Monday, February 23, 2009

Nokia E63: Better to go economy or business class?

First of all, a very happy holiday to all Brunei readers, being our 25th Silver Jubilee National Day today.

I have received many queries from readers and friends on what its like to use the most recent and latest messaging device from Nokia, the Nokia E63. I've actually had the opportunity to use one for a good many weeks now, and of course, while I'm back to my trusty ol'Nokia E71, I do miss the E63 at times.... why you ask? Read on...

(Unlike my other reviews, I'm attempting to make this one slightly different basing my conclusion by doing more of a comparison between a E63 and her classier sibling, the E71)

We all know and love the E71 don't we? HSDPA, front facing video camera, 3.2 megapixel camera with auto focus, wifi, email client support and a gorgeous QWERTY keyboard all enclosed in a very slim and metal clad body. Initially just launching the Grey steel and White steel variants, Nokia's thrown another curve ball at us with the new Black and Silver/Red editions. Even MORE of a reason to love it.

And then, almost out of nowhere, a reserved and quiet E63 appears, seemingly with the same looks, similar features, but also very different.

The Unboxing - the hardware

After opening up the box of the E63 (my unit was Ultramarine Blue)(Ruby Red being the other only colour so far), I half expected to pull out the same contents as the E71. To my surprise, there were no leather pouches or no wrist lanyards! All that it contained were the E63 unit, a battery, a travel charger and assorted manuals. Oh yes, there was a 1Gb microSD card thrown in too, fortunately. (Some other sites have reported that their E63's do NOT come with any memory cards).

Well, I guess we get what we pay for. The E63 is significantly cheaper than an E71 anyway. And from its weight (very light), this also give you an indication of the quality of materials used. There were plastics and rubber galore. It is noticably wider too, with the usual array of QWERTY buttons like the E71. Until I realised, upon closer inspection, that there are differences between the two. The E63 sports different characters and symbols at some different places, and, the space bar is smaller too (with a tiny flashlight symbol on it). A very neat and useful feature I have to add.

Moving on, taking the E63 out and switching it on (press and hold the Call End button), there wasn't a button at the top to switch on. There certainly wasn't a red button sticking out anywhere. Why was this an issue on the E71 I have no clue. I never did understand why people made such a fuss over a little red button. I always thought it provided some element of colour to a grey or white steel clad body.

Display / Call features / Connectivity - Software
I won't dwell too much into these areas as both the E63 and E71 are very similar. Both have the same landscape 2.36" 16M QVGA resolution screens, the same menu layout, the same call feature performances but, in the connectivity department however, the E63 does lack two main things which is present in the E71; HSDPA and a front facing camera for video calls. For the average person though, this might not be such a big deal. Besides, the E63 does have 3G at least, so you can still surf on the Web, chat on Fring or even download new apps from Nokia's Catalogue etc.
The E63 also has themes which the E71 does not curently own (the themes correspond to the matching Ultramarine Blue or Ruby Red editions). But otherwise, if you were just shown the menus for both the E63 and E71 without being told which was which, you'd probably not notice the difference anyway.

Camera performance / Multimedia
In a word, the camera performance for the E63 is "mediocre". Being a 2 megapixel (non-auto focus) camera, the E63 will simply do what you want it to do; take simple snaps. Forget about indoor shots though even though there is a flash to light up your shots. The E71's 3.2 megapixel snapper already has its own problems, in other words, it isn't quite a role model either, so in this department, there's not much to comment for both. I included a sample of the E63's outdoor shot, in an overcast day.

What I liked about the E63
  • I actually enjoyed using it for a good number of weeks. It was surprising to me too. It was lighter, and its size was just nice for my big hands.
  • The E63 could match everything my E71 could do too (minus any video calls of course). The Calendar's the same, the Contact's the same, the Messaging's the same...
  • The QWERTY keyboard experience was different to use, compared to the E71's. Maybe because it was wider, it felt a bit better to use too. Don't get me wrong, the E71's keyboard is still one of the better ones out there.
  • The battery life is commendable. Keeping in mind, both use the same battery, but minus a few features on the E63, this means that the battery life is longer than the lifespan of the E71. Any objections here?
  • The 3.5mm jack. Many have argued that if the E71 had this in the first place, it would probably be THE best smartphone out there today (of course, personally it'd be even better if it was a touchscreen too). I'm not much of a music buff myself, but knowing I can use my own earphones was a good option to have.
What I didn't like about the E63
(Note: I have to be subjective here. Remember, there is a significant price difference between the E63 and the E71, so I approched this with a "you-get-what-you-pay-for" mindset)
  • No front facing camera. I video call every so often, so missing this feature was a big deal to me.
  • The camera qualities were disappointing. But then, if you want to just snap photos (not for printing obviously), then it should satisfy you.
  • There's this little rubber cover protecting the 3.5mm jack at the top. Let's just say that if you ever lost this, just be prepared to have an exposed little jack hole. Its just not connected to the body in any way.
Overall, I really like the E63. I think its more of a successor to the E61i than the E71 is. I even contemplated owning my own unit, if it wasn't for the lack of the front facing camera. Sure the camera performance is lacking, sure its made of plastic and feels almost like a toy, sure it doesn't have 3.5G HSDPA but at the end of the day, it is still one serious business device very befitting of the Eseries range. If you currently own a E61i, and not too sure about upgrading to the more expensive E71, then give the E63 a consideration. You won't be disappointed.

