Ye Giant Nokia E5 Review
When we first got our hands on the Nokia E5, we werent too sure exactly what to make of it
I mean, here’s the latest Eseries phone. But it’s not the flagship (that’s the Nokia E72), yet it’s not really in the budget segment, like the Nokia E63. With that thought in mind, we took a good look at the Nokia E5 to try and find out where exactly it sticks.
As we begin this review, we feel its worth mentioning that our format is a bit different this around. Many various features of the E5 are very similar to the Nokia E72, and hence we might link to separate articles, instead of explaining the same thing here again.
Note: The E5 in this review is on Firmware version 042.007 which is the latest at the time of this post. Some features might change in later firmware versions.
Here are a couple of the features that the E5 boasts :
- 320 x 240 pixels 256K colors TFT 2.36 inches screen
- Symbian OS 3.2 (S60 V3 Feature Pack 2)
- ARM 11 600 MHz processor
- 250 MB storage, 256 MB RAM (more than the E72, which has 128Mb)
- Wifi and A-GPS (with Ovi Maps and Free Navigation) built in
- microSD card expandable upto 16GB, includes 2GB in package (might vary according to region)
- FM and Bluetooth (v2.0 with A2DP)
- Micro USB v2.0, suppports USB-Charging, can also charge via standard Nokia charging port
- Standard 3.5mm Audio Jack
- 5 MP fixed-focus camera (2592 x 1944 pixels) with Single LED flash and VGA recording at 15fps
- Built-in Nokia Messaging support for Email and IM
- Full QWERTY keyboard
- Symbian Web Browser with Full Flash support (for Youtube, Flash videos, etc)
Things missing from the Nokia E5 that you’d get on the E72? A Digital Compass and an Accelerometer. But then again the E5 has double the ram of the E72, so we’d imagine that’d be a worthy trade-off.
You can read the full list of features on the Nokia E5 Product Page.
The E5 measures 115 x 58.9 x 12.8 mm, and weighs in at 126 g, which is pretty compact. The weight is really comfortable for one-handed usage.
Not too light, not too heavy, and just the right size. It might appear a bit wide at first, but it’s not really a problem at all. For more on the size of the E5, do check our size comparisons of the Nokia E5 vs the Nokia C3, vs the Nokia E63 and vs the Nokia E72.
The build quality is pretty great, which isnt hard to believe since it’s an Eseries Device, which usually always has great quality. Our unit had no strange sounds whatsoever, and every key on the Qwerty Keyboard had a nice re-assuring ‘click‘.
Consider us impressed with that aspect of the E5. This is definitely one of the ol’ solid classic Nokia builds. The hard plastic all around though, keeps it from ‘feeling‘ expensive but it doesnt feel cheap at all, by any means.
On with the pictures !
Front View :
The Front of the Nokia E5, admittedly looks very much like the E72 and E71. Of course there’s differences in design. There’s a new (sort of) Navigation section which consists of the Dpad, Two Shortcut keys , left and right selection keys, and the Red and Green Calling Keys.
Since the E5 doesnt have a seperate power button, the red calling key doubles up for that function. Which can be mildly annoying at times. The Keys themselves are slightly smaller than the E71 but more “raised up” for better typing. Very similar to the E72. You’ll also notice that the spacebar is larger now, with less keys in the lower row.
This is where we mention that we like the steel finishing around the navigation part of front of the device. It’s all matt colored so there’s no fingerprints getting caught anywhere. Though we admit, we had to clean the screen for fingerprints several times during the photoshoot for this review.
Speaking of which, at the center you have your 2.36 Inch screen. The screen is pretty large by non-touch device standards, but pales in comparison to most touch-devices today.
In an age where even a 4 Inch screen is considered small, the E5 doesnt really impress anyone. Still, the screen is quite nice and bright. It does get a bit washed in direct sunlight, but not as bad as most other devices we’ve seen, atleast not as bad as the last generation of touchscreens.
