While it's apparent that smartphones equipped with comfortably sized capacitive-based touchscreens are the popular choice, there are some who prefer the good old physical QWERTY keyboards and a non-touchscreen display. Case in point, Nokia's E-series which includes the widely popular Nokia E71, followed by the Nokia E72. Given its success, it's obvious that the E-series will be around for some time to come, and true to that, the Nokia E5 is presented as the next entry in the E-series.
Though it shares the same E-series name as the earlier E71 and E72, the E5 isn't the direct successor to these devices. For one, its exterior lacks the metal finesse and slender profile that exudes a sophisticated feel. Nonetheless, it retains a similar form factor, such as the four-row QWERTY keyboard. Typing speeds could have been faster if it wasn't for the tightly knit keys, though this issue is prevalent with compact-sized QWERTY keyboards.
Interaction with the user interface is mostly delegated to the five-way navigation pad and the shortcut keys located just above the keyboard.The mentioned keys do have a stiff feel to it, which you'll have to live with. We also noticed the absence of a camera button, which translates to the navigation pad doubling up as that. Then came the realization that the 5-megapixel camera uses a fixed-focus lens. We weren't however too concerned with this, and to top it off, the E5 has an LED flash to somewhat keep your night shots sufficiently clear.
It's obvious that the E5 and its 2.36-inch screen won't be sufficient for your mobile movie needs. Fortunately, you can still get decent audio quality, choosing between your own earphones or the bundled ones within. And for that, you'll also need sufficient storage space, and while its internal memory is limited, you can opt to load your music onto the microSD card.
As usual, you'll need to go deep, removing the battery to access the microSD card slot. In the process of doing so, we noticed two catches on each side of the E5. These turned out to be the release mechanism for the rear plate, which is incidentally the only visible metallic piece on the E5.
The E5's software doesn't hold any surprises. You'll find the good old Symbian S60 on the E5, albeit with a few differences when we compare it against its E72 cousin. This includes a new Contact bar theme, which has been spotted on the earlier X-series and C-series. If you aren't comfortable with your contacts' profile pictures staring back at you, the classic themes are still available for you to choose from.
In line with Nokia's decision to include free navigation on Ovi Maps, the E5 similarly enjoys this perk. That, and the fact that you also get free Nokia Messaging on this device, which allows you to push up to ten email accounts onto the E5. For social networks, the E5 is loaded with a Facebook app, with a minimalistic interface for you to work with. As for Twitter, we were dismayed to discover that it is still essentially a web shortcut that links you to the mobile site. Overall, speeds were acceptable, with smooth transitions across the menus. Nonetheless, keep track of your active apps, as they could turn the device sluggish if there are too many to handle.
With a variety of online and cellular activities being performed on the E5, the device was able to sustain itself for slightly more than a day. It might not have the stamina of the E72, but we have to consider its use of a 1200mAh battery and the heavy internet usage that could have brought the numbers down.
With all said and done, do remember that the E5 is setting itself up as an affordable alternative, albeit bulkier, to the visually appealing E72. In doing so, the E5's lower price point at S$398 is an apt choice for heavy text messengers with a limited budget.