The Nokia E51 is part of Nokia’s set of handsets targeted for the business minded audience called E series. It may not contain everything that will satisfy the hardcore corporate individual but behind the phone’s sleek, thin exterior lies a plethora of smart features that should make most businessmen/women and general users happy. It has an awesome display and a lavish array of applications that you probably wouldn’t find in your standard handset. The model on review here is promoted by Telstra and incorporates Telstra’s Next G Services as part of its great functionality.
Let’s take a closer look.
The Nokia E51 isn’t the first of its kind to grace Australian shores. Nokia released the E61i and E65 in 2006 and 2007 respectively. At first glance, the E51 looks like your typical ordinary handset and aside from a few extra buttons, there’s little to indicate the fact that it is a business phone. However, once the phone is switched on, that point of view quickly changes. For one thing, the display is akin to the E61i and E65; that is, its in ‘true colour’ and supports over 16 million colours. The user interface it utilises is the Nokia Series 60 3rd edition and this as well the included applications shows off the E51’s powerful display.
More significantly, the phone has a number of pre-installed functions that are uncommon in most other phones. These are found within both the ‘Office’ and ‘Tools’ folders. Applications can be as simple as ‘Search’, which is a tool for searching the whole phone for a particular file through to the more complex Quick Office suite, which is useful for document viewing. A Zip manager can be used to manage the ZIP files received in e-mails. An Adobe PDF reader can view PDF documents. Active Notes allows users to create lavish notes that have voice clips, videos, music and pictures. The Symbian software employed on the E51 also allows for better syncing with PC type software such as Windows Live, Yahoo and various Microsoft based products.
A Wireless LAN (with IEEE 802.11g compatibility) has been included in the E51 for more convenient internet usage – it can search for wireless connectivity within an area in a similar way a wireless modem does for home PC.
For sure, the E51 won’t be so distinct in its specific class – other mobiles crafted for the business world such as those produced by Blackberry may have slightly more superior abilities. Nonetheless, this does not take away the fact that the E51 is still an excellent smart phone, particularly for its price. Its host of features alone should make it worthwhile for any consumer wishing to be more organised and occupied.
Despite being a smart phone, the E51 is nothing spectacular to look at. Its physical traits are best described as no-nonsense. Its design is such that it seems Nokia has made every effort to keep details simple and practical so that every button and groove has a role or indicates the phone’s attributes. That does not mean the gadget is a thing of ugliness though. The E51 resembles the Nokia 6120 Classic. Both are candybar in form and most of the key arrangement is almost identical. The E51’s casing is probably nicer to look at and is certainly thinner and firmer than the 6120. There are distinctions in the material used – some parts are shiny and slightly slippery while other parts (namely the top back speaker and the keypad) are softer and more opaque. These shiny bits are actually the only parts that change colour with each of the three colour morphs available. There is a more masculine all Black colour as well as a Silver one and decidedly more fashionable Metallic Brown case. The actual dimensions of the phone are probably average for today’s standards. It measures at 114.8 x 46 x 12mm and weighs just 100g.
The 2.0 inch screen rests just below a tiny indicator light and speaker slot. These are close to the etched ‘Nokia’ and ‘E51’ labels. Unfortunately, the screen seems to be constructed of the same fragile material that was used on the 6120 screen. This means that unless the actual phone is enclosed in a proper case, it is quite possible for the screen to have severe scratches on it if it is dropped.
The keypad is probably the oddest part about the phone. There are four extra keys – these are the one-touch keys. You can personalise them to differ in which applications they zone into but it is probably best to change them to what you find most appropriate. It’s easy to say that these keys are remarkably handy and to some degree they really are. Unfortunately, because they are located near the navigation pad and selection keys – they are also prone to be used by accident. This can get quite annoying real quick. In addition, the deletion key is sitting below the central navigation button, which is also not a good idea because ideally, the button should be further from the selection keys or main keypad. As a result the button is often pressed unintentionally especially during text messaging. The side keys as well as the on/off button (on top) are noticeably harder to press and could annoy some users. I certainly felt it with the on/off button – you really have to use your fingernail to make it work. Aside from these issues, the keypad works reasonably well.
Though the user can potentially have video calls with the E51, there appears to be no frontal camera for convenience. The only camera is the one at the back, located close to the top. The battery/SIM/microSD cover is easily distinguished, being a glossier material compared to the rest of the back. The antenna and Bluetooth port is invisible. The infrared port is found on the front left hand side of the phone next to the shortcut cutton for voice recording. There’s nothing else to note except that all connections (USB, battery, handsfree) are located at the bottom of the phone.
