Saturday, June 28, 2008

Nokia E51 mini-review

The following is a quick review (more of an observation, but whatever) of the Nokia E51.

The Pretty Stuff

- Very slim, though not quite as slim as the 5310 XpressMusic. It is still a massive improvement over the N80 and HTC Artemis, and is one of the smallest smartphone I've ever used.
- At only 100g, the E51 is lightweight. Despite that it is slightly heavier and more 'solid' than the 5310.
- ThinkPad like toughness. I've already accidentally dropped it twice onto our hard wooden floor. Not a scratch or dent in sight. This is a worthy spiritual successor to the Nokia 6310.
- The built quality is excellent. There is a slight creak on the battery door, but otherwise the use of stainless steel material gives the phone an unusual quality that surpasses even many of Nokia's higher end models like the N95.

The E51's size is hardly any bigger than 'dumb' phones (l-r: E51, 5310 XM, RAZR2 V8, A818)

- Very quick especially in comparison to the Nokia N80 (220 Mhz) and Artemis (200Mhz). The 369Mhz processor is sufficient in processing even the most demanding websites. Switching between applications and navigating the UI for once isn't a chore.
- 44MB available RAM meant that I can leave multiple applications opened without worry. A far cry from the 18MB N80 and 25MB Artemis. I had no problem opening several Java programs and leaving them in the background. Even better the memory leakage that plagued the N80 seems to have fixed.
- Industrial mini USB standard is an improvement over the Pop-Port.
- An ambient sensor similar to the 5310 automatically adjusts the level of brightness. You can also manually adjust the brightness.
- WiFi 802.11b/g, Dual-band HSDPA 3.6Mbps, Quad-band GSM, Bluetooth 2.0 EDR+, IrDA and USB 2.0 meant that you won't have to worry about being left out of the loop. A2DP works with my Sony Bluetooth stereo headset.

Adequate RAM means that you do not have to close multiple applications

- The 2" QVGA screen's clarity is above average in doors, though the contrast and colour saturation suffers when used outdoors. The screen remains easily readable when outdoors thanks to the use of tinted glass.
- Incoming voices are crisp and clear as was the outgoing voice, at least according to the people I spoke to.
- Battery life is excellent. Despite using WiFi, Bluetooth, text and phone calls in moderation throughout the day, the E51's battery bar indicates 80% of power remaining.
- Buttons are well labelled. The standard S60 swirl logo has been replaced by a universally recognised home logo, which should help new users. There are also three buttons dedicated to launching six separate applications/tasks which is helpful.
- microSDHC compatible means that it should work with 32GB cards. Tested with a 4GB card. You will have to remove the battery cover to access the slot, but it isn't a requirement to power down the device.

The Ugly Stuff

- Series 60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 is still not as powerful as Windows Mobile 6.
- 2.5mm headphone socket. It is an improvement over Pop-port, but who uses 2.5mm headphones anyway?
- The 2Mp camera's performance is better than the 5310 XpressMusic, but noticeably worse than the N80. A camera-less version is also available, mainly to cater to paranoid companies. Read my impression of the E51 for examples of images taken.
- The side buttons are encased in rubber. These are mainly to prevent accidental presses but are pain in the arse to press.
- You can't charge via USB.
- The new firmware is not available on my version yet.
- A stingy 512MB card was included with the sales package, which has a value of £1. You can easily buy authentic 2GB cards for less than £5 these days.
- No built-in GPS. A cheap Bluetooth GPS receiver helps, but you have to wonder what Nokia were thinking...


The E-series has always been the odd one out of Nokia, with it regularly getting the stick from its parent company when it comes to receiving the latest technology. It is a similar situation with the E51. You could tell that the product engineers were working with their hands tied, forced to compromise plenty design features - possibly not to anger their multimedia department (who designs the N-series phones). While Nokia does not show much appreciation towards the E-series in general, the E51's robust design, proper keypad, raw performance and price does give it an edge over some of Nokia's more favoured models.

I found Series 60 Third Edition feature pack one is a massive improvement over the first S60 OS I used (2nd Edition) and while it isn't as powerful as Windows Mobile or the quantity of third party software isn't that impressive (for example Nokia has not released the API to the Active Standby screen), I can safely say that the OS is robust enough to be used as a smartphone. PIM applications is adequate enough for me to finally put PalmOS (of which I was a huge fan half a decade ago) to rest (good riddance). News of Nokia's Symbian Foundation initiative will hopefully allow for more improvements in the underlying Symbian OS.

The E51 is a very desirable smartphone that is capable of appealing to both casual and business customers. There are a couple of annoying decisions that held it from perfection. For example the 2.5mm headphone socket proves that Nokia still holds the age old belief that their target customers are not keen on having fun. The old music player application proves that as much. Still, if you are looking for a slim and stylish Series 60 smartphone with serious pack of power and can excuse the lack of built-in GPS receiver, you can do no wrong with the E51.

The Nokia E51 is available for less than £200 sim-free or free on contracts.


Anonymous said...

The E51 looks cool! Nice review.

Anonymous said...

Nice phone. It is thinner than the Razr!

Jon Choo said...


It is incredibly tiny. Still getting used to the size.