Nokia E61 review

£254
Price when reviewed

We’re seeing a raft of new devices that are being dubbed BlackBerry killers, and the E61 is Nokia’s foray into this increasingly crowded market segment. Both visually and physically, the E61 is stunning. At first glance, the phone appears slightly wider than some of its competitors, but this is just an optical illusion caused by the styling and accentuated by the fact that the phone is so thin – or rather, it’s thin for a smartphone.

Nokia E61 review

Picking up the E61, the first thing that strikes you is that much of the case is made from real metal, not that metal-coloured plastic found on most other phones. Despite the slender dimensions, this metal casing means the phone feels really solid. It’s thin enough to fit into a shirt pocket, but rugged enough not to worry too much should you bend over and the phone clatters to the floor.

Our only real concern was the plastic covering over the LCD screen, because it’s too easy to scratch. We realise a scratch-proof mineral version would have pushed up the price, but a plastic screen is always going to be particularly susceptible: a screen protector is, therefore, going to be an essential purchase for E61 owners.

The front of the device is split almost 50:50 between an excellent 16-million colour 320 x 240 pixel display, and the keyboard and navigation buttons. Just under the screen, there’s a joystick surrounded by dedicated email and menu buttons, two soft menu keys, and the usual red and green call buttons. The main keyboard is a QWERTY design, which we found easy and intuitive to use.

As with all mobile devices, there’s a fair degree of shift-keying required, but the three most essential keys (forward slash, @ and the full stop) are available unshifted. Typing is helped by a small tactile click – enough to feel that the key is pressed, but not so loud to annoy anyone sat next to you.

In a world of smartphones dominated by Windows Mobile and BlackBerry, it’s refreshing to see that Nokia (like Sony Ericsson) is sticking with the Symbian operating system. The E61 runs version 9.1, with Nokia’s own Series 60 third edition software sitting on top as a front end. It’s an intuitive interface – this release of S60 has already proved itself with Nokia’s recent N-series phones, but the E61 really gives it room to breathe.

Out of the box, it comes with a full set of PIM functions, a web browser, an email client, and applications to create, edit and view Microsoft Office documents. The web browser in particular is excellent. It coped well with public-facing websites and wasn’t fazed by complications such as corporate applications, or the configuration screens of routers and print servers.

But the main requirement for any phone wanting to be a BlackBerry killer is a good email client, and this is where Nokia has played its trump card. Not content with offering a simple POP3/IMAP mail application, it’s also making clients available for BlackBerry Connect, Exchange, Good Mobile Messaging, Visto and Seven. We tried the BlackBerry and Good clients, and both worked extremely well.

Elsewhere, there’s GPRS, 3G, Wi-Fi and infrared onboard. The inclusion of a VoIP client is intriguing, and it will be interesting to see whether network-supplied versions of this phone have this function disabled. It isn’t as useful as it could be, though, because we found it impossible to use when behind a NAT router, as typically found in most Wi-Fi setups. The other omission that might disappoint some users is the lack of an built-in camera.

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