Review: Nokia E6

Smile  Touch and keypad combo; Excellent build quality; Outstanding battery life; Free sat nav; XviD \ DivX support; 720p video recording

Sad smile Fixed focus camera; Lacklustre Ovi Store

Nokia E6
MRP: Rs 18,679
Street Price: Rs. 17,500 (Source 1; Source 2)

The Nokia E71 was a huge success. It had takers not only from the corporate environment, but it was lapped up by college goers as well. This can be credited to its sleek design and an elegant use of metal. The Finnish company showed BlackBerry that business phones don’t have to be ugly. Later, the E72 followed its path with a few upgrades, and so did the E5. Now, almost a year after having released the E5, Nokia follows it up with the E6.
Times have changed with the arrival of iPhones and Androids, the harsh reality of which is well reflected in Nokia’s financial report. It knows that another E71 variant won’t cut it anymore. Therefore, the company has spiced up the E6 with a fresh approach towards UI and lot of goodies that you don’t expect on a business phone. It is one of the first phones to run the much anticipated Symbian Anna out of the box, which features many of the promised improvements.
Design, Build Quality And Display
The retail package contains the handset, a charger, earphones, a USB data cable, and a nice Nokia branded pouch. The headset is sleek, as expected from an Eseries. Although the bundle is pretty balanced, a TV out cable and a USB adaptor (for USB On-The-Go) would have been a good addition.

The moment you hold the phone, you get the sense of the rugged build this handset offers. Nokia has been making phones for more than a decade and its experience shows in the design. The company has built a seamless phone fashioned from stainless steel, matte plastic, and Gorilla Glass.  This device looks like it can take a hell lot of wear and tear. Keeping its target audience in mind, the design is kept minimalistic. Measuring in at 115.5 mm (l) x 59 mm (w) x 10.5 mm (d), the phone feels chunky and very comfortable to hold. Weighing 133 grammes, the E6 isn’t the lightest among the lot, but I don’t mind the extra 10 or 20 grammes entailed by the metallic body.

The QWERTY keypad is excellent and offers good tactile feedback. Many E71 users will find its keys softer, but the change is not bad at all. The D-pad is slightly raised, and accompanied by four one-touch keys. The phone’s left side is crowded with buttons. It features a volume rocker and a dedicated voice recorder key placed right between the former. There is also a lock slider below it. The memory card slot, a 3.5 mm jack, and the power button are placed at the top of the smartphone. The left side and bottom of the device sport microUSB and charger ports respectively.

E6 runs on a 680 MHz ARM CPU accompanied by a 3D hardware accelerator. However, a mere 256 MB of RAM is rather disappointing . The onboard camera features a fixed-focus lens assembly paired to an 8 megapixel image sensor. Other features include Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, and a TV out.
The 2.46″ screen covers almost half of the phone, and is protected by Gorilla Glass. The screen is capable of displaying 640×480 pixels. Interestingly, it offers a pixel density of 328 ppi, which is 2 pixels more than the iPhone’s Retina display. Needless to say, I failed to single out a pixel on this impressive display.

check out video

NOKIA E6

Interface And Applications
Nokia has been experimenting with touch and type devices, as evidenced by the X3-02 and C3-01. It turns out that those devices probably were mere guinea pigs to test and perfect the technology for the E6.
The combination of touch and type on the E6 works perfectly. You will soon find yourself using the touch screen for navigation and the keys for typing. This gets work done quickly by offering the best of both worlds. One thing worth mentioning here is the pseudo-tactile feedback offered by the screen. You can feel the feedback coming from the exact point of the screen where you’ve touched. While this doesn’t add to usability, it shows minute attention to detail. Shortcut keys on the phone are assigned for two separate tasks, which are triggered by either a normal or a long press of the key. Holding the screen lock slider can turn the dual-LED into a flashlight. This is a trademark Nokia feature, which isn’t easy to stumble upon.

The Anna update brings much needed UI overhaul and user-friendliness to the Symbian platform. The new look is apparent right from the home screens and menu icons. Speaking of home screens, there are five of them now, and scrolling between the panes is smoother than ever. The new icons are curvier and touch optimized.

The E6 offers a good amount of customization, letting you add or rearrange widgets, as well as shortcuts. Menu organisation mode is now accessed with a long press of any icon. The addition of a touch screen has left no room for physical [Back] and [Options] buttons. A small notification area is also a good addition, but don’t expect it to be as useful as the one found in Android.

Multitasking is nothing new to Symbian, but this time it is done in a more user-friendly manner. You can press and hold the [Home] key to access the Task Manager. It shows thumbnails of opened apps, with a simple way to switch or kill the same. 256 megabytes of RAM might sound insufficient, but the device actually manages to run 10 to 15 apps with ease.

