Nokia E7 - Getting Down to Business

Launch SRP: S$989

Overview & Design

All Formal & Dressed Up

We first had a serious glimpse of the business-centric Symbian^3 based E7 at last year's Nokia World event, where it was unveiled to be the heir to an earlier Nokia 9000 Communicator. Now in the midst of grand restructuring and mergers (Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform, anyone?), the E7 comes as a timely reminder that the Symbian platform is, well, still alive and beating. In the past few years, we have had many touchscreen smartphones making their appearance, out of which a few come equipped with QWERTY keyboard form factors and business/enterprise-centric features. The E7 is one such phone, and in this article, we assess its unique proposition that it promises to cater.

The E7 comes equipped with a QWERTY keyboard. 

If you are wondering why the E7 looks so familiar, you are right - the smartphone looks almost identical to the recently released N8; outwardly, the E7 is basically a larger version of the latter with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Similarly, the phone sports a somber and minimalist design with well-defined curves and contours that will fit right in with the business-minded crowd. Like the N8, the E7 is coated with a smooth metallic finish that's pretty resistant to scratches. While the phone is pretty slim considering that it comes with a full QWERTY keyboard, the sturdy device feels distinctly heavier at 176g. Nonetheless, the phone fits well in our palm with its manageable size and angular body. On the front face, just under the display, there is a home button that lights up upon receiving a message or a call.

While the phone is pretty slim considering that it comes with a full QWERTY keyboard, the device feels distinctly heavier at 176g. 

Looks aside, we realized that the E7 also suffers from the design issues that the N8 displayed, namely the uncomfortable cramming of ports in a single location. The following photo portrays this point clearly. 

From left to right: 3.5mm headphone jack, power button, HDMI port, and micro-USB port - all crammed in the same location. 

As seem from the photo above, the top part of the smartphone is crammed with every port available on the handset. To makes things worse, the power button is too flat to be depressed comfortably, making it difficult to power up/down your phone. The HDMI port is protected with a plastic black cover, which is an addition that we welcomed, although we felt that it would have been better if Nokia made it easier to pry open. Also, we spotted no microSD card slot.

Three controls line the E7's right profile - a camera button, a volume/camera zoom slider and a SIM card slot. The SIM card tray is extremely easy to remove, making it easy to change from one SIM card to another without much hassle. On the other hand, the volume/camera zoom slider seems less practical, especially if you are looking to increase your volume/zoom by a specific level.

The left profile has been left bare, save for a switch that allows you to lock and unlock your screen. 

So what makes the E7 different from N8? Not much besides the fact that the business-oriented E7 comes with a slide-out QWERTY form factor just like the HTC Desire Z. What we didn't like was how tough it was to slide the keyboard out. You have to position the phone at a certain angle and using your thumb, exert significant force so as to slide out the screen neatly. Nonetheless, once you get the hang of it, the experience feels relatively smooth. However, for more in-depth thoughts on using the keyboard, you can refer to the Features page that's coming right up.

We also have to give credit to Nokia for creating a hinge that feels extremely sturdy and well-constructed. 

On sliding out, the viewing angle of screen is reasonably tilted at an angle for comfortable reading and typing.

 In place of a removable battery cover, the E7's back is bare of seams, displaying a smooth metallic back and an accompanying fixed-focus 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash. Yes, the E7 comes with a non-removable battery, keeping in line with N8's design.

The Good
Sturdy and well-constructed
Beautiful 4.0-inch AMOLED screen
Substantial physical QWERTY keyboard
The Bad
On the pricey side
Disappointing camera capabilities
No SD memory card slot
Complicated Symbian OS