Monday, July 28, 2008

Nokia E66 multimedia review

The Nokia E66 is a pretty standard Nokia Series 60 E-series phone in that its multimedia performance is well, pretty standard. While not as developed as their equivalent N-series phones, the E66 is equipped with an extensive set of multimedia functions at least for a device primarily aimed at providing enterprise solutions.

Out of the box the E66 supports both Mass Storage and MTP protocol when connected via USB. This allows you to easily drag and drop your audio and video files easily. As far as I know there are no folder limitations on where you can install your files to. Personally I recommend using MediaMonkey to manage your musical archive as it seems to handle album art transfer properly. An external speaker exists on the back which is sufficient enough to playback audio without too much hiss. I would suggest using a headphone instead. Unfortunately, Nokia has decided to equip the E66 with a 2.5mm headphone socket. Why does Nokia still insists on forcing 2.5mm ports on their enterprise devices is beyond me..., but let us see what it can do first.

RealPlayer is included as the E66's default video player. It has one of the worst UI systems ever designed by mankind. Up/down controls tracking and left/right controls volume - opposite of what people would expect! But at least it works well when it comes to playing videos, and is well integrated with the system. Clicking on a video stream on BBC News for example would launch the player. You will also be given a choice of saving the video stream onto the device to playback later. Videos can also be played full screen taking advantage of the 2.4" LCD screen. You can access your video files through the now rather outdated Gallery application or through RealPlayer itself. Supported codecs includes 3GP, MP4, H.264, RealVideo and Flash videos. DivX isn't supported but you can download the freeware DivX Player or commercial software CorePlayer for that.

Flash video playbacks plays surprisingly well with the built-in web browser. It is as simple as visiting YouTube (the proper site) and clicking on a video. Video files are streamed with a resolution of 176x144 and you can't save it, but these are mainly restrictions placed by YouTube. Other than that it had no problem playing the videos smoothly. While it isn't the best video player available on the E66, the fact that it plays MP4 files (320x240, 400kbps, 25fps) I encoded for my PSP well is sufficient. Anything higher and it would start stuttering. Personally I would rather watch higher-resolution videos on the PSP, but as it stands the E66 is a very capable portable video player. You won't want to watch three hours epics on it, but a Futurama episode or two won't hurt.

The music player is a bog standard player similar to the one that is installed on N-series phones. It can play back MP3, WMA (including DRM WMA), AAC and AAC+ files with cover art support. Tracks are sorted through ID tag and on-the-go playlists are supported. Music playback is pretty darn good for a phone without any dedicated audio chipset (that I know of). Listening through a Sennheiser CX300 via a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adaptor, I found tracks (192kbps WMA) played do be detailed with good frequency range, though I did bass to be lacking. Overall I found the sound quality to be no where near as good as the A818 or the AIC33 enabled 5310 XpressMusic phone, but acceptable for none-critical listening. Jennifer also used the E66 for a couple of days when she had to send her 5310 for repairs and her opinion was that the sound quality was 'pretty awful' when compared to the 5310. A customisable five-band equaliser is available and you can save as many settings as you want.

A FM Radio application is also available for those bored with their collection but requires a headset (any, not necessarily the bundled one) to be plugged in to work as an antenna. Audio and video podcasts can be organised and downloaded via a separate dedicated application. Flash Player Lite 3.0 is also included for those seeking to play back SWF files. A link to Nokia's Music Store is included for those seeking to purchase DRM'ed compressed music, something I will advice people to avoid until Nokia's Comes With Music is launched. The E66 is not N-Gage compatible as it does not require the necessary hardware, but I wouldn't recommend playing games on mobiles anyway. Just buy a PSP and DS and be done with.

Nokia has also equipped the E66 with a 3.2 Megapixel camera with auto-focus. Images taken are better than expected, but seems over processed with plenty of bloom. Rather annoyingly the camera shutter is located too close to the middle of the E66 making it difficult to press. Bizarrely pressing down the camera shutter doesn't start the camera application either. The UI of the camera viewfinder isn't as intuitive as I hoped, being far too slow and cumbersome. Geo tagging is possible but requires you to download and install the beta version of Location Tagger first. Videos are recorded in MP4 and supports a maximum resolution of QVGA at a stuttering frame rate of 15fps (around 400kbps). Recorded video quality is ok'ish.

