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Review of the Nokia E5-00 GSM/UMTS Smartphone
In the box:
Nokia decided to perpetuate the success of the Nokia E71 as well as to oppose the sensor phone segment, where their positions are not so strong, with the form factor of a QWERTY-enabled candybar. The idea to release a selection of models for different price groups, based on various platforms, appeared a successful one especially if one didn't take into account the existence of Chinese QWERTY-enabled handsets at a price of USD 100 or lower. In Europe, the most popular models of the kind are those by Alcatel and possibly Huawei under various local names.
Unfortunately, the idea that it was the QWERTY keyboard that made the Nokia E71 successful is beneath criticism. Nokia created a stylish phone, the Blackberry antithesis. In the summer of 2008, everyone's attention was riveted on Blackberry products, but after the announcement of the Nokia E71 it is the latter that became highly awaited in Europe. Nokia was successful in several aspects at once: the form factor was new for the mass market, the casing and color options were quite appealing, and such solutions were fashionable on the whole. For the first time, the E series hit the bull's eye; the model became popular and even a status token in select circles. Not only did it become to emphasize that its owner was a person of taste but it also made it clear that he or she was engaged in some real business activities. At the same time, corporate customers were not left out in the cold either; they received a stylish device that had better looks than any previous model in the lineup.
You can read some more about the positioning of the Nokia E71 in its respective review.
On the rising tide of the Nokia E71 success, other solutions were presented: the cheaper version known as the Nokia E63 as well as the Nokia E72. Both models quickly became popular, albeit they couldn't beat the former's record (depends; if price and time are abstracted away from, the E63 actually did even better, but the Nokia E71 is still running the show moneywise).
That is why in 2010, the company adds several new QWERTY-enabled phones to its portfolio. In the segment of EUR 200 and above, those are the models similar to the Nokia E72 and those continuing its traditions (the first swallow is the Nokia E73 for the U.S. market). As an alternative, Nokia offers a family of side sliders similar to the Nokia E75 Ц e.g. the Nokia C6. The opening mechanism doesn't matter, it can be identical to the one used in the Nokia N97.
Below EUR 200, the company offers QWERTY-enabled candybar handsets only. In the segment, the final price is of primary importance, and it is impossible to meet the necessary cost requirements with sliders so far. As we know, that is exactly where the Nokia E63 stands now and where the Nokia E5 as its replacement is targeted at. In the company press release devoted to the launch of the Nokia E5, Nokia C3 and Nokia C6, it is stated that the Nokia E5 follows the traditions of both the Nokia E63 and Nokia E72. The catchy phrase is just an attempt to draw attention to the new product. As it was the case with the Nokia E63, what we get is a typical low-end solution that shouldn't be called a replacement of the stylish Nokia E72.
With the Nokia E5 release, the company is trying to attract some new customers to its QWERTY solutions. They decided that the price of less than EUR 200 (the announced MSRP is EUR 180, the actual one is around EUR 200) will be a good push for the sales. Based on some early observations, one can say that it worked and at the same time didn't. The majority of Nokia E5 owners are either Nokia users without prior QWERTY experience or Nokia E63/E71/E72 owners who decided to replace their older phones. As far as the latter case is concerned, we are speaking of pragmatic buyers who pay more attention to phone functionality and characteristics than its looks.
The device also sells to the corporate segment, as it is within phone purchasing price limits unlike the Nokia E72. The Nokia E63 was bad in terms of design and hence they had to turn to the Nokia E51/E52. By the way, this fact provides a justification for the delay of the new E series candybar, which wouldn't enjoy any significant sales at the moment. The latter should be expected early next year when the sales will be maximal for its segment.
All in all, we get two large consumer groups. One of them is corporate clients. The other one is predominantly young people who have some prior experience with Nokia phones and seek a QWERTY solution. As the target groups suggest, the model won't sale at an enormous rate. For its segment, the sales will be moderate, maybe climbing up to the level of the Nokia E63 after some time. As far as the latter is present on the market as a cheaper option (the wholesale price of the E63 is lower by EUR 30), one shouldn't expect the Nokia E5 to be a hit. The Nokia C3, initially slated on Q2, was delayed exactly because of that. A cheap QWERTY phone would attract all attention and practically kill both the Nokia E63 and Nokia E5. The latter would be dead even before the launch. Many customers don't care if they get a smartphone; all they need is the keyboard and Nokia logo. It may sound funny but that's the way it is. That is why the Nokia C3 was delayed and should be expected after the Nokia E5 in most countries.
