Archive for May, 2007

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Nokia E90 Communicator User Review

May 7, 2007

I had the pretty rare chance of playing around with the new Nokia E90 Communicator. The E90 is the replacement to the Nokia 9500 and 9300 Smartphones, now under the E series name as it is mainly a business device.

Nokia E90 (From Nokia.com)

Form and Finish

The E90 had a great anodized aluminum finish across both the back and front of the handset. The keypad and command buttons had the same matte finish which was great to hold and resisted fingerprints. The unit was finished with some chrome pieces over the hinges and face, with of course the clear plastic lens over the screen. It seemed much more solid than both the 9500 and 9300, much more so the 9210. The hinge was significantly more durable than the previous model and allowed swivel to 180 degrees, similar to the 9300. The inside of the unit was matte finished as well.

The unit was color brown but the anodized finish make it look very elegant. The front of the handset had the typical keys and the usual Series 60 menu button. The screen was large and crisp, easily one of the best Series 60 screens that I have seen. A good analogy would be comparing an 800X600 PC screen to a 1024X768 screen. The difference in sharpness of the images and text is amazing!

Opening the unit revealed the qwerty keyboard surrounded by the typical command keys. the navigation buttons are located i the upper right part of the keyboard, much easier to manipulate when holding the unit. The top of the keyboard had the usual 9XXX series buttons for Desk, Contacts, Messaging, etc. On either side of the unit were buttons as well, on the left side Send and End phone keys, and on the right soft keys. I found using these keys a bit difficult as they were just out of reach of my thumbs when making a selection. Generally, though, the center key in the navigation pad triggered the correct selection to generally not need to press the screen buttons.

The inside screen of the E90 was even better than the outside. Extending the analogy, the inside screen can be compared to an even higher resolution PC screen, ie, 1280X800. Colors were bright and text was easy to read, even at small font sizes.

Navigation and General Usage

The unit was typical Nokia, and typical Communicator so learning curve is pretty much nonexistent. Typing was quick and easy, the qwerty keyboard is of a pretty good size that I had very few typing errors.Navigation was generally quite fast, even after filling in my PIM data. Note, though, that I only had something like 1000 contacts. I have seen 9500s run very slowly when filled with 4000 contacts, so this could still be the case. However, immediately upon getting the unit, it did feel significantly faster in response to the previous model.

The unit was 3G and HSDPA, of course, so browsing was quick, efficient, and, because it used the standard Series 60 browser, made an already excellent browsing experience even better. The E90 is WIFI enabled as well, and turning WIFI scanning on and off was a breeze. Connecting and browsing through my WPA Personal secured hotspot was just as simple.

The Desktop was made similar to the Series 60 active desktop, unlike the 9500 which was filled with a bunch of icons. This made all critical items immediately visible and therefore the user more productive. Other applications look similar to the older versions but, as mentioned, seemed much faster to navigate around.

BlackBerry Connect

The E90 is BlackBerry Connect enabled, similar to the 9500, which was one of the first (if not the first) BlackBerry Connect compatible device. However, unlike the older BBC units, the E90 has a brand new version of BBC, capable of not only wireless sync of Email and Calendar, but also Contacts. This is absolutely critical for me and this latest version of BBC for me makes the unit almost at par with dedicated BB units. Corporate Directory lookup is of course supported as well but Note and Task sync is still not supported, which is not a big thing for me.

BB on the E90 is great to use. I was able to get going from a virtually unconfigured handset (only connectivity settings were configured) to work with all my personal information within about 10 minutes, without any need to install any software or sync to my PC. Of course, I am a BES subscriber so all my data is stored in the company Exchange Server. Email composition and manipulation was quite intuitive and well integrated with the Series 60 UI, and updates for Calendar and Contact additions were pretty quick.

Other Apps

GPS is built in to the device as well but I was not able to try it out. Media is well supported with a Music Player, Flash Player, Radio, Real Player, and 3D Tone Effects built in. A key feature of the unit is the 3.2 MP camera with autofocus on the back of the unit. Another internal camera is located quite unobtrusively beside the screen of the E90.

Conclusion

Overall, I think Nokia built a winner here in the E90. The unit is great to use and finally has enough BlackBerry features for a serious user. I cannot comment on the stability of the software at this time because I was using an early software build which invariably hung a number of times. Note that this is NOT the fault of the unit as it is still in pre-release mode and I was unit a pre-release firmware. I am confident that all the bugs will be worked out and the final release version would be great.

I dont have any idea of the cost of the handset yet which is why I cannot give a rating, but in my short time of use, I can definitely say that it would be a great tool for any business professional to use.

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