The following images are unedited pictures taken with the E66. I've resized them due to Blogger limitation but they remained untouched as far as contrast, saturation etc. goes. As you can see, macro performance is very impressive for a cheapo camera. Overall pictures taken outdoors are not horrible, but the colour reproductions are quite bad. The cheap optics and small sensor does play its part regardless of how high the megapixel count is. You do need to play a lot with the exposure setting and white balance to try to eke as much as possible out of the camera. Personally I won't bother to use it except during extreme situations. It isn't rubbish, but it is no where near the imaging capability of their modern N-series counterparts let alone dedicated digital cameras, even budget ones.

Overall the E66 is an above average, not amazing, multimedia device. The lack of DSP does hinders its performance some what, but unless you are truly concerned about audio quality it doesn't really affect its position as a backup player - something I would position the device as if I was a customer. By all means keep your PSP or Archos for video playback (both of which offer TV-out via optional accessories) and Walkman for audio, but the E66 works extremely well for those single-device days. Just make sure to invest in a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adaptor first or stereo bluetooth headset.


HyperX said...

Hey, nice review. However, I doesn't feel that the camera product good photos, in fact it only produce an average photo. The contrast and color is not so nice the camera. If I were to buy a multi function Nokia, I'll choose N82 than E66. It just not my style.

Anonymous said...

Great review. I am awaiting the release of the E71 as QWERTY is important to me.

Jon said...

I've played with the N82 and it is a very good device. But nothing beats the E-series in terms of robust construction.

macuser said...

Nice review Jon, very frank and precise. I got a bad experence with N73 and have been with my E51 for about s year now. Loved the speed and the network features like the Wifi. Wanting to upgrade to E66 but I heard about the over sensitive auto landscape feature mode.. is that true? You never mentioned it in your reveiew, I guess it is ok to you huh?

Jon said...


I am in the process of posting a full review which will lightly touch on the auto-landscape feature. It is quite sensitive, but the rotation is seamless and fast. It can be turned off in the Personalisation menu.

Anonymous said...

hi, i have an e65 and i like it but it is soooo slow. it takes over a second for each button push to register. is the e66 faster? when you push a button, does it respond instantly? thanks

Jon said...

Like most new Nokia S60 phones, the E66 is equipped with a 369Mhz processor (the E65 has a 222Mhz processor) and larger RAM pool.

Launching native apps like the built-in Calendar program is instantaneous. It is very very quick, almost like those old PalmOS devices. Overall the E66 (like my E51) is very snappy compared to older devices like the N80 and E65.

Hope this help.

imachine said...

This phone is rubbish; while the hardware is not bad, the software is utterly terrible! I got it for almost two months now, it doesn't have so many features we're used to from nokia - like simple timer for example. The camera quality is a joke, my k750i takes much better (less grainy in semi-dark areas) pictures than this, and costs 1/10 of it. The battery holds for about 2 days max, so far - and I'm not even using GPS, nor 3G - just plain GSM, just making and answering calls via a bluetooth headset, and only when riding - otherwise bluetooth is off - about 10 calls a day max, average 2-5 minutes each. The gps takes ages to hook up, and if you want to use guidance, you have to pay extra for it anyway. T9 and text prediction doesn't always work - for example, when browsing contacts to add an SMS reciepient. The phone more than often (happened at least few times) hangs, or causes troubles, then needs to be cycled in order to obtain the functionality back, issues with bluetooth also arise. That's far from a "business" phone in my opinion; when I'm doing business I need things quick and "there" instead of having to f* around with the device I'm using primarly for customer contact. Also, the stability and functionality of software I'd say it's Beta 1, RC at best. Straighten up, NOKIA! There's so many better phones for this price, and if I hadn't had pressed the leather case slightly (bike accident), I'd be selling it to get the HTC Tyan II any time soon, or a K770i or the like, then again I'm thinking more and more of getting rid of it since it's only being a grain of sand in my eye - it costs a sporty dime and doesn't provide any of the functionality I'd expect from a business-class phone.