They tried to make the Nokia E5 look as good as the Nokia E71/E72 on the shelf. Can you guess how they did it? The answer is simple: metal casing. Yet it is too expensive to use a lot of metal in a low-end device, and they had to resort to some tricks. Metal was used for the battery cover and the block of main controls (they look like metal, although may turn out to be plastic; the navigation key is definitely made of plastic).
The rest of the casing is made of plastic, which is quite decent. It is matte and won't grease or scratch easily. Usually, I have complaints about the build quality of Nokia's new models, but in this case they did try their best to make a rock-solid device. And I think that they managed that in some way. Obviously, everyone has his or her own standards of build quality and materials to be used, but personally I don't have any complaints. There are some stickers on the battery cover, which make it sit tight.
Phone manufactures have one little secret that I will share with you. The cheaper the product, the more color options it has. Color variety is the lot of inexpensive models (in their respective price ranges, not in the absolute). For instance, you will never see a lot of color options available for a flagship; it is simply not the way things are. However, there may be an exception when a company is not sure if its product is going to be popular and thus makes several colors available from the very beginning and not as updates. But let's get back to our device.
So, the Nokia E5 is available in as many as five color options Ц Carbon Black, Chalk White, Copper Brown, Silver Grey, and Sky Blue. For comparison, there were only three of those offered for the Nokia E63.
The phone measures 115х58.9х12.8 mm, and weighs 126 grams (for comparison, the Nokia E63 measures 113х59x13, and weighs 126 grams). It doesn't feel differently and is fairly comparable to the Nokia E63, which means that it is not as handy as the Nokia E71/E72, albeit that can only be noticed if the devices are being compared on purpose or if one has a lot of experience with the latter (as in my case, since I have owned both the Nokia E71 and E72 for a long time). Anyway, the model is easy to get used to, fits in the pocket, the weight being slightly excessive but within the limit.
Nokia E5-00 vs BlackBerry Bold 9700:
Since the Nokia E5 is a budget solution, there is no camera for video calls on the front panel. It is also deprived of a camera button, which implies a significant loss of ergonomics. By the way, the camera on the rear panel doesn't have autofocus. According to the Nokia website, it is a "full focus" camera but that is just a marketing ploy, as there is no focus there and the image quality is rubbish. Cheap cameras and mediocre image quality have become a norm for the E series, though.
The right side contains a volume rocker, which is kind of troublesome: you have to try real hard to actually press it. The switch is recessed a little bit and virtually has no travel. The issue is likely to be addressed in the next hardware revision of the Nokia E5, but all devices to be released before the New Year's Eve will be subject to that. However, you can always check it out for yourself on a particular unit. Maybe, the volume rocker will be fixed even sooner, as there have been a lot of complaints about that, and I haven't seen a single unit free of the problem. I know some that do not consider it to be a problem at all, but they either don't need the switch or haven't even tried it.
Unlike in the previous models, the loudspeaker has been moved from the top side to the rear panel, probably because it is a cheaper version now, which becomes apparent as soon as the device starts ringing. At the maximum volume level, the quality of the standard ringer tones won't satisfy you, the bet is on the volume itself. You are sure to hear some crackling, although it is not that bad after all. The thing is that the loudspeaker can't manage it all at once, which follows from its price and quality. It is a trade-off that helps to keep the price of the device low.
On the top, there is a regular 3.5 audio jack, 2 mm charger port, as well as a microUSB port with a plastic cover.
Well, that's about it as far as the build quality and materials are concerned. On the previous models, the navigation key would peel sometimes. I couldn't check that, since it is quite difficult to peel a button without spending all of your time with a phone if you only have two weeks at your disposal anyway. However, having done some research on the Internet, I came across some early user reports mentioning the same problem.
The device is equipped with a 2.36-inch QVGA display (320x240 pixels, 48x36 mm). It supports up to 262K colors, whereas all the previous models had screens with 16 million colors. Indoors, there is hardly any difference in terms of image quality; the display is bright and the fonts are clear. It all changes in direct sunlight as the Nokia E5 doesn't have any reflective layer: the screen doesn't just fade away but becomes completely unreadable. It is probably the major disadvantage of the device.
The built-in light sensor automatically adjusts the brightness level in various lighting conditions. However, it is not that useful indoors and it is better to turn it off and set the brightness level manually. The screen allows for up to 8 text lines and up to 3 auxiliary rows. In select modes, you can have up to 14 text lines. The font can be read just fine.