Edit: Apparently the E5′s screen is not the same as the E72. The E5 has a 256K colors TFT screen, vs the 16M colors TFT screen on the E72. It also washes out a bit more compared to the E72, in direct sunlight [Thanks for the heads up Steve!]
At the top of the device, you have a light sensor, and the earpiece speaker. Surprisingly there is no Front-Facing camera for video calls, which is silly, seeing how the E5 does have 3G capabilities. The Light sensor seems to be a little overly sensitive at times, sometimes shutting off the keypad lights when there wasnt actually enough light around. Still not too bad though, it’s a rare occurrence, yet a bit annoying.
The Earpiece speaker works great, calls come in loud and clear. No issues with it at all. No matter which way you hold it.
At the bottom of the screen you have the Dpad, the two Shortcut keys along with your selection keys, call keys and the Full Qwerty Keyboard at the bottom. On the left of the Dpad you have your Left Selection Key, Menu (Home) key, and Green Call Button. On the Right of the Dpad you have your Right Selection Key, Messaging/Email Shortcut key and your Red Call-End (and Exit, and power) key.
The Messaging key can be configured with two functions (one shortpress, one longpress) to open any other applications, etc. By Default, it is assigned to the messaging app on short press, and New Sms on long press, but you can change them to whatever you would want.
The Dpad has a backlight to it that gently “pulsates” to indicate that the device is switched on. It pulses twice every minute to let you know if you’ve gotten a new message, new email or missed call. And ofcourse, you can turn this feature off if it bugs you.
The Keyboard itself may appear cramped at first, but you’ll be typing away fine on it withing a day of usage. Each individual key is raised so that you can “feel” them better while typing. The keys have great feedback to them, and a re-assuring (but silent) ‘click’ when you type.
Some of the keys on the bottom row also have special functions. Like, a longpress on the Spacebar turns the touch on (using the LED Flash light at the back). A longpress on the “Sym” key toggles your Bluetooth on or off. Likewise, a longpress on “Ctrl” switches between your current profile and the silent profile.
The keys are white-on-black and have a white backlight to them, which means they’re always easily distinguishable.
Since it’s so similar, you can check out our Typing and Messaging on the Nokia E72 post, to know more.
Back View :
The back of the Nokia E5 consists mainly of it’s 5 Megapixel camera, and Matt Metallic Back Panel.
On the upper side we have the 5 Megapixel camera, with it’s single LED Flash. Of course, we would have liked to see a better camera and a better flash, but since Nokia says this is a business-first device, we wont make much of a deal out of it. The Camera quality is is what you’d expect from an Eseries Devices, in terms of pictures. Video-wise the quality is marginally better but stuck at a paltry 15 Frames per second at VGA resolution. The fact that this is a fixed focus camera, with no autofocus at all, is a real disappointment. We’ve discussed more about the E5?s Camera later in this post.
Next to the Camera, is it’s Single Loudspeaker . The device isnt anywhere as loud as Nseries devices today, but isnt too bad. The problem is the fact that the loudspeaker is situation on the back of the device, unlike on the top in the E71. Because of this, the loudspeaker rests (almost) flat, when you keep the E5 on a surface, or in your pant pocket, etc which muffles the sound by quite a bit. This was the same ‘problem‘ we had with the E72.
It’s also worth pointing out that Vibration on the E5 isnt very strong. You’ll probably not notice the device vibrating in your pocket, on more than a couple occasions. The back panel on the E5, is released with the help of two buttons on either side of the device, that have to be pressed to release it. Way better than the E72′s latch implementation.
Top View :
At the top, the Nokia E5 houses it’s 3.5mm Audio Jack, standard Nokia charging port, and it’s microUSB port (which can also be used to charge the device).
Bottom View :
The Nokia E5 keeps it minimal with no ports or buttons here to speak of.
Left View :
On the left side, the E5 only contains one of the back panel release latches.