User interface & display
Supporting a ‘true colour’ display on a reasonably sized screen, the E51 has done quite well in the display department. Everything – including photos from different sources and web pages are shown in excellent clarity and brightness. There is a light sensor setting that can be changed to trigger the phone’s sensitivity to ambient light and will essentially define the level of light that the device needs before switching on the backlight.
The Nokia interface should please most users. I guess it is a matter of personal preference. The E51 features the Symbian OS 9.0 Series 60 third edition operating system. As with most current Nokia models, this interface have made locating, navigating and functioning of tasks fairly easy and simple. Refreshingly, the system appears to have less lagged that other systems I have used on various models. The provision of the set shortcuts found in the initial stand-by screen is a great inclusion and is well complimented by the one-touch and shortcut keys.
The main menu is accessible by pressing the either a shortcut or one-touch button. The main menu shows everything in a grid of icons – though this can be changed into a list like fashion (not recommended). As usual, wallpapers and screensavers screens can be changed to the user’s taste; though the screensaver is limited to 3 options. Since the review model is a Telstra promoted product, the start-up imagery is locked to the Telstra Next G advertisement. All in all, the E51 has a beautiful display thanks to the 16 million colours it can support and this is all shown in a polished and organised manner thanks to the operating interface.
Making and receiving calls
Making and receiving calls was never an issue with the E51. Being a quad-band phone means it is able to connect to GSM 850/900/1800/1900/2100 networks and can be used in most countries. Even though the particular phone I reviewed has Telstra all over it, I was still able to use my Optus SIM with no complications. A Telstra SIM card would probably make little difference in terms of call quality. Calls were clear and reception was great. K800i. Making calls is, like any other phone, selecting a contact or dialling a number – both of which are comparable to my K800i (which is my benchmark). To reject calls, the user can press the cancel calls (red) button. There are 10 levels for the volume and I found that the 9th bar was fine most of the time. Loudspeaker mode can be switched on easily by right select button during a conversation. The handsfree kit is fine to use though the location of the port made it annoying to pocket the phone. Bluetooth handsfree equipment is also compatible with the handset.
The E51 has plenty of memory to store contacts and other essential details. Unfortunately, the phone didn’t come with a microSD card. Contact numbers can contain further info such as other phone numbers, e-mail addresses, webpages, fax numbers, company, family contacts, addresses, birthdays, assigned notes and even their Blackberry pin. The user can also add a thumbnail photo or image to the contact.
Over 30 ring tones and 4 message alerts were included in the E51. That shouldn’t limit the choices for the user – he/she can download and buy tones from various sources or can use their MP3 files as ringtones/message alerts.
4 online profiles are available from the settings section and like most phones are interchangeable to suit the circumstance as reflected by their names (eg. General, Meeting, Outdoor, Silent). There is an offline mode that can be used for airplane travel or in areas where phone reception must be switched off (such as hospitals). The phone can be put on (or off) silent mode from any of these profiles by holding the hash button.
As with its calling functionality, the E51 is easy to use for creating, sending, receiving and reading messages. It supports various formats (including SMS, MMS and email). Keying in a text is straightforward with predicted text being the default mode. Perhaps due to the operating system, it was found that there were no delays while entering or sending messages – no matter what the length. Up to 1000 characters can be entered per text (that’s equivalent to about 8 messages). You can tell how many messages are about to be sent from the phone as the phone alerts you as you enter characters. Any messages sent will automatically head to “Sent” items. The E51 can attach images, audio and/or video files via MMS or e-mail, though these files are limited in size. The E51 has a different section for e-mails, called BigPond Mail.
The biggest letdown in terms of messaging has nothing to do with the interface functionality but lies with the keypad. The small shortcut buttons make it a little tricky to key messages quickly. I have accidentally pressed these buttons while messaging, making the simple task more tedious. Furthermore, the deletion key is tiny and positioned centrally – a poor decision, considering the user will be using this key quite often. At times the user may find him/herself pressing this key unintentionally. Perhaps it was just me being so accustomed to the location of clear/deletion keys on the right side of the pad but the user is now warned that he/she may have to get used to the key arrangement to appreciate the E51’s messaging functionality.
The E51 is a quad-band phone that utilizes GSM networks 850/900/1800/1900 and should have no issues operating the phone in other countries, provided their SIMs allows this. Like other Telstra promoted phones, Telstra has integrated a BigPond web browser that appears to support mobile and PC webpages. The homepage is a special mobile webpage that aligns Telstra services as well as news headlines (within the Today tab) along a scroll bar. The user can navigate through various web sites but must acknowledge the size and resolution of the screen as prime limitations for opening and viewing large webpages. For fast paced browsing, the E51 delivers, thanks in part to the phone’s ability to access Next G services.