In the Nokia E71, the keyboard had 4 rows, with 10 keys in the first three and seven in the fourth one. In the Nokia E63/E72, the lower row contains two extra keys at the expense of the spacebar, which has a negative impact on ergonomics.
The Nokia E5 uses the classic Nokia E71 layout, that is, no extra keys and a wide spacebar. Such layout is much more comfortable, and one can always use pop-up menus to enter special characters.
Both the Nokia E5 and Nokia E63 are not well suited for typing with one hand; the ergonomics (that is, the device thickness and weight) is such that it is easier to type with both hands. And that is a very different thing: once you get used to the device, you will be able to type very fast. Unfortunately, the key travel is not as good as that in the Nokia E63, the difference is just in fractions of millimeters yet quite apparent. Some perceive the keyboard as a harder one, but that is not true. It is exactly the lack of sufficient travel that is behind that impression.
Nokia E5-00 vs BlackBerry Bold 9700:
What can I say; one needs a week to get used to the keyboard. It is not as comfortable as in the previous models but you can learn to live with it after a fairly short transition period.
The keyboard has a white and uniform backlight.
Save for the e-mail button, the Nokia E5 doesn't have the extra keys usually present in the E series. That is one step backwards compared to the Nokia E63.
The phone is equipped with a 1200 mAh Li-Ion battery (BL-4D). For comparison, the Nokia E63 had a 1500 mAh Li-Pol unit (BP-4L). The producer claims up to13 hours of talk time (GSM) or up to 26 days of standby. Music playback alone will kill the battery in 38 hours.
The smaller battery should allow for shorter runtimes in theory, but the actual performance depends on the usage profile. The Nokia E63 will last for only 18 hours if you listen to the music all the time, whereas the E5 can survive for 38 hours (it has no dedicated audio chip). Otherwise, the Nokia E5 has a poorer battery life.
On average, the phone can last for about 2-2.5 days on a single charge in Moscow. During that time, you can have up to 2 hours of talking, tens of camera shots, and up to 1.5 hours of listening to the music or radio. It takes about 1.5 hours for the battery to charge fully.
Below you can find the maximum runtimes under various usage scenarios:
There is 256 MB RAM in the device with approximately 160-170 MB available after the boot, which is an absolute record for the whole E series lineup. For example, there is only 45 MB of free RAM (128 MB total) on my Nokia E72 after the boot. In addition, the user has about 250 MB of inbuilt memory for data storage (the E72 can offer only 110 MB). Whichever way you look at it, in terms of memory, the model is good and in any way better than the previous ones. In practice, extra memory doesn't help with poorly written software, and program crashes and memory leaks happen quite often. While using standard applications, it took me only three days to discover the problem. I even had an issue with the device while preparing the video for this review; you can see for yourself how it performs. Hence even if the claim that the model can have 170 some applications in the background is true, it still isn't able to manage those. I have tested some standard features on a standard retail unit and can assure you of that. Software developers are the weak link in Nokia's business processes and they haven't improved since the Nokia E71 release. I really hope that they can make the device more stable in the nearest time. In particular, the Vlingo program (voice recognition and controls) refused to start up on the fourth day. It is a big mystery to me, why someone would want to ship the device with applications that have an adverse effect on its stability. But apparently the question is rhetoric and we won't get any answer to it.
The memory can be expanded with microSD cards; up to 32 GB are supported, and there is a 2 GB card in the box (it is Class 2, which means that it is slow and should be immediately replaced with something faster; you will definitely see the difference). For instance, some problems with OVI maps may be related to the memory card speed and resolved by installing a Class 6 card.
Unfortunately, unlike in the previous models (it has become an unfortunate tradition to write about changes to the worse), the memory card slot is located under the battery and is therefore not hot swappable.
The model is identical to Nokia E72, which means ARM11 600 MHz processor, while Nokia E63 has a weaker one. Everything is on par with Nokia E72 with fast reaction to presses, navigation in menus and so on. If you have experience of working with Nokia E63 the difference will be obvious. The performance is significantly better.
USB. In USB settings you can select up to 4 operation modes:
Data transfer speed reaches 5 Mb/s.
