an onscreen version, which doesn’t always appear. There’s also awkwardness like the titchy, tiny box you have to press for automatic sign-up to Nokia’s Ovi online offering, which, like Symbian, has potential, but lags behind its main rivals, especially with its app store.
There’s a learning curve that you simply don’t have to bother with for other OSs, though once you get used to it, it’s a powerful tool, and there are loads of features packed in, including the Social Network app, which pulls together your Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Symbian’s browser still looks ugly, though the big, chunky controls are at least practical. It supports Flash but it didn’t always do a good job of resizing pages and text for the screen though, which could be frustrating.
The 8-megapixel camera includes dual LED flash, virtual zoom and face recognition and while there’s no Carl Zeiss lens like you’ll find on the N8, picture quality is generally very good, with sharp edges and accurate colour balance. The 720p HD video is sharp and smooth too, even when using the zoom slider.
The HDMI link worked a treat. It comes with an adaptor for a standard HDMI cable and when you plug it into your TV, it works straight away. It can play your onboard videos and also stream from YouTube and BBC iPlayer - the quality isn’t great on an HD screen, but it works fine.
There’s 16GB of memory on board for your vids and tunes, but no option to add any more by microSD card. Battery life however proved to be pretty impressive, and it delivered a good 2 days of fairly intensive use.
It’s a heavy beast, clearly intended for business users. And as mobile offices go it’s a terrific tool, with a fine keyboard, excellent screen, more than capable camera and a feast of software goodies for work and fun. The problem, as it has been with Nokia for a while now, is Symbian, which has been improving, but seems so far behind its Android and iOS rivals that there’s no way it can catch up.
With Nokia throwing in with Microsoft Windows, it looks like its Symbian phones could all too quickly become museum pieces. But if you’re already a Symbian user, this is a fine phone with some excellent features.
Photos by Chris Hall from our original hands-on with the Nokia E7.