Right View :
On the right side, you’ll find the other back panel release latch, and the Volume Increase/Decrease buttons (which double as Zoom in and out keys in camera mode). The keys all work fine and do what they’re supposed to.
Normally you’d expect a dedicated Camera button on this side of a device, but due to the E5?s form factor and orientation, you’d probably want to hold it upright (instead of sideways) when taking a picture.
The Battery :
The battery on the E5 is nothing short of impressive. While the 1200 mAh BL-4D might not last as long as the 1500 mAh on the E72, under our tests, it could easily last more than a day and a half on heavy use. On average usage it’d probably sail through 2 days of usage.
The Retail Box :
The Usual Eseries type retail box (Asian variant). You can check out our Nokia E5 Unboxing Video post, for a more detailed look at the retail package contents.
The S60 V3 UI, Menu and Home Screen:
The E5 uses the same S60 V3 OS that’s on the Nokia E72. Symbian on non-touch devices, is probably the best operating system, which is quite different from the reputation the Touch version of Symbian has. Features like Multi-tasking, Copy-Paste, etc have been finely tuned to run faster and more efficiently on the E5, with no slowdowns noticed at all in all the theme transitions and effects. The 600Mhz CPU and 256MB of Ram means the E5 is pretty darn quick around the corners.
The E5’s menu uses the Nokia ‘Ovi’ icons, that are now standard on all Nokia devices. And like we said, thanks to the 600 Mhz Cpu and 256 Mb of ram, you can open up quite a bunch of programs and keep them running in the background.
We had about 25 programs running before we started to see mild slowdowns in transitions.
The E5 is a multitasking beast.
The homescreen has a new “Contacts” version now, that displays your favourite contacts on top, in a scrollable horizontal arrangement.
You have space for one email inbox to be displayed, with a row of application shortcuts at the bottom.
The bar below it contacts your left and right selection options, the notifications (gps, bluetooth, etc) and the time.
You can ofcourse, change the left and right selection options. You can also choose from several other homescreen options too.
The classic ‘Active‘ homescreen is also present. Strangely, the Eseries “Switch Mode” app only works with this homescreen mode. One feature, that has remained unique to Eseries devices, is the Switch Mode feature that lets you switch between Homescreens. Both Homescreens are configurable, and Nokia assumes you’ll need them to switch between (for example) Business and Personal Mode. This can be really useful if you prefer to use a different theme, homescreen, profile, etc in your business and personal modes. Personally, I didnt use this much, but I can see situations where this might come in handy.
You have Basic, which doesnt display any Active Standby Plugins at all, or App Shortcuts, leaving just the wallpaper and Time, Operator, etc on screen.
Active is the mode seen in the below screenshot, with active standby plugins and shortcuts enabled.
Talking Theme is a new addition (atleast it’s the first time I’ve seen it on a Nokia Device), where the phone reads out everything on screen to you. A fun new feature, but I’m not really sure how useful this would be.
You can also configure which Active Standby Plugins you’d want to see on the Home Screen, and configure which application shortcuts will be at the top, too.
Moving on, one ‘feature’ I really liked about the newer Eseries lineup, and the E5 this time around, is that you can just type up a contact’s name on the Homescreen to get quick and easy access to his/her details. You have options to all the Details that’s in the Contacts application. If you’ve said more details for the contact such as website, or PIM, you’ll have options appear for that too.
This might not seem like much, but it quicken up things a lot. You dont have to go to the contacts application and scroll for a contact’s name, etc to get in touch with him/her. Just type up the name, and that’s it. Because of this fun little feature, I barely even used the Contacts application at all on the E5.
Which brings us to..
Contacts on the E5 :
If you’ve used an S60 device before, you’d be right at home here. Contacts are arranged by Name in list pattern. You can have a practically unlimited amount of Contacts really, so that is definitely not a problem at all. You can have a variety of details listed under a Contact, anything from basic phone numbers to birthdays to websites to your own little notes. Anything really.