Bluetooth. Bluetooth 2.0 boasts EDR support. The handset has the following profiles:
Wi-Fi. The model supports Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b/g) with the maximum settings of all available security standards (WEP, WPA, and WPA2). There is a WiFi networks wizard working in the background mode and searching for networks. If necessary it connects to them. As a bonus we receive a third party Birdstep SmartConnect to eliminate the defects of Symbian and choose access points for different applications and circumstances. This piece of software can be found in the Connectivity menu.
In the same menu you can also access Home Media (uPnP) to listen to the music from PC and send it from the phone.
We get an ordinary 5 MP module without the autofocus, but equipped with the LED flash. Nokia says that this camera has full focus, but it is not so. EdoF technology is used. It is a low cost camera without the autofocus with the trick to boost picture quality. The trick does not always work and the quality of pictures is questionable when the conditions are not ideal (sunny day outside or well lit room). The absence of a dedicated camera button makes it difficult to take the phone out quickly and make a shot. Obviously, the camera devoid of autofocus cannot take pictures of documents.
Samples of photos:
Video recording. Available settings are less numerous. There is a programmed picture stabilizer. White balance: Automatic, Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent. Sepia, Black&White and Negative are available as effects. Shooting modes: automatic and night. Maximum resolution is 640х480 in mpeg4 format and you can disable the sound recording (coding quality is not adjustable, so it is always 15 frames per second). Total recording time is limited by the free space. In the maximum resolution we get х4 digital zoom, while in QCIF you have х8 (in 3GP).
Frankly speaking there are not many differences from Nokia E72 as the models resemble each other a lot. Preinstalled apps are slightly different, but that's it. In the standby mode we receive a Contact Bar typical of the latest Nokia models.
Traditionally Eseries stands apart from S60 in terms of software. Some features implemented here become standard for subsequent models, while others remain unique and are never replicated in the actual product range. This handset is almost a complete copy of Nokia E72.
Let's look through significant and unimportant changes in features to have a better understanding of the device. First I will refer you to the platform review, because standard features are the same for the majority of models and there is no point in repeating oneself.
The handset sports Nokia Mail 2.2.0, which is identical to that of Nokia E72. The main difference highlighted by the company is the support of html in messages. Besides, there are other details I have to mention.
Mailbox wizard helps to configure your box very fast. If customers use well known services like Gmail or Yahoo they have to tell the password, address and they are done. You can work with your mailbox straight away.
After the connection with the mailbox you see a related window and the icon on the right. Unfortunately, there is no indication of messages download or their number. You cannot download separate messages as well. I think the client is very basic, though much better than a standard Nokia one.
Available options are ordinary. Near the links you see the icon Play and the link can be opened in the separate web window or you can use Intranet.
Work with html is more interesting. As far as such messages are opened in new windows the browser engine is used. Here all troubles begin with encodings different from Unicode. The same happens when the headline and the body do not use the same encoding. I have almost forgotten the experience. For example, in the standby mode the screen shows latest messages and one line from each. There are no problems with encoding in Russian, but you can never be sure that the encoding will be correctly applied in html viewing and vice versa. It is a pure Russian roulette. It's a pity, but Nokia again makes similar localization mistakes. Many Nokia apps and features are poorly localized and you can have problems with the encoding. In this mail client you cannot select the encoding in principle. It is a serious downside for many local markets with alphabets different from Latin.
The situation with online mail is even funnier. For example, if you open an html message directly from Gmail, it will be displayed in Russian with ease. In the messages list of the mail client it is displayed properly as well, but as soon as you send it to the browser and open as html, the encoding goes wild. I do not have any explanation.
It is clear that the client was developed for QWERTY devices due to letter shortcuts for different features. They are very useful, but do not exist in other applications of the phone. They would have been handy in the organizer, but they are not there. Unfortunately, they are used only in the mail client.
The client supports POP3/IMAP, remote synchronization and standard features. The above mentioned issues do not allow using it as the main client, especially for demanding users. Had Nokia not advertised the client heavily it would have been acceptable. Corporate users should have received something more interesting.
Some sort of Push is supported, when the service detects a new message and sends it to your phone. Its implementation is far from ideal and has technical bugs, but for mass market it is quite adequate.
Desktop. Desktop mode has been slightly redeveloped. At the bottom you have three icons for events, messages and voicemail. If events are absent the icon disappears. If you choose the icon the popup window appears to provide the related information. It is simple and convenient. In comparison with Nokia E71 information is displayed differently. From SMS you get only the name or number and to view the full info you have to go to the message itself.
Now you can customize up to 15 apps for the desktop, which is useful. Add two Modes and the number of apps and their convenient display increases even more.