Jon said...

Battery life tip:

Open 'Settings', then 'Connection'. Scroll down to 'Wireless Lan' and click on it. Right click 'Options' and select 'Advanced settings' and continue. Go down to 'TX power level' and select 4mW or 10mW (default is 100mW).

As for GPS, Nokia Maps is free so obviously their business model is to get some money back from their subscription servce. They aren't spending EUR5.7 billion on NAVTEQ to give away maps for free aren't they? Besides you still have to pay for third party apps like TomTom for turn-by-turn navigation. I do agree the E66's GPS TTFF is a bit appalling, but no more so than my XDA Orbit.

Two days is about standard these days. My old O2 XDA Orbit (HTC Artemis) only lasted 1 1/2 days... and I only use it for text and a couple of calls. But the E66 does have a smallish battery (compared to the E71 for example).

As for the camera, I think if that was your requirement, you should have purchase one of their N-series mobiles. I had a K750 once and the camera was comparable with the E66, with slightly worse macro performance but better daylight photography.

E-series are more generally known for their sturdiness. A Sony Ericsson phone, while classy, isn't as rugged (I should know, have been using them before they became S-E...).

imachine said...

Haven't got the Settings/Connection at all.

When I go to menu, I have Connections and Tools. Inside tools there is nothing like you said, inside connections there is nothing about wlan advanced settings.

Also, I have wlan scanning turned off at all times :-)

I'd use the GPS too if for example the calendar app would support the GPS better - that is I could have a simple "clickable" link whenever I added a new appointment, in the address field - that I could press on and be taken directly to nokia maps.

My k750 takes better pics in low-light situations. And I don't mean pitch black, I mean just average dim "past-6pm-outdoors".

Not to mention it could use the camera flash as a flashlight, which the nokia e66 can't prolly even think of (the flash is activated with a capacitor so only short term flashes work, tho when I use "film" recording from media, I can get a stably lit flash in low-light situations - not as bright as normal photo flash, but still on - so I guess they could've added an app like flashlight instead of bleeding the customers for extra applications).

The N-series are too thick and hold utter terrible battery life. I thought a business class phone would provide a good 7-8days with all the features, but I was mistaken.

My k750 is damn sturdy, 'scuse me french, the only failure I had with it is the keyboard loosing contact here and there, but overall it's a lot better than the E66 in many areas, for my need.

The reason I chose E66 was good memories from 6210 as my best phone so far, and that's sorta what I expected.

Nokia officialy says the E66 supports about 6 days of battery life in standby. Which clearly is a lie, or it's been tested I don't know under what conditions, certainly far from the ones I use my phone under it seems :)

Maybe my firmware is just rubbish? I know it's the newest one, perhaphs there is some "show advanced options" knob that makes the phone fly?

imachine said...

got the wlan settings! would the wlan settings still make a difference if I had wlan scanning off tho?

Jon said...

AFAIK, Nokia phones have their WiFi turned one all the time, regardless of whether scanning it turned off and on! Bizarre, but that was what I was told anyway.

Another tip to improve battery life is to force it into 2G mode.

Settings -> Phone -> Network -> Network mode -> GSM only.

The problem with leaving it on Dual mode is the phone will always attempt to look for a 3G signal before falling back to GSM. It doesn't matter if you only use it for voice call, it still uses more battery power. I only switch to 3G when I need to use HSDPA.

Switching to 2G and WiFi 4/10mW makes a huge difference. Back when I had a N80, it went from a day's battery to about three just from applying these tricks.

imachine said...

ok, switched it to 4mW.

I had 3G turned off before that already, so I guess it's the wifi that drains the life most.

If I only could drag it out to 4-5 days I'd be ever so happy....

r4i card said...

Hi jon,
Thanks for really great review.. And i want to know is there any way to turn wifi on when i am in wifi area?
Thanks in advance..