As a smart phone, the E51 has access to high speed Bluetooth and USB connectivity and even the more obsolete Infrared technology. Bluetooth is certainly a highlight – being a powerful and common tool for syncing with other phones and gadgets. It is also required for using a number of the phone’s exceptional applications such as the Navigational and Mapping functions.
USB connectivity is useful for synchronization with PCs. The Nokia Suite package is perfectly capable of transferring files to and from the E51. There has been no drama in utilizing the software and connecting the phone to the PC. Like other packages I have used, the phone can become a solitary unit in which files can dragged and dropped, moved and deleted. As far as connectivity is concerned, the E51 is about as simple and efficient as it can get.
The multimedia package for the E51 composes of 3 multimedia players (Real Player, Media Player and Flash Player), a sound recorder, instant messaging, GPS and Nokia Maps. Media Player is what can be used for any MP3s (and other supported audio formats) found in the phone. It is essentially the music player for the phone. I was surprised to find that Telstra has not included a BigPond Music Player (they included one for the Telstra F256). However, knowing that that application was useless, the E51 didn’t miss out on anything radical. Real Player opens up video clips and audio files, supporting various formats including MPEG-4 and MIDI. The Flash Player can view and play flash files that are specific to mobile devices.
The sound recorder worked fine – just don’t expect to record high quality sound from long distances. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the instant messaging or the GPS/Nokia Maps. I’m certain the instant messaging would have worked well, assuming it would run the program similar to text messaging. GPS and Nokia Maps only work with a special Bluetooth device that is sold separately.
The E51 did not contain any games of any sort. In fact, I don’t think there is a provision for games as there was no games folder in the phone. It could be associated with the fact that it is targeted for business individuals. The inclusion of other functions was probably enough to sacrifice the inclusion of games. Despite this, I feel the E51 still had a good range of multimedia options for the regular consumer. I’m thinking the usability of these will depend on the user and how comfortable he/she is to the Nokia interface. Things are generally easy to find but for someone who has inkling for other brands, this might be a different story.
In terms of other applications, the E51 has an excellent variety that can either be classed as generic or business orientated. All of these are located in the Office Tools tab or folder. You have a Calculator and a Clock (which also has a very good World Time and an Alarm clock). Also included is the Search function – which allows the user to search for multiple files and a File manager to organize the files.
Active Notes is an application that allows you to create, edit and view different sorts of notes, for instance, meetings, to do lists or shopping lists. You can insert images, videos and sounds in the notes. You can also link these to other applications such as Contacts and send notes to others. Quick Office consists of Quickword (for Microsoft Word), Quicksheet (for Microsoft Excel), Quickpoint (for Microsoft PowerPoint) and Quick Manager for purchasing software. I haven’t tested Quick Manager for the others have worked very well. They are great for just viewing documents but because of the limitation of both the screen and the software, it is unlikely that you will want to spend much time reading through long documents. Power point presentations won’t be as nice to view but it would be silly to expect otherwise knowing the phone has a 2 inch screen. The same can be said the PDF reader. There’s another application called Converter that can convert pretty much any measurement from lengths to weights to currencies. The base currencies will have to be set though and there are some accuracy issues with the function.
The Zip manager can create new archive files to store compressed ZIP formatted files; add single or multiple compressed files or directories to an archive; set, clear or change the archive password for protected archives; and change settings, such as compression level and file name encoding. You can print a message or file from the E51 handset by setting up your printer to recognise the phone. You can even preview a file before printing it. Notes, is the downgraded version of Active Notes and is pretty much the standard you would find in the set of PIM applications of other phones.
The E51 shares similar physical traits to the 6120 Classic. To some degree, the material component of both handsets are quite poor – the high resolution screen and glossy casing both look great but are prone to scratches and getting dirty. Even the camera is at risk of being scratched – as it does not have a protective cover. I must say that the E51 feels more solid and stronger than the 6120 despite being thinner. Compare to other phones though, the E51 could probably be better off with a stronger, more robust casing. Potential buyers would do well to purchase a small case or sock to protect the handset.
For a phone that uses a higher than normal battery capacity (1050mAh compared to the 6120 - 890mAH), the E51 certainly packs little punch. It’s a bit a surprise after only three days of minimal use (say several text messages and about 20 minutes worth of calls a day, some music playing and camera use), the battery already required some charging. I examined it again, testing it for talk time. After about 80 minutes of talk time, the battery was already ˝ empty. Nokia claims that the battery should sustain for 4.4 hours of talk time or 13 days on stand-by. It’s pretty difficult to examine these claims but I would suggest that these are exaggerated. The battery takes about 3 hours to be fully charged.