And of course, depending on the detail you’ve entered in for the contact, you’ll have certain different options (like “Go to Web Address” if you’ve entered in an address for the contact, etc). In addition to all of this, you can also add an Image for the contact (which will appear full screen when you call or get called by him/her), a ringtone, voice tags, etc.
There’s Ovi Chat built-in, and support for Groups too.
There’s also Microsoft Communicator support built-in, if anyone uses that.
The E5 has the usual Eseries calender. You can set it to display Week view, Month View, Agenda View or To-Do view.
In month view, for example, any meetings you have on a particular day are neatly listed at the side.
Of course, this changes on the view mode. In Day Mode, you’ll see all entries listed according to the time you’ve set for them.
Once you highlight the event, more information about it pops up.
And selecting the event, in any view mode, takes you to a panel with all the Information you’ve entered in for the event.
Creating an event is an easy task. You can create a Meeting,Anniversary, Memo or To-Do event.
And depending on the type of event, you’ll have a variety of options that you can fill in.
(Note: screenshots in this segment are from an E75, but the UI is exactly the same in the E5)
Messaging and Text Input on the E5 :
The messaging application on the E5 is your usual S60 standard affair. However, the advantage that the E5 has, is that sweet full qwerty keyboard. We’ve covered this subject in detail before, so check out our Messaging and Typing on the Nokia E72 post for more info.
Internet and Web Browsing :
You cant have a device today, in this age, without expecting some sort of Internet capabilities out of it. Luckily, the E5 does this pretty okay. There’s Flash support built-in, so you can play YouTube Videos, or Flash games right on the browser, as you would on your PC.
We’ve covered this in detail before, so do check out our Web Browsing on the Nokia E72 post for more info.
Email and IM:
One thing that the E5 does pretty well, is Email. Mostly thanks to the built in Nokia Messaging Push-Enabled Client. To know more about this section, check out our Email on the Nokia E72 post, since the experience is exactly the same.
Unfortunately, default HTML-view is still not enabled, and you still have to click “view HTML version” before you can, in an email.
There’s also Nokia Messaging for IM included in the E5 under the app name “Chat”.
This allows you to use IM services like Gtalk, Yahoo, MSN, etc.
The Camera :
Like we mentioned earlier in this review, the 5 Megapixel camera on the E5 is pretty disappointing.
Mostly because it’s a standard Nokia Lens, that does not have Auto-Focus. The Fixed Focus lens means objects are usually too close or too far. To add to that, the E5′s Camera app doesnt allow Geo-Tagging of pictures yet. Hopefully that will come soon in a firmware update. Additionally, Video recording is still stuck at just 15 FPS Vga.
Camera recents arnt terribly bad. They just arnt anything great.
Here’s a couple Camera samples from the Nokia E5′s Camera.
Image 3 (With Flash):
In terms of camera UI, and Operation (except without any autofocus), it is exactly the same as the E72. So if you’re interested, do check out our post on the Nokia E72′s Camera for more details on this.
The E5 has the same gallery app, as on the E72.
When you startup the Gallery you’ll see different sections for Pictures, Video, Songs, Sound Clips, Streaming Links and Presentations.
Videos takes you to the Videos app, Songs to the Music Player, etc.
Pictures are sorted by All, Captured, Months, Albums, Tags, etc.
Images are sorted in a carousel form and you can move through them using the direction keys.
Whereas a center-press of the Dpad will bring the image into focus with a few options on the sidebar (like rotate, send, upload, edit, etc).
Ofcourse there are more options under the “options” tab over the left selection button.
You can play a slideshow, assign the image to a contact, etc.
The Music Player application on the E5 is your standard Nokia S60V3 affair. Nothing new in the software aspect. There’s even an FM radio and Sound Recorder if anyone was wondering.
There’s also the Internet Radio and Podcasting Apps included, which were missing on the E72′s initial firmware. There’s also ready access to Nokia’s Ovi Music Store, incase you’d want to buy tracks from there.
Curiously, there’s also Shazam, the Music-Identifying app, pre-installed on the E5.