I'd rate this 4 stars (out of 5).

Available at all Incomm branches throughout the country, its going for BND428-00.
Remember to use your DST privilege card for better discounts.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nokia - New releases for Eseries and Nseries

The year is beginning to have a bright outlook for Nokia. In Barcelona recently, there were a few key updates which promises to take the world by storm yet again. Not surprising really, considering they were not very-well-kept secrets.

We've all known and loved each of their Eseries models from popular best sellers like the E61's to E61i's to E51's to E90's and especially the current E71's that have flooded out markets, Nokia's hold on the business segment continues to remain strong.

Let me introduce to you.... the Nokia E55, Nokia E75 and the Nokia N86.

Nokia E55

Specs for the E55
  • Touted to be the upgrade for the ever-popular E51
  • Most prominent feature, the QW-ER-TY keyboard (very reminiscent of the Sony Ericsson P1)
  • Quad band GSM/GPRS./EDGE with (tri-band) HSDPA 10.2Mbps speeds
  • Very stable and well known S60 3rd edition OS with FP2
  • 2.4" QVGA TFT 16M display with 240 x 320 pixel resolution.
  • 60MB onboard storage with a shipped 2Gb micro SD card inbox.
  • Available in Black and white aluminium
  • Some sites report a one month standby time (???!!!)(I've yet to believe that)

Nokia E75
Specs for the E75
  • Expected to be the forefront for the Eseries range
  • Full slide out QWERTY keyboard and a regular alphanumeric keypad (Both existing E71 AND E51 would probably find this appealing)
  • Most complete Messaging device to date from Nokia.
  • Connectivity features - Wifi 802.11 b/g, A-GPS support with Nokia Maps
  • 3.2megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash
  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE with tr-band HSDPA (3.6Mbps)
  • Very stable and well known S60 3rd edition OS with FP2
  • 2.4" QVGA TFT 16M display with 240 x 320 pixel resolution.
  • 50MB onboard storage with a shipped 4Gb micro SD card inbox.
  • Available in Silver Black, Red and Copper Yellow colours.

Nokia N86

Specs for the N86

  • Very similar to what the existing N85 already offers
  • Most outstanding feature - the first 8 megapixel camera which possesses shutter speeds of up to 1/1000 of a second, f-stop range of 2.4-4.8 and a 28mm wide-angle lens that Nokia claims is equal to that of a wide-angle 35mm SLR! It also sports a 3rd generation dual LED flash which should work at distances of up to 3.5m. (Shutterbugs might drool at this)
  • Quad-band GSM and tri-band HSDPA support
  • Very stable and well known S60 3rd edition OS with FP2
  • 2.6" AMOLED QVGA display (also present in the N85)
  • 8GB internal storage
  • A 3.5mm audio jack and TV out
  • Available in black and white

All 3 phones should start shipping by 2Q09.

So, if any of you are keen for an upgrade (even for those who own E71's), these new releases could very well stroke your interest.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sexier E71's and a Pre.

For those of you who loved the white edition of the hugely popular Nokia E71 and thought nothing could ever be sexier.... hold on to your breath.... Nokia's just made it EVEN more sexier, releasing new colours, in BLACK and RED. Click here to view them on Nokia's site.

There's no news (yet) on the release, but you can be sure I'm trying to find out! Especially on release for Brunei. More updates once I hear about it.

And then, there's the Palm Pre. More and more reviews are surfacing on the web and more and more of them reveal that Palm is now giving Apple a fight. (Finally). Anyway, read here at treonauts for lowdown on "Top 10 reasons to love the Palm Pre". Well, I certainly don't need convincing.