There is also a Contact Bar mode.
Mode. This is a popular PC idea of a virtual desktop. You create several windows with different themes, wallpapers, apps, plug-ins and so on. Then in one touch you can switch between them. For example, in the work mode you can have your office mail with alerts, while in the ordinary mode it can be replaced by a new one with, let's say, player controls. Now you can do it very quickly. The switch between modes takes around 6-7 seconds.
In my sample the phone somehow took much longer to switch Ц up to a minute at times.
Font Magnifier. This app from Nokia Beta Labs became the standard part of the package and received universal acclaim. Here you can change the font size in menus both ways. This handy option should have been made standard long ago.
Office applications. Corporate users will find Intranet app quite interesting. It offers standard settings of a VPN client.
Work with docs is still carried out only by QuickOffice (but it is enough for many users). You get the full version here Ц it allows not only opening, but editing office documents as well.
There is a ZIP compressor, dictionary and PDF app. Search application can be placed on the main screen. It is represented by its 4.х version. There are both ordinary and Active Notes. The dictionary provides not only the translation or explanations, but you can listen to the pronunciation of words too.
Data encryption. Another change is an opportunity to encrypt data both on the memory card (microSD, no size limitations) and in the phone memory. It is useful to avoid problems if your phone is in the hands of a person, who knows how to deal with standard passwords. A word of caution though Ц if you forget a password the data could not be recovered. It is a typical feature of similar systems, so you can't do much about it.
Music features. As the model comes with the music chip the music playback quality is on par with Nokia smartphones and is better than in previous Eseries models. It is the third "corporate" phone after Nokia E72 and Nokia E52 in this respect. A 3.5 mm jack enables to connect your own headphones. I cannot say anything special about FM radio Ц it is traditional. There is a separate application Podcasting.
Maps. 3rd version of OVI Maps is used with free navigation.
Tips. Popup help tells how to use different features of the phone. It is like an interactive manual and can be disabled, if necessary.
Let's compare the models to understand the difference and what we are offered this time.
This comparison clearly shows that Nokia E5 loses out to its predecessor Nokia E63 in many instances, but this compromise was necessary to make the new model more accessible. I will discuss it in impressions.
Traditionally, I have no complaints about the communication quality. This model is a typical representative of the current generation. Ringtones offer above average volume, but at the maximum level the loudspeaker has slightly unclear sound with squeaking. The vibro is average or closer to weak.
Nokia is the only company to offer QWERTY smartphones on S60, so the competition is inside Nokia product range. Only E63 is cheaper. It is slower, has inferior music capabilities and features a plastic only body. Its camera provides lower resolution. At the same time memory cards are hot swappable, the screen performs better in the sun and the price is И50 lower.
Among drawbacks of Nokia E5 we have to mention its screen, which becomes impossible to read in the sun. First samples featured a defect in side volume control button, but it should eliminated by January 2011 and this button will be possible to press. Increased RAM and faster processor are clear advantages of the model, but its unpolished software nullifies them all. The phone may take time before carrying out an operation or even reload (watch the video, there was nothing special, but it just did not work properly). Several apps would not start despite being preinstalled by the manufacturer (I had problems with Vlingo, some cannot use Active Notes). Also remember cheap accessories. Some of them are even harmful. For example, the proprietary memory card may lead to issues with OVI Maps.
On the plus side we get a high quality of body built and accessible price is also an advantage. Navigation features are definitely welcome, but everything is spoilt by the screen. It is difficult to use this option inside a car. It is good that the phone is loud enough. It is fast as well.
I have mixed feelings towards this model. On the one hand the company tried to offer a cheap QWERTY smartphone on S60, but as far as we already have E63, these efforts were doomed. On the other hand it has its strengths (design, body and speed) and some users will like it. In this price range the choice is limited, while other companies are not represented at all. There is unlikely to be any competition with Nokia C3-00 due to different pricing. Nokia E5 is a better choice, but if the price is the most important factor you can still go for Nokia E63. If you take into account all drawbacks of the model mentioned in our review and understand their importance E5 can still be a good choice. In this case you should be able to customize the phone if you want to use all features. It is also a good solution for those who do not need many additional options and require only mail, SMS, calls and occasional navigation. Users accustomed to smartphones, which work fine from the box to their full capacity may be irritated by the model and the behavior of its several applications. It is a controversial model due to software bugs and Nokia refusal to use a decent screen and camera.
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Published 28 September 2010
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