Collectively, Symbian has been greatly improved, and laggy performance is a history now. It still lacks the eye candy of the iOS or Android platforms. However, it still gets the job done equally well.
Nokia has always done a great job with Ovi Maps, and version 3.06 is even better. The application is now touch optimised with pinch-zoom gesture support. It lets you download entire map packs on the device itself. This saves the inconvenience of connecting the phone to a PC. Once the device is locked on to the satellites, internet connectivity isn’t required for voice-guided satellite navigation.

Surprisingly, the phone just took two to three minutes from a cold start to lock onto the satellites, with A-GPS turned off. This is quite a feat considering the rains, especially when the recently reviewed Samsung Galaxy S II would take hours to attain lock on under similar conditions. The Lonely Planet city guide is a nice addition as well. Altogether, you get a free voice-guided sat nav unit that works without an internet connection.

The new browser version 7.3 is as fast as expected, and renders heavy pages with ease. The double-tab to zoom and kinetic scrolling features work well, making websurfing a pleasure.

You can manage opened tabs by selecting the Windows option. FlashLite 4.0 is good enough to watch YouTube videos in the browser, but Flash games are still a no-go. Other improvements and additions include a search-integrated address bar, different font sizes, better visual history, and a virtual back button. Although the browser is pretty good, it still stands no chance against the latest Androids.

The phone comes with QuickOffice pre-installed. It can edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Additionally, Adobe Reader takes care of PDF files. The full-fledged file manager is a nice addition, and so is the dictionary. The device doesn’t even come with a single game on it. Nokia apparently believes that the corporates don’t like to play games (at least on mobiles).
The Ovi Store has been one of the weakest links on Nokia smartphones. However, the Finnish mobile giant has managed to improve the store’s UI significantly.

The application now offers better navigation and performance. Thankfully, it doesn’t crash anymore. The store has reasonable number of apps, and almost all the essential ones are here. However, it is nowhere near the scale of the iOS and Android repositories

Multimedia
The music player is the same as the one found on the Symbian^3 devices. It offers an interface similar to the iPhone’s Cover Flow, which is good eye-candy. Making or editing a playlist is hassle-free, thanks to the combination of keys and a touch screen. Supported audio formats include MP3, AAC, WMA, and WAVE.

The bundled headsets aren’t good enough to please a music lover. Hence, it’s better to plug in your favourite earphones. The music player’s sound quality is excellent. It is quite loud, and provides a good amount of bass. You get five equaliser presets and an option for Stereo Widening.

An FM radio is included, but it works only when the bundled headset is connected. You can set preset stations and listen to the radio, so there’s nothing new here.
Notably, the video player on the gadget supports DivX, XviD, MP4, WMV, and most of the MKV videos out of the box. Content up to 720p can be viewed without any issues. It also handles movies larger than 2 GB with ease, making it better than the player found on the N8. Moreover, it supports subtitles as well. The screen offers good contrast and viewing angles, but it’s the screen size that lets it down. That’s something you can’t complain about on a business phone though. On the whole, this business handset performs exceptionally well on the multimedia front. As an icing on the cake, the 3.5 mm jack doubles up as a TV-out port as well.

Camera
The 8 megapixel camera on the device performs well in broad daylight. The images exhibit good contrast and colours. However, it fails to keep noise levels under check. This is due to the lack of the auto-focus feature. The interface is tweaked and now most of the settings are just a click away.

The video recorder is capable of shooting 720p videos at 25 fps, with video stabilization thrown in for good measure. The resulting video clips contain a good amount of details and life-like colours.

Telephony And Messaging
The phonebook is pretty simple and the contact’s information is displayed in two tabs. First one provides quick buttons to call or message that person, while the second lists all the available information associated with the contact. Facebook and Twitter integration will be appreciated by the socially inclined.

E6’s call quality is superb, and so is the signal reception. The voice dialling feature is present, but it doesn’t like Indian names. However, finding a desired contact is simple, thanks to the combination of smart dialling and a physical keypad.
With a well designed physical keyboard, the device offers an excellent texting experience. SMS can be turned into an MMS simply by attaching an image or video. Messaging app supports both threaded and folder views.

The email client lets you add Ovi Mail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, and Gmail accounts just by entering the username and passwords. Messages can be sorted on the basis of date, subject, sender, and priority.

Battery
It’s now the second day since I received and fullly charged the device, and the battery just refuses to die. I’ll update the article once the battery gives in. Till then all I can report is that the battery performance is outstanding.

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