And lastly, there’s also a “Music Search” app that lets you say the name of an artist or track to play it. Nokia obviously focused on the Multimedia bit with this Eseries device. The best part of the Music Experience here, is that the E5 has a standard 3.5mm audio jack so you can listen to music on your device via standard headphones if you wish.
Audio Quality was pretty decent. I wouldnt say it was Nseries level, but better than most devices we’ve reviewed recently.
The E5 has built in A-GPS to help you navigate around. It’s software solutions are the same as in recent Nokia S60 devices, nothing new to speak of. There’s Ovi Maps onboard with free Turn-By-Turn Voice Navigation . And ofcourse, the E5 supports all S60 Applications that use the inbuilt GPS, such as Google Maps, etc.
Ovi Maps is immensely useful, because of it’s offline maps. Even more so because of the aforementioned free Navigation.
The E5 has a range of Connectivity options from Wifi or Bluetooth or USB. Infra-red is absent, but isnt really a major factor in this day and age.
The E5 has a bunch of Office-related applications on board. These are pretty much good enough solutions for a person on the move.
The QuickOffice application onboard is fully licensed and allows you to create, edit and view various Office files like Word Documents, PPTS, Excel SpreadSheets, etc.
We’ve covered this in detail before, so do check out our Office on the Nokia E72 post for more info.
Apart from the Above :
The Nokia E5 also has the Software Updater app that allows you to update firmware OTA (Over the Air). It also has UDR (User data Retention) so your contacts, messages and other data is always safe and not erased after a software update.
Speaking of which, software-wise the E5 is almost exactly the same as the Nokia E72. There’s Timed Profiles, PPT, you can have a slideshow as your wallpaper, various options for a power saver mode, etc.
Worth mentioning here, is that the E5 still has the same “Keep Dpad center held down to see time and notifications in power mode” feature that we first saw in the E72, E71, E75 and E66.
The Theme Application on the E5 also has supports “Audio Themes” section which basically controls and allows you to change all the audio throughout your device including notifications, alerts, etc. You can also download and install Audio Themes that change your device’s audio. The Usual Access Point list is still there under the new “Destinations” name in S60 V3 FP2. This sorts out all your access points according to priorty, etc. Thus enabling you to easily switch between them.
The E5 also has the same Data-Encryption Security protocols that were first seen on the E71 and E72. You can choose to encrypt all your data incase you’re worried about your device and data being stolen. And ofcouse, since the E72 runs S60, you can install and uninstall almost any application from the Ovi Store, which has a vast library of games and applications available for it. Unfortunately though, we have begun to see fewer and fewer non-touch version of games and apps nowadays, since the general app scene is moving towards touch-apps.
There is also some Social Networking Integration built-in but that is so limited we didnt think it was worth going into detail over. Basically there are Twitter and Facebook applications pre-installed, but we’d rather advice you to just go to the Ovi Store and download the Gravity app.
Apart from all this, is your usual variety of configurable settings and options that are standard with most new Nokia S60 devices.
Here’s a video overview of what we were talking about.
It’s actually quite hard to fault the Nokia E5. It’s a decent phone with a feature-set that is almost on par with the Nokia E72 (the flagship model), and has solid build quality. Apart from the Full Qwerty Keyboard (Which we definitely loved), you also get all sorts of connectivity options with Wifi, 3G, Bluetooth, and even A-GPS built-in. The 3.5mm Audio Jack means you’ll love listening to music on the E5, and the Symbian S60V3 Operating system is very quick, and very stable.
That being said, the Social Networking integration isnt as solid as we would have liked, and the camera is terribly disappointing with no auto-focus. We feel the web browser could have been improved somewhat too, but that’s only because it feels exactly the same as the E72.
But if you’re looking for a budget-ish Full Qwerty Keyboard Phone, with a plentitude of Connectivity options, expandable memory and a decent set of apps, I cant think of any reason why not to recommend the